Hobbies, Skills, and Passions

I’ve talked in other posts, I believe, about one of the useful elements in becoming a good or great writer being a fluency in the language of writing. The faster and cleaner you can translate what’s in your mind into what’s on the page, the easier the entire process of writing will be. On a good day, at the right time or times, you’ll be able to write as fast as you can type. If you’re a good typist, you’ll be able to write almost as fast as you can think.

At this point, one of the big bottlenecks will be what your mental speed limit is: how fast you can make story-creating decisions that fit the characters you’re working with, and that advance the plot in the right direction. As with everything else in writing, this takes practice to get really good at.

Luckily for me, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life playing Dungeons & Dragons.

More specifically, I’ve spent a huge portion of my life as a D&D Dungeonmaster (as opposed to the BDSM kind of Dungeonmaster), running games for all kinds of different players. I credit this particular hobby with a lot of my ability to come up with plots on the fly, as well as my ability to create fictional characters quickly, and my ability to envision the decisions those characters might make. All of those things are skills that one needs to varying degrees when running a tabletop role-playing game.

As with writing fiction, a Dungeonmaster (DM) tries to create or direct a narrative, to tell (with the aid of his players) a kind of story. The Dungeonmaster lays out a general plot, with a beginning, middle, and (assuming not everybody dies along the way) an ending. As with writing, any or all of this outline is routinely threatened by the often unpredictable actions of the characters involved. While the DM has full control over where the story starts, he/she does not fully control how or where the story ends, nor what happens along the way.

This is because the characters make their own decisions. Which often seems to happen when one is writing fiction, particularly fiction of any significant length.

A DM might start the story off in a tavern, intending the characters to roleplay a quiet meal getting acquainted with one another, planning the next day’s journey to the castle or dungeon where the object of their mutual quest lies. The players might choose to pick a fight, either with strangers at the tavern or with each other, and the evening might end with any number of dead bodies, and burning tavern.

The DM’s job is to adapt, to get the story back on track, but also to include the consequences of this event into the overall narrative. Surviving party members will likely be on the run now, to avoid angry mobs and law enforcement, which can be used to increase their incentive to achieve whatever their original goal was, as well as to provide additional possible obstacles that might add to the story.

It’s not so different when writing, sometimes. A writer might think they know where a scene is going, but by the time they’re done writing it, they have to re-adjust their entire outline to account for unpredicted outcomes. This is likely to happen more than once, in a longer story.

This can be frustrating as a Dungeonmaster, so most DMs try to predict ahead of time how and why scenes might go wrong, and to come up with ways of reducing the odds of disaster or major derailment. Instead of starting the scene in the main room of the tavern, for example, the DM might start the scene in a private room, where there are fewer distractions from the DM’s goal with the scene. It’s hard to start a fight with non-player characters (NPCs) when there aren’t any in the room/scene.

The party can fight amongst themselves, but this can be countered by making sure that each of the main characters, the Player Characters (PCs) have compatible backstories that can be used to avoid disastrous in-fighting. Four complete strangers are more likely to pick deadly fights with one another than a group of four people composed of two brothers, one brother’s love interest, and that love interest’s long-time friend who happens to have helped the other brother out of a serious jam on at least one occasion. It also helps if the characters have compatible personalities and overall motivations. That way, if things start to go off course, the DM can guide them back on course by reminding the PCs of their close ties and their mutual goals.

Storytelling is storytelling, and a lot of the skills that one can develop in table-top role-playing games can translate into other forms of storytelling, such as writing. It’s not the only way to develop useful skills, and it’s not even necessarily the best way to do so. It is one of the ways that’s worked for me, and I’ve heard other authors make similar claims.

Then again, writers tend to use their own experiences, and whatever a writers’ experiences are, I’ve heard them claim that those experiences have helped shape and guide their writing.

If you’ve never tried running or playing in a tabletop RPG, but you’re looking for fun hobbies that might help you with your writing, I recommend joining or starting a game sometime. If you have played or run tabletop RPGs, I recommend actively thinking about lessons that you can learn from your RPG experiences that will translate into writing skills, and vice-versa. It’s always nice when our hobbies can sharpen our skills for our passions.

Is It Okay To Fantasize About Rape?

The short answer is “Yes.” If that’s good enough for you, skip to the next blog post! (or go read an earlier post)

The long answer is still “Yes.” See below.

Fantasy is by default okay and natural, including fantasies about crime and violence. People fantasize about all kinds of things, for all kinds of reasons. What happens in our imaginations really isn’t anybody’s business other than ourselves, and it doesn’t affect anybody other than ourselves.

When it comes to sexual rape fantasies, there are reasons why they exist. We live in a society where we’re taught that sex is shameful, particularly for women. We’re taught that we’re bad people if we want to have sex, but biologically we are (most of us, anyway) driven to have sex, and to want sexual experiences. Rape fantasies allow people to conjure scenarios where we can participate in all the “depraved” things that we’d like to do, or–more to the point–that we’d like to fantasize about doing–while avoiding the negative feelings associated with our own lusts.

A person might want to fantasize about having rough sex with a group of strangers, about the pure, faceless physical act of it. The simplest scenario where they can indulge in that fantasy would generally involve being taken against their will. This would help them avoid not only guilt for their own general lust, but for any number of details in the scene that they might otherwise avoid envisioning, and/or might mentally punish themselves for.

This kind of fantasy does not mean that the person having the fantasy wants to be raped in real life, no more than an idle fantasy about being pursued by a serial killer, or a fantasy about being in a war, or a fantasy about a zombie apocalypse, means that the person having that fantasy would wish to be involved in such things in life.

Most sexual fantasies people have are used to get us off, and we don’t entirely have control over what scenarios push our buttons. Fantasizing about different things, rape included, can help us figure out what our turn ons are, and it can help us learn more about our own sexuality.

People fantasize about rape for many reasons. The escape from shame mentioned above is one possible reason, but for other people the reason might be because shame itself is one of their buttons, one of the things that inexplicably turns them on. They might enjoy fantasies about being beaten, humiliated, and forced… and that fantasy might not have anything to do with what they’d like in real life. Or maybe it does; there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Another thing about rape fantasy is that it’s easy. Different people have different thresholds when it comes to suspension of disbelief, and that includes sexual fantasies. Some people may not find fantasies of love & courtship, or hooking up at a bar, or any number of other common plots to be plausible or simple enough when they’re trying to just rub one out.

Fantasizing about being raped cuts to the chase: You’re there, the other person (or people) are there, and they’re doing things to you. You don’t have to worry about whether they’ll call you after. You don’t have to worry about whether they find you attractive. You don’t have to worry anything other than the sex, and you don’t have to worry about any kinky implications of anything that they do to you because this fantasy is about not being in control.

It’s about being relieved of responsibility, anxiety, and every other concern other than sex.

Rape fantasy allows people to bypass many, most, or all of their mental blocks when it comes to sexual fantasy, and it allows them to just enjoy the ride–something that is the exact opposite of actual rape, which can create obstacles between the victim and sexual enjoyment. This might be one reason why many victims of real-world rape indulge in rape fantasy: the trauma from their attack may create mental blocks that can only be effectively overcome by this kind of fantasy. They may have feelings of shame. They may have feelings of being damaged. They may have feelings that nobody good would want them. This kind of fantasy can provide a necessary sexual outlet that bypasses all those things and more.

There’s also a legitimacy to rewriting our own emotional stories, to dealing with traumatic events by imagining variations of those events that take out the sting through repetition and reframing. People can take traumatic events, and imagine those events in different ways that remove the negative experiences and replace them with positive associations. A person who has been raped can fantasize about being forced into sex under different circumstances, and in that fantasy retain complete control over everything that happens. They can replace powerlessness and suffering with fantasies of those things, with mute echoes that–like all fantasies–dull the bad parts and highlight (or in this case create) the good parts.

There’s nothing wrong with having rape fantasies, and there are many good reasons why people have them.

Avatars and Objects

Both “erotica” and “horror” are emotional terms, referring not to any physical actions, but to emotional states. Erotica is specifically art intended to arouse physical desire. Although there are certain physical responses that are a part of this reaction, the reaction itself occurs in the minds of the audience. Horror as a genre is specifically referring to the capacity to instill fear, revulsion, or even terror into the audience. This is something to keep in mind when writing in either genre, because all too often writers and artists seem to focus entirely on the physical elements.

In purely visual mediums, this is understandable. A painting or picture can only do so much to do the things necessary to fully bring the viewer along for a journey. A simple portrait or picture of a nude man or woman might well be all that is required to achieve the intended reaction, but even in such cases there is usually effort made by the artist to convey something other than the pure physical form. Compare nudes sketches or photos that are done for the purposes of simply showing anatomy, versus works designed to arouse. The former is typically informative, but essentially unarousing. The latter is typically much more arousing, and this is due in large part to the emotional information conveyed by the work in question.

Faces in anatomical works are usually blank, neutral, conveying nothing about the subject except perhaps indifference. Faces in erotic works are typically full of various emotional reactions, and this is precisely because that emotional quality is essential to arouse the audience. Humans can be aroused by sheer anatomical close-up visuals, but typically they are aroused to much greater extents when emotions are involved in the work. A naked woman with a completely neutral face and posture isn’t going to do all that much for most male viewers, but add a bit of flush to the cheeks, a bit of a wanton smile, and suddenly any eroticism is greatly multiplied.

Humans are social creatures, and we as a species are typically concerned with and affected by the emotions that we see (or project) onto the people around us.

Most commonly, we are sexually aroused by seeing the emotion of sexual arousal in others. That flush to the cheeks can indicate a host of emotions that we associate with sex, from lust to embarrassment, to the kinds of physical exertion that we associate with enthusiastic sexual activity. As a hetero male, seeing art portraying an emotionally neutral naked woman provokes a certain level of arousal, a low-level spark of lust. Seeing art portraying a clothed (or partially clothed!) woman who’s looking at me (or another person in the art itself) with lust in her eyes, in her smile, in her flush, in her posture, can turn that spark into a bonfire.

Horror works the same way, although typically with different emotions (barring various kinks and phobias).

Picture a person being stabbed in the chest with a large knife, but with their countenance conveying complete indifference. Picture their limbs lying neutral. Picture their mouth closed in a lazy line, their eyes half-lidded with a lack of any interest.

Now picture the same stabbing, only with the target’s eyes wide with shock and fear, their mouth forced open by their scream of not only agony, but their understanding that these are their last moments of life, and that those last moments will be filled with suffering. Picture their legs buckling, their arms desperately failing to stop the incoming attack.

Neither of these images is necessarily going to instill you with fear, revulsion, or terror, but surely the second image comes closer to any of those emotions, comes closer to conveying horror, comes closer to doing the primary job that horror as a genre is designed for.

Let’s repeat the experiment with an erotic scene instead.

Picture a naked man and a naked woman. The woman is bent over a table, and the man is standing behind her. He is frozen mid-thrust, his cock half-way into (or out of) her. Their faces are blank masks, and their postures convey no urgency, no desire, and nothing about any kind of internal feeling about the act they’re in the middle of.

Re-imagine the scene.
This time, the woman is wearing a house dress. She is leaning over a kitchen table that has a cutting board with a knife and vegetables on it, as if she has been interrupted in the middle of preparing a meal. Picture her hands bunching the checkered tablecloth. Picture her face flushed with passion, her eyes closed with pleasure, her mouth opening wide with a moan of ecstasy. The top of her dress has been pulled down, exposing her bare breasts. The bottom of her dress has been lifted up, and her panties pushed aside so that the man could eagerly penetrate her.

He’s wearing slightly shabby clothing, as if he’s been working in the yard, and only came in for a break or a drink of water. His hands are on her hips, frozen in the act of frantically pulling her back against him. His eyes are filled with lust, his face red with it. His pants are unzipped and have been pulled down just enough for this spontaneous act of mutual passion.

Stereotypical gender roles aside (or especially included, depending on one’s kinks), which scene was more arousing?

Most likely the latter, because the characters we see in a work of art are our vehicle for this experience, our avatars and objects of desire. If we can see passion, we can feel that passion. Just as if we see fear or pain, we can experience that as well.

It’s the same in written work: a story must be about more than indifferent bodies in order to truly affect the reader. The characters must feel emotions, and these emotions must be transmitted to the readers in order to infect them with the appropriate feelings of fear or desire.

The goal of most art is to affect the audience somehow, and that’s incredibly difficult and rare to do without showing them any emotions within the art itself. Emotions are the key to affecting your readers, and details are the key to showing emotions.

Myself As Well

I suppose I should explain that when I was a kid, video arcades were a thing. They were a BIG thing, because there was no internet, personal computers were slow, clunky things with no hard drives, often with black and white screens, or green screens. The only game consoles were Atari 2600s, and we were so desperate for electronic entertainment that we thought those were completely awesome forms of entertainment. The 2600s were the cause of many fights and much envy among children.

They absolutely paled in comparison to the video arcade.

The arcade games were full color, and they had what seemed like crisp, clear graphics. When Pac-Man hit America, it was like a nuclear bomb went off as part of the opening fireworks of a Beatles concert, with the miracles of Jesus Christ as the opening act. Okay, maybe not that big, but it was fucking BIG!

It was bigger than Pokemon Go. It was bigger than whatever big game is more current than that, because it was all new back then—the world had seen nothing like what was happening in the world of coin-operated wonder that was the American arcade– and there was very little real competition. These days there are millions of games or more, all competing for your attention, affection, and currency, and you can get them in some form or other basically wherever you are on the planet.

Back in the day, in my day, there were only dozens of decent video games, and you could only find them in certain locations. There’d be like three video games and a pinball machine or two at the local pizza parlor. There was maybe a couple in the corner of the pizza place. There’d be some at the airport, the bowling alley, and other key areas that we’d all map in our heads and exchange via word of mouth the way druggies share information about their dealers.

The arcades–the good ones–were like a fucking all-you-can-play buffet, and there were dozens of machines, usually with masses of kids and adults not only lined up to play, but also smooshed around to watch because every time you took a bite of this buffet it cost you a quarter. A good player could play a long time on a quarter, but eventually whoever you were and however good you were, you’d run out of the money that mom and dad gave you.

And then you’d just watch.

You’d all crowd around the guy playing the game, close but not too close because you don’t want to fuck up his game. The guy at the machine is right up against it, one hand on the joystick (or roller) and the other hand furiously hitting whatever buttons make something else happen in the game. All of the guy’s attention is on the game, because just like in the games today, it was both engrossing and dangerous—one mistake, and he’d die. Back then, you’d only get three respawns before you had to put in more cash.

There’s usually somebody hugging each of the front corners of the machine, too. They’ve got the best view, outside of the player himself. There’s space between them and the player, but not enough to squeeze in another person, so the next layer of watchers is a half-step back, staring at the screen through that gap between the first row. The third row watchers is bigger, and the view isn’t great because the gaps are smaller.

That’s where I am.

There’s a fourth row behind me, and maybe a fifth after that, although it all becomes muddled into one big crowd by that point. I don’t know, because they’re all behind me, and every single fucking ounce of my attention is on front of me, obsessed with whatever magic act of neon glory and human skill is happening. I’m like a cat who sees a mouse, like a dog who sees a squirrel.

I am rapt.

I don’t remember if there was a break in the action that caused me to break out of the hypnotic state of focus that I was in, or if it’s simply that my inner frog eventually realized that it was time to check the water temperature. What I do remember is that there was something warm and firm pressed against the seat of my Toughskins jeans, and the guy standing behind me was pressed way, way too close.

I was a child, but I wasn’t stupid, and I wasn’t ignorant. I knew what a dick was (I had one myself, after all), and I knew what a pervert was. I’d had the “No, go, tell” lectures at school, and I knew that strangers could be dangerous to children. I quite probably even knew the word “Frotteurist,” well-read little bastard that I was.

I was annoyed.

One of the corner-huggers had left, and I quickly moved to take his spot. I went a bit further down the side of the machine, sandwiching myself between the machine I was watching and the one next to it. A deliberate move, because now my butt was pressed up against the safety of a heavy arcade game instead of some pervert’s crotch. Then I went back to watching the game. The Frotteurist wandered to a different part of the arcade.

A little while later, one of my friends found me, and let me know that there was a pervert rubbing himself up against kids. I’m guessing that my friend found out the same way that I did. We decided to leave, because while we were confident that we could each protect ourselves from this guy, we were hanging out with a younger friend of ours, and we weren’t sure if he was worldly or wise enough to watch out for himself. We gathered him up, and we left the arcade.

I wanted to kick the guy’s ass. He was bigger than me, an adult or a highschooler (all the olds and talls looked the same to me), but for a while my brain furiously thought of ways that I could turn the odds in my favor. Maybe stand on a trashcan, and hit him in the head with a baseball bat when he turned a corner, for instance. But he was still in the arcade, I didn’t have a trashcan, didn’t have a bat, and didn’t know which way he’d go when he left. Besides, we had other places to be.

We totally ignored our “No, Go, Tell” training. It always just seemed stupid, screaming “NO!” at an adult, then running off as fast as you could. It didn’t seem to fit this situation either, because this wasn’t a guy in a van offering candy, or somebody in an alley at night or anything.

In hindsight, it would have actually been a decent way to bust this guy, raising the Hue and Cry to at least get him tossed out of the arcade. The training was stupid, though, and hinged on a kid who’d been taught that adults were authority figures, a kid who didn’t like attention, a kid whose anxiety made any unusual or intense interactions with adults all the more torturous… that kid? That group of three kids?

No. Go tell somebody else to pull that crap.

I didn’t want to have to deal with adults or cops asking me a shitload of questions over a minor incident that left me pissed off, but not in any way hurt, damaged, or traumatized. That shit would have been worse and more traumatizing for me.

Years rolled by, and I barely thought about it. Sometimes I’d remember, and I’d wish I could punch the fucker, or give him a hard kick in the nuts. Because while I’m not traumatized, and it wasn’t a huge part of my life, this guy took a moment where I was having a great time, and he spoiled it for me. He didn’t ruin arcades or video games or anything for me; he just ruined that moment, that hour, and any minutes since that I’ve thought of him.

Only not just for me, but probably for a lot of other kids as well.

One of the times that I thought about that guy was last year, when the #MeToo went viral, and women everywhere who had been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted, all let the world know that they’d been the victims of similar assholes and outright monsters. It was… nice? Heartwarming?

It was something to see all the virtual hands raised in empathy and accusation.

I was tempted to tweet a #MeToo myself. Maybe I even did, but I hope not. I remember thinking that it was a bad idea, because this thing was about women, and they didn’t necessarily need men talking over them or stepping into the spotlight in any way. They get too much of that as it is.

So life moved on, as it does, and I didn’t think of the incident again until today, when somehow that piece of shit again crossed my mind for some reason, and I decided that I’d tell my story. It might have been therapeutic, I guess. I teared up a couple times. Not because of this guy or the memories of him interrupting my day. Not that I’m aware of, at least, because brains can be tricky bastards. No, it’s the arcades of that era. They were something special, and as I grew older and the arcades grew fewer and fewer, there must have been some time where I went to a real arcade for the very last time, and I didn’t even know it happened. I didn’t even know how bad I missed it until I watched the Netflix series “Stranger Things” a few years back, and I sat there stunned and misty-eyed as I heard the sounds of a 1980’s video arcade for the first time in decades.

I don’t feel like there’s a good end to this post. There’s no particular moral, and no narrative closure. Like life, I suppose. Maybe that’s the moral.

Aaron Gold’s “Don’t Mind If I Don’t” Podcast

My Fucking Day Job keeps my hands and eyes busy most of the time, but my brain and ears are usually bored. I try to make use of this time by listening to audiobooks and podcasts, as well as a variety of music. With the audiobooks, I try to do stuff that will help my preferred field of writing erotica. I bounce back and forth between stuff on business/finance/promotion, erotica, sex/health education, and classic or popular books that can help me learn how the great writers did what they did.

With podcasts, my selection is mostly oriented the same way–all stuff that helps me sharpen my skills as a writer of erotica–but there’s other stuff in there too. I listen to Ted Talks of all sorts, because there are a lot of story ideas in those things, and because I just like learning new things and thinking new ideas. I’ve been listening to the Donkey Banana Show, because somebody I know on Twitter recommended it. There’s a bunch of stuff.

One of my favorite shows is the “Don’t Mind If I Don’t” podcast by comedian Aaron Gold.

The premise of this show is that Aaron picks something that he doesn’t like, then gets people to come on to the show to convince him to like it. He might be indifferent to the subject, simply not getting why it’s a deal to anybody. He might have a negative reaction to the subject, but see some kind of appeal. Or he might hate the subject with a burning passion.

At the beginning of each episode, Aaron gives a rating of 0 (indifference) to -10 (extreme hatred) for how he feels about the issue in question. Over the course of each episode, the guests try to explain to Aaron why he should like the subject, try to convince him to become a fan of it. Aaron explains and explores why he dislikes it. At the end of the show, Aaron gives his new rating to show how his feelings have changed.

Usually, the number moves closer to zero, because Aaron wants to enjoy more things; part of the point of the show is that he’d like to open his mind, and to find more pleasures in life. Sometimes, as I believe happened with the David Lynch episode, the number moves the other way, and Aaron finds that the more he knows about the subject–or the ways the guests/experts tried to convince him to like it–has pushed him even more toward the extreme hatred end of the spectrum.

Sometimes I agree with Aaron’s view, sometimes I agree with the guests’ views, and sometimes I agree with everybody, but I always empathize with Aaron because I have my own quirks and a long list of dislikes. I have my own hot-button issues, and plenty of popular topics that I hate. Most people do. At the same time, I also–like Aaron–want to enjoy life more, and I think that it’s good for people to have an open mind whenever possible.

Regardless of how it turns out, I enjoy listening to Aaron’s exploration of his own emotions.

A lot of the time, I feel like the guests aren’t doing a great job. They often forget that they’re not there to defend the topic’s general appeal; they’re there to specifically pitch the subject to Aaron in a way (or ways) that will make HIM specifically find more enjoyment in the issue. They don’t always pay attention to his objections, so sometimes they accidentally make pitches/arguments that only play up the factors that anger or annoy him. Other times, they fail to take notice when they hit on something that could seriously sway him, some point that he expresses interest in, but that the guests move on from all too swiftly.

Much of the time, the fans’ or experts’ arguments boil down to “But it’s SOOooo good!”, a blatant emotional appeal that’s not going to convince many people. Other times, the fans or experts come up with fascinating angles or information, things that catch Aaron (and/or myself) off-guard, and manage to change the way he looks at the issue in question. Either way, there are almost always jokes, ideas, and fun moments that make the show well worth my time and attention.

I follow both the podcast (@dontmindpodcast) and Aaron Gold himself (@HeyItsAaronGold) on Twitter, and I recommend that you do the same, as well as giving the podcast a try if you’ve got any free listening time. He’s affable and amusing, but can also be endearingly cranky in ways that I identify with. If you like things, or if you don’t like things, this just might be the show for you!

Do any of my readers have podcasts or audiobooks that they’d like to recommend to me? If so, let me know in the Comments section here. Pitch it to me in a way that’ll make me like it. 😉

Stop Kinkshaming Ammosexuals

Every time there’s a shooting–which I assume we can all agree is far, far, far too often–the big argument about guns and gun rights rages across the nation (and to some degree, across the world). We all have our views on what should be done when it comes to changing gun laws, and I’m not going to talk about that here. What I’m going to talk about is something that I see happen regularly in the comments section of articles, and in various arguments/discussions in social media, when the anti-gun crowd or the “sensible regulation” crowd face off with the pro-gun crowd.

Almost invariably and inevitably, one of the anti-gun crowd calls one or all of the pro-gun crowd an “ammosexual.”

There’s a lot of general name-calling back and forth, and a hell of a lot of stereotyping, when it comes to this kind of heated political debate. Ad hominem attacks are never productive in any kind of debate, but this particular attack rubs me the wrong way for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with how our culture sees sex and human sexuality.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ammosexual
   
Wiktionary defines the term as follows:
    (US, Slang, Derogatory) A person obsessed with owning guns; a zealous supporter of the right to bear arms.


    So why is the word “sexual” in there?

It’s because our culture–especially when trying to make things seem unseemly–loves to project a sexual element where it doesn’t necessarily exist, because we have a generally negative view of sex and sexuality.

The implication of the term “ammosexual” is not only that the person in question sexually fetishizes guns, but also that they are morally and even factually wrong for doing so. I’m going to unpack a lot of the things that are wrong with that.

First, it’s a conflation of two entirely different (if sometimes overlapping) things: a political stance supporting the right of people to own firearms, and a sexual fetish for firearms. I know many gun owners and pro-gun advocates, and I’ve never known one yet who seems to see their firearms in a sexual way. At the same time, I’m aware that there are people out there who are into gun kink, who use firearms to spice up their sex life the way that other people use whips, knives, or ropes. Believe it or not, the people in the latter category aren’t necessarily NRA members or gun rights advocates. They’re just people who have a certain kind of kink.

Having that kink does not mean that there’s anything wrong with them, nor that they are wrong about whatever side of the argument they’re on.

Moreover, the people throwing the term about do not–as far as I can tell–seriously believe that the people they’re hurling the word at actually do have any kind of kink when it comes to guns. They’re using the word as a hyperbolic insult, trying to shame people by insinuating that they’re into something kinky.

Because our society thinks that kink is shameful.

Because our society thinks that sex and sexuality is shameful.

But it’s not shameful, and it shouldn’t be shameful (unless your particular kink is being shamed, and you’re engaging in consensual play).

In a conversation about guns and violent crime, people are using sexuality as an insult to try to shame the other side into submission. It’s not simply an attack on the people targeted by the word; it’s also an attack on sex in general, kink more specifically, and gun kink directly.

Worse, this kind of thing usually comes from leftists/liberals/progressives, the kind of people who are supposed to be more enlightened when it comes to sexuality.

 

A similar situation is the idea that men who own guns must have small penises. I haven’t done a survey to see if there’s any truth to this, and nobody else has either, because the claim/insinuation doesn’t hinge on truth–it hinges on shame. It’s an attempt to shame and insult gun owners, not to do anything else. So it’s probably not true, but let’s pretend that it was true for just a moment. Let’s pretend for a moment that if a man owns a gun, for some reason that’s because he has a small penis.
    So what?
    Should men with small penises be non-consensually and publicly shamed for their bodies? Is that what we want to accomplish in our online political arguments? Is that any better than when a man dismisses what a woman has to say on a political subject by calling her “fat,” “ugly,” or “mannish?”

Body shaming is body shaming, and body shaming is bad.

Especially when the body shaming in question directly feeds the kind of toxic masculinity that is at the heart of much of the gun violence that we’ve been seeing, the tropes we have about manhood, and what it takes to be a Real Man. Accusing a gun owner of having a small penis relies on the assumption that any man with a small penis can’t be a Real Man. Considering the fact that the key traits of a spree shooter is that they are almost always males who are concerned with or caught up in societal notions of what masculinity is, I don’t think that attacking their penis size is a productive way to defuse or discuss anything.

Whatever we as a nation or a planet ultimately do with guns, we need to make our ideas of masculinity more inclusive, and our ideas of how men deal with shame more productive. What we do NOT need to do is to shame more people, and to reinforce existing prejudices about sex, sexuality, and sex organs.

 

[As a final note, I’ll point out that there are people who self-identify as an “ammosexual,” typically for the same sort of “fuck you” reclaiming reasons why Americans like the song Yankee Doodle, why some women (or men) self-identify as a “bitch,” and so forth. That doesn’t affect the nature of this post, which is not about people self-identifying, but is specifically about people applying the term to others without their consent, as a pejorative.]

Rejection Letters

I’ve recently received rejection letters from two different erotica anthologies that I submitted to. While it’s always disappointing to be rejected, I wasn’t surprised about the first letter (technically, it was an email). While the story I submitted is pretty good, it’s not my best work. The story I was trying to tell was bigger than the number of words that I was limited to, and the story suffered from having some corners cut. It also wasn’t the ideal fit for that anthology, but I hoped that it would get in anyway.

The other rejection letter did come as a surprise. It was for a story that I hammered out just under the deadline, but that I thought turned out very well. Like the other story, I had to condense the tale I was trying to convey significantly to fit the word count limit, but I truly felt that I had accomplished that without compromising the heart of the story. I was proud of that one, and I was confident that it would be accepted.

Ah, well.

While I’m suffering from a bit of mild rejection dejection, I’m mostly left wondering why specifically that second story didn’t make it into the antho. Was it not good enough? Or was it just not the right fit? Was the story not as good as I think it was? Or was it simply the wrong fit for the anthology that the editor was envisioning?

One key difference between writing for classes in college, and writing for submission in the real world, is that there was absolutely no vacuum of feedback in the classroom. I miss that. With this kind of thing, I’m left guessing. The rejection emails were very nicely worded, but in some ways I would have preferred harsher wording that gave me more indication why my work wasn’t accepted.

A response of “No way; you suck!” or “WTF? Did you even READ the submission guidelines?” would at least let me know what the problem was, and what I would need to work on harder for my next submission (i.e., not sucking). Of course, it’s obvious why no business could succeed with that kind of interaction with their authors.

The only thing I can really do is to take my best guesses, and to try harder or better next time.

I’ll start with what I know was wrong with both stories: I had to shrink them to fit the word limit. Since the stories have already been rejected, word-count isn’t an issue any more. I’ll go back, look at each story, and flesh them out more until I feel they’re the right size. I’ll probably self-publish them at some point, because there aren’t a lot of submission calls for stories longer than 5k words. That’s one of the nice things about self-publishing: you can spend as many or as few words on a story as it requires.

The next thing that I know was wrong with both stories is that they were written and submitted very close to the deadline. If I’d had more time, I might have figured out how to polish them a bit more. That first story could have used it, I admit, and as good as I believe the second story to be, it could have perhaps been even better (while still constrained by the word count). So next time I need to submit, I’ll try to focus harder on finishing the stories early, leaving more time to tinker with them.

Also–while I think that it’s entirely unlikely–some editors might read submissions in the order they were received, and simply reject everything else once they’ve found enough stories that they like. Writers aren’t the only people who can cut corners, nor the only ones who are pressed for time. On the slight off chance that this kind of thing is a factor, I might do better getting my submissions in a lot earlier in the future.

When these anthologies do eventually come out, I’m going to get copies, and read them carefully to see what kind of stories did make the cut, and try to figure out why. If they’re all clearly better than my own efforts, that will clue me in. If some or all are not as good–to my eyes–as my rejected stories, then I’ll try to figure out why the editors thought that these lesser works were better or more appropriate to include.

Beyond that….? I’m not sure, so I guess I’ll ask my blog audience:

-If/when you get your submissions rejected, what steps do you take to change the outcome next time?
-What kind of post-game analysis do you do to figure out why you were rejected?
-Can you think of things that I should be doing in this area that I’m not?