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Rocky Horror, Then and Now and a Little About Slash and Identity Labeling - Mo's Journal
February 2nd, 2008
07:01 pm

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Rocky Horror, Then and Now and a Little About Slash and Identity Labeling
So my elder daughter (15) went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show last night, with two friends. They were totally adorable doing each other's hair and getting all dressed up for it. And then they all slept here afterwards. Of course the hard part for me was waiting up for them. My little one was at a sleepover birthday party and the big one was at college so I was alone for a few hours. When I mentioned in the morning that I'd be by myself while "you two are out partying" Kendra mock indignantly said, "I will not be partying. I will be going through a rite of passage." Bwah!

Anyway, I was thinking that it is a rite of passage of sorts but it's also a really different experience for them now from what it was for us thirty years ago. When we went it was a kind of transgressive experience, gender-bending campy humor that our parents couldn't understand at all. Now Kendra and her friends R and A all have parents who know all the lyrics to the songs.

I was somewhat anxious about them being out so late. NYC has the lowest violent crime of any large city in the country, but still. I tell myself that the grey hairs I get from worrying about my kids out and about in the city are balanced by the ones I don't get, but my suburban counterparts do, about their kids driving. I did give them cab fare and said if they felt at all uncomfortable approaching the subway, they should take a cab, and they agreed. But they did come home by subway and returned the money and had had a wonderful time.

I really want to do a post about slash and sexual orientation identification but I have to think about it some more. I've said here my views on how sexual orientation, sexual identity labeling and sexual behavior interact, and a little about how that relates to slash. That post still represents my views in general. But I'm hearing a lot of "everybody's bisexual" or "everybody's bisexual until proven otherwise" in the recent discussions of slash and canonicity. And I think it's worth talking about why some people with the capacity to have sexual and/or relationships with members of the other sex (and sometimes with the history, as well) identify as gay or lesbian and not bi. All I'm hearing in this discussion is that people do it for "political" reasons, but I think it often has very little to do with politics and much more to do with sense of self. But I have to think about it a little more before I articulate it. I do think a slash writer needs to grapple with both whether the character will identify with any sexual identity labels (some don't think that way) and if s/he does, which label it will be. Anyway, I'll muse and then perhaps meta

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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
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Oh, so you're writing HP slash now? Anyway, what you describe is a really common progression. I think part of the misunderstanding between gay people and bisexuals comes from the very common phenomenon of gay men and lesbians identifying as bisexual for a period of time during the coming out process. So if we overgeneralize we look at people with a persistent bisexual identity as only half-way out of the closet. We shouldn't do that.

OTOH, a common misconception from the other side is that if we are sometimes attracted to people of the opposite sex, or have been in love with someone of the opposite sex, then we aren't "really" gay or lesbian, we're bisexual. Or that we only claim the label for political reasons. I'm an old style second wave feminist and do believe that the personal is political, but it's not *just* political. And for many of us it's a very personal thing and a core part of our personal identity.

All analogies are flawed, of course, but race is not a bad analog. There has to be room in our society for people of mixed parentage who identify as biracial (like Tiger Woods) and people who identify as black (like Obama). As you say it's a social construct, but that doesn't make it less real.

Similarly, a lot of us identify as gay or lesbian even if we have mixed pasts or somewhat mixed attraction because it's a central feature of who we are and how we relate sexually. Just because someone *could* have sex with a person of either gender doesn't mean they want to or that it has the same quality of centrality to who they are if they do. And generally that is a feeling that develops over time, sometimes with a stop on the way station of bisexuality.

Here's how my X2 Scott explains it to Logan, after Jean's "death"

"Okay. Here's an example: I love giving head. And some of that is just being totally turned on by men's bodies. There's little that feels as good to me as a big, hard cock in my mouth, down my throat." I sneaked a sidelong glance at him, checking to see that he wasn't getting upset with the graphic description, but he looked interested and listening. "It's more than that, though,” I went on. "I have this really intense impression every time I do it. I find myself thinking 'I know what this feels like; I know what he's feeling.' And there's an erotic charge and a connection in that knowledge that I just don't think I could have with a woman."

"Well, that's true. I can see that there's something there with a man that there isn't with women," he said, not seeming disturbed by the conversation at all. "But there's something else with women that you can’t get with a man. Some mystery or something. I don't know how to say it. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"Yes and no. I do know that, for many men, that sense of 'otherness' about women is profoundly erotic. It doesn't matter that you don't know how to express it, Logan," I added with a smile. "I've heard it enough. Much of Western literature is devoted to expressing just that." I shook my head. "I understand it, in a way. I can teach it, I can write about it, but I don't feel it. It doesn't touch me the way it does you, or most men." I sighed and continued. "I've thought a lot about this, since Jean was...lost. I loved her so much, but not having her I've thought more about what kind of love it was, what kind of feelings I've had. I did think sometimes that I would change, when Jean and I were together, but I don't think it now. We loved each other and that was no small thing. But sex, even with some guy I didn't know, didn't care about, wouldn't see again, was always more intense, more fulfilling, more... complete than it was with Jean." I smiled wryly at Logan. "So, I really am gay."


Edited at 2008-02-03 03:53 am (UTC)
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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
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I knew you were writing Hermione/Cedric. I just didn't realize you were doing Harry/Cedric as well.

Tell me, were you struck by Cedric in the book, or just after the movie was made? I *loved* your short first person piece after his death, with his father narrating. I thought it really captured something about love and grief and beautifully fleshed out a minor character. But I can't quite wrap my head around the idea of writing a whole novel about Cedric, much less two!
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From:mofic
Date:February 4th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
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Obviously, I'm basing Cedric on the book, but in many ways, he's really an original character.


At first I was really annoyed that Cyclops has so little air time in the movie, but I came to feel grateful for it, because it gave me more room to make him mine. Maybe that's true of Cedric for you, too.

I am very curious about how you have him survive!
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From:mofic
Date:February 4th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
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What's the Harry/Cedric one called? I'm interested in reading it.
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From:alchemia
Date:February 3rd, 2008 07:54 am (UTC)
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I've never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

I don't like the "bi until proven otherwise" any more than I like "hetero until proven otherwise". In both cases, a label in being forced onto a person, when the only one who can define their sexuality or gender identity etc is the individual themself. Also, regardless if you're assuming Bi or hetero, the forces everyone into categories of sexual attraction, ignoring the reality of asexuals.

I also dislike the political reasons assumption. I didn't even know what politics were when I was little kid, yet still had a grasp on my sexuality / gender identity. And today- I just am what I am. If the political atmosphere suddenly changed (or more likely, I moved someplace else), my feelings for bugland aren't going to suddenly change because of it
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From:wneleh
Date:February 3rd, 2008 11:17 am (UTC)
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I've never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Me neither. I've had opportunities, but whenever life offers a clear choice between 'sleeping when tired' and 'something else,' I go with the sleeping.

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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
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Bwahaha! Well, you can rent it, although it's not quite the same.
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From:talktooloose
Date:February 4th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
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I own the video and watch it from time to time. I've grown from thinking it was merely an important movie to thinking it's a very good one. The movie and the live experience are very different and both worthwhile.
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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
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What does "bugland" mean?

The whole "political" argument mystifies me. There were women who identified as lesbian for political reasons in the 1970s. They called themselves "politicalesbians." But the ones who stayed lesbian had more than politics going for us. And I don't think politics-as-motivation has ever been a factor in men identifying as gay rather than bisexual. IME women who are attracted to men and to women, who make a permanent choice to interact sexually and romantically with other women sometimes identify as lesbian and sometimes as bisexual. But men in similar circumstances upon making that choice overwhelmingly identify as gay.
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From:alchemia
Date:February 3rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Oh, sorry, Bugland is the LJ name of my spouse and fic writing partner! :)

I've never heard of "politicalesbians" until now!

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From:mofic
Date:February 4th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
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Bugland is the LJ name of my spouse and fic writing partner! :)


Oh! ::scales fall from eyes::
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From:talktooloose
Date:February 4th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
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I was 15 and my parents were out of town. My big sister's boyfriend and his buddy showed up at our suburban house on their motorcycles. We hopped on the back and headed down the Don Valley Parkway to the Roxy Theatre to see Rocky Horror. What a night to put queer dreams in my head! Hanging onto a guy in his 20s on a motorcycle and then meeting Rocky and Frank!

I only told my parents about this a few months ago. LOL.
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
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Was that boyfriend her later husband, the rabbi?

Fun to read your reminiscence and then my niece's. Two generations.
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
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Fun reminiscence - I'm enjoying all the Rocky Horror memories.
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