merricatk: (FERAL FAN)
[personal profile] merricatk
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.
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