Wrap-Up Season 2016: It should be illegal how good my life is nowadays

Our country (and the world at large) is sliding into fascism. I feel like I need to preface all my posts with this. Because my life right now is not at all terrible. Rather the opposite in fact. I’m engaged (don’t think I’ve mentioned this on my blog yet). Yes I am engaged to be married!

My book came out to universal love and acclaim (I only read my five star reviews), and since nobody has told me otherwise I presume it’s selling like gangbusters (re: ‘gangbusters’ — can a cliche become so old and disused that you’re allowed to use it again?)

I didn’t write that many short stories this year (four), and I only ever sent two of them out on submission, but one of those sold to F&SF, which is a magazine I’ve been trying to get into for thirteen years. I think it’s my very best story, and I’m ecstatic that it’s out there. My second-favorite story, which was published in Interzone to general silence, has been picked up by Rich Horton for his year’s best anthology.

With regards to the real stuff, my novel writing, I’ve spent most of the last eight months working on a YA novel, Tell Em They’re Amazing, that my agent has just read and told me he’s excited about (which is not a given, let me tell you), and now I’m doing one more revision before I send it to Disney in the New Year. I have high hopes for that one.

On a personal level, I proposed to my girlfriend, Rachel, on…damn, I’ve forgotten the date. Sometime in July. I think it was July 7th. She said ‘Yes,’ as I knew she would. We’d only been together for fourteen months, but I’d known since about the second month that we were gonna be together for life. The wedding is all bolted into place, more or less. We’ve got a venue and a date and a photographer and have sent out invites and done all that stuff.

Life hasn’t been universally amazing. I got severely depressed twice this year, in the spring and in the fall. I had trouble writing. I’m still having trouble. I worried about the reception my book was getting. I had housing-related insecurities (had to leave my place in Berkeley, and now our place in SF also feels a little uncertain). In the wake of my latest depression I abandoned a lot of the record-keeping that I’d been doing. I no longer track how many hours I write or how long I write. I no longer keep daily goals. There are a lot of things I no longer put in my spreadsheet. And, even more, I mostly don’t care about the goals in my spreadsheet. I record them, but I don’t aspire to improve my numbers. This has had an impact on my writing productivity I suppose, but for the last three years my productivity has mostly consisted of writing novels that weren’t very good and that no one will ever read. At some point, I needed to change what I was doing, and that’s what I’ve done. Whether the change was for the better or for the worse is a thing that’ll only become clear with time.

So it’s hard to say whether it’s been a great year. But it’s certainly been a year in which great things have happened, and right now at this moment in my life, I feel like things are, for me, going pretty well.

Normally this time of year I do a ‘Wrap-Up Season.’ I plan on still doing that. I’ve had some writing progress I want to talk about, and of course I want to discuss the best books I’ve read. But just as my posting has become a bit spottier this year, I also think the wrap-up season will be abbreviated, which is why I’m doing a quick run-through right now.

There are so many pop and country songs about the interstitial period in relationships

I listen to a lot of country music, and one of my favorite songs of this year was the Brothers Osborne’s Stay A Little Longer, which is about two people who aren’t really together, and who’re maybe even on the verge of splitting permanently, but who keep hooking up.

(Of special note, it’s kind of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thing, but there’s a gay couple at 1:35, and later in the video they kiss.)

There are a lot of country songs with this theme. Off the top of my head, I can think of Lady Antebellum’s “Lie With Me”, Jake Owen’s “Alone With You” and Chris Young’s “I’m Coming Over.”

It’s an interesting thing. I used to think the non-relationship was a college staple. You’re sleeping with some guy, or some girl, and neither of you really knows what it is, and maybe you’d want it to be a little bit more, but somehow your relationship, despite its emotional intimacy, doesn’t have the room for that discussion, but obviously the non-relationship is a thing that’s continued well into adulthood. This is all reminding me of the saddest article I’ve ever read, which was this VICE article on roommates who started sleeping together. 

How long did it go on for, and when did things go wrong?
The sexual side must have gone on for about seven months. I reckon things went wrong when we started making our own friends from work and stuff. I weirdly started getting quite jealous when she talked about her guy friends, especially when we would both go for drinks after work separately. But I never said anything because again it wasn’t official. So after a while the sex just stopped, and we reverted back to two individuals who shared a kitchen and bathroom and that was about it. Not that long after, she awkwardly hinted that she was going out on a ‘date,’ with someone from work. And that was it, really.

I read that and I was just horrified. I was like, is this what life is like? You have sex with someone for seven months. You live with them. And you still can’t talk about whether you guys were every, in any sense, actually together?

Not sure where I’m going with this. It’s not a thing that I, personally, have much experience with, but it does put some of my dating experiences into a new light. For instance, I used to be put off when I’d go out with someone and they’d be like, “Yeah, let’s hang out again” or “It was good hanging out with you,” and I’d be left thinking, err, what? But we kissed. To me kissing is what separates hanging out from going out. But these are obviously not the definitions that many Americans are playing with.

Straight men don’t talk to each other about the details of sex

whisper-small1Thought this was a well-known fact, but was just having a discussion with my roommate Sasha and a friend of hers, and they were surprised when I told them that straight men don’t really talk very much about sex. Like, men will talk extensively about women: which which women are attractive and which they’d like to bang and etc. etc. But rarely with specifics.

I have had a few conversations with men about having sex with women (usually about going down on a woman, actually, since that’s definitely an act that’s complicated and mysterious enough that men feel tempted to seek out a little advice from other guys). However, these conversations always involved large amounts of liquor and usually left us feeling awkward and estranged from each other. Whereas, on the other hand, I’ve had plenty of perfectly pleasant conversations with women (and queer men) about where they’ve discussed their desires and preferences in general terms and/or spilled intimate details about recent sexual encounters.

And there’s a pretty simple reason for this discrepancy. It’s not because men are repressed or because male friendships aren’t strong enough. It’s because sexual performance is a status issue for straight men in a way that it’s not for women. If a man confesses to having questions or confusions or other issues regarding sex, then he loses status in other men’s eyes. For instance, in these conversations about oral sex, there was a very clear and uncomfortable implication that the guys who knew more about it were better–not just better at sex, but better as men–than the guys who didn’t. Hence the cone of silence.

So there it is ladies. If you did something embarrassing or shameful or disgusting while you were having sexual intercourse with a man, then it’s okay, because it’s more likely than not that your man never told a soul.

M/m porn produced for straight women is not as harmful to society as lesbian porn produced for straight men

My fellow science fiction writer Sunny Moraine wrote a post setting forth her frustration with the rhetoric that comes out of straight women who write m/m porn. Basically, Sunny is totally fed up with the way that these women claim to be striking a blow for freedom and equality.

“Redeeming” gay romantic relationships is patronizing. Focusing on cisgender male erotic relationships to the exclusion of other queer identities because you find that stuff hot is erasure. Reducing the significance of characters to gender and sexuality – especially in the interest of depicting erotic sexual activity – is fetishizing. I’m not the first person to say this, but now I’m gonna be another one

So yes, m/m porn (for straight women) doesn’t really change the world for the better. However, I also feel as though it’s a bit harmless. Queer men mostly have no interest in writing m/m porn for straight women, so it’s not as if the straight women who write it are crowding out queer authors. And, as a genre, it also exists so far below the cultural consciousness (and in its own bizarre space) that I don’t think it affects how people view actual queer men in the actual world.

I hold this in contrast to the case of lesbian porn produced for straight men, which does, arguably, been some negative societal consequences in that there’s a certain amount of lesbian behavior in the real world, particularly amongst bisexual women, that’s mediated by the male gaze. For instance, a song like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” or a moment like the Madonna / Britney Spears kiss teach their primarily young and female fans that the primary reason for lesbian kisses is to titillate men. And I guess it’s not wrong for two women to kiss in order to titillate men, but the fact that we live in a world where that happens makes it more and more difficult for two women to kiss purely in order to please themselves. The existence of that sort of lesbian porn creates a perpetual double-consciousness that is, to some extent, destructive to peoples’ honest sexual development.

I don’t think that m/m porn does the same thing to gay men, though. Basically, gay men just ignore it. This has everything to do with the differences in cultural and political power between the sexes. However, because of that, m/m porn (for straight women) is not particularly harmful to our society.