22 September 2006

Fantasy v reality

Lately I’ve been pondering a range of issues to do with POV in writing. Not just first, second, third or omniscient but more about identification and imagination.

Gay male erotic romance written by women for women is growing in popularity. I’ve never been all that turned on by it because I can’t visualise myself in that relationship. I can’t see myself having sex with a gay man or two gay men. And I realise as a reader that’s what I want to do – insert myself, however ghostly, into the story. It’s not a conscious process, but I think it’s an important part of my reading experience.

So while I can read a gay male erotic romance and enjoy the quality of the writing and the story, I can’t feel terribly aroused by it.

Lots of women can make that imaginative leap. Which brings up the whole notion of sexual identification and preference. Most people have a sexual identification - gay, straight or bisexual. But the shifting and changing in their imaginative lives is a lot more complex.

In discussing male/male erotica with women who like it and get sexually turned on by it, it’s pretty clear they are sexually attracted to gay men. In their fantasies they see themselves as part of that sexual/emotional world. It doesn’t matter that it’s extremely unlikely that in reality they would ever be, or want to be in such a relationship, in their imaginative fantasy lives, that’s what they like.

I don’t know why I’m so surprised by this. After all, I have a range of sexual fantasies myself that I’m unlikely to ever act on (some would be physically impossible). I think it has something to do with reciprocity. I’m not interested in sexual fantasies where the players are not interested in me. Total narcissism on my part.

Now when it comes to female/female erotic romance, that’s a whole other issue. And again, one I find fascinating. There is no growing popularity among the predominantly female erotic romance reading world for female/female erotic romance even though realistically, their access to sex and love with women is more possible than with gay men.

When I talk about this to women, they all say the same thing – they are just not turned on by women. Which only goes to show - and you may think this obvious and me a slow learner, that reality and fantasy have virtually nothing in common. Which I find comforting.

Why comforting? I often struggle with internalised political correctness. It's part of my history as a feminist. My move into adulthood came at a time when feminism was in a strident phase. It was necessary I think, because there was a lot to fight and be concerned about (there still is). But there's no doubt that a lot of women got strong messages their sexual imaginative lives were wrong or worrisome if they strayed too far from consensual reality. So no rape fantasies, no BDSM and no wanting to fuck gay men!

I need to be constantly reminded that fantasy is fantasy and a rich part of the internal lives of most people. And in the end wonderfully fascinating.

Here's a picture of a story of mine soon to be published at Forbidden Publications. Yes, it's female/female erotic romance.

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