To The FemmeMobile! Away!











So, the other day I was headed to SoCal, about to hop on a plane, and I realized I’d forgotten my book. Oh woe! So I grabbed a lesbian romance off one of Q’s shelves, No Strings by Gerri Hill, and proceeded to read.

About halfway through No Strings, I saw the final Harry Potter movie. I quite liked the movie, but was a little disappointed at the lack of a complete Draco character arc, made more obvious when even Neville got a character transformation. (Generally speaking, a full character arc happens when the character’s behavior/attitude/emotion changes: Neville went from geek to hero, Harry had a complete hero’s arc, as did Snape, Dombledore and — well, most people. Ron went from bumbling bafoon to knight, Hermione from bossy brat to person-Harry-couldn’t-have-figured-things-out-without, and together Ron and Hermione went though a romance arc. Draco, I realized, wasn’t likely to have a hero’s arc — though he could have pretty easily — but I figured he’d have some arc. Instead, he’s the same sad little coward character walking out of the movie he is walking into the series. This made me really glum, because of all the characters there — except maybe Voldemort, but obviously his character arc was a mortal one — Draco had the most potential for real change.)

Feeling put out that the character with the most potential for real change didn’t get any change, I emailed DK, who was way into HP back in the day and likes the things I like, and asked for some Draco fic that had a complete character arc so my craving was satisfied. DK delivered! Among other things was an awesome Harry/Draco slash fic. (Slash indicates queer-of-some-sort romance, be it lesbian, gay, or trans.)

So I read this novel-length fanfic that had several complete character arcs (very well done; I understand the author is published now, and I might just look up her books) and was also slash.

THEN I went back and finished No Strings.

I quite liked the first half of No Strings, all the character development stuff and then them getting to know each other. Then the romance-plot stuff kicked in, and I pretty much skimmed through the rest of it. This is normal for me and romance novels; I like the bits learning about the characters, and I don’t really bother with the romance part. I started writing romance novels because I was writing slash, but slash is… different. Reading slash and reading romance right on top of each other really brought it home for me. DK linked me this blog post not too long ago, and most of it I’d already sorted out, but one thing in there — I think it was in there — was talking about how slash isn’t set into a specific genre formula yet, how you can do pretty much anything you want. Not so with romance. I also find it interesting that the lesbian romances I’ve read are definitely romance novel formula, but the gay romance isn’t. Often, yes, the published stuff is, but then you have books like mine. By Degrees is about overcoming major past trauma (the death of parents), opening up your emotions so you can come to grips with the fact that you’re gay and you can have sex and feel again. Oh, and by the way, there’s a romance that is the catalyst for that plot. In the Rough is about dealing with more past trauma (I have a theme, okay? *grins*) so he can get his shit together and take care of his daughter. Oh yeah, and on the way he realizes he’s in love with his best friend, but has been ignoring it because of self-hate due to — you guessed it — that past trauma. Off Trail is about learning how to trust again and letting people in to help, and the guy he lets in to help just happens to be the guy he falls for. This is definitely more romance-novel than anything else I’ve written in the gay world.

Then there’s the Dragon series, which is all action/adventurey, and in the midst of their action and adventure they start to fall in love.  If I look at my fanfic — the stuff I write not to get paid for, but just because it’s fun — while romance features heavily in it, usually the romance is what’s happening around the main plot. Often the romance is either a catalyst or the result of whatever is going on, but the main thing is what’s going on. In Naruto fic that was Kakashi being insane, in Star Trek it was Kirk and Spock on the run while Kirk has amnesia, in X-Men it was Rictor dealing with child abuse and in X-Men: First Class (if I’d ever gotten around to writing that, which I didn’t) it was multi-pronged: Moira finding Charles, Charles dealing with being a paraplegic, Darwin coming back to life, Alex learning to control his powers and Hank coming to terms with his fuzzziness.

I started writing romance because I thought I WAS writing romance, but the more romance novels I write, the more I chafe. I realized, when I read those two books side by side, I wasn’t writing No Strings back when I was thrilled about writing; I was writing Harry/Draco. Not romance, but slash. The closest thing I’ve found to it in published books is a Tanya Huff book, The Fire’s Stone (very awesome; also the heroes are gay, woo hoo!) and various Sharon Shinn “romantic fantasy” books. Which makes me wonder… have I been very stupid?

I’m looking for an agent for my hetro paranormal romance novel right now. I’m sorta-kinda working on the sequel to it; I had a trilogy planned. They all interest me, but none give me that fire fanfic used to give me. I’ve often thought it was just because, well, fanfic is easier. You don’t have to create the people or the world, you can take what’s been given and run, there’s a built-in audience with, let’s face it, low expectations. Definitely easier.

I’m also working on a fantasy novel. I have little hope that it will get picked up or published anywhere, to be honest, because it’s kind of bizarre and not easily niched. Publishers don’t like that. But wow, I think about it all the time. I can’t sleep for thinking about it. I’ll stop writing for a few days because of stress or businesses or whatever, and when I come back it’s easy to just pick up and keep going. I don’t look at the clock a million times or check my word count to see how far I’ve gotten. There’s a (gay) romance in it, but the main point of the story isn’t the romance. This is how I felt about fanfic, but it’s not fanfic: it’s just as hard as creating anything else from scratch.

What I’m going to do is keep writing it, finish it, and start looking for an agent for it. Then I’ll decide whether to pick back up the romance sequel or write either a sequel to the fantasy (already plotted…) or a new fantasy. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. On a practical side, it means I’m probably going to remain training dogs to pay the bills… and I’m so tired of that. I just want to be writing. On the emotional side, at least I’ll be thrilled about what I’m writing, rather than in this occasionally-excited, kind of pleased, wondering when I’ll be done state. I’ve really missed being thrilled.

Maybe it’ll work out. I don’t know. I’m just feeling a little frustrated, I guess.

J
(cross-posted to my everyday life blog)

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{January 7, 2011}   Femme study

Okay, here we go!

I’m not even sure how to start with this one. This is me, folks, not talking about sex and still unsure how to begin. Scary! 😉

A while back, while DK was studying gender and femme and butch and all that for her degree, she sent me this study. IT WAS AWESOME. As awesome as my chocolate graham goldfish, which are pretty damn awesome.  It’s 15 pages, and I’m not going to post it because someone worked really hard and that seems rude. But if you give me your email address, I’ll send it. 🙂 (Shuddup, there’s totally a difference.)

I think what I’ll do is just start reading, and tell you all my reactions. ;-D It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten most of it, to be honest… Except, well, it was just like me.

It is “The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity” by Heidi M. Levitt, Elisabeth A. Gerrish, and Katherine R. Hiestand.

Here’s a snip of the abstract (what it’s about):

Femme identity remains a highly controversial topic. It has been maligned in both heterosexual and queer contexts, and is rarely represented in empirical literature. In this study we examined how femme women experience their own gender identity. Interviews were conducted with femme-identified lesbians. […] The core category in this model “Maintaining integrity: Upholding beliefs about sexual desire and gender representation” reflects the need [for femmes] to uphold their sense of integrity across a variety of contexts by confronting stereotypes about both women and lesbians.

I found that last bit interesting to start with — the idea that upholding the sense of femme identity is done, in part, by confronting stereotypes. Hmm.

It starts out with a brief history of butch-femme, where it came from (within the US), what it meant, why it took those forms. One of the near things in the study is that it gives femmes power even from the start: it acknowledges that butch women changed what it meant to be a woman and publicised lesbianism, but that femme women did the same. That by being hyper-feminine they were just as much to credit for stretching the roles of ‘women’ in culture at that time. Hee!

By orienting their sexuality toward a butch woman
instead of a man, the femme women made lesbian
desire public and challenged notions of female
sexuality.

😀 I love seeing credit for my femme ancestors. 😉

Some intersting history tidbits that I hadn’t heard, but make sense, say that the reason the femme-butch dynamic was so more equal right off the bat (than the hetrosexual relationships they were supposedly emulating, according to the outside world) is because femme women were seen as brave and courageous, putting themselves in view with butch partners, being caught in bar raids and all the rest. In addition, femme women often ended up supporting their butch partners financially, because butch women had a harder time getting or keeping work. This put them on a far more equal footing than if they’d been in relationships with men.

It’s really the courageous thing that I latch onto, though. Today, I often feel like I’m seen as the less impressive because the whole world can’t see my sexuality. I’m not obvious; I can hide. It really grates. So to hear that at some point, femme women were seen as courageous for sexualizing femininity and standing with their partners, makes me happy.

The central focus of sexual relations was the femme partner’s pleasure, as often a butch partner would not expect nor wish reciprocity and would receive satisfaction from the act of pleasuring.

Actually, I find this is still the case. It’s pretty wild, having come from hetro relationships. I’m still not quite used to it, I have to admit, but I do find myself strutting a lot more. *laughs* (I should note that everything to this point has been referring to the 40’s and 50’s.)

There’s also this repetitive use of the word ‘rebellious.’ Femme women were rebellious. Hee hee hee.

In the 80’s, butch-femme came back after their near-abolishment during the feminist movement, and for the first time became something people claimed not because they had to be one or the other like was in the case in the 40’s and 50’s, but because it was an identity.

There’s a bit on femme literature, and basically the lack thereof. It’s kind of painful to read, including bits about the fight to have femme seen as equal to any other gender presentation, and it makes me wince more when I know that at the same time, butch was getting attention in gender studies and becoming more and more an ‘acceptable’ gender. I can tell things are changing now, but I definitely still feel this leaning. (Not you guys. You guys are awesome. ;-D)

But! Interesting and good things: femme women realized their sexual orientation at a much later date than butch women (22 to the butch 15), and most lesbians now say that femme and butch are good for lesbian culture as a whole. Woot! Less discrimination. 🙂 And it’s SO NICE to see that I’m normal, at least for a femme, not having figured out my own sexual orientation until later! I realized I was bi around 20, and the jury’s still out on whether I’m bi or lesbian. (It will probably forever be out, because I do think I’m mostly lesbian with a bi leaning. ;-D)

Next was a bunch of technical stuff about how they did the study. To sum: Yup, looks official. Yup, looks good.

Um. And now I’m tuckered out. I’ll have to pick this up another day, again.

But it’s so nice to see, even in the beginning, that there are other people like me! And I know they get into defining femmes (by interviewing TONS of them and pulling out the similarities), and I remember being wowed at how continuously I fit the gender — down to realizing my sexual orientation later. 😉

Ohhh, it makes me happy. 😀

J



{November 22, 2010}   Eradicating gender

So, I’ve been reading Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein, and I’m at the bit where she’s talking about how we should eradicate gender because it’s essentially a class system.

I can’t argue with it being a class system; I think she’s probably right. (Can you think of a culture where one gender wasn’t considered ‘above’ another? I can’t.) The thing is, I’m not sure it’s possible to eradicate gender.

Humans evolved to categorize and judge. The sky is blue — that’s a judgment. It’s bad to murder. That’s also a judgment. That person is blond. Categorization.  That woman is wearing a red shirt. That’s a categorization. And so on and so forth. With all the snap judgments we have to make today (it’s safe to turn left at this unprotected light, I shouldn’t ask that stranger for directions, I need to take this call, I should dodge this person to thread my way through the crowd), categorizations are actually becoming MORE important. By putting people in categories, it frees up thought time and helps us make faster decisions.

Are those good decisions? Not always. Are they good categories? Not always. Is it a good thing to categorize gender? Not necessarily. But I don’t really think it’s an optional thing, either. I think this is hard-wired into our neural biology. Not that they need to be categorized as we currently have them categorized, but just that there will always be some sort of gender category, and the default will probably be what’s in the view of the majority. That doesn’t mean the minority can’t be in the view of the majority, but if the majority is unaware of it, then it’s never going to be acknowledged. (Ex: when it comes to race in NorCal, black is in the minority but still in the view of the majority; we are aware there are black people. If there is an undiscovered tribe in South America somewhere, they’re not in the view of the majority and so no one is ever going to assume someone is from an undiscovered tribe.)

I’d have to say that rather than try to eradicate gender, I’d like to see more genders explored and acknowledged as acceptable. Will people still screw up at figuring out what gender someone is? Sure. I would hope, though, that the more genders we have, the more people will be respectful of them, and the more people will realize that, yeah, their gender might get screwed up sometimes — no biggie, just correct and move on.

I’ve heard people talk about cultures where a neutral gender is assumed until they’re told otherwise, but I’ve never actually heard of a culture named, which leaves me wondering if this has happened, or if this is simply a desire. If it’s happened, it would argue against my categorization theory.  Maybe, in that case, we could assume a neutral gender. Even so, though, I find it doubtful. I mean, if someone tells me they have a learning disability, even without any evidence my brain starts trying to categorize it by what I’ve seen, and often assumes dyslexia if there are no obvious cues — that’s the well-known one in our culture. I would guess that if people were assuming gender neutral, it would be the same thing; outwardly you might go with gender neutral, inwardly our brains are still at work. And now that I think about it, if people are giving us their gender then it’s still a categorization; it’s just one they put themselves in, rather than one the world put them in.

Of course, I have to admit I find the idea of a no-gender world distasteful. Kate would, I suspect, tell me that I feel that way because I’m invested in gender due to what the culture has taught me. She’d be at least partly (maybe entirely) right; I like having femme as my identity. Erasing gender would erase a piece of nearly everyone’s identity. Saying some people can be genderless is an interesting thought, but in our culture now the outside world does its best to put gender on people, and I’m sure ‘genderless’ would quickly become a gender of its own, with that sort of force applied.

… I totally sidetracked myself, there. I meant to say that I don’t like the idea of a genderless world, and maybe that’s where my theory comes from; grasping at straws to make gender okay. (I don’t believe so, but I will acknowledge that it’s possible!)

I have a lot more thinking on this to do. Definitely some exploring of my own issues and why gender is important. (Mostly, I think, because it brings me a community — in my case, femme. I can find people to relate to at least on that aspect, and that affects how we’re treated and how we act and react. Thinking about eradicating that means the people I talk to for whom this is really our only shared interest… well, my fear is that I’d basically lose them. I’d lose not only my identity, but my community. Hmmm. There’s lots of blog posts on this, I suspect. *laughs*)

Annnnd, now I need to go train dogs. 🙂

J



So, I was reading this sci fi novel — a really good sci fi novel, that except for this bit I’d rec to anyone. Even on a social level I loved it — the level of racism, sexism, etc. There are a few minor things that I never would have noticed if I hadn’t been so involved in these things lately, but even then — I was pretty impressed! The book is really a joy to read. I want to stress that, because I’m about to bitch about part of it. 😉

Anyway, I was reading this book that I love (except for the quibble I’ll tell you about any minute now),  and then I hit this bit. Let me set the scene: Our Hero is an ex-military guy, under 28, who is Heroic. Our Heroine is 19, and pretty awesome.  They are slowly making googly eyes at each other. (Okay, sort of.) Our Heroine is talking to another character, Pam (another of Our Heroines, actually — it’s a large cast), about Our Hero.  Pam says the following:

“Just a warning — if you do start radiating make-a-move signals and Mike does try something, it’s not going to be a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek he has in mind, you know. Not that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, but he might be really pissed off if you suddenly got cold feet.”(1)

Later in the book, they do a little more than make googly eyes at each other, and she does call it off.

[Scene opens with:]

“I can’t! I’m sorry, so sorry!” (2)
[cue description of what’s going on, because that was the scene opener]
“Look, it’s OK!”
No it isn’t,
he thought, and his voice probably gave the words the lie.(3) [cue her apologizing again, him reassuring her and telling her to go back to camp.]
“Mike–”
“Signe, I said head on down.
He waited until her footsteps had faded in the darkness before he drew his sword and looked at the twisted stump at the foot of the rock that blocked off the view to the west.
“Is it worth the risk to the blade?” he murmured. “Yes.” A pause for thought. “Hell yes.”
Then he spent twenty minutes of methodical ferocity hacking the hard sun-dried wood into matchstick splinters. (4)
[end scene]

Now, let me just take a look at what I learned:

(1) It is expected that men would be pissed if you start making out and say ‘no,’ even if you don’t want sex when you start making out. Not only expected, but okay. Women should be warned of this, because it will be their fault. Furthermore, if you’re making out with a man they will expect sex, not just making out, and saying no will make them pissed off. See above.

(2) Saying no is cause for extreme anxiety, and women should feel really bad about doing it.

(3) Even if a man says it’s okay, he’ll be lying. It’s not okay to say no.

(4) Saying no will result in you being sent away because the guy can’t stand to look at you, due to the fact that he is so turned on (which, again, is your fault for not going through with it). Furthermore, the man will be so upset that he has to do violence to anything that’s around.

Now, the thing is, this trope isn’t uncommon. In fact, our stories are rife with it. And I shouldn’t say ‘men’ because in my mind, it’s always ‘whoever you are with.’ I still have problems saying no to Q, even though she’s never given me any indication she wishes I would say yes. (That’s what vibrators are for, but apparently Our Heroes have broken hands and can’t just jack off.) (In a related note, have I mentioned lately how awesome Q is about my occasional moments of flailing? Because she’s been so awesome and the pressure is off that I need to Get Better Now/Be Perfect Now, I’ve been able to just relax and enjoy myself, and my moments of flailing are getting milder, fewer, and farther between.)

There is something seriously wrong with our culture, that this is the norm. That this is what we’re teaching people. Both for men and women — what guy wants to know that he should be this upset about a woman saying no, that he should be so incredibly into it that he’d be angry or in pain if you couldn’t just make out?

I’ve heard the feminist concept that all sex is rape, and I don’t agree with it at all. However, I read things like this and I understand it. How can you say that sex is consensual when we’re taught that saying no will result in bad things happening? *sighs* It’s very frustrating.

On the other hand, it’s making me a one woman army. I write romance novels, as I think you all know, and I’m very aware of my sex scenes and when my heroes are pushing — and therefore aware to make them not push. I once read a novel by Jude Deveroux, one of my favorite romance authors (because her heroes are guys I just want to hug), and her heroine was a romance novel author. There was a period of time where the “in” thing for heroes was to have them rape the heroines. Supposedly it showed how studly and masculine they were. So in this book, the Heroine (an author) tells her editor, “But he can’t rape the heroine! He’s the good guy!” Or something similar. I nearly killed myself laughing, because I always thought the same thing — and I so very much suspected that was a discussion Jude and her editor had had.

Anyway. Sex is fucked up in our culture, you know that? Have any of you read Twilight? Did you know that it, and many many many many other YA books, romanticize being stalked, emotionally abused, and in other books physically abused? In the Twilight series, he stalks her, climbs into her room to stand over her bed, tells her who she can and can’t be friends with, yells at her, and in other similar books there’s that — and even pushing, kidnapping, etc. And people say, “But it’s okay, because it’s love.” I’m sorry, but love is NOT abuse. It is not stalking, screaming, pushing, or controlling.  It is listening, trusting, accepting, and stepping back when someone asks. And yet, we’re teaching our young women that this is okay, if the guy says he loves you.

*sighs* There’s a whole host of other authors who have spoken about this far more eloquently than I feel I can, and I can dig up links for anyone who asks. (Of note, though, I’d recommend Bookshop, who is a book blogger and very good.)

I really love the book I’m reading. The bit that I copied out is probably the worst written, and out of character to be honest. This is such a good book, and I was so sad to see that. (Though out of, so far, 300 pages that’s the only bit that’s really dinged my bell. There were other minor things — there always are — but nothing else that really got me.)

Hmm. Maybe I ought to make my next writing column about this. 😉

J



Q says I’m not talking about my sex life enough. I told her she was just looking for porn. She said if she wanted that, she’d buy my books (which she already does!). This made me laugh really hard. ;-D (She is, of course, right. Lots of soft porn in my books.)

Speaking of books, I bought Sometimes She Lets Me, which is a book of butch-femme erotic short stories. Some of the stories were really good, and worth buying the book for them. But too many of the hit my anti-kinks.  “Anti-kink?” I hear you cry. Yes, you know, the things that turn you off and make you twitch?

Now, I admit, I have a lot of anti-kinks. The SM aspect of BDSM is an anti-kink for me. Anybody cheating on anybody else is an anti-character-kink. The sex might be hot, but I despise the characters and so can’t identify with them or get into it. Girl/Daddy stuff is a borderline anti-kink; I’ve read it and been mostly okay with it, and I’ve read it and been really not okay with it. Depends on how it’s handled. Rape is definitely an anti-kink, though rape games I can deal with — they’re half a step from power games, and I like those. As long as everything is clearly fun and dandy (and non-bloody…), I can handle that.

So, as you can see, I have quite a list of anti-kinks — and a lot of them are common kinks for other people. It means any book of erotica I buy I know there’s going to be some I’m not interested in. That’s fine.  It’s true of everyone, after all. 😉

All that said, I’ll probably  hand this book off to someone else. The cheating thing, specifically, was a problem for me. I’ll cut before reviewing to avoid any spoilers… 😉

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