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Tue, Jun. 9th, 2009, 03:49 pm

an ordered list and an unordered list

I want to start a discussion about something, and I'm having a hell of a time framing my question effectively. Bear with me if I flail a bit here.

Here's two things I've been thinking a lot about lately:

  1. 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?

  2. 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

Sun, Sep. 20th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
(Anonymous): Realism & Identification

I tend to like fantasy (as in elves and demons and all that) themed stories, though I don't think I'd say that it's because I dislike "realism" so much as that the usual schoolgirl/dirty wife/daddy's daughter/etc. sort of fantasies that seem so common in adult stories don't appeal to me. If something happens that comes off in a really jarring "that does not work that way" sort of way, then it annoys me, but I don't mind magic and stuff unless it's a way to pull some cheesy alakazam or if the explanation behind it is stupid pseudoscience (Non-porn example: among other reasons that I hate the Darren Shan books, one that sticks out in my mind is the part where is says "vampires can't be photographed because they're made of 'bouncing atoms'".) I suppose that's part of why I prefer fantasy to sci-fi, come to think of it... I'm more accepting of weird stuff going on if it's passed off as supernatural rather than given some "scientific" explanation that someone with enough understanding in science can see is blatantly wrong.

Also, realism-wise, a few stories I have read involve a heroine who gets repeatedly raped/abused in the course of her adventures, but keeps on stoically cruising along. "Wraith Spider" by Jashin and "Zara's Quest" by P. Jurado both come to mind. Now, this doesn't really ruin the story for me... I rather enjoyed some of the things in both the aforementioned stories, but it does wake up the little voice in the back of my head that says "Shouldn't that chick be a quivering psychological wreck after all that?" It does kind of spoil that approach for me if I'm doing my own writing, though.

When it comes to identifying with characters, I wouldn't so much say that I imagine myself as the character (I have roleplaying for that) so much as I enjoy things along with the character(s) that I take a liking to. A vicarious sort of thing, more so. That said, I do like a story that has a character who does things that I'd like to do if things were different, and tend not to like it if he meets a bad end. This isn't the case with every story though, for example the aforementioned "adventure w/ punching bag" stories that focus on a female protagonist vs. monster-of-the-day, where the male characters are usually kind of faceless. It's more of an "I like what's happening to you" than an "I like what he does to you" there if that makes any sense. Thinking about this, it's probably the reason I tend not to be interested in female-female type stories. Nothing about ordinary run-of-the-mill lesbianism appeals to me, but I can admire the workings of some sort of dark Mistress sort of character or the like ("Fey" by Tabico comes to mind.) The same deal with male-male stuff, for me to be interested in it something has to interest me besides just run-of-the-mill mansex ("The Price" by Maureen Lycaeon comes to mind.) Although, while I like male doms female, and sometimes male doms male or female doms female, I rarely if ever like female doms male, so the sex of the character does matter to some degree.