Friday, December 18, 2015

Realism in Romance (part deux)

In the M/M romance genre where we have shifters of every kind, vampires (who don't sparkle... that wasn't praise btw sparkly vamps ROCK!), kidnappings and shootings much higher than the national average we have cries for realism.

First, I'll go back to:
1) What is realism?
2) Who defines it?

And I'd like to remind you:
Everyone's experiences are different so your REAL may never have been experienced by me or vice versa. Heaping on judgment doesn't quite work in the scheme of things.

In the M/F romance I wonder if we'd see these criticisms. I'd guess maybe a few. (Hell many of us reading and writing in the M/M romance genre is partly because we couldn't identify with the characters.) But overall I don't think you'll see as many vocal complaints by readers. Why is that virgin having multi-orgasms? Why isn't he shooting off in her mouth? Why is she tolerating his sexist behavior? Why... You get the idea.

But why is there such an outcry in the M/M romance genre?

In my humble opinion I think that's because in Het Romance there's a clearer line between fiction and romance.  M/M romance has become a catch all for gay stories that haven't found a home elsewhere.

I think that's awesome and great... more the merrier!!!

What I don't find great is when I'm at a romance convention and I'm told that romance is a lesser form of literature. I'm not happy when readers of romance are laughed at or made fun of because they enjoy characters who are left or right of the spectrum of average... or certain activities squick them out.

Recent Facebook exchange about using spit as lube.
Does it happen in real life sex situations? Yes.
Is it comfortable? NOT always & especially not when the spit dries up it can hurt the fucker and fuckee... unless the ass is quite spaceous...  or maybe the couple are into pain (which is fine but then reader needs to know that & can cheer YEAH MAKE HIM HURT!)

May I suggest instead of laughing at readers who has an issue with this realism you must write to be true to the story HELP THE READER! Bring the reader deep into the heads of the guys who OMFG just have to have each other now. Make the reader pant so hard they are cheering the guys on. And go ahead and show the realism of what happens to dick and asshole when the spit runs out.

I read a M/M scene in a M/F romance using only spit and was horrified. (BTW I'm not against only using spit especially for quick cummers) The lack of intimacy hurt my heart for the characters... the lack of lube was a symptom of the lack of caring between two characters in love for years.

Let's remember gay fiction is different than gay romance. Don't judge one book by another genre's criteria.

I'm not saying realism doesn't have a place in romance but let's bring the reader's with us and be clear some reader's don't want/need the level of realism a writer is pressed bring out in the pages of a book. Absolutely your right as an author. But then accept the romance reader might not be thrilled with that realistic detail... or maybe they will. (KNOW THY TARGET AUDIENCE)

Hugs, Z.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Realism in Romance

When we talk about realism in romance:

1) Who defines reality
2) What is that reality

We each have a unique set of experiences and filters…
The world is a diverse and wonderful place. How I might experience might be different than someone else experiences it... and that's okay.

Just because it's not your reality doesn't mean it's not someone else's...

I know some readers require more “realistic” story lines, characters and plot with more grit.  I’m one of the many readers who pick up a romance to escape “reality”. My preference is happy fluffiness. And that bleeds over into my writing...

Sometimes I wonder how much reality people are looking for... There’s a lot of REALITY I don’t usually include in my romances not because I'm clueless but because these are things that don't up the romance factor for me as a reader/writer. (Adjusting my beret & shrugging)

Here’s some that come to mind:

*Come streaked brown leaking out of a gaping asshole (BTW realistic when one has anal sex)
*Hemorrhoids & anal tears & bleeding
*Stealthing (act of pretending to wear a condom than not)
*Gift giving (knowingly transmitting a disease usually refers to HIV)
*Bug chasers (knowingly seeking to catch a disease)
*Men who have sex with men just to get off and don’t fall in love with a hookup/rentboy
*Going to the bathroom (bodily functions don't excite me... so you can imagine golden showers aren't my cup of tea either... hee hee yeah I know what I did there...)
*Certain fetishes or sexual practices
*Unhappily ever afters/bitter sweet/meaningful but not happy endings

You get the idea… I as a romance writer simply don’t want to go there…

Reality I would/have put in a romances that can/do annoy readers:

*Sex that is it just for the sake of sex
*Characters having a ton of sex (based on their age=realism)
*Sometimes it takes more than a few pages for a character to accept something (especially a perceived change/adjustment in their orientation)
*Misunderstandings: can and do affect how people act which can spiral out of control based on assumptions (Has happened to me many times)
*Insta-love happens in reality (I’m a product of it)
*Characters who aren’t like your average people (Lots of different people in the world and I enjoy writing about people who are atypical… I worship the fringes and enjoy the edges)
*Orientations: Aren’t just three little boxes so I explore them and try show the variations within each.
*Troupes are troupes because they do tend to happen in real life…

Reality necessary in a romance is in the eye of the reader.

As a reader I pay careful attention to the author’s brand… I know authors try REALLY hard to clarify themselves so the readers know what they’d be getting (aka how much reality will be injected into the romance).

May you always have as romance as you want.

Hugs, Z. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Yaoi in The Economist????

Over Thanksgiving my father-in-law (who is a super cool guy) asked if I heard about this thing called Yaoi… (He knows I write rainbow romance). I nodded and said "Yes that’s what I sort of write." He let me know it’s becoming popular… He’d read an article in The Economist...

Let me type that again… The Economist discussed YAOI!!! WOW! Being treated as the oddity for so long when someone comes along and says "Hey what you're doing is 'something'"… the validation feeds your soul.

Why is Yaoi/Slash Fanfiction popular?

At Yaoi Con 2010 I remember rushing off to a panel discussion on this topic. I wanted some answers damn it! Someone explain to me why I need to see and write about gay romance? Why does this trigger something deep and very primal in the fans?

No answers just more questions were found...

The Economist estimated 275 million people in China enjoy Danmei (romantic/sexual stories about two men). I lived in Suzhou China for six years and “gay” as the West knows it doesn’t exist (except in the dark corners & very tiny pockets). My friends (including people I know who were involved with a same sex partner) told me Chinese people aren’t gay… ????? (Statistically impossible!) But people who I met and watched in the only gay bar in Suzhou were all married to the opposite sex and were passing around pics of their children. For most people, gay wasn't part of their identity just something they did when they could slip out of the house...

((I'd love to see how Danmei affects LGBTQIA understanding/rights in China in the year 2030))

The year after I left 2007 the government decided to do a crack down on pornography aka targeting people who wrote Danmei. April 18 2014 Twenty people were arrested for writing male/male fanfic. Many of them continue to do so if The Economist chart is to be believed. 


Why are these women driven to continue to write/read even though it is illegal? In the West why do some of us read and write it even though we receive censure from society, some of our families, some of our friends and hell there's even people in own romance genre shaking their head at us? WHY?

Lots of Reasons 

Keep in mind these are my own personal opinions based on watching interactions at Yaoi Con, on Facebook, at the GRL (Gay Romance Literature Retreat), Twitter, conversations with readers, writers, fans of Yaoi & M/M romance, private messages and e-mails. (So not all reasons are listed...)

1) Gender Identity: 

If you don’t identify with your assigned sex at birth reading/writing Yaoi or M/M romance is a way to experience what you (for whatever reason) can not live or reinforces how you are living. It’s a vent for gender identity expression. Many gender queer/non-binary/gender non-conforming people express their sexuality in a different ways. Some people assigned female at birth express in more masculine ways & they might identify with male attitudes…Yaoi gives that a voice with characters that make sense to them.

2) Women & Sex: 

People assigned female at birth have certain expectations placed on them regarding sex. (This is changing but it’s there and constant).

Here’s some of the messages society has tried to rain down on my head since birth:

*Women aren’t supposed to want/enjoy sex… those that do must be sluts.
*Women shouldn’t masturbate.
*Women are the gatekeepers of sexuality so they need to be careful with it (Careful how you dress/act you don’t want the male of the species to lose their minds…)
*Rape (even though it’s about violence and not sex) Victims are blamed because of action,dress, environment
*3+ women are KILLED every day in the USA due by their domestic partners (& there doesn't seem to be a lot done about changing the value society places on women)
*Women (for the most part) are not valued as much as men (wage gap, glass ceiling, different expectations=self fulfilling prophecy that usually are not about success...)
*Women's reproductive freedom is questioned. (Some would like people assigned female at birth not to be able to make decisions about their own bodies…)
*Women aren’t given the same freedom to explore their sexuality (teenaged boys are given a free pass to sow their “wild oats” while girls better save it for marriage or keep it quiet about it)
*Sex is for procreation.
*Women receive messages everywhere about the roles they should be playing. What markets target them as the audience... what does that say about where their attention should be?

These and many other messages may contribute to why some people assigned female at birth to dissociate from their own sexuality.  Slash/Yaoi/ M/M romance is a venue that gives a place to explore, reconnect, experience what society has tried to steal.

3) Rebelling against norms that don’t fit. 

When I read most (not all but most) M/F romances I wanna throw up in my mouth. Why? I can’t identify with either character. I wouldn’t make those decisions (BTW I’d not wait until page 68 to do something sexual & I’d SWALLOW). Pregnancy does not make a happily ever after complete. The inequality makes me ill because it feels like we are reinforcing sexist norms. ETC.

Yaoi removes society's expectations on what people in the relationships are supposed to do. (Granted you have the semi & the uki but well worn pathways of how females react is absent because there usually isn't a female main character). Gender lines might be blurred. It's easier to see different outcomes because the usual rules/troupes don't have to apply.

4) Sex in Yaoi: 

I like that sex isn’t shrouded in an off the page mystery. It’s dealt with head on usually in graphic detail. (It may reconnect the reader back to their own sexuality that society tried to swipe…) Or maybe it just turns the reader on… you know what? GOOD! That’s okay. Sexual excitement is wonderful and fingers crossed it will lead to an orgasm… I will always come down on the side of sex positive expressions. (Non-con & self-lubrication are discussions for another blog post).

5) Validation:

A reader who is gender queer/non-binary/non-gender conforming finds validation in seeing a story with characters they can identify with… making decisions they would make… let’s the person feel less isolated.

There’s a bunch of other reasons and sub-reasons and it varies from reader to reader. The fact that The Economist is discussing Yaoi/Danmei… is an incredibly positive thing.

We can discuss the pitfalls of Yaoi another day (because there are many) but I believe by women reading and enjoying Yaoi (M/M romance) allows them to connect (for a variety of reasons) with characters who are on the rainbow. Since the last study I read suggested women were the primary care takers of kids 83% of the time I believe mommies being rainbow positive is a wonderful thing. It fosters understanding and acceptance which is passed on to the next generation!

Psst, yup that's right that's my agenda: To increase understanding and acceptance of the rainbow.  (Too many people suffer from intolerance) Honestly I'm good with Yaoi being a venue to do that. I'm a firm believer in using all the tools in the toolbox! (Yaoi might be a gateway from some... Sure it may start out as ogling men...but the readers start to really care about the characters and usually that morphs into a deeper understanding and acceptance of not only LGBTQIA but of ourselves. Most of the readers and writers of Yaoi I know fight, vote, and support equality.) Whatever brings us closer to everyone believing LOVE IS LOVE... I'm all for it. I hope you are too!

Hugs, Z.

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