Here's two things I've been thinking a lot about lately:
- What is "realism" in fiction? How desirable is it, how important? What are the different things we are referring to when we use that label? Is there anything distinctive about our standards for realism in porn, as distinct from other genres of storytelling?
- What is identification, and how does it work? The usual model (at least in a pornographic fiction context) goes something like this: You start reading a story. You pick a character whose role best matches your tastes, either by gender or some other criterion, and then you project yourself into the story thus, imagining yourself doing and done-to as that character is.
I think what actually happens is more complex and subtle than that. I'm not sure how eccentric that is of me, and therefore how much work I should actually be putting in to being persuasive on this point.
These are old. What's new is trying to bring these lines of thought together. I had a conversation with a friend lately where she talked about how certain failures of realism blocked her from identifying with female characters, and therefore from enjoying those stories. She cited this as one of the advantages, for her, of reading M/M slash over heterosexual fanfiction.
Previous attempts to write this post foundered 'cause I have a lot of thoughts and ideas here, but an uncharacteristic lack of grand unified theories, so the posts ended up meandering for a while before trailing off in mid-paragraph. I want to try starting some discussion here instead, and see if that brings stuff together. Here are some questions...
- What kinds of realism are important to you? Are your expectations different depending on the genre you're reading* in?
- What makes a character compelling to you? What have you encountered that drove you out of the text?
- If you enjoy both porn that includes your gender and porn that doesn't, does that divide color the way you approach the characters?
I'll probably have more as I try to pull these threads apart.
* or watching movies or listening to podcasts or what have you