responded to my meta post on "fictional desire" and went to a place
that was (somewhat) less theoretical and more focused on what happens when we read and write fics. And since our theorizations are all but useless if they don't fit our fannish experience, I think that's a good instinct. Likewise, thelastgoodname
also went to a place that focused on the fanfics which exist in fandom and our relationships with them, asking a craft-of-writing question about sex scenes
asked an empirical question about who and how we desire, bracketing the more theoretical issues.
So I want to discuss the specific way that I tend to approach a fic and the way that it interacts with my desire (without going TMI). Partially this is because we can't have any idea of how much of our experience is generalizable--and thus cannot construct a theory out of it--if we don't gaze at our own navels sometimes and share
our experience. executrix
focused on the reader who reads fanfic for
the sex scenes, and has a lot of good stuff. Let me put forth myself as a somewhat, but not completely, different sort of reader.( When Alixtii reads about t3h sex )( By why should we turn to fanfic for that? )
Part of it is, of course, the nature of our fandoms, and just how multitextual they are. It's been joked that Serenity
is fueled entirely by the sexual tension of its crew. Mal/Kaylee, while not a common pairing, has its canon foundation in their physical intimacy and clear devotion. Homoeroticism has been a staple of literature since time immemmorial. But in part these tensions are revealed in the text because
we have trained ourselves to look for them, and in extreme cases it might be unclear if they have formal existence at all. (Of course, as a post-structuralist I eschew the concept of formal existence completely, but there is
a continuum between the eisegesis which is an inevitable consequence of using language and reading things into a text merely because we want them to be there. Not that either extreme is necessarily illegitimate, mind you.) So the question remains: why?
And for me, at least, I think the answer is: for the love of the game (utilizing a play on "The Game" that wisdomeagle
pointed out to me). After all, I was writing, reading, and (most especially) imagining fanfiction scenarios (as well as original fiction scenarios in which the id-vortex was close to the surface) long before sexual desire became a meaningful component of how I approached my source texts. My first ships (e.g., Doc/7) were based on the characters with whom I identified rather than those I desired. Nowadays I'd probably explain it as the difference between the lense of the het male gaze (which both I and various characters with whom I identify--the EMH, Wesley, Mal, Simon--share) and the lense of the disembodied quasi-omniscient author/viewer/reader. But the desire to write my own stories in which the characters--the EMH and Naomi Wildman were my self-inserts, but never Mary Sues--achieved their desires is rooted in an "adolescent" fantasy, a will-to-power which is really pre-sexual (but at the same time fundamentally sexual in certain implicit ways). There is a reason why my fandoms deal with starship captains and vampire slayers and teenaged detectives and computer whizzes and presidents, after all. There is something larger than life in each and every one of them.
I identify with the characters I write (all of them, as a necessary result of writing them, but most deeply with my viewpoint characters), and thus I want them to achieve their desires even when they are not the same desires I have. So sure I sometimes shift their desires to be a little more in line with the sort of desire I am likely to have, or would be likely to have
(rather than those exact desires that I do have) so that we end up with Amy/Dawn; but I'm also able to write Dawn/Giles from Dawn's OTP, because I want her as a authorial insert to achieve her desires, and I recognize that her desires won't always be the same as mine. (Also, I recognize that many of the reasons that Dawn desires Giles or similar to the the reasons I might desire a female, and so I can identify with the desire in that way.) Similarly, I identify with Peter's desire for his sister not because I desire Susan, but because I recognize Susan as the sort of person whom I would have desired when I was Peter's age.
I think it makes perfect sense to say that I "pretend" to desire Susan or Giles, but it is only when I pretend to desire a character who isn't too far from the sort of desires I am likely to have (note again that I don't have to actually have these desires
) as in Amy Madison, that the identification with the desire becomes so strong that the pretense of the desire passes into that liminal stage when it becomes paired with real arousal (now defined by wisdomeagle
and I as "desire-for-orgasm").
And so ultimately I do think it comes back to the question of where the reader/writer is located in the text, as executrix
recognized. So if you haven't already, go read that post