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Two: Why I write slash

In one of her books, Susie Bright talks about how there was a time in the feminist movement where a lesbian would be considered "inauthentic" if she showed interest in penetrative sex, particularly if the penetration involved an object shaped like a penis. At some point she found a lover who didn't buy into that, and while the sex was more satisfying for her, Susie said she also felt like a traitor to the cause. It took a while to get over that.

I know the feeling. It took me a long time--and reading Susie Bright--to stop feeling like there was something fundamentally wrong with me because my fantasies didn't include me. I needed to distance myself, to fantasize about two men together. And the two men were always from TV or the movies. (That last part didn't bother me.) What the hell was wrong with me?

The answer is, nothing, at least nothing that has to do with what I fantasize and how I write. My attitude toward fantasy is that it's a waste of time to fantasize about things I could actually be doing--why not just do those things? Fantasy is about finding the breadths and depths of myself in a safe way.

Writing slash is like that, too. I write characters I find empowering, characters I feel attuned to but I could never be, characters who get to do things I could never do.

And I like to do to them what I'm doing to myself: open them up and force them to look at themselves and see who they really are. With me it's voluntary and I use my writing, and I do it with help and distance and some care. With the characters, I use sex.

Take a guy who has always considered himself 110% straight and have him fall in love with another guy, then watch what he does. Have an identity crisis? Become violent? Bury himself in denial? Or just accept this new facet of himself? Does he kick the guy out of his life, or drag him to his bed? What happens the next morning--in either scenario? Does he tell himself that just because he's attracted to this guy doesn't mean he's attracted to all guys, so he's not really gay, right?

And what's the other guy doing? Trying to figure out what's going on with his friend? Or has he already figured it out and is just waiting to see what happens--or maybe having his own freak-out?

I have been in a position where I've felt so vulnerable that it seemed as though people could read my emotions in my eyes. I've been so depressed I could barely move. I've given both of these conditions to the characters I write, to look at them from both the inside and the outside--and I've made the other character deal with these issues, to see what a pain in the ass I was.

Am I claiming that because I write slash I know what the gay male experience is like? No. Or that I've done something for anyone besides myself? No.

But I'm not appropriating anything but the make-believe lives of make-believe people. The characters I write aren't canonically gay, and--and this is the part that seems to get lost, or maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's important--they aren't supposed to be real. They're fictional characters. Whatever I do with them has no more bearing on the lives of actual human beings than my using a toy cat to work out my frustrations in some way hurts real cats.

ETA: Apparently some of the problem is that when writing slash, we girls are leaving out the real world problems and issues that men who sleep with men have. This is another case that seems to be about (supposedly) realistic pro fiction. Because the worlds I'm writing in are the ones set up and maintained by the TV writers--which is certainly not the real world. I'm not writing The Purple Rose of Cairo here. I deal with what was given to me on the TV screen, I extrapolate from that, and I try to make it all more realistic by making the characters more well-rounded, and dealing with the repercussions of their actions even when their original writers left them hanging. But my writing is not set in the real world.

Date: 2010-01-23 12:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] broomstyx.livejournal.com
I read that guy's little ditty on explaining what is msm. He sounds like a political activist or something, and those are circles I and friends I have (who are gay) do not run in, so we might not be aware of the term msm. I don't run in any activist circles because I don't like to be told how to live by others. Some political activists are the worst for that. I hate: "You're not being a good and proper gay person unless you..." kinds of talk. I think you point this out when you mention writing by Susie Bright (whom I have never read.) I don't label myself as gay and that gets people really mad at me since I've been with the same woman for almost 30 years. Believe me, I have been called homophobic for it, and so I mostly just stay to myself because, well, how can I ever make stupid humans understand my personal experiences that I literally cannot label?

About writing in the real world: I have to say, I don't understand this msm guy's "context" points, either. I have read gay fic by gay men, and novels with gay characters in them in every genre written by gay or straight males or females. I don't ever remember these contexts of being a blood donor or dealing with aids being in those stories unless it is imperative to the plot or imperative to the character himself. Maybe these people do these contextual "gay world" things in their spare time inbetween scenes in the novels, but it's certainly never a requirement that they must be dealt with IN the novel.

Maybe a better example of his complaint would be how slash guys appear not too often to use condoms. But sometimes the sex isn't explicit, so if you write "they made love" is that wrong? Should it be "they made love and were good boys and used condoms"? Well, hell, that's just not good writing. If this guy is accusing slash writers of creating stereotypes, I would argue he's creating stereotypes by making rules as to how a gay man "should" be including in slash, as if all humans are the same, and all gay experiences are the same. In fact, I find his arguments laughable at best...slash contains the least gay stereotypes of any "gay" fictions I've ever read.

Date: 2010-01-23 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] broomstyx.livejournal.com
"It took me a long time--and reading Susie Bright--to stop feeling like there was something fundamentally wrong with me because my fantasies didn't include me. I needed to distance myself, to fantasize about two men together. And the two men were always from TV or the movies. (That last part didn't bother me.) What the hell was wrong with me?"

Sorry to post again so soon, but I wanted to address this paragraph. At age 12 I recall writing one page stories about my then current fixation: Hawaii Five-0. Okay, I'm embarrassed enough admitting this, and I keep searching for these stories in order to burn them, but the content was usually, in my kid-like writing style and mind, thinking up various ways to get McGarrett and Danno to trip and fall into each other's arms. I didn't know why I was writing it. I had NO idea it had anything to do with gay stuff or sex. But I never remember thinking something was wrong with me. And I have always, like you, needed to fantasize about two men even when I was very young and the fantasies were only h/c. I don't know why this is. I have no answers. I have no labels to put to it.

When I got older, and I met my current partner, I just fell into the relationship with her even though I never had fantasized about a woman sexually, and I STILL never questioned anything. I think I'm an alien, because normally I can be very analytical about some stuff...but just not about myself.

When I have had discussions with my partner about these subjects, we are of the same mind (one reason we're still together.) We laugh and decide that the rest of the world is mad. We're the sane ones. We're the ones who can "see." Maybe it sounds arrogant and self-centered of us. Maybe someone would accuse us of erasing them. But we don't erase anyone or anything. We just decided to be ourselves. If others don't like it, or find fault, or decide we are wrong because we don't label ourselves, that's THEIR problem. I don't deal with them not to erase them but because I truly do not see what I do in the privacy of my own life as a problem or how it has anything to do with how anyone else chooses to live.

My point is, I guess I've been this way since childhood. I have never been homophobic in my life. I have never set out to marginalize anyone, or erase other people.

Now that I got that off my chest...

Date: 2010-03-08 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dharma-slut.livejournal.com
I just refound you! I remember your first meta on slash, and am glad to read this one.

Elsewhere, someone I have been talking to has just said much of what you've said here-- only, in a general way. I find I prefer-- always did-- specifics. And your specifics coincide in many ways with my experiences and reasons, which is always agreeable...

Anyway, thanks for this.

Date: 2010-03-08 11:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] merricatk.livejournal.com
Welcome! I'm glad to be refound!

And it's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who looked at that whole kerfluffle and thought, "But--they're make-believe!"

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