Archive for 'men & women'

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
The Friend Zone

(In which I interrupt the SACRIFICIAL MAGIC pre-release-week festivities and fun to bring you a huge rant. I warn you in advance that this topic has made me rather emotional, and I’m emotional anyway since it is pre-release week and we’re moving house this weekend, and maybe this is going to come off harsher than I intend it to; I hope it won’t, I don’t want it to and I will be careful, but just as I spent several days before my wedding being completely unable to read others’s tones or body language from stress, so am I having difficulty at the moment. I also warn you this is LONG.)

So yesterday I popped onto Facebook, which I’ve been trying to do more lately, because I have friends who hang out there and I want to be more active there. And while checking my timeline I found someone had posted an image. I won’t re-post the image, but it was one of those “I’m going to make my saying a picture so you’ll read it” things, and it said:

“Brotip #1415: ladies, guys are sick of hearing you ask where all of the ‘nice guys’ are. They’re in the friend zone, where you left them.”

Okay, fuck you.

Let me tell you a story about those “nice guys” shoved into that cold, cruel “friend zone” by all those heartless bitches who only want to date assholes, okay? Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Heroes and, ahem, “self-love”

I’m curious.

This is something I’ve wondered about for a while–a long while, actually–and a discussion elsewhere has finally prompted me to go ahead and ask. (I want to emphasize that this is all just hypothetical/what ifs/conjecture; I’m not strictly endorsing any of these ideas, just thinking aloud and providing talking points.)

How do we all feel about heroes who masturbate? Especially when thinking of the heroine?

It’s not something we see often, is it? Which is kind of funny, actually; I think this is maybe one place where female sexuality is permitted more expression, because it’s not uncommon to see female MCs engage in a little solo play, but it is–to my knowledge–quite uncommon to see men do it, especially to see them do it to completion. I’ve read a couple of books where the hero perhaps starts to do it, but then realizes what he’s doing and stops himself, for various reasons (“What I’m doing is disrespectful to her/I’m too grown up to do this,” that sort of thing).

Are men just supposed to have more “control” over themselves/their desires, or are they simply supposed to want to only share sexual experiences with the heroine and if she’s not there it’s empty? Is having control over his sexual needs to the point of being able to sublimate them completely another way that the hero becomes the ubermensch: extra strong, extra smart, extra brave, extra controlled? Is he supposed to be so devoted to his heroine that he refuses to or just doesn’t want to have any kind of sexual feelings or release unless she’s involved?

Maybe we just don’t find the mental image of the hero having to wipe off his stomach or rinse the shower walls or whatever afterward to be all that sexy? I mean, even if we find the act arousing/interesting/understandable, thinking about him messing about with a handful of sticky tissues after just…maybe feels a little “teenage boy,” or just a little silly or embarrassing or whatever. Or perhaps it’s because of the porn money shot, which seems to appeal to men much more than women (I’m not saying it absolutely does, just that it seems to be aimed [no pun intended] at men; to my [admittedly sketchy] knowledge, many of the porn films put out by all-female or female-run production companies, or aimed specifically at the female audience, don’t tend to depict the money shot with such vigor and focus and don’t tend to focus so much on “Look! Semen!” as the ultimate sexy sexiness). I mean, again, female masturbation is depicted maybe not regularly, but certainly more often than male, and there’s generally little cleaning up to do after; most women don’t have to check the walls or furniture to make sure no stray fluids shot over there. (Yes, I know about Rainwoman, but she’s hardly the norm.)

Is there something just sort of inherently non-heroic–inherently sad, embarrassing, or pitiful, even–about thinking of the hero all by himself with a head full of fantasies and a bottle of lotion, or something?

Do we perhaps expect him to sate those desires by sleeping with some other woman, and isn’t that sort of worse, really–using some other chick’s body while in his head he’s banging the heroine? Does it change if he feels guilty about it, or doesn’t intend to use the other woman in that way but realizes midway through that he’s pretending she’s someone else?

It just seems to me that, while I would never say “all men masturbate*,” I’m sure a healthy proportion of them do at least occasionally. I find it hard to believe that NO hero in any novel which involves a sexual/romantic relationship ever finds himself trying to sleep one night with a body that absolutely refuses to let him, or finds himself practically unable to walk, especially in those early stages where he’s obsessed/consumed/whatever and is practically a walking hormone. And yet while it’s often considered sexy for the heroine to masturbate thinking of the hero, we almost never see the hero do it (again, from my reading; I freely admit I don’t read very much romance/erotic romance these days if any, so there may well have been a revolution in male masturbation in the last few years). Like I said, I did read it a few times, but the hero never went on to orgasm without the heroine’s actual involvement, i.e. she caught him at it and encouraged him to continue, perhaps lending him a helping hand, or, you know, a helping vagina. (Here, let me loan you this vagina. It’s the helpful sort. Hee.)

Does it feel objectifying, like he’s reducing her to mere jerk-off fodder in his head? Especially if their relationship isn’t yet sexual, does it seem almost like he’s mentally molesting her–taking what he wants without permission, mentally “having” her even if she hasn’t given him permission to do so yet in real life?

Is it maybe that in the world of novels aimed more toward women, with a female audience, men are the ones whose sexuality shouldn’t/doesn’t exist outside female involvement? We’ve all had the uncomfortable sensation of being undressed by a man’s eyes without our permission, so maybe it’s just not something we want to think of a man doing without our knowledge. Or are women simply more uncomfortable with the idea of masturbation in general? I’ve known more than a few women for whom the idea of their boyfriends/husbands watching porn or masturbating is very uncomfortable, even upsetting. So is the idea that the hero shouldn’t be masturbating related to that, or an extension of that, or even a perpetuation of that?

Do we simply not want to write male sexual fantasies? We live surrounded by them; male sexual fantasies are everywhere. Maybe we just don’t want them in our fiction; maybe we want books aimed at women to be about female sexual fantasies, if there are any fantasies being shown, and men can keep theirs to themselves (or, you know, out in popular culture where they are now.)

What do you think? Do you want to read that, or not? Why, if you’re comfortable sharing? Would you feel differently about a male character shown masturbating? What about the “starts to but then realizes he’s doing something wrong” idea/scene? Is the hero masturbating sexy and a sign of how badly he wants the heroine, or is it distasteful or a turn-off? Why? Do you agree or disagree with any of my conjecture?

*I personally dislike the broad assumption that all men or all women masturbate but just refuse to admit it, and that if someone denies it they’re automatically lying. Making such assumptions about the sexual expressions of other people strikes me as rather rude, and taking their denial as a sign that they’re liars just ashamed to admit it is especially rude. Sure, perhaps some people who say they don’t are lying, but I find it hard to believe that no one is being truthful when they say they don’t. There are indeed people who just don’t, for whatever reason, and that’s just as fine and valid as being someone who does.

ETA: Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that there is a way for the masturbation scene to advance story, plot, and/or character, okay? Obviously we all know that sex-for-sex’s-sake is unnecessary, and I’ve written more than once about that subject here. I’m not so much interested in structure and whether or not the scene fits as in how people feel about those scenes and whether or not they’re sexy/unappealing/whatever, or whether people think another way should be found to advance story/plot/character that doesn’t involve masturbation.

What Stace had to say on Monday, March 2nd, 2009
The Movie Time Capsule. Or something.

Hey, so I can’t think up a good title today, so what?

Actually, titling is an issue I’m having these days. I’m 2/3 done with the third Downside book and it is still saved in Word as “Chess3” because the title I originally planned, CITY OF GHOSTS, was apparently a major film a few years ago and I’m leery of using something with that many Google hits. So that needs a title, bad.

I’m also just about 1/2 of the way through a new project which Agent Man and I both love, which has no title. It’s currently saved as BLOOD AND FAE, which is not really very good. Especially since while both blood and Fae figure in the plot, it’s not really about either of those things.

So anyway. The hubs and I were discussing titles in the car the other day, which led to movies, which led to movies that piss us off for one reason or another, which led us to A League of Their Own.

I hate that movie. I really, really hate that movie.

Or rather, I hate the ending of that movie. It pisses me off like almost nothing else.

What message are we supposed to take from that horrible ending, where in order to make her bitchy, miserable sister happy–to give her happiness she doesn’t deserve, as she is loathesome–the Gena Davis character throws the championship? Is my heart supposed to be warmed by that? Am I supposed to think that’s sweet?

Or am I supposed to think that if the Gena Davis character were my teammate, I would have ripped her eyeballs out of her head with a teaspoon?

Or, am I supposed to think that when it comes down to it, women just aren’t very good at competing, poor little dears, and they will always make emotional decisions rather than rational ones, and cannot ever get past their personal feelings and live up to their responsibilities?

Seriously. The fact that this ball of patronizing sexism was passed off as a movie for women to enjoy astounds me. It reads like something from a 70’s anti-women’s-lib screed: You can’t trust women because they can’t separate their emotions; you can’t put them in charge of multinational corporations because they won’t do what’s best for the company, only for themselves; they’re incapable of making sound decisions based on facts and not feelings.

And it was such a cute movie until then. I really enjoyed it. But what the hell good is it to have a movie where women are railing against sexism and determined to prove they can compete just as well as the men can–that all the silly little skirts and make-up tips are a big joke because women are tough and strong and can play a hell of a ballgame just like men–and then have the entire ending turn on the fact that at least one of them cannot in fact do that? So instead of having a film about how women really *can* do things, you have a movie about how women *say* they can do things but really are irresponsible and silly and will let their teammates down to make their sisters happy?

It just frustrates me and irritates me. Gena Davis’s character had a responsibility and she threw it away–threw away the hopes and dreams of people who supported and cared about her–in order to please someone who clearly did not particularly care about her because she was too busy caring only about herself.

I think this is doubly on my mind of late because I’m dealing, in the third Downside book, with a lot more emotional crap than I have in the first two, as my MC struggles with the consequences of hurting other people emotionally, and realizes that she herself does have those inconvenient things called feelings and that she can’t pretend she doesn’t. So there’s a lot of facing-up-to-things and a lot of thoughts and worries about feelings that, while they existed in the first book and a bit more in the second–Chess was never an automaton or someone so Tough And Hard she ate nails or anything like that–weren’t really focused on then.

And it’s difficult to find a balance, between trying to write an awesome, creepy, scary, exciting urban fantasy (trying to write, I said; I’m not claiming my books are any of these things although I certainly hope they are), and trying to write a book where people are having emotional issues and those emotional issues feel organic and real; which is to say, the characters think about them even at inconvenient times, and are confused about them, and hate having them, and want certain things emotionally and feel embarrassed and silly for wanting those things, and generally don’t know how to deal with them. Especially as they’re emotional issues with which the characters have never dealt before, and that makes them vulnerable.

How do you decide which decisions are practical and which are emotional? How do you handle making an emotional decision when you know you should be making a practical one but can’t help yourself?

For me the difference is in how the character themselves feel about the decision they’ve made. My biggest issue with that stupid League of their Own ending was that we as the audience were seemingly pushed into feeling that Davis made the right choice; her disgraceful, disrespectful, cruel little trick on the rest of her team was played off as the moral and caring choice. I found that offensive, personally; I wouldn’t have had such an issue with the film had her character been castigated for what she’d done–the way she deserved to be.

So I work hard, generally, to show that there are consequences to incorrect decisions and that emotions breed complexity. You can’t just tell someone you’re sorry and have that make everything okay. You can’t ask for forgiveness and expect to be given it immediately. You don’t get to make all of the decisions in emotional situations involving other people.

It’s a fine line to walk, I think. And I hope I’m walking it well, that my characters’ emotional issues aren’t overpowering the rest of the story but aren’t suddenly disappearing and reappearing, leaving the reader to wonder what the heck is going on. I guess we’ll find out.

How do you handle your characters’ emotional decisions? What is your favorite book or film in which those decisions were made?