alixtii: Mac and Cassidy. Text: "*squee!* (Cindy Mackenzie)
[personal profile] alixtii
Some of the WNGWJLEO meta that has been going around has made me think about the rôle of sexual identities in my own fanfic writing. I've already mentioned before that I've noticed that WNGWJLEO doesn't seem to be a trope in femslash--or at least the femslash I've read--the way it is (or has been) in m/m slash fandom. (I do wonder if WNG is more likely to be a trope in fandoms which are more OTP-centric than Buffy femslash fandom tends to be, fandoms like XWP or Law and Order or Wicked.)

There's been a lot of talk about how characters understand their own sexuality in fic, especially when they find themselves in a type of relationship different than the sort they may have had in canon, and--I suppose--what that means about us as writers and readers and a community. It's been much noted, although no one is quite sure what to make of it, that while the WNG trope doesn't seem to as common as it was (depending on how one defines) the characters in same-sex relationships don't exactly seem to be identifying as gay (or even bi, in most cases), either. Is fandom a post-gay space? No one seems to know for sure.

Anyway, all the discussion made me want to navel-gaze and to look at how sexual identities function--or don't--in my writing. (That is, I'm not talking about how the characters are portrayed in canon, but how I think about them when I'm reading, and how I might expect a reader of my fanfic to respond to them in those stories.)

Some of my characters do have sexual orientations as such, in my imagination if nowhere else, even if they're never really seen identifying with those orientations. Dawn and Faith are in my mind bisexual, even though I really don't see Faith spending much time on coming up with labels for herself. Willow and Kennedy are lesbians, and identify as such in a fashion which is more overtly political and self-aware even while at the same time their queerness is very domestic and in some ways heteronormative. (Kennedy'll have sex with a man in the context of an orgy--I'm thinking mainly of Dawn/Giles/Faith/Kennedy foursomes here--but it's really not her cup of tea. Willow's orientation builds upon her statements in canon, and in part as a resistant measure against all those who paint her bisexual.)

However, I think ambiguity can be important in fic, so other characters have less well-defined sexualities. Buffy is straight unless she's with Faith (a whiff of WNGWJLEO) or appearing in the fic. (I jest, but the fact that Buffy does revolve around her means I have written femslash about her. I see those stories--unlike most of my stories--as sort of AU's, being about a slightly different Buffy than the one we know.) My Andrew is not strictly gay, which leaves open various levels of queerness. I pair him with female characters, but try and keep his mannerisms and dialogue in line with canon, so if he reads as gay there he'll probably read as gay in my fic, too. My Giles is straight insofar as we know but with a deliberate attempt to recreate the Giles/Ethan subtext whenever they meet, to keep open the possibility they may have been lovers. I've only shown Ethan involved with women or talking about being involved with women, but he has subtext not only with Giles but also Beth (an OC who is, despite the name, male). Xander and Oz are presumably straight, as I don't like to write them that often, but that assumption should probably be problematized as well. . . .

A lot of what I write is femslash, so I don't have a lot of straight people appearing in my fics, or at least not a lot of female straight people. This isn't problematic until one considers that I write a lot of my fic in the same universe, so that slowly everyone is becoming bi: not just Dawn and Faith, but also Amanda, Vi, Lilah, Eve, Harmony, Amy. . . who's left? Samantha Finn? (Only until the next 'thon. . . .)

And of course my characters are queer in other ways than just being bi or gay or lesbian, although that opens the can of worms of just how much we're going to let into the term before we've let in every relationship without a picket fence. (Is Dawn and Giles' open marriage queer? Maybe? Would the age-difference and previous power-differential itself be enough to make it queer? Maybe not?)

Homophobia isn't really a present force in my stories, although of course the world they take place in is heteronormative. In part that's because the characters I'm writing about are priveleged enough, with the resources of the Watcher's Council behind them, to do what they like--who really is going to tell a Slayer and a Wiccan who they can sleep with? Of course, that's unrealistic in that it assumes the Council itself is totally accepting of queerness. (Of course, we don't know that such judging doesn't go on in my Watcher!verse, but if it does it happens outside of the stories I am telling.)

Homophobia is touched upon in my "St. Clare's" fics, where Faith and Kennedy are teaching at a Catholic school, but even there it's mostly for humor: the juxtaposition of the Vatican's outdated morality and the reality of the school itself, where no one is taking that morality seriously despite paying a certain obligatory amount of lip-service to it.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-20 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carmarthen.livejournal.com
I'm curious how you (and others who see Willow as 100% gay) explain the Oz arc. To me, the Willow/Oz relationship was played in canon as a real relationship that meant something, and I can't personally be comfortable with totally dismissing it. I could buy, perhaps, that Oz was the Exception to Willow's lesbianism (I've certainly met people who had an exception or two to an otherwise pretty inflexible orientation).

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-20 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Well, I don't "see Willow as 100% gay"; I'm not a detective, and canon isn't a set of clues. What I know is that, despite her relationship with Oz, Willow identifies as pretty close to 100% gay. And really, that's all I feel I need to know. I know there are people who have intense, strong relationships with people of the other gender and still realize later that they aren't attracted to that gender at all--or at least I know people claim that, and I feel it offensive to doubt their experience. I believe that such relationships are even easier to happen during the confused teenaged years, when Willow's relationship with Oz happened. I dont decide what other people's sexual identities are, even if all the evidence seems to point to a conclusion other than the one the person is announcing to me.

I don't see Willow being 100% gay as meaning that her relationship with Oz "wasn't real" or that one is dismissing it. To do so, IMHO, would be to conflate love and sex. Certainly, Willow loved and loves Oz.

Now of course I'm a writer, and she's a fictional character, so there's be nothing wrong about me writing Willow so that she reallized she was, either because of Oz or because of some new interest, bisexual. In our hands we can do whatever we want with our characters; that's what fanfic is. I simply choose not to do so.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-20 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carmarthen.livejournal.com
That makes sense to me (I do think Willow's sexual relationship with Oz was probably reasonably fulfilling). It's been so long since I watched the show I can't remember whether she ever showed signs of attraction to any men besides Oz, but certainly the 'gay now' identity ended up being a lot stronger.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-20 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
In short, it's not that I think Willow is 100% gay, but rather that I got annoyed by the self-convinced tone of people who insisted she couldn't possibly be anything other than bisexual, and so I decided to write her that way.

You could say that to me Willow/Oz is an unexamined case of WNSWJLEO!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 07:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] secondsilk.livejournal.com
I like that: WNSWJLEO.

The other side of the issue you found with your Buffy/Faith is the Yes I'm Straight, But I Don't Want You. Faith is closer to Buffy's type than many men would be, if one can take out the determining factor of gender. (Which has its own problems, WNG can justify itself in that way, although it sometimes leaves a nasty aftertaste.)

popping in from metafandom to drop nonsequiters

Date: 2007-03-21 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sapote3.livejournal.com
This came up in a comments thread about Torchwood (http://sapote3.livejournal.com/9643.html?thread=11179#t11179) a few days ago! Postheteronormative het: the new slash?

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-20 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] globalfruitbat.livejournal.com
I'm so glad I did [livejournal.com profile] femslash07 this year, because now you are on my friends list! And you write thinky posts that i really enjoy reading.

I have more thoughts, but they are coming out all rambly, so just 'Yay!' and this was really interesting to read.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 12:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rez-lo.livejournal.com
To the extent that WNG is a defensive construction in m/m slash (i.e., protecting the attractive aspects of the pair's masculinity in spite of their hot queer ways), maybe it's not surprising that it's not a major theme in f/f? In terms of the dominant culture, male homosex is more problematic in general than female ditto (and, as you very incisively pointed out elsewhere, also deeply misogynistic).

{Here via [livejournal.com profile] metafandom.)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 12:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rez-lo.livejournal.com
Erm. What I meant was, "that male homosexuality especially is viewed as a societal threat" is misogynist. I think you made that point in a comment elsewhere? Anyway, it struck me as one of those big, simple truths that doesn't get mentioned much, and I appreciated it.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Thanks for the clarification--I was sort of scratching my head over that one. I don't remember making the point, but I well could have.

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(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 12:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Also, het is written predominately by straight females. Femslash is predominately written by queer females--so it makes sense that the appearance of queer females within the stories wouldn't be seen as particularly earthshattering. I've brought up the differences recently mostly to point out the ways the conventions of the two genres can be very, very different.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rez-lo.livejournal.com
Yes (if you meant, "slash is written predominantly by straight females"?), exactly. I read the post questioning whether femslash even belongs to the same genre as manslash and thought it was excellent. I loved your remark about the hatred/fear of Mary Sue being largely absent in femslash; the construction and treatment of Mary Sue by a largely female fandom raises some pretty painful questions.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Yes, I meant slash, not het. And thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-22 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carmarthen.livejournal.com
My impression (borne out by recent polls I've seen, but it's hard to get a solid idea of fandom demographics) is that slash fandom is shifting more towards bisexual women. Which hey, might explain part of why WNGWJLEO is less common and widely accepted as unproblematic than it used to be (plus growing societal awareness and acceptance of homosexuality).

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 07:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] secondsilk.livejournal.com
I don't think fandom can be a post-gay space until we are passed asking that question. But we're getting there, people don't have voices or physical mannerisms, and a person's claimed identity cannot be questions. Certainly one of the great joys of fanfiction is that it can show familiar characters and settings absent of the politicisation of sexuality.

Interestingly, although I consider (I may have to qualify this by saying most) polyamorous relationships queer, open marriages have never struck the same cord. Perhaps because the commonest maintains heterosexual marriage as the 'baseline' of relationships. One is still only thinking in one-man-one-woman sex. (Except in cases where one isn't, and then the same-sex attraction is queer.)

I like your reading/presentation of Willow, with that element of political awareness. I read Willow's orientation builds upon her statements in canon, and in part as a resistant measure against all those who paint her bisexual. as meaning in fic, the character herself was resistant to being painted as bisexual. Also, the description of her relationship with Kennedy is also how I see them.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Interestingly, although I consider (I may have to qualify this by saying most) polyamorous relationships queer, open marriages have never struck the same cord.

*nods* Deciding where queer begins and ends is always drawing a line in the sand--and at its extremes, can be [heterophobic? I don't believe there is such a thing, but I'm not sure what word goes here] in it's assumption that heterosexuality is always normative. I generally just stay out of those discussions and let queer people define it themselves, but they don't seem to come to any conclusions as to what counts.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-22 12:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] secondsilk.livejournal.com
assumption that heterosexuality is always normative.
Yes. My godmothers have a more conventional relationship dynamic than my (straight) parents do.

I am a fan of the theory that personal ideosyncracies beat any generalisations you can make about gender, race, educations, wealth, etc. In terms of personality, life view, and attraction.

And certainly, it should not be anyone's role to define another person's queerness.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-22 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
And certainly, it should not be anyone's role to define another person's queerness.

Agreed. OF course, sometimes it's necessary to speak not only of the queerness as a personal identity, but also of the queerness/queerability of actions, of places, of relationships, of constructions, of texts, etc. when it's necessary for an outside observer to make a call one way or another.

And when we're talking about fictional characters, that definitely opens up a whole new level of theoretical complexities. . . .

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 06:35 pm (UTC)
ext_6334: (Getsmart)
From: [identity profile] carenejeans.livejournal.com
And of course my characters are queer in other ways than just being bi or gay or lesbian, although that opens the can of worms of just how much we're going to let into the term before we've let in every relationship without a picket fence. (Is Dawn and Giles' open marriage queer? Maybe? Would the age-difference and previous power-differential itself be enough to make it queer? Maybe not?)

It's both fascinating and frustrating to me that non-traditional het is so hard to categorize, in fandom and outside. After 35 years of feminism, there is still no good theory of radical heterosexuality. The (contentious) idea of "queer het," is the closest we've come in a long time, but only because queer theory is currently the best -- or only! -- way to try to get a handle on radical het. Feminism has really failed us in this regard!

As for your larger question... following your lead, I'm only talking about *me* here. See, I'm a middle-aged feminist. I came of age during the heydey of Second Wave feminism, when "Feminism is the Theory, Lesbianism is the Practice" was, erm, queen. I didn't *believe* it, though I certainly believe that lesbianism is an important part of women's liberation. But more to the point, the "culture" of feminism includes large dollops of lesbianism, and so, growing up with it as I did, it all seems, well, normal. 8-)

Until recently, I haven't written f/f slash, not only because no pairing pinged for me, but because I kept seeing people say m/m slashers "should" write f/f, and that just made me crabby. I'm not writing to NOBODY's "shoulds," okay? 8-/ But I got a faboo femslash request for Yuletide (Annabel Lee written as if the narrator was a woman? How can I resist that?) And it was funny, because while writing it, I felt almost as if I were back in 1980. 8-) It was nostalgic! Now I've signed up for the cliche femslash challenge (because alien sex pollen! How can I resist that?) and am already feeling like it's old home week or something.

This is probably not most people's reason for why WNGWJLEO isn't something that occurs to them re: f/f pairings, but it's mine and I'm sticking to it. And yet, maybe it is -- I do think feminism has "normalized" lesbianism for a lot of women.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
It's odd that you should bring up the "queer het" debate, because even as I characterize the het relationship as potentially queer(ed), I wouldn't call it queer het. And I'm suddenly not sure why not anymore.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 09:13 pm (UTC)
ext_6334: (Lovers--Beeej)
From: [identity profile] carenejeans.livejournal.com
I wouldn't call it queer het. And I'm suddenly not sure why not anymore.

That's the crux of the thing -- is a het relationship "queer" if it's "unconventional?" And how far off the heteronormative does it have to be to *be* unconventional?

Also, I think... one problem might be that people have started collapsing "heteronormative" and "heterosexual," so it's hard to talk about offbeat het, because, hey, it's *all normal*, right? But not every het relationship *is* normal -- and what do you call it then? I mean, yeah, I just said "unconventional," but somehow that conjures up "eccentric," like a perfectly straight couple who fly matching zebra-striped airplanes or something. Hm. *Is* that queer? Camp, maybe? 8-)

(Sorry -- just thinking out loud here.)

I'm not against the idea of "queer het," btw -- at least not in the OMG appropriation! way. I think people use it because there just isn't another good way to talk about radical heterosexuality, but it's kind of an awkward fit. However, feminism has fallen behind on theories of (hetero)sexuality, while queer theory has forged ahead on all fronts, so what do you do?

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
I think I'm against the idea of "queer het" as a genre. I'm certainly fine with and used to usages where otherwise heterosexual relationships are called "queer"==because of BDSM or whatever--but in terms of genres, I don't think it's a useful distinction. It hard enough to figure out the difference between gen and het and whatnot, as recent discussions I've been involved in indicate. I can see why some readers might want to separare heteronormative het from unconventional het, but it'd be a very subjective distinction--at best we could have a continuum. (Heteronormativity rating 7, anyone?)

I think radical heterosexuality (i.e., the truly radical stuff, less so having my date hold open a door for me or something) falls quite comfortably within my concept of queer--i.e. the uses of "queer" I see used on LJ. Indeed, I'm not sure I quite see the need for a new term, because "queer" does seem to be doing the job quite fine.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-22 10:58 pm (UTC)
ext_6334: (Hep)
From: [identity profile] carenejeans.livejournal.com
Well, I wasn't thinking of it as a genre, either, really, more as just a loose description. As you say, it's pretty subjective what queer het is or isn't. I'd be more likely to read something labelled queer het than just plain het, but also more irritated if it didn't match *my* criteria, so.

*Maybe* it could *grow* into a genre, though... when we get enough stories in one place to use that time-honored definition: "It's what I mean when I point to it."

I actually had a non-fannish essay in the back of my mind while commenting: "Queer at Last? Straight Intellectuals and the Desire for Transgression," by Annette Schlichter -- which is, if I remember right, kind of snooty about the idea of any kind of heterosexuality being transgressive, much less "queer" (It's on the web, but I think only in an academic database.) It's a non-fannish version of the discussion -- this is being hammered out (or on) outside of fandom too.

"Radical heterosexuality" can fall within the concept of "queer," except when it doesn't. The debate about it *has* been contentious, with accusations of appropriation and of diluting the definition of queer so much that it loses its meaning for activism & etc. I understand those reservations. I also think there's more to het than "normality." I guess I have to see what comes up as "queer het" -- and fans DO come up with some amazing stuff!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] princessofg.livejournal.com
i don't know this fandom, but i had to laugh at your taking notice that slowly all your characters are becoming bi or queer or ... something! and how realistic is that really? because we had the same problem in Lotrips.
But luckily I'm not here for the realism. :).

*cheers*

(no subject)

Date: 2007-03-21 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alixtii.livejournal.com
Well, if I cared about realism all that much, I wouldn't be writing about witches and vampires and Slayers to begin with, I suppose.

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