I saw this video of a lecture by Zoe Margolis (of Girl With A One Track Mind fame) the other day. Its a great piece on sexism in the publication of erotica. Basically the majority of cover art for erotic writing places the female as the object of desire – even when it is work aimed at heterosexual women. Its not something I would have considered beforehand as a consumer of erotic writing. Then again I am a massive gay so I quite like looking at ladies – but I don’t mind reading about men.
It got me thinking. Marketing erotica to appeal equally to men and women is one thing – but can the work itself be gender-neutral? If the work features characters whose gender is not specified this would create greater scope for the reader to imagine, and for the potential audience. The reader can envisage the scenario described, featuring a pairing which appeals to their sexual orientation.
I decided to give it a bash, the intrepid novice that I am.
The description of form is a large element of erotic writing (body parts, who’s doing what to where on whom etc). Certain, shall we say, attributes which are often a point of focus in erotic writing are a big giveaway of gender. In practice, placing the focus on one participant (either from their point of view or their objectification) can free up the reader’s view of the other participant. For example, if the view is of my/her/his body the person doing anything to that body can remain undefined. The focus is on the body.
I tend to gravitate to narratives featuring control and submission. Therefore the objectification [I use this word in favour of anything less demeaning] of one participant by the other is a significant feature. A neutral pseudonym can remove the gender of either partner as well as using they and them in place of him or her.
I wrote something and gave it to K – my favourite pervert and critic. I asked him to tell me whether it was a male/female pairing or a female/female pairing. He (being a horrible hetero boy – eew boy!) said he imagined male/female, though I wrote it with two women in mind.
Maybe this works, maybe it’s a possibility. I like the idea that your imagination goes further to create your preferred pairing, making the work appeal to a broader spectrum of readers. It is free for your own interpretation, regardless of sexual orientation. I mean this fiction caters to a BDSM audience, but that’s a different matter!
My attempt at gender neutral erotica, Blank, can be found here. Thoughts welcome.