on enjoying queer erotica
Honestly I can’t figure out why I find two men getting it on so damn hot. It’s not like I have anything to do with it; my boobs don’t even fit in that fantasy.
I was always hoping to one day start an incredibly complex, annoying, overthinking discussion about this. Or bit of smalltalk.
Because it still bothers me a bit (the fact that there is no room for my sex/gender and my body in my preferred kind of erotic fiction), and I’d like to understand more about this phenomenon.
Do you identify with (one or both of) the men, or do you enjoy it more from an external, voyeuristic perspective? (For me it’s more of the latter.)
Has anybody any psychological clues about the whole thing?
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? I read (and write) erotic fiction involving women as well; my current huge project is all about women, and so is the little side thing I’m researching. But for me, I think the appeal of queer erotica is primarily about:
- The lack of a standard penis-in-vagina sexual script that comes with the queering of sex (as pointed out months ago by Emma). Despite some problematic attitudes in fandom about “only anal being real gay sex,” there is generally a wider range of sexual possibilities presented in queer erotica (fanfic, at least) than in straight. For example, it seems like a small detail, but I find it incredibly hot just to have characters asking each other what they want and what they like, rather than just assuming “sex = penetrative intercourse, and we’re having it now.” Of course there’s no reason that heterosex can’t also include a wide diversity of modes and practices, but it’s comparatively difficult to find good F/M erotica that doesn’t fall into the real-sex-means-penis-in-vagina trap. Which is especially galling for a queer person in a hetero relationship, who is having sex that might not be considered particularly “straight.”
- On a related note, I am probably, like, a Kinsey 5?* Whose very long-term relationship happens to be with an opposite-sex partner. I’d be lying if I said my habit of reading and writing queer erotica were unrelated to this. It’s simultaneously fantasy fulfillment, and an acceptable way of expressing queer desire while remaining hetero-monogamous. And John/Sherlock in particular is sometimes kind of a cathartic mirror-image of my own situation: negotiating love/attraction outside the general orientation I identify with, and also generally being read as outside that orientation.
- I find I’m able to enjoy a greater range of power-exchange and BDSM dynamics in fiction when the traditional male/female power roles are removed from the equation. Reading about a male dom and a female sub makes me kind of queasy (no judgment on others; just my personal gut reaction), whereas reading about a female domme and a male sub is more of a political fantasy for me than an erotic one. But reading about dom/sub relationships where both parties are the same gender, I often find scorchingly hot.
- About M/M specifically, I think one reason I find it hot is that, especially with a pairing where there is canonically as much love between the parties as there is between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, negotiating sex and desire requires these men to show vulnerability and longing in a way that runs contrary to their socialization and their customary (stoic, uncommunicative) behavior. People socialized as men have more to overcome, in this one regard, than people socialized as women, since women are trained to analyze and express their feelings, and men are trained not to. And the idea that love and/or desire is strong enough to overcome the power of that training, is pretty hot. (An analogous source of tension in F/F erotica, might be that men are trained to feel entitled to their arousal and sexual pleasure, whereas woman are trained not to. Go forth and fic.)
- True story, I was never all that into penises before starting to read slash fanfiction. Even in Lawrence, I kind of feel like…cool it with the peens, DH. From a narrative point of view, though, they’re a very potent signifier. Because a male erection is external to the body - it’s visible from a distance, or tangible through clothes, in a way a female erection or female arousal often isn’t. Which sometimes leads to problematic assumptions, I think, since erection does not equal arousal, and arousal does not equal consent.
However, the visibility of male erections has a LOT of narrative potential for hotness, because it sets up various kinds of tension, and pretty much, as far as I’m concerned tension = hotness. You can have exhibitionist tension, where the erection is in danger of being noticed in public; you can have internal tension, where the erection is visible to both partners but one or more partner is still struggling with his attitude toward the arousal it signifies; you can have misinterpretations of visible erections, and the resulting angst; you can have hair-trigger erections where the internal struggle consists of the character trying not to come too soon. All good stuff!
(I will add that it’s perfectly possible to write these kinds of scenes about women, and I am in the midst of doing so! But a penis can be kind of an easy short-hand.)
Anyway, WAY MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW about why I like slash! I will go eat lunch now. :-P
* (It’s actually more complicated than that: my main mode of attraction tends toward androgyny regardless of gender. But in practice this usually manifests as attraction to soft butch women.)
YAY! We’re having the women-write-gay-porn discussion! Woo!
I find that hbbo has
stolen articulated almost all my points. Matter of fact, I spent an hour this morning writing a completely fluff, pointless bit of breakfast porn that for me illustrated many of them: penetrative intercourse not necessary, negotiating something different, men showing vulnerability, and penises.
Because boy, do I love penises.
I think that’s my main motive and pleasure in writing Johnlock, second only to my fascination with these two particular characters. (For I am utterly stuck on the brilliant, passionately intellectual detective and his stalwart, true-hearted, emotionally literate lover, in ways I don’t fully understand). I just love dicks. Love them. Love them in all their stages, love the way they feel in the hand or the body, love the way they smell, the way they taste, the way they’re both incredibly silky and tender even as they’re hard and insistent; I love the way they move, I love the way they change, and I love, oh, how I love the way they give pleasure to men. I love seeing men in their pleasure. I just do.
So? So describing these things lets me love and enjoy them more. Articulating pleasure multiplies pleasure. Writing becomes lovemaking: I write desire, I desire writing. ‘Nuff said.
So why not women, professor? I’ve written a lot of first-and third-person female erotica in the past, but for some reason at this particular point in my emotional and erotic development, it feels productive and healthy for me to be out of the picture, literally or figuratively. The question of identification is a tricky one: do I want to have these men or be them? Both at once, I think. (To me, this may be an essentially queer identification.)
Some psychoanalysts believe that in a fantasy, we identify with and take pleasure not only in the protagonist who desires, but in all parts of the fantasy: the object of that desire, the acts expressing that desire, even the plots and setting in which the desire plays out. Because it’s happening in my head and is made up of my thoughts, it may be that I “am” Sherlock pushing John up against the wall even as I am John being pushed; more than that, my self/pleasure is spread out in the clothes the men tear, the act of tearing, the wall itself, the very angle of light in the scene. That’s how a fantasmatic works, after all: the characters, the situation, the whole assemblage of the narrative situation is the engine I fuel with my desires and my needs and my energies and my strengths—conscious and unconscious, those I know about and those I don’t. And right now, those desires, needs, energies, and strengths find their expression in this particular story, of a brilliant flighty analytical man loving a tender stable emotional man. I have and want all those qualities.
But mostly it’s because penises.