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I recommend [livejournal.com profile] neo_prodigy's latest post on "How to Slash Better"... though I also recommend taking his warning seriously!

I'll go through the points and add my thoughts here and there. I have an unusual perspective on this because I didn't start reading slash fanfiction until last year, when I got into Torchwood. Before that, I knew it existed, I simply assumed it was all objectionable and fetishizing. I realized that 1) it wasn't as objectionable as I thought, and there were already internal debates about what to do and what not to do 2) there were also gay men writing it, and not just that, lesbian women (to be honest that confused the hell out of me at first) and all sorts of people in the LGBT spectrum.  The majority of people into slash fanfiction are straight women, but still, I saw that there was a enough diversity that I didn't feel guilty about contributing to something purely fetishistic.

So [livejournal.com profile] neo_prodigy 's post is actually a lot more charitable to slash than I used to be. However, by saying that, I don't want to set myself up as wholly virtuous and take a "nyah nyah I know better and you don't" attitude. I'm a cis straight women participating in a highly problematic genre and my hands certainly aren't squeaky clean. I do like to think my eyes are open though. I also have two disagreements with his post -- NOT in terms of his experiences as a gay man, but in terms of logical social equivalencies he argues at certain points -- which I'll raise at the end.

"Gay Men Are Not Your Avatars"
To some degree, everything in fiction is an avatar. But there's definitely a problematic tendency if you are a straight person who thinks that real gay men out in the world -- real gay men who might even be reading your fiction -- have a necessary relationship to the fictional constructs you've created. Yours may or may not be based on their reality, but they are certainly not based on your fiction. Here and there I run across people using m/m and slash to make judgments about real gay men, and it's... really disturbing.

We Don't Need A Reason For Sex, Just An Opportunity
There's No Crying In Sex: Neither Before Nor After
Sex Is With Men Is About Domination
The Hurt/Comfort, STOP THAT SHIT!!!!!!
This falls under the category of m/m following heteroromantic patterns. I see a ton of that in fanfiction, especially in arguments I've seen that showing promiscuous gay sex is somehow homophobic, and unless you have gay couples in true deep committed love you're somehow doing it wrong. It's a lot more complicated than that. Positive stereotypes can be just as bad as negative stereotypes, a point which I agree wholeheartedly on. Just speaking in general, I don't think showing one point along a range of possible behavior is ever wrong in itself, but when the majority of the genre concentrates on that point along the range and discounts the rest of the range, that's where we need to back up and think about what's going on.

Masculinity Is Not Exclusive To Cis Straight Men
I don't see this problem a lot in the fanfiction I run across, maybe because I'm filtering out a lot of the most problematic seme/uke type stuff.  Still, it's an important point.

Your Research, DO YOU SOME!!!!!!
I think a lot of women get into reading and writing slash based on guides by women, or written by only the most friendly of gay men, and don't really venture outside that.  I sort of have one foot in and one foot out. I'm not really into reading most gay porn produced for gay men. Some of it, I can really get into, though. There's an overlap for me. But I'm a pretty visual person and I do watch and enjoy all kinds of porn (although not for long stretches) including the male-gazey stuff (straight and gay and my personal favorite, MMF) that tends to turn off a lot of women, whereas my husband is among the minority of men who won't even watch any kind of porn. He's not particularly prudish, he just doesn't see the point. That's your TMI for the day/month/year, by the way, hahaha.

Read Works Fiction By Men For Men, Including Straight Men
I think this is pretty good point if you're aiming for accurate representation and publishing for any sort of wide audience.

Your Gay Rape Fantasies Are Quite Telling
This is hard for me to comment on, because I find all representation of rape in general pretty disturbing. I don't like reading it or writing it. But at the same time, it's a sadly common part of human experience, and as a very extreme part of human experience, it tends to get explored in writing a lot. We all focus most on the big dramatic stuff -- death, love, hate, pain, violence, power -- in the art and literature we produce. But in reproducing the most dramatic parts of human experience, we also run the danger of reproducing negative patterns that contribute to that kind of stuff in real life. 

Keep Your Characters Consistent
Good writing advice in general.

Male Pseudonyms And the Problems Thereof

I've got a pseudonym developed for our book, and I'm making it pretty clear that I'm a woman. Knowing that some women have done that in order to get higher sales from other women strikes me as not just homophobic but also contributing to misogyny. I'd prefer to be honest and face questions like "what makes you think that you as a woman can write about gay men?" than duck those questions by pretending I'm a man.

Why We Need Our Own Spaces
If you disagree with some of the things that [livejournal.com profile] neo_prodigy  says about being a queer man, it's important to check yourself and think ten times over about commenting, if you're not also a queer man. Speaking over that kind of experience is not just rude, it harms everyone everywhere who is trying to represent their minority experiences.

That being said, let me bring up my own disagreements/counterpoints, which I see as having to do more with logical equivalencies and not with queer experiences.

1. Women do actually know more about men than men know about women.
I don't agree with the equivalency argument that's implied along several points of his post. Because of sexism, men have more power than women; women pay attention to what men say, how men act, way more than men pay attention to women. Our money, our jobs, our very lives can depend on reading men correctly.  And I don't think this has anything to do with sexuality at all. Women will always know more about men than men know about women, on average, and the same goes for any minority. People of color who grew up as minorities in white-dominated countries will know more about white people than white people know about people of color. Trans people will know more cis people than cis people know about trans people, and so on.

One of a million examples of how this plays out is in marketing. I heard that Abercrombie & Fitch actually makes more money out of women's clothes than men's clothes. Women's clothes cost more, and women spend more there. But they devote more than 60% percent of their shelf space to men's clothes, and this is a very conscious strategy. They do this because women are more likely to spend money for a piece of a more masculine image. They're saying to their women customers: "You are in a man's space. You are not a man, of course. You are worth less. But we will allow you to take a piece of this manliness home with you." This is a common marketing technique, and it's reproduced in literature as well. Little girls are taught to read books with little boys and little girls; little boys are taught to balk at reading books with little girls. After a lifetime of this, women are sometimes more comfortable and more knowledgeable about representing men than men will ever be about representing women.

Of course, when it comes to m/m and slash fanfiction, we have a second dynamic going on: gay men certainly know more about straight men than straight men know about gay men. But how does that translate to gay men and straight women? I would err on the side of "don't assume", but it's a fairly complicated picture.

2. Straight men fetishizing lesbians is not an exact equivalence of straight women fetishizing gay men.
Again, sex and gender dynamics get in the way of that equivalence. Straight men have a physical and economic power over lesbians that straight women don't have over gay men. I do think some women close their eyes and refuse to admit that there is ANY equivalence at all, but I can't do that... I do admit that in some way, I am much like a man who goes to the video store for a weekly fix of girl-on-girl. But I still don't think there's an exact equivalence.  Also, some of the worst slash is not just homophobic but full of internalized misogyny; women will often happily write fiction where women are held to be worthless and written out of stories entirely. There is no such thing going on with straight men and lesbian porn, which tends to uphold the power of the man -- I don't believe misandry exists as any sort of institutional force, but even if it did, lesbian porn for straight men certainly wouldn't uphold it.

In closing I highly recommend reading the post and thinking about it! I've enjoyed the opportunity to get a lot of my thoughts out into the air.  And I really appreciate that [livejournal.com profile] neo_prodigy  is taking his time out to educate people when a lot of others would simply throw up their hands and give everyone the finger.

ETA: comments frozen (like I often do with potentially controversial posts, see explanation to the right). Sorry to those who already commented... I'd meant to do that in the beginning, just right when I posted, but forgot! If you would like to express any agreement or disagreement please make your own post and link here or feel free to PM me.

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August 2011

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