Friday, February 1, 2013

Dealing with the Reality of Fantasy

Even if I personally don't agree with everything in this, still an interesting piece on the often fuzzy lines between erotic fantasy, reality, and consent and the tough choices every author in the genre should think about before making.

While I definitely believe that there is a difference between reality and fantasy, I'm also of the belief that fantasyeven and especially when it's heightened to unrealistic extremesis a reflection of and on reality. 

I think that the confusion lies in that often we try to compare the standards between the more speculative Sci-Fi/ Fantasy genre (I'll use capitalization for the genre for this purpose) with erotic fantasies. We think that because unrealistic things like vampires and mutants and aliens exist within Fantasythat because anything, no matter how fantastic, goes within the genrethat the same thing applies to erotic fantasies.

And while, in principle, I'll agree that folks are allowed to read, write, and fantasize about whatever they wanthey, that's what the internet is forI don't believe, on principle, that the same standards should be applied to publication.

Here's why.

In Fantasy, unrealistic elements are often used to highlight very real social issues. Look at the aliens in Star Trek, the mutants in X-Men, the witches in Harry Potter, hell, even the vampires in Twilight. All of these fantastic elements are vehicles to answer one very big, very important, very real issue that has plagued mankind from the start and will until we're gone: What makes a man a man? What gives a person their worth? Is difference in species, genetics, powers, andI don't knowsparkliness a good enough reason to discriminate against a person? These authors and creators use that suspension of disbelief to make a statement on the state of the real world that their readers live in. I once watched a documentary on the real world effects of comics and saw how X-Men had helped a lot of teens growing up in that era think about racism in a way that, without that Fantasy element of the unreal, they would never have come to on their own. The Fantasy genre may have unreal elements in there, but at its heart it's all about realism.

However, when people talk about erotic fantasies not having to be realistic, they aren't talking about what Fantasy does. When people talk about unrealistic, erotic fantasies, they're talking about a suspension of disbelief that doesn't speak to anything but a desire to not have to deal with the real world consequences that inevitably are a part of that specific fantasy. In your fantasies, you can have an overprotective, barbarian of a boyfriend who defends your honor by beating the shit out of your rival suitor and doesn't have to worry about jail-time or lawsuits or the possibility of that aggression ever being pointed at you afterward. In your fantasies, you can rape or be raped and not have to worry about whether or not the victim's will, sense of safety, or whole world is being destroyed or notdon't worry, in your fantasy, the victim enjoys it whether they want to or not. In fantasy, you can do all the dangerous erotic things that would under real-life conditions cause pain, injury, maiming, or death and not care because, in your fantasy, things like pain, injury, maiming, or death don't exist. Or if they do, in your fantasy, that's the fun part. The danger and the risk that don't really exist except as titillation.

Except what does your reader come out with on the other side? What was the effect of your story? What was the take-away?

Mutants in X-Men, witches in Harry Potterfuck!even the vampires in freakin' Twilight all say that a person should be judged on their actions, not on appearance. That is a take-away that is worth saying.

But bad behavior that not only goes unpunished, but is lauded as the romantic or erotic ideal of your story...what does that say? And was it really worth saying on a scale as large as publication?

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