Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I was reading today about the online 'world' of second life. Specifically about how second life virtual banks were closed after several of them went under and took a lot of very real money with them. In my mind this sparked something off. The fact that in the virtual world, the money can still be real.
In the erotic fiction world, are the erotic motivations still real? It seems like they are often treated that way. Violence my be condemned is all the visual media but books are only very rarely criticised on this basis. Issues of characters being 'immoral' in other ways are very rarely raised at all and a serial killer or torturer can even be a sympathetic protagonist in a mainstream novel. But the reaction to erotic stories with transgressive themes is often not just 'I don't like it' but 'it shouldn't exist'.
Now the first thing I would say is that I fully believe that many readers can and do enjoying reading about sexual behavior that they have no desire whatsoever to even see in real life. I have a whole book of horse bestiality stories but I assure you I am not lurking around the local stables with a supersized condom and a stepladder (I mean, ew.) I have read all sorts of things just to see what they are like: under age, non-consensual, forced feminisation, consensual snuff (non-consensual snuff is still a step too far for me).
That said if I found out the guy I was dating had dozens of rape fantasy books under his mattress, it probably would change my opinion of him. But just one, in the middle of a bunch of other books with various erotic and non-erotic themes? probably not. Judgements are funny things, aren't they? More often emotional rather than purely rational, I think.
It's a fuzzy thing. But ultimately I don't think any written (that is to say: victimless) material should be forbidden. And I don't think sexual material is fundamentally more 'real' than violence/torture fantasies or other arguably gratuitous motivations (get thee behind me chocolate cake recipe).
I mean, the existence of alcoholism does not, to my mind, make alcohol innately evil. But I do recognise that its availability for my pleasure extracts a terrible cost from other people. If I had lost a close friend or family member to a drunk driver I would probably feel differently. Ditto gambling, drugs and other more-or-less regulate materials and opportunities that are dangerous, or at least not helpful, to certain people.
So, circling in as I am to the issue of underage character in erotica and of sexualised rape, here is what I think. I have no problem with anyone who reads, writes or publishes underage prose material like Lolita stories, yaoi-style schoolkid plots, role-playing or even contemporary literal erotica--occasionally or habitually. It's not my thing but it can be a purely fictional fantasy, not associated with any real world motivations.
However it is an area that calls for unusually high levels of sensitivity and caution because yes, there are people for whom these motivations are real, and there are victims of abuse who don't need to have that kind of scenario unexpectedly or unpredictably presented to them. We already take care to distribute explicit erotica to adults so having filters and veils around certain types of material is something we are already set up to do, after all.
When the arguments start up, as they always do, there is a middle ground between 'SQUEE' and 'You're going to hell!!' And that is to realise one person's martini is another person's poison--and marketing transgressive material as fiction to those who will treat it as fiction. Erotica, please consume in moderation.