Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kinukitty: In and Out

I didn’t get the point of slash, initially. Why the hell would anybody want to spend their creative energy writing explicit sex scenes with someone else’s characters, and why would anybody want to read it?

So I was surprised to find out that huge quantities of the stuff were available on the internet for almost any anime, manga, TV show or movie you could think of. A friend told me about it -- her fandom was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” -- and despite my misgivings, I trusted her taste. She is smart and highly literate and wouldn’t recommend anything that completely sucked (as it were), no matter how much she was into the porn. So the possibility rolled around in the back of my head for years before I finally took her suggestion and Googled “fan fiction.”

My kink is beautiful young men having hot, explicit sex in the context of some kind of emotional relationship. Something meaningful -- love, angst, hatred, ideally all three at once. I like porn, but what I wanted wasn’t really available in the mainstream. You can find heterosexual porn with plot, but I didn’t want heterosexual porn. And you can find gay porn with beautiful young men, but I didn’t necessarily want that much sex. (Anyone see “Butt Boys From Outer Space: Blasting Out From Uranus”?)

I had grave misgivings about quality but got lucky and found Scribblemoose right off. The porn sealed the deal, but she is a good writer: well-developed characterizations, compelling plots, and so on. I wasn’t familiar with any of the anime or manga characters she wrote about, but I’d heard of Weiss Kreuz, so I chose one of her WK stories at random, and nothing’s ever been the same.

I picked Weiss Kreuz because it sounded angsty, but also completely ridiculous. The premise of this '80s anime -- which is plagued with some of the worst animation ever perpetrated, along with one-dimensional characters and plot-holes that will occasionally make you throw an axle -- is that four beautiful (if peculiarly styled) young men, who have all been scarred by some absolute tragedy, have become avenging assassins with kitty-cat code names who work under cover by day in a flower shop called (get ready for it) "Where the kitten sleeps."

It seemed like a good place to start.

The first story I read was called "Moving On" (co-written, actually, by Scribblemoose and Gwendolyn Flight). It opens with an espionage scene, and I do love espionage. Two men, Yohji and Aya, are trying to get illicit information out of a computer. Yohji muses crankily about this not being his thing and then spits, "Damnit. It wants a password." Aya says, "Eggplant." "What?" "Eggplant. The password's eggplant," Aya says, muttering, "Did you actually read the mission pack?" "Of course I fucking did," Yohji answers.

Soon after, Aya makes a mistake (at the end we find out that a trainee had left different pages out of each man's information packs), leading to the pair being pursued and hiding in, of course, a crowded gay club. And to blend in, they are obviously forced to dance in extremely tight proximity and kiss in a wonderfully heated fashion. There are passages like: "...Yohji could glimpse shifting muscle and smooth flesh. Tantalizing. He tasted the word on his tongue, rolled it about and smiled on a sudden curling heat." The men thus discover their hither-to unexplored passion for each other, stagger home and have hot kitchen-counter sex, followed by a complication, then hot bed-sex, and a relationship ensues. It's funny and sexy and absurd, but there's an internal logic that holds everything together. (There's a picture, too, by the lovely and talented P.L. Nunn.)

Years later, Weiss Kreuz is still about the only slash I read, but even in this tiny universe, I’ve come across many talented writers just having a lot of fun with what they do. So many, in fact, I’ve occasionally regretted my inability to become obsessed with other fan fiction universes. I'd enjoy reading them even without the sex.

But, oh, the sex. I’ve had the same basic kink since I was first conscious of sexuality, and for most of my life, there was almost no way to express it. It is inextricably tied up with the other major facet of my sexuality, which is that I’m bi. Both things were equally painful when I was growing up. My family was poor-ish and lived in a fairly small, firmly blue-collar town, and everything I was, sexually, was so wrong it couldn’t even be admitted to exist. For years I had a nebulous, awkward and, most important, closeted relationship with a young woman of similar background. We couldn't even admit to each other what we were doing. My social life was extremely restricted because nobody could be allowed to find out I was gay -- or something, I didn't exactly know -- and nobody around me was out, so I had no idea how to go about finding a more suitable partner or even friends I could trust with my secret.

I spent a lot of time prowling a decrepit and usually completely deserted used bookstore (but wonderful, in its way, and miraculous that it was there at all). And one thrilling day when I was thirteen, I ran across Faggots by Larry Kramer and discovered the broader concept of homosexuality. People like me did exist -- somewhere else, obviously, than in my home town, but still. In retrospect, it amuses me that this nasty little book would have been what gave me hope. It's very far from the kind of porn I seek out, and it didn't really work for me as porn at the time, but, holy shit! There was a whole world out there, and even if my life felt like a too-tight shoe at the time, there were gay people, and when I grew up I could set forth and find them.

And I did grow up, more or less, and I did find people who were gay, lesbian, bi and trans-gendered, and it was a huge fucking relief. But there was still the other part. I still couldn’t find the kind of porn I needed, or any community where those interests were openly acknowledged, so in a way I still felt like I was in the closet. I broached the subject with some gay men and was considered a fag hag (a phrase I've always detested). I was afraid to even mention it to my lesbian friends, who often seemed deeply suspicious of my bisexual orientation (and who did in fact drop me when I started dating a man). It was sort of like high school all over again -- there were certainly people out there who shared my porn inclinations, but where the hell were they? So discovering slash, and the slash communities on the internet, felt a bit like discovering the gay utopia. I could finally be out in every way.

There are problems, obviously. It is a virtual community where people interact virtually, using pseudonyms and keeping many details of their real lives private, in part to avoid intruding overly on the fantasy, probably, but mostly to keep themselves safe, since the real world still isn't open to bi (or straight) women who fantasize about gay men. There is finally yaoi manga to be found at Borders, but this remains a preference you probably don’t want your coworkers to know about.

The virtual community of which I speak lives on LiveJournal, although there are many on LJ and other sites. I often think my life would have been different if this stuff had been around when I was a teenager (in the wee, early ‘80s) or a young adult. To have something so fundamental about myself validated by a community of people who felt similarly -- what would that have been like? I have no idea, but I wish every manporn-obsessed teenager in the world could find out.

That opinion would seem to put me in the minority. There's been so much wailing and gnashing of teeth and crying of "The children! The children!" that it's almost impossible to say teenagers should perhaps have access to porn. Yes, I am aware that sexual predators make use of the internet. And no, I am not in favor of child abuse. At the same time, I think there is some middle ground on which to perch.

Teenagers are sexual. If someone is thinking about sex, saying "No, you're not" isn't going to stuff the genie back into the lamp. This concept of innocence that must be maintained until the age of eighteen, and damn the civil rights torpedoes, is not a universal truth. An awful lot of teenagers have sex. It was even the norm in the US not so long ago. My grandmother -- admittedly poor and rural -- was married at fourteen, and that was not unusual.

LiveJournal is currently trying to convince its users to save the children by self-censoring. Users are never, ever to post anything that might possibly contain any remotely sexual content involving anyone younger than eighteen -- because if you ever posted anything like that, you'd obviously be a disgusting pedophile, and also, the terrorists would win. And the newest innovation is inviting users to flag all adult content in a way that precludes younger users (those who registered their accounts with a birth date indicating they are not yet eighteen years old) from being able to access the material. Other people can flag your content, too. Because the only way to keep teens from being sexually assaulted by pervy old creeps is to deny them access to any kind of sexual content whatsoever.

From the outside, I guess the closet looks like a safe place to store kids. It didn't feel that way when I was in it, though.

©Kinukitty. Used by permission.

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