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I had a very good time with the editor Barbara Rogan's author's colloquium, which ended last Thursday. Unlike some of these courses, which often focus on teaching a technique and then leave you to the task of applying what you learned to your actual work on your own time afterwards, this was one that encouraged us to use our work-in-progress as the source of material that we would submit to be examined and critiqued by the editor teaching the class and by the other participating students.

So I very much took it as an opportunity to put my book in the shop for some body work and a facelift. Several of the scenes I submitted were scenes I'd been thinking of punching up, and did so before submitting them and then modified them after getting feedback. Then I continued with other scenes from my book that were never submitted to the class, drawing on ideas and the energy percolating from all the sharing.

Here's an overview of the modifications to the manuscript:

• Early in the book there is a short overview of childhood in which it is established that as a child I identified with the girls and my friends were girls up until around 4th grade when it fell apart; the main body of the book begins with me in 8th grade, starting in a new school. Clarified brief internal-monologue in 8th grade in which I'm musing that 3rd grade, when I had girl friends, was a long time ago, if I'm going to have friends at all "I needed to learn how to be around boys… and stop thinking of boys as them."

because it needed emphasis; story line parses better when it is understood that I've put that "one of the girls" understanding of myself behind me as kid's stuff.

• Inserted new gym class locker room scene in which the other boys throw my underwear in the toilet while I'm showering, + replaced a bland narrative with a full-dialog scene in the guidance counselor's office in which I demand that those boys be expelled, counselor says "not gonna happen, you didn't see them do it", says "you need to pick your battles", and warns me he can bring them in but they're more likely to retaliate & what are my goals here?

first, because I needed a more fully fleshed-out "being bullied" scene and second, because many readers of my book kept saying "I want to see your character react more, all this bad stuff happens and he doesn't get all freaked out and angry and scared". So I realized I needed to establish more clearly that when he (i.e., me) HAD reacted he had been taught in various ways that no one was going to help & that not letting this stuff get to him is necessary and important. (And, as I said in class, "I think if the MC reacted with disbelief and outrage, anger and fear at each of these occurrences, it would be exhausting and tiresome and would take away from the gut-punch moments where the things that happen really shred him pretty awful.")

Those were in the first long chunk of the book. The balance of the changes were towards the end, in the last major chunk, where things come to a climax and resolution. I had been feeling for some time now that I needed this section to be a more vivid burst of triumph and joy—after my readers have borne with me through all the difficult and unpleasant trials leading up to it, too damn much of my "success story" portion was abstract and intellectual, and the parts that contained actual action were too often told as summary narrative and I needed stuff to pop a lot more here.

• There's a party scene where my character (i.e., me) is frustrated that going to these parties over the years hasn't resulted in connecting with any girls and having either sex or sexual relationship as an outcome. Original scene had him musing sourly to himself that maybe he ought to try acting like other boys and coming on blatantly to girls and not caring if THEY want sex etc, -- classic "Nice Boys™" sour angry stuff -- and he tries it cynically and bloody hell it works! Or he enough of it working to startle him. Redid it as a full dialog scene with named characters and body language and the smell of smoke and the music being played, etc

• Turning point scene is where character is listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" for the first time while tripping and feels outed by the music. Also redone as full dialog scene with named characters and more interaction, less summary. Also stripped out all but the most central line from the music itself (copyright issues).

• Figuring-stuff-out scene shortly afterwards, Christmas vacation with friend from college, parent's home front porch, redone with the friend used as a foil to have an out-loud conversation, replacing inside-the-head internal monologue summary stuff. Let the other guy be devil's advocate and argue against some of what I'm putting forth, to let me elaborate and clarify in my responses.

• Inserted new scene, coming out to my parents. Actually happened more awkwardly and earlier when I knew less, but helps to flesh out relationship with parents and clarifies how they reacted & felt about me being different "in this way".

Because reviewers have periodically said they wanted to see more about family interactions. Mostly missing in action because there wasn't much to write about: like the dog who didn't bark, my parents were parent who didn't say and do homophobic / sissyphobic things; it's hard to incorporate the absence of a behavior into a story; this is one of the rare opportunities to show their attitude including both their lack of judgmental disapproval and the limits of their interest in discussing or listening to me talk about it.

• Two post coming-out scene in the Siren Coffeehouse (feminist coffeehouse) were punched up with more dialog and more evocative descriptions of the people I interacted with, because I was flirting as well as seeking political-social allies, and my character (me) flirting and feeling sexually confident is a triumphant thing and needed more pop and color

• The last "trauma" of the book is one of those late-in-plot teases, a reappearance of Bad Shit after things have finally started going the character's way etc — in this case, university folks find his behavior disturbing and ask him to be checked out by the psychiatrist "just to alleviate concerns" and his agreeement is treated as a self-commitment to locked ward. Rewrote the arrival scene where he's first brought in, first discovers that he didn't merely consent to a conversation with the school shrink but is being held there, first interaction with the others on the locked ward: redid with full dialog, more solidly fleshed-out characters (the attendant, etc) again to make it pop

• Inserted new scene with dialog with two male gay activist types after a Human Sexuality class in which my character and those two folks presented to the class.

• Inserted new scene of conversation with a transsexual woman in which they discuss transsexuality and my character's own peculiar sense of gender identity, after he is introduced to her by one of the gay guys in the previous scene.

Those two events did not happen in real life at that time, or at all precisely as described, but similar conversations took place about 4 years later. Greatly add to continuity, action, excitement, fleshing out of issues, use of contrast and compare to more fully explain my character's gender / sexuality identity.

• scrapped overly long postlogue in favor of highly condensed flash-forward to give more of a sense of a successful gender-activist life. Previous version tried to do a fast-forward summary of life from approximately the end of the previous chapter to current era; blah and boring and overly long and tedious. New version starts in present era, crisply identified with the closing of a web browser window in sentence 1, main character off to do a presentation on gender issues and genderqueer as a specific category of gender identity. That along with short conversation with girlfriend (and a later "oh and her, well this is how me met" snippet) and a passing reference to a published article do a much better job of "and he lived happily ever after" as well as being much more concise and streamlined.

I am INDEED doing a presentation about being genderqueer, two of them in fact, one later on in April down at Baltimore Playhouse on the 29th and then again at the EPIC Conference in Pennsylvania May 12-16. I need to review my notes and subject anais_pf to listening to me rehearse! But I'm very much looking forward to it.

I'm querying again. Modified my query letter slightly, modified my synopsis a bit (some agents want a synopsis), and of course sample chapters all reflect the above changes. I've got a damn good book here and I will see it into print.


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ahunter3: (Default)
I do tend to whine a bit. In here, and on the topic in general. Comes with the territory: when atypical female people set out to draw attention to social feminization and the expectations and roles and whatnot that they have to cope with, it's widely perceived as aggressive belligerent ranting; when we do our version, it's naturally going to be experienced as narcissistic whining.

I do a lot of my whining about the difficulty of getting more people to listen to me whine.

I was out for one of my long walks last Sunday and wondering how I'd feel about this obsession, and about my life in general, if I never get any significant traction. Would I feel like I had wasted my life and my time? I've occasionally said that in my life I really only set out to do one thing, take on one serious project, and this is it. Now that I've passed the midlife marker, it's a question worthy of consideration: how will I feel if I wake up on one of my last days as an old old person and look back and realize, if such is the case, that I set out to do one thing in my life and failed at it?

Mostly I think I'd feel like I gave it my best shot. And that I had done what I felt driven to do, and was true to what felt right for me. I think if it comes to that, I will feel good about myself for having believed in myself and made the attempt. And I will consider it a life far better spent than if instead I found myself looking back and realizing I had set aside something that I considered an important mission or calling simply because the doing of it turned out not to be easy or swift.

So in light of all that, I should acknowledge that although I complain a lot about how frustrating this all is, I am doing what I have selected for myself; i chose it and it is what I want. I get some measure of satisfaction from it even when it resembles beating my head against a wall.

Meanwhile, I have some news-bits, some morsels that are all flavored up with success instead of that perennial head-against-wall stuff for a change.

• Thanks to musicman, who recommended me to them and encouraged me to keep following up with them, it appears that I will be a presenter at Baltimore Playhouse, most likely on January 22. This will be another performance of the basic talk I gave at LIFE in Nassau last March.

• I finally met with the woman who manages the campus Women's Center and also teaches introductory Women's Studies at my alma mater SUNY at Old Westbury -- Professor Carol Quirke. After what happened with the personnel at the Nassau County LGBT Center, who kept not returning my phone calls and then indicated a nearly-complete lack of interest when I finally got more pushy with them about it, I was mostly starting to think that the Old Westbury people were similarly hoping I'd simply go away before they had to tell me I'm nowhere near as interesting as I think I am. But I made an appointment to drop in on her during her regular office hours, and it went well. I left off some additional materials (including a printout of my blog posting) and we talked about socialization and gender and how we felt about biological essentialism and coercive political correctness and I think we're very much on the same channel as far as how we view such things; I definitely went away thinking she was receptive to my ideas and really is interested in having me come to speak there.

• I'm immersed in a slow shift from mostly querying literary agents to querying independent editors (for feedback, actual content editing, and potential referrals whether they officially refer authors or not) and querying small publishers. One editor, Nikki Busch, has recommended that I find an independent editor who specializes in developmental edit, i.e., "the big picture stuff: organization, narrative voice, pacing, character development, and so on". She's aimed me at the Editorial Freelancers Association to find someone who specializes in memoirs and nonfiction narratives and I'll probably do that. Meanwhile, I have a query in at Neuroqueer Books, an enterprise that I believe Old Cutter John's son started, and I should be hearing back from them any day now. And I'm about to query Manic D Press, another possibility.

Whilst out walking and thinking last Sunday, I processed some other related notions and ideas:

• Some of my difficulties with networking are actually tied to my tendency to speak to people who happen to be members of an organization or participants in some movement-related activity as if they, personally, WERE the movement incarnate. I caused problems for myself back in 1980 when I tried to correspond with the Director of the on-campus Rape Crisis Center as if she were radical feminism incarnate and poised to consider my perspective on behalf of radical feminist thinkers everywhere. It was more recently a behavor causing confusion and miscommunication when I contacted the Programming Director at the Nassau Country LGBT Center to suggest that I present to them there: I spoke to her as malebodied sissyfem genderqueer liberation addressing the existing LBGTQ establishment and not as a potential presenter speaking to an organization official in charge of booking speakers and arranging events.

I do that, I realized, because I am mostly doing my own socio-political activism all by myself, so none of my behavior is supported or reinforced by being a person in a position doing a task or job, or of being a part of a group or organization and therefore experiencing the little social perks of belonging and participating and being engaged in a shared activity.

I usually see my isolation as a limiting factor (and a source of frustration). But there's a sense in which it means that nearly all of it that I do involves a cerebral connection to the cause qua cause; I'm never immersed in it because my friends are there, or because I like the wine and cheese and music at the receptions, or because it's an ideal socioppolitical venue to meet interesting new people, or because it's my job or my career.

Oh, it's still mostly a limiting factor, and yeah you can be forgiven for pinching your nose at the intellectual snobbery residing in the previous paragraph, don't get me wrong on either account, I know and I know. (The latter is a compensation for the former). But it's still relevant here. If there's a useful takeaway from this observation, it's that I will probably have my most satisfying conversations with the most fervently committed extremists, and that I need to nurture a more pragmatic streak within myself for having conversations with the rest of the folks I encounter along the way.

• When I speak of being a sissy or a male girl or describe that I was always one of the girls despite male body, one of the common misconstruals I get is that people visualize flamboyant emotive dramatic people, people for whom the feminine is centrally about "look at me". That's not it. Actually it was all about "approve of me". More explicitly, it was "obey the rules, be the teacher's pet, show us what a good citizen you can be". There's a not-so-nice element to it which I should probably emphasize more often, if only because it offsets some of the sickeningly-sweet aspects that may be hard for some to swallow: we who bought into that thought ourselves superior, were often smug snobby kids who were sure that we were going to be the ones to end up in charge of things. Because we were doing it right, were doing what adults valued.

Women's studies courses often observe that the "good girl" mystique sets girls up: it turns them into approval-seekers, pleasers of others. What sometimes gets lost is that the girls who embraced it believed in the same tradeoff that I did: they thought they, and not the undisciplined weak childish people who lacked self-control and who did not play nicely with others, would be the ones who would run the world.

At any rate, I was not initially alone among the children. What happened to the rest of the good boys, the nice guys? How did the other ones feel about the bad boys, the disruptive and disobedient boys, calling them girls and calling them sissies and taunting us with the claim that they were doing "boy" right and we were the weak ones, afraid to risk disapproval? I know what happened with many of them: they became convinced and got defensive about it. They stopped caring more about what other goody-goody people (mostly girls) and teachers and other adults thought and started to care about what the bad boys and tough boys thought of them. But what about the others?

Anyway, yeah, we wanted to be better than others. Little Lord Fauntleroy aloof from the riffraff. Tattletale Boy glad to see the misbehaving children get what they deserve. Sure, I'll confess to it. So OK, the world is fully entitled to be wary of our reappearance on the stage to claim once again to be some flavor of better, a new and more sexually liberated way of doing male and all that squeakyclean gender smugness.

How about merely "as good"?, though? You figure people can admire us some if we stand up for ourselves and assert that we like being who we are?


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ahunter3: (Default)
So if you've been reading these things, you've probably got some idea of how I perceive myself: kinda sweet, bit on the prim side, warm and loving when people open up to me and share, a bit reserved otherwise, serious and righteous in a confidently cheerful sort of way... Sexually more of a reactive person than an initiator, shy about my appetite, not a prude about casual sex but prefer sex with an emotional connection, cautious about sex if I don't feel understood and appreciated, naughty but not dirty, playful and inclined towards mutual teasing more than full-on power conflict in my erogenous interactions, require emotional safety and trust to be with someone that way. Basically a pretty typical good-girl-grown-up sort of person, albeit incidentally male.

Not really your conventional poster-person for the whip and chain scene.

Hey, I used to laugh at that stuff. About how so many people would gravitate towards such a narrow and almost ritualistic uniform set of behaviors and appearances and whatnot. A fetish fetish! You know, how it's not merely about pain, it's about the giving and receiving of pain with a small and specific set of devices, those spanking paddles and those BDSM whips. Not ice picks or pliers or hot match heads. And just LITTLE pain, soft little whacks. And how it's not merely about power and restraint and semi-involuntary sexual experiences, it's about the restraining of people with the same silly little velcro cuffs to tie your partner to the bedpost and the silly stuff about 'master' this and 'mistress that' and the person being tied up is having done to them exactly what they want, or as much of it as they can get the other person to do, yeah right, domination and submission. And those silly clothes, the Victoria's Secret meets Goth Girl underwear and black leather and high heel shoes, let's all dress that way, sure. That's the impression I had of BDSM from the bits and pieces of it that had been exposed to the light of the vanilla-world day, and yes I giggled at it and no I didn't picture myself getting involved in it.

Hmm. Well. SOME people reading the above paragraph are no doubt nudging their friends and partners and saying "He should have been at that dungeon scene last Friday, with the lawn darts and the cattle prods and the human corsetting... 'little' pain indeed". Indeed, nudging their friends and partners with something sharp and pokey, or perhaps hitting them with something heavy and thuddy. It's true, my sense of what BDSM was like was heavily influenced by people playing around the very edges of it, sort of the precursors to the Fifty Shades of Grey folks, and oh yes there are people whose seriousness for pain and power-play aren't quite so trivial. The costumes are considerably more varied, too, by the way.

But that doesn't really explain what I'm doing there. I may have been laughing dismissively at BDSM for their little pats and taps and their little velcro wrist cuffs, but it wasn't because I was craving a good bashing with a baseball bat or wanted to penetrate my partner with a potato peeler or anything. And as for power play, I've always been a radical egalitarian, fervently committed to absolute equality, no way you'd find me seeking out domination and submission, uh uh. The everyday world is already overly full of the eroticization of power over other people, polarized gender roles manifesting as male domination and female submission, and me, I'm trying to get AWAY from all that! And nope, don't need no pointy red high heel on my throat or some dominatrix bossing me around, either, I had my share of bossy authoritarian coercive adults as a militant children's libber, nope, what I want is trust and intimacy and open honest sharing of feelings, THAT'S what I get off on.

Well, folks, a funny thing happens in the gently carpeted hallways of the Nice. I first intuited it back during my first run at being a college student, when I was on a life-plan path that would have required me to spend a decade or longer in school working towards professionalism, without necessarily including any girlfriend until far later:

> Why on earth had I thought it would be a good idea to go to the
> University of Mississippi? To join the AIR FORCE for a scholarship?
> To tie myself to what looked like a decade of financial dependence on
> my parents? To live in this stuffy old-fashioned place and never meet
> any girls until I graduate eons from now with an advanced graduate
> degree making me a professional, since there are no jobs for people
> with a bachelors' degree in astronomy (what, they're going to pay you
> to look at the stars?), learning lots of math and physics (yeah THAT'S
> a real good fit for my talents and interests)? So that when I finally
> get a professional degree, after, of course, repaying my debt to the
> AIR FORCE by doing a stint of active service for a year or two (oh
> yeah, military me, for sure) maybe some stuffy well-dressed girl will
> marry me if I support her financially, and then she'll let me do it to
> her.

It may not be immediately obvious in the context of that paragraph, but the most worrisome image there is that of the partner who participates in sex as a kind of largesse, a dispensation to the deserving, a favor, perhaps a kindness, perhaps a more hard-nosed exchange but at any rate not participating in it for her own reasons, her own cravings and selfish wants.

And it took awhile for me to fully realize it but THIS is one of the most important areas for equality and reciprocity: I don't want it doled out to me as an act of generosity or as a gift, I want to experience someone's hunger, I want them wanting to do stuff to me because THEY get off on doing stuff to me. Oh, I'll reciprocate, you'd better believe it, I am so there with reciprocity on that. I crave my partner's responsive tinglings and I want to play with her nerve endings and make her hungrier and hornier and I want to tease and torment her and experience her appetite. Oh my... we're sort of talking about POWER here, aren't we? But but but, hey wait a minute, this paragraph started out being focused on equality!!

Paradoxically, yes, that's how it works. Power exchange can be a delightful and delicious sharing of vulnerability and appetite, experiencing being wanted and being had and done unto, stripped of self-control or stripping one's partner of theirs, and the path away from gender-specific rigid power dichotomies, if one wishes neither to be a sexual commodity on tap nor someone whose appetites are condescendingly catered to, leads not so much to some kind of sanitized NiceLand in which power plays no role but instead to an acknowledgement that it IS always going to be there but that it can be played with, openly spoken of, and deployed for mutual pleasure in a fashion that fosters mutual trust.

Right off the bat, front and dead center to my own gender concerns and experiences and considerations, the BDSM environment lets me opt out of being the sexual "prime mover", the heavy, the person doing the butch-role thing, the initiator. Unlike the overwhelming majority of possible sexual contexts, here's a place where it can be directly tossed onto the table as a new rule for a new game: you top me, OK? It need not be for always and forever, although it could be (it could be set up as a defining rule of all subsequent play, or of the relationship in its entirety; but it can also be a "tonight's rule" sort of thing).

I like relationships where we can talk about power, and I like being able to talk about power without it necessarily having to be one of those ponderous theoretical excursions into social analyses and discussions of patriarchal hegemony and whether an egalitarian impulse can survive the deterministic overarching environment and so on and so forth.

Oh, it's not a perfect panacea, don't get me wrong. I have attended kink events as someone who is clearly a male-bodied person and found that prior to any negotiations of who is doing what to whom, one still has to connect and express interest, and yes there is still a distinctive disproportional expectation that the male-bodied people will seek out those initial connections. I don't want to corrupt the minds of any similar male feminine people by leading them to think that if they attend a BDSM event there will be gangs of dommy women approaching them with deliciously malicious intent. It could happen, but the BDSM world is merely a place where power arrangements can be negotiated, it's not a world insulated and isolated from gendered expectations.

Anyway, yeah... BDSM has its usefulness for gender variant people. Oh, and I've discovered it can be fun being poked with sharp pointy things, especially if the person weilding them enjoys provoking your reactions. *blush*


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ahunter3: (Default)
So I've written this book about being a male person who is akin to male-to-female transgender folks except that I don't think I'm in the wrong body and am not trying to pass for "female" so much as be understood as "girl in male body". And about being attracted to female people but specifically AS a girlish rather than boyish-persuasion kind of male, and how that's different from heterosexuality and all that.

Now, as you may have noticed, this specific gender & sexual-orientation identity is not a "Thing" in our society at the moment. When I've asked people if they think my book would be redundant because this is already well-established and people with that sense of self are all over the place already, they say "Nope, that's definitely not already said-and-done and nope, kinda rare, that particular configuration".

Maybe too rare. What (you may well be wondering) is the basis for me thinking there's anything akin to a population of like-minded, similarly-experienced people who would read my book and identify with it? Why ought I to think I'm some kind of vanguard for an entire gender/orientation identity? What if, instead, I was a person who was a boy by day and a girl by night and was sexually attracted only to androgynous-looking people who flirt by night but consummate by day? I mean, at some point it becomes just my own personal unique turn-on or special-snowflake sense of identity, yes?

There are two factors that I believe play into why there isn't really much of a social presence for this sexual-invert identity I'm trying to talk up.

ONE: Personality itself. My partner Anais_PF heard me describe this one and it really "clicked" for her. Visualize my mostly-opposite corollary person for a moment: female bodied, has a very boy-identified past and in both personality and behavior is more like one of the guys than one of the other girls. And is attracted to male-bodied people albeit not necessarily the most conventionally masculine amongst them. Such women are not shy about their existence. They may not be melded into what you'd think of as a "movement" constituted around that specific identity, but they are a visible component of other more general movements and expressions of identity.

Feminism doesn't enshrine traditionally manly characteristics but it embraces the notion of even-handed fairness and hence the idea that if it is good for male people to exhibit certain characteristics, they must be equally admirable in women even if social norms and values say otherwise. And although the political consideraton of women's oppression and the demand for a level playing field have made feminism attractive over the years to a wide spectrum of women, we DO have a stereotyped notion of a woman of a certain personality who finds feminist sentiments particularly and personally validating, these being the women who proudly defy expectations of feminine daintiness and delicacy. Robust women. Some of whom, of course, are lesbians, confirming a certain expectation associated with those behaviors and expressions of personality; but some of whom, even if they aren't loudly distancing themselves from their lesbian cohort, are definitely NOT. Their not-lesbianism is often manifest in their critical assessment of male behavior, the complaints of women who at least potentially find male people attractive, were that maleness not quite so entangled with those males being MEN.

Yeah, OK, now consider us. Our situation is comparable, mirror-image, but being outspoken and confrontational about expectations is not merely a response to a situation; being outspoken and confrontational are also behaviors that reflect personality attributes to some extent, and so are the expections that are BEING defied, THEMSELVES. Visualize a roomful of males who, by our definition, are not feeling well-described by the masculine gender stereotype of personality characteristics. The robust women in the other room are defiantly tough confrontational women reacting to the definitional expectation that they be dainty and delicate, but in this room we have guys reacting to the definitional expectation that we be noisy boisterous aggressive tough guys, guys who are reacting to that because that description does not fit us. See the problem?

TWO: The, Umm, Being Coy Problem. Y'all remember the post about the "nice guys", the fellows who are perceived as manipulative whiners, guys who complain that women don't "give them sex" as rewards for being nice but instead "give sex" to guys who treat them horribly and all that? Well, as I said, those guys are sort of us and sort of not (and I've both acknowledged the overlap and made some rather emphatic distinctions). Let's take this opportunity to rephrase and reshape the expectations: not that women would "give us sex", because sex is not a commodity that females possess and for which males are the consumers; and not that we would get a "reward" for being "nice" because being "nice" is a personality characterisic, or a constellation of them, an aspect of who we are, and not some kind of favor we're doing women (or for that matter, anyone else).

If there's something we expect, or at least hope for, it's probably better expressed as women perceiving us as cute and imagining what they might do to us, what they might want to make us feel. Perceptions of our personality, the, umm, "niceness", might play a part in that. So, not women "giving us sex" but selecting for themselves an opportunity that they visualize themselves as being in charge of, that it is at their initiative and part of their pleasure coming from that dynamic. I would like to suggest to you that if the guys in this room are sort of imagining that, fantasizing about that kind of thing, we're also thinking that if we hang signs around our neck that read "We're hoping you'll do this, oh please DO ME, DO ME!", drawing attention to ourselves as individuals who would kind of, you know, react to that kind of situation with a significant degree of satisfaction and pleasure, that...that ... it's just not DEMURE, ok?? It would likely repel the women we're hoping for. If such scenarios have the possibility of playing out, if this can be a Thing, or even if the guys just maybe THINK it could be... well, the women involved in that scenario are going to want to believe it's their idea, at least to the extent that any really overt expression on our part of the fact that we want this to occur is most likely to be a major turnoff for them.

Yeah. There's no dignity in saying so. Yes, I do feel faintly ridiculous at the moment, thanks for asking.

By staying silent, we are deprived of the benefits of a collective identity, but those of us who need it the most (young ones coming of age and having to figure this out in order to function) would be the least able to speak out, and those in the best position to speak out (people like me who have not only figured it out but are actively IN relationships with people who understand us pretty well, thus have less to lose by being overt instead of coy about being sexually reactive), well, we have less pressing need for our gender and sexual orientation to be widely understood... we've GOT ours, if you see what I mean? And the ones in the middle, who have perhaps developed a sense of self and of their sexual nature that's somewhat congruent with what I've described here, but are still looking for partners in some significant sense of the word, well, the situation asks them to choose between being social activists about it or being viable potential partners.

You do the math.


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ahunter3: (Default)
So, let's say you're espousing pride in some sort of group identity. Could be anything: polyamory, communal living, lefthanded people, people who like to retain their underarm hairs, whatever.

It's pretty much inevitable that somebody, sooner or later, is going to react to that with "Oh, so, you people... you folks are like Embarrassing Example X, that's what you're talking about, right?"

Every group has one. If you're trying to promote the idea of polyamory, someone's going to ask if you mean something akin to the early Mormons, and so forth. If you're organizing unpopular kids who get bullied, someone's going to mention Klebold and Harris.

The thing is, the comparison wouldn't be made if there weren't some kind of overlap between what you're trying to talk about and what they're familiar with.

In my case, I found myself wincing when I read some of the descriptions of mass murderer Elliot Rodger: an angry man who was very uncomfortable with taking sexual initiative, and especially angry that male sexual experience was reserved mainly for guys who did. A guy who persisted in seeing this as an external problem, not as a personal problem of his own.

I can't tell you to what extent it's a spurious connection. I don't know all that much about the guy. I've probably read less of what was written about him than the average person, to tell you the truth. But I will say this: to whatever extent there are lots of people with experiences like mine up through my early 20s, that's a fertile soil for bitter anger; and in the absence of a shared identity and a shared understanding of this as a social-political issue, bitter anger tends to seek someone to blame.

It's part of what this is about. No, I'm not saying my book will prevent people like me from growing up to become mass murderers; that would be unduly melodramatic and has no more substantiation than someone equating me and what I'm trying to talk about with Elliot Rodger.

Another Embarrassing Example X that I may be compared to is the so-called "Nice Guys". I think the original send-up of "Nice Guys" was done on the website "Heartless Bitches International" 15-some-odd years ago; the gist of it was that there exist some self-described "nice guys" who are not directly sexually forward but whose motivation for being "nice" to girls is that they anticipate or expect sex as a sort of reward for being nice guys. Perhaps more to the point, they self-identify as "nice guys" usually in the course of complaining that they are underappreciated, that those evil women have the despicable tendency to prefer mean guys who treat them horribly, and that therefore they (the nice guys) should immediately STOP being nice and treat women like shit since that's obviously what they prefer.

I do have a different point of departure than these archetypal fellows: I may be angry about how things are set up but I have no intention of changing my behavior; if we're going to call it "being nice", well, it's not something I'm doing for someone else. And although, yeah, my analysis of the overall situation contains a lot of parallels to what these guys have collectively complained about, it's not women's fault. Women have explained in detail exactly what social prompts and punishments and expectations and so forth have channeled them into those very behaviors and choices, and THEY (the women) were making those explanations as complaints THEMSELVES. But yes, undeniably, on some level and in some sense of the word, it's about the same underlying phenomenon.


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