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Some Further Thoughts on Realism in Slash - Mo's Journal
January 29th, 2007
02:00 pm

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Some Further Thoughts on Realism in Slash

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From:carmarthen
Date:January 30th, 2007 08:58 am (UTC)

via metafandom

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The problem I have when people start talking about "realism in slash" (or sex) is that there's a huge range, and it's even bigger when you include historical and fantasy/SF fandoms outside of our modern culture (which is mostly where I play, so safer sex is not possible, STIs are less of an issue, and no, they're really not going to start acting like stereotypical modern gay men--never mind that I've met very few gay men who were particularly stereotypical). STIs don't have to be a factor in SF/fantasy; historical STIs are rather less common (except syphilis) and there's not much characters can do to really avoid them besides be careful of who they sleep with. One gay man will not act emotionally like another, or enjoy the same type of sex. Minotaur is very pro-lube; some other gay men in fandom don't really think it's necessary.

I've had heterosexual sex, and I can read het porn and go "WTF?" even though another woman might read it and find it realistic. I'm not like other women and they are not like me. I don't think it's possible to write any sort of sexual/emotional relationship that every (or even most) person who shares a sexual orientation with the characters will find realistic. And hell, mainstream gay porn is anything but realistic, and gay men don't have a problem with it.

The primary thing for me is feeling like the characters fit with canon, or a logical development from canon. If that's right, the relationship is usually right. For sex, I ask mostly that it not be physically insane.

So--I don't think we really disagree, but I kind of want to know how we're supposed to define "realism" (particularly emotionally). I want my characters to have the texture of human experience, but a lot of people who talk about 'realism' seem to have very narrow ideas of what 'real men' or 'real women' are like (not you, necessarily; I don't know you, of course!).
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From:mofic
Date:January 30th, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC)

Re: via metafandom

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I do take your point and agree that what feels real to one person won't to another. This is partly because of different ideas of what constitutes "real" human behavior and partly because different errors bother different people.

I'm certainly not arguing for the idea that all gay men (or any other demographic group) behave or think in one way. I am saying that I prefer slash - if set in our world or a world like ours - where the writer shows some understanding of the variety of experiences and behaviors gay men do exhibit. And there are many writers who not only know nothing about gay men's experience (sexually and otherwise) but don't *want* to know anything about them, because they prefer a fantasy creation to realistic sounding fiction. And I'm fine with that, for them, but I don't like the idea that preferring unrealistic fiction is something all women want, since I don't.

To take one example, coming out. Anne Northrup says that coming out stories are our primary folklore and I think that's right. There's huge variety in the coming out experience and most gay men and lesbians have heard tons of coming out stories, because there's a cultural value to sharing them. Okay, I sometimes think that it's a little weird that I can know all about someone's first time having homosex before I know how s/he takes his/her coffee, but mostly I value this custom, because it is a rich source of folkloric info. I can draw on the variety of coming out stories I've heard in writing fic. And, in fact, when my characters talk about coming out they are often pillaging real people's lives to do so.

I'm not saying at all that there's one way to talk about coming out, or just one way people experience it. In fact, I'm saying just the opposite - that there are many and it's varied. OTOH, when someone writes a slashy coming out story who's never been through it, never talked to people who've been through it, never read any of the myriad published coming out stories - it shows. And, for me, it shows in a negative way, because I'm looking for fiction informed by real life.
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From:carmarthen
Date:February 7th, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)

Re: via metafandom

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where the writer shows some understanding of the variety of experiences and behaviors gay men do exhibit. And there are many writers who not only know nothing about gay men's experience (sexually and otherwise) but don't *want* to know anything about them, because they prefer a fantasy creation to realistic sounding fiction. And I'm fine with that, for them, but I don't like the idea that preferring unrealistic fiction is something all women want, since I don't.

Yes, I would agree with that--although it's going to be hard to show a variety of experiences and behaviors in your average short fic with only a few characters. Variety builds up in a given writer's works as a whole....

And, for me, it shows in a negative way, because I'm looking for fiction informed by real life.

I am as well, but apparently my real life experiences are worlds away from those of many of the people drumming for realism. I can only write what I know, and other people may read it and say, "Well, all the men I know aren't like that." But the ones I know are, and why is my experience automatically less valid?

But it's also complicated for me because I primarily like historical/fantasy/SF fandoms, and in the first case, we can only know so much about what being queer was like in a given culture at a given time (usually very little and read between the lines), and the latter two can only be informed by modern or historical experience but there's no real benchmark of reality. So whenever someone is all "Fandom should deal more with Modern Gay Issue X!" I am over here going, "But...there wasn't any AIDs/coming out/gay identity in 1500...."
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From:mofic
Date:February 7th, 2007 11:58 am (UTC)

Re: via metafandom

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Yes, I would agree with that--although it's going to be hard to show a variety of experiences and behaviors in your average short fic with only a few characters. Variety builds up in a given writer's works as a whole....

The writer must know a lot more than she writes in any one story. Knowledge of variety shows even in shorter works, I think.
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