August 2012

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A Few Questions I Haven't Seen Asked or Answered

The m/m debate is really confusing for me. Partly because even when people are talking about something they are labeling as slash, they seem to be talking only about m/m.

While I must be the slowest person on the face of the planet it took me a few weeks to figure out if we were talking about bookstore works or fanfiction. If we were talking about professional writing or posted online communities. If we were talking about women who were openly honest about their gender, women who hid behind a male name or initials in their name to get published/read, or women whom had actually created a biography in which they are gay men.

Beyond that I couldn't figure out if we were talking about the actual going ons in the stories (stereotypes, hurtful tropes, lack of understanding regarding the mechanics, an obviously gendered tone of description) or if we were talking about real world repercussions of women telling men's stories.

All that stuff makes a difference to how I see what's going on. To me all those discrepancies and many more make a huge difference in how I see and respond to complaints and concerns.

So full disclosure: I'm a bi/genderqueer/cis female and I'm not going to explain further than that. I read and write fanfiction. I also occasionally read and write original erotica (though I don't sell any) of all varieties and flavors. I don't want to talk about fiction for sale in this post. I want to talk about fanfiction and/or original created not for profit/sale (i.e. adultfanfiction's original works section and other spaces like it).

I don't really want to talk about m/m or slash I want to talk about threesomes. Are threesomes considered slash and sometimes m/m or f/f? Does it matter is while the relationship is clearly between three people, there are sometimes scenes between just two of the three characters? Does a mixed gender threesome vs a single gender threesome make a difference? Are there things that are acceptable in a duo that make you cringed when worked into a trio?

Look I know that as a non-straight female I'm not really welcome in the m/m debate. As a bi person I'm not sure whether I count as gay or straight when it comes to culture, community, the voices I'm allowed to "represent" or identify in. I've caught myself a few times when I wanted to post correction about the benefits or commonness of idea x in straight culture or the problems y facing the gay comm. After all it's easy enough to say I picked up whatever on the other side of the attraction line. I catch myself wanting to explain the kind of discrimination I've experienced as a person perceived to be a lesbian, but I don't know if it was lesbian hatred or women hatred and I don't want other people to tell me which it is, that if I wasn't x I would or would not still see that kind of hate.

I was mostly tired of the whole thing. There's a lot of fail in how the debate has been formed that makes me feel like very little productive can come out of it. The topic is too massive (all the different factors and more I labeled above) and the exclusion of a large group of people (you know everyone who's not a gay male or straight female) has created the unbridgeable rift that doesn't exist or at least I don't think exists in the terms these debates are creating.

Then, it occurred to me that I haven't seen anything about threesomes. It all seems focused on m/m or f/f pairing and I wondered if it had a place that had been excluded here too. I'll admit that I'm more interested in threesomes than slash because I prefer reading and writing it to other varieties. That my fannish interest is that I see threesomes as more apparent, more natural and more interesting. And threesomes definitely result in dialogues regarding a non-conformist sexuality. The people involved face not just gender norms but general relationship norms and in few possibly no contexts have I seen anyone be able to have a threesome that's public and long lasting (emotional and not just a sexual fling) without the need to explain/justify/ deal with shit/ How realistic these stories are to the real world and the exact nature of explanations it entails are very different but except for an original work called The Nomads of Trilos (even then there was an explanation to how this kind of relationship was the norm in said culture and why) explanations were needed and threesomes were exceptions and not the rule.

I dunno I see some connections and I was just chasing how far those connections were and whether any of it is relevant at all.

Comments

To tease out one tiny part of your post ...

Look I know that as a non-straight female I'm not really welcome in the m/m debate.

I hate this. I know it's true - men get blocked from feminist debate (either consciously and deliberately or more subtly through hard negative pressure to conform or shut up), whites from race debates, straight folks from gender debates ... I fully understand that a person not in that particular trench won't necessarily get it (and I understand the concept of "safe space," but usually these shunning practices are in open comms!), but I really hate it that the possibility of (general) you not getting some stuff makes people totally exclude you ... because how else will you "get it" except to step in there, listen and ask?

Re: To tease out one tiny part of your post ...

To be fair I am jumping into a debate I've rarely considered. I never thought about the potential consequences of fanfiction slash. For a while I thought it was so off the mainstream, that if probably didn't matter/wasn't affecting the world in an significant way. Anyhow, I'm sure some of my confusion and questions are obvious/self evident to people holding a higher debate anyhow.

Beyond all of that, I'm still not certain how much of the debate applies to fanfiction or oringal works.

I'm not sure how much is about the content of the stories or about who writes them or the ratio of who writes them.

Beyond all that I struggle to grasp the concept of approbation particularly within these terms. When straight women create a profile to lead readers to believe they are gay men, there's approbation. I'm not sure how lesbian women can take culture which is theirs to start with, though they may mislead through assuming a male gay identity.

When straight women write stories which involve gay men or gay culture, I don't necessarily see the approbation. I'm accepting for the moment that there is approbation, but I'm still learning/looking for where that is and why.

Also does the focus matter? I know the general conversation is regarding m/m but what if the m/m relationship isn't the main focus? There's a het with a slash among the minor characters. What if the gay characters aren't in relationships? Is it about writing m/m as a main focus or it it about writng that which is not you and also a minority?

How can straight, cis, able bodied, white, men of an Abrahamic faith ever write anything if that's the case. How do we explain great works of European and American lit where those authors predominate? True they are flawed and have problems with them, but there is still value in them too.

I don't know it's a lot to think about and cover and apply. I'm still working on it, I just don't know where or if I have a voice or should have a voice in this conversation is all.

Re: To tease out one tiny part of your post ...

When straight women write stories which involve gay men or gay culture, I don't necessarily see the approbation.

I'm assuming you mean appropriation? I think that's a tough question to answer because I've personally never seen an intent from a female slash writer to define how real gay men act - "this reflects the truth about RL gay men." Most slashers I know of are writing from a level of fantasy or fun. That doesn't mean some slasher women don't think they're speaking to the real gay male experience, of course - I just have never encountered a slasher who purported, seriously, to be addressing that.

So ... I donno, like you're saying. :-) If someone were to say to me "you and your stories do not speak to or truthfully express the gay experience" I'd have to reply that I'm not surprised, I never claimed they did, and I didn't know they were required to.

Re: To tease out one tiny part of your post ...

Ah, yes I should have spell checked better. I'm not 100% sure what I'm saying either only that I've seen several posts via all the meta links in which writing slash is considered appropriation.

I haven't found many arguments as to how or why that is so much as arguments about whether that's a good bad or neutral thing.

I assume I either missed the conversations which happened previously where the explanation of the how/why happened or this is one of those claims the subgroup makes which those not of the group need to accept.

I get how female writers taking male gay identities fits. I don't get how writing gay characters automatically does the same.

But I'm somewhere in very mixed on that issue. On one hand I see these stories as opportunities to explore characters and relationships. Just like a lot of the times het or gen doesn't explore real world stuff but further explores characters or zaniness in the story or just one very specific real world aspect, I think slash can, does, and should do that too. I think if you want to explore one specific part of something or play with one little piece, fanfiction is one of the best places to do that.

On the other hand, I can see how it comes off as insulting and maybe wrong to tell a gay audience that these stories which have gay relationships are not about them.

Perhaps that's the problem. Women are taking a polarizing aspect of most gay men's lifestyles and incorporating it into stories where they've left off all the other bits or distorted it for their own gains?

I can see where this could be troublesome for published profit books, but I'm very up in the air about how that works in fanfiction. I mean what is fanfiction but taking the bits of someone else's world that you liked/wanted explore and moving them around to have different meaning? I know it's different because minority and oppression are in play, I'm still sorting it all out.

Re: To tease out one tiny part of your post ...

On the other hand, I can see how it comes off as insulting and maybe wrong to tell a gay audience that these stories which have gay relationships are not about them.

And you know what, I agree in a way (although - so stories about fat middle-aged white women are all about me and must conform to my view of how life is - especially if they're written by someone other than a fat white woman?) - except that that's a bit of a slippery slope for me as a slash writer. If I'm not allowed to say I'm not writing about RL, and then I'm told I'm not writing about RL "correctly" because I'm not writing to someone else's beliefs or agenda ... I don't know. It all comes off as a silencing technique, to me - as someone else deciding for me what I'm saying, what I'm allowed to say, what I mean - and that I'm doing it wrong. I can't buy into that interpretation, even though I absolutely agree that an audience can read and interpret - and even disapprove of! - my work in any way they see fit. I just wouldn't agree, if it took that particular route. And I don't mean to imply there is some vast gay male conspiracy to silence slash writing females. I don't buy that, either. I do buy that some gay men (and gay women, although I didn't see that being posted about) read slash and think "Who the hell do these people think they are? This isn't how it is!" And yet ... do the complainants speak for all gay men, about all slash written by women? I doubt it. Every person's experience is different, and one person saying "It doesn't happen like that in real life!" can be countered by another saying "It did for me." And, really, are either of those arguments that necessarily apply to fiction? (Again, don't get me wrong - people can criticize fiction - mine and anyone's - from any approach that works for them. I'm just at a loss, I think, as to why anyone would suppose it's valid to say to any writer "You ARE representing me because I say so, you're doing it wrong because I say so, you're appropriative therefore, and I want you to only write in a way that I approve." Because that, unfortunately, is the vibe I get from this argument. I do indeed understand and sympathize with any marginalized group being dismayed if they feel they aren't being portrayed in the world in an honest and honorable way (your point about published fiction, which is higher profile and profited from, is a good one) ... but as I said above, I don't know any slashers who purport to be speaking for the gay male community, so I'm not sure anyone's appropriating anything here. If I buy that female slashers are appropriating gay male sexuality and doing it wrong - what's the answer? Do I have to have "the gay community" (and who is that?) stand over my shoulder and correct my fanfic? Like that's gonna happen. Nor would I begin a decades long study of the gay community in order to "get it right" (you never can, because one person's "right" isn't another's, and it would be presumptuous at any time for me to pretend I've got it "right" like that) - because I don't want to write fanfic in service to anyone's politics or agenda. It really is just fantasy, about nonreal people, to me, and that's why I do it. It's fun.

Then again, I don't know if my type of fanfic is even the issue, the argument seems so vague.
Does a mixed gender threesome vs a single gender threesome make a difference?

It does to me. I love reading mixed-sex threesomes and it seems to me there's a terrible lack of them in fandoms where they should occur quite naturally. However, I find single sex threesomes to be boring even if I otherwise like the three characters in question. And that makes me think that part of what I like is the negotiation of sexual dynamics in relationships and I am more likely to find this when they are have complex tensions than when they are more similar.

Are there things that are acceptable in a duo that make you cringed when worked into a trio?

Maybe? I'm not sure I can think of one off the bat. I would probably have a lot of trouble with a very D/s scenario in a threesome because the power dynamics would seem very fractured to me, but then I don't really like reading D/s stories anyway so this is probably a useless opinion.

The people involved face not just gender norms but general relationship norms and in few possibly no contexts have I seen anyone be able to have a threesome that's public and long lasting (emotional and not just a sexual fling) without the need to explain/justify/ deal with shit

From a storytelling perspective, I definitely agree with this, which is one reason why I find them so interesting.
I strongly prefer mixed gender threesomes and I kind of see good pairings for them everywhere. I mean harry/ron/hermione and naruto/sasuke/sakura are obvious (naruto in general cause of the training situation has a ton of obvious threesome pairings.

Still I like house/wilson/cuddy and while I can see a house/wilson relationship working alright without cuddy there is not house/cuddy or wilson/cuddy that works for me without the third. How they relate to each other is really connected the the other's meddling.

Likewise I see angel/dru/spike and don't think they work at all outside of this pairing. spike/dru have their moments but angel (pre-soul angel of early years or in some cases souled angel too I suppose) is needed to balance the whole deal.

I'm not opposed to all single gender threesomes though usually when they interest me is when one of the characters or all of the characters involved have healing going on or have strong genderqueer traits.

I dunno unacceptable stuff in threesome pairings or stuff that ruins the story for me is when two of the threesome get married Sometimes marriage bothers me in a duo relationship, but in threesomes when two of the three get married no matter the justification it just annoys the hell out of me. You've screwed up/ignored the dynamic that made the threesome interesting.

How they relate to each other is really connected the the other's meddling.

Yes, that's true.

Huh, yes, I see what you mean about the marriage. I wouldn't have expected to see that -- at least in character stories. But I could see that happening in RPF now that you mention it.
*Loves your icon*
Hell, if three characters have chemistry, I'll write a threesome, no matter the gender.

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