After watching the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire" last night, and watching a highly erotic BDSM scene (erotic for TV standards), I couldn't help wondering whether or not the writers on BE had been influenced by "Fifty Shades of Grey." And while I'm seeing a lot more erotica in the mainstream in all media forms, I'm also seeing this almost Victorian attitude toward gay fiction. This all does tie in, so stick with me.
When I write posts like this I like to step back and remain objective. And that's not always easy to do. But I often find gay books being promoted as erotic and yet I don't find any erotica in them...or very little erotica. And that's interesting in itself because gay fiction and erotica have historically been almost synonymous. It's part of gay culture and gay history...my culture and history. Yet what I've seen lately are books that seem toned down in an erotic sense, with bland sex scenes, almost the same way films used to be toned down in the golden age of Hollywood film making. They are far from representative of gay men in most cases, and if you're a gay man it gets a little confusing. But more than that, I have seen true gay erotic books, in spite of excellent sales numbers and an obvious strong, discreet readership, absolutely slammed by the gay erotic police.
When I released "Chase of a Dream" in two versions, one with sex scenes and one without, I thought I'd at least see a balance. If anything, I thought the erotic police would be happy to finally have a gay romance minus only 7,000 words of strong sex/erotic scenes. But they went blank, not even one review on the book without sex scenes. Interesting. And the uncensored version of "Chase of a Dream," sold a lot of copies to the same wonderful discreet fan base I've had for years, which is why I didn't let them down. I really thought that by releasing two versions I was doing this for readers...giving them what they wanted. It's now evident that I was wrong. And I won't self-censor another book again. I may write gay fiction without any sex scenes. I've done that before when the book called for it. But no more duel versions in my lifetime.
The other night I was watching a film titled, "Beware of the Gonzo," and when I went to look up something about it later that night I did a search and came up with tons of links to "Gonzo Porn." My reaction was shock. Here I thought I knew it all and I honestly did not know there was such a thing. I know what Gonzo Journalism is, but didn't have a clue about Gonzo Porn. According to Urban Dictionary, this is Gonzo Porn:
When it comes to pornography the term 'Gonzo' refers to a style of film making pioneered in the 1990s by directors such as Seymore Butts and Ben Dover.
Gonzo porn took the storyline out of adult movies and headed straight for the sex. No longer would the pornoholic have to fast forward through 10 minutes of inept dialog to get 5 minutes of sex. They got sex throughout the whole video.
Gonzo porn was not always shot in the first person or in point-of-view fashion as some have suggested here and the quality of the movie depended largely on who was producing it.
So after reading about Gonzo Porn, I couldn't help thinking about a lot of the blog posts I've written in the past about the differences between erotic romance and porn. I've never tried to define porn and I never will, but I have always maintained that erotic romance and erotic fiction is basically fiction that has both a strong storyline and strong sex scenes. If you take the sex out, like I did with "Chase of a Dream," you still have a story. I think there's always been a market for readers who enjoy reading erotic romance and erotica and I think there always will be. The sex in erotic romance or erotica is supposed to take the reader to another level and move the story forward. And by taking the reader to another level it creates a deeper more personal reading experience that books without sex don't have. I think the sex should also be exaggerated a little, like all other aspects of fiction. That's why it's called fiction.
And yet I'm finding more and more gay fiction without sex and I'm starting to wonder why. I just finished writing a scene for an upcoming book in the bad boy billionaire series I'm writing for ravenous romance. And I wrote a tongue-in-cheek scene that I hope will be received as humorous, but I don't have *high* hopes for this. It's a lot like the burping dick scene I wrote in "American Star" and people actually took that scene seriously. I'm still smiling about that one. But I digress. In the scene in the new book, "The Vegas Shark," a hapless young male stripper shoots ping pong balls out of his behind. It's his individual "gimmick" at the fictional club where he works and customers line up to see his ping pong ball show once a week. Oh, he's very big there. This is supposed to be both funny and erotic. When they wrote a scene like that in a classic gay movie twenty years ago with a woman people couldn't stop talking about it. Of course I had to alter my scene because it's not physically possible for a man to shoot ping pong balls out of his behind (I don't think it is). But I figured something out that worked. And yet I can't even imagine, as Dorothy Parker would say, what fresh hells await me with that scene when the book is released.
It's not Gonzo Porn. There's detailed, very emotional storyline in this book, as there are in all of the highly erotic gay romances and stories I've read in the past. So while I have nothing against Gonzo Porn, and it's obvious the millions of other people who watch it don't either, I don't write it. I also wonder if this trend to censor strong sex out of gay fiction is going to continue or if it's just a trend that won't last. I have read gay fiction recently where you'd think gay men didn't even have sex...or it's so vanilla it's like going back to the old days of TV where Lucy and Ricky had to sleep in twin beds. Of course we all knew Little Ricky didn't not arrive via the stork, but that was the implication and Lucy and Ricky were absolutely sexless creatures. I doubt Fred and Ethel ever saw each other naked for that matter.
I'm writing another post this week about an actor who did a film in "yellowface" and how THAT fresh hell was received by the Asian community when they heard about it. In a way, I think what I just posted about gay fiction, Gonzo Porn, this need to censor, and current trends in gay fiction have a lot in common with actors putting on yellowface. But I don't see gay men getting as upset about it as the Asian community is about actors in yellowface. That's interesting in itself. My theory is that gay men just move on, dismiss the ridiculous, and don't give it a second thought.
But then again a lot of this comes down to book sales...just like Gonzo Porn. There's obviously a strong discreet market for gay erotic romance and erotica, just like there's a market for Gonzo Porn. Although the two are polar opposites because there's no storyline in Gonzo Porn, my hope is that sales will win out this time and what I'm seeing is nothing more than a passing trend in gay fiction. And the most interesting thing about all this is that it's not the straight community that seems to be doing the censorship. I'm not actually sure where it's coming from...I sometimes imagine this secret group hiding in the wings...but it's obvious with books like "Fifty Shades of Grey," and scenes like the one in "Boardwalk Empire" last night that the straight mainstream community it just as interested in erotica as anyone else.
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