Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Steamy Bedroom Windows: Lesbian Fiction and Erotica


     We have moved into a world where LGBT families often include marriage, children, and the mortgage that comes with it. We move more freely as family units through the everyday activities of life. We attend PTA meetings, ballet classes, soccer games, graduations, weddings, and sadly sometimes funerals. We grocery shop, synchronize schedules, and coordinate pickups like air traffic controllers. We are families doing family things, as we watch our children grow.
     Some of us are growing old together, in longstanding relationships without children. Younger couples are just starting that journey. Others have grieved the loss of a partner and are getting by with a close circle of friends. Some of us are watching the kids we raised move on with their lives and are now being handed grandchildren to cuddle. We have retired to that time of which we dreamed, just the two of us doing as we please. We old ones are learning to live in this new, more accepting environment. We fought for the rights we sometimes forget we have, when encountering a place outside our still homophobic climate. We have to remind each other that yes, we can hold hands in public for all to see. No one will harm us here.
     While there is plenty of nightlife left out there, if you’re still young enough to survive a night on the town without requiring a three day recovery period, our social gatherings have moved from under the disco lights. We no longer confine our relationships to the back rooms of bars or clandestine affairs. We live openly, when we can, enjoying the first glimpses of what it might be like to be thought of as equal. We look forward to the day that “We the people” actually includes everyone. The times they are a-changing and the modern LGBT community is changing with it.
     One thing has not changed. It may seem trivial to some, but it is indicative of what the world outside of the LGBT community believes about us—that we are addicted to sex. We evidently cannot control our sexual desires and must have either just had sex, are having sex, or are about to have sex, as soon as we can be rid of the minor distraction getting in the way, like the other people in the elevator. Anytime, anywhere, and with anyone, we are not picky, or so they say. So, when I type “lesbian fiction” in the search engine at Amazon, I am not surprised by what pops up. Dismayed by some of the content, but not surprised.
     I just took a gander at the best sellers in lesbian fiction page. (It updates every hour, so by now it has probably changed.) The current top two sellers have crotch shots on the covers. Good for them. I’m sure they deserve their standing among the top selling books. It’s an achievement to be applauded. My argument is not with the covers or subject matter of these books. I don’t know that they are not sweet romances, where sex is a healthy part of a burgeoning romance and an integral part of the plot. The covers and titles would suggest otherwise, but you never know. All I know is, as other authors have stated, I don’t show my mother when I make it to page one of the best sellers list. Any moment of pride would be crushed by the ensuing conversation about all the half-naked women and crotch shots. It just confirms what she thinks. If I write lesbian fiction, it must be a “sex book” or erotica for those more eloquent than my mother. 
     Also on the list of best sellers are mysteries, thrillers, romances, and historical fiction. Most of these books contain sex, but the plot is not driven by the two main characters’ intimate escapades. When I search those categories without the lesbian qualifier, I am not bombarded with erotica. But add lesbian to the inquiry and the one-handed readers come into play. Why is that? No one is disputing that sex sells, but do plot and character driven books belong in the same genre listings with erotica just because they have lesbian characters? Where is the line in the sand distinguishing what is erotica, and who is drawing that line? Should erotica be a stand-alone genre with subcategories indicating gay, lesbian, straight, etc., or remain under the all-encompassing gay and lesbian fiction umbrella? Considering the expanding variety of lesbian fiction outside of the romance and erotica categories, is it time to take a look at restructuring the genre itself?
     I’m no prude. Read and write what you want. Sex is great. I'm 51, not dead, and not complaining.  Erotica sells, but is straight erotica included among the mainstream genres? And before the Fifty Shades of "Oh my God, are you kidding me?" argument gets started,  let me point to the debate happening in a much larger venue than my blog. I will simply say, the clamor over Fifty Shades of "Misogynistic Dribble" started when it came out as Twilight fanfic, and was removed from the site after it was deemed too erotic. I can also point to the Fifty Shades Generator | Terrible erotic fiction at the click of a button link.  Seriously, this series is a breakout anomaly that appears from time to time, not the norm, and clearly labeled a best selling "erotic" trilogy. Being a best seller does not change it's erotic genre status in the mainstream publishing world. 
     This is not about censorship or judgment. It’s more about changing the perception of our lives. Amazon’s lumping of erotica into the fiction category is just a symptom of how we are perceived. Our lives are changing. We are out, proud, and taking great strides toward equality. We are asking that people take their noses away from our steamy bedroom windows and look at us in our living rooms, where we are just people living very ordinary lives, where we have something to say other than the whispered desires of breathless passions. That request seems impractical when one look at an Amazon search result reveals we don’t seem able to pry our noses from the windows either. 

13 comments:

  1. I think you're right, it's a conversation that's time is now. Thanks for, once again, pulling back the curtain.

    Barrett

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  2. My dear at 51 you are but still a youngster. I'm 68 and feel 38. You made me laugh and also made me think. Enjoyed every word.

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    1. I agree, Sheri. You are as young as you feel. Funny how I thought 50 was old when I was younger.

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  3. Ms Bradshaw you are absolutely correct....although there are times when one can find the diamond in the rough perse through all the crap that has to be sifted through to get to it. That is how I found you....by typing in Lesbian Fiction through Amazon, and in the span of less than two months I have purchased every book available for an e-book on Amazon and BN. I hate having to sift through 350 crap books to find the 50 (because it stops at 400 when I do my search)that I would consider purchasing to read.

    Have a good one.

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  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was having this conversation in my head last night after I finished reading your excellent book, Molly:House on Fire. I feel like I had to wade through a lot of muck in the "lesbian romance" category before I could find a book that wasn't just a graphic sex scene surrounded by a bit of character development and a very thin story line. I am so looking forward to reading all of your other books because they offer real people that I can relate to, plot twists that keep me guessing, and love scenes that enhance the story rather than ending being the only story. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend your books to any of my friends. Looking forward even more now to my first trip to North Carolina this spring with my partner of 20 years. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Constantin. I hope you enjoy your trip and are including the Outer Banks of NC in your trip.

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  6. You make some seriously great points and it's funny because I did the same search a few months ago and was overwhelmed with naked lady book covers. Which don't get me wrong, I love naked ladies, lol--but I was trying to find more lesbian authors than anything--no such luck. The funniest thing is that it took me doing a search for Ocracoke, NC while I was visiting my parents who live down past Rodanthe to come across your book Waking up Gray (thereby discovering you)

    But what's worse yet is the fact that I work in a male dominated industry and the other day walked passed a female dump truck driver who was delivering a load to our site. She asked my male employee who I was and when he said, she's our boss--she immediately asked if I was married to and/or sleeping with the boss. I shouldn't be getting crap from women about stuff that is generally spouted off by guys in this industry who just haven't gotten used to the fact that women can do anything they friggin' want to.

    In short lesbians are apparently sex fiends who do nothing more than convert the innocent and women in general still belong barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen and not allowed to vote...SERIOUSLY?!@?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?1

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    1. Tommy, my parents live on Hatteras Island too. Small world.

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    2. Right on. Mine just officially retired down there but we've gone weekends/summers etc since I was a baby...

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  7. I have written numerous times over the last two years to both Barnes & Noble and Amazon regarding lumping erotica in the Lesbian and Gay fiction category. I even pointed out that a search for 'lesbian romance' or 'lesbian fiction' etc should not result in combined lesbian and gay books, plus all the non-plot driven erotic near-porn that is included in the results. Besides having to wade through all the non relevant books listed, it is just plain beyond insulting. The response from Amazon and B&N is that the authors pick the genre. That is an obvious cop out since the author isn't electing to be lumped in with all the rest of that erotic muck. At this point, I would be happy if they were to make the simple concession to sort the lists to separate gay fiction from lesbian fiction, since the first out numbers the second by what looks to be about eight to one, (even discounting the smut written by straight males under the category of lesbian erotica).
    I agree with every word you wrote and then some. Unfortunately, complaining directly to B&N and Amazon doesn't seem to matter to them in the least. I have every one of your books as ebooks and I search every month under your name and the names of others whose latest releases I do not want to miss. I also follow your blog to see what is in the works and am delighted to know that Rainey Season is a work in progress. (I also waited for Out on the Island and now wonder if you did not change the title of that book to Out on the Panhandle. Decky and Charlie are still my favorite characters.)

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