Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fiction

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Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fiction

Post by eldin raigmore » 23 Jun 2017 01:14

Why is it that, on the web at least, in classifying fiction, especially webfiction, (and perhaps even more especially webcomics), so much emphasis is placed on what sorts of persons the main characters (both protagonists and deuteragonists) want to have sex with and/or to fall in love with?

(In order to help responders avoid derailing this thread before their second posts, let me specify:
(1. I do not object to that classificatory tendency.
(2. I regard it likely that it does make sense. I intend to adopt, as a working hypothesis, that it does make sense. I just don't understand why it makes sense.)

Why, for instance, wouldn't it make just as much sense, to classify fictions according to where the main characters and their main friends and enemies fall on a carnivore-to-vegan "spectrum"?
  1. Strictly carnivorous;
  2. Meat-and-potatoes;
  3. Fruits and vegetables in spring, summer, and fall, but meat-and-bread-only in winter;
  4. Anything and everything any time at all, like most people;
  5. No red meat, but any other kind OK;
  6. Öö-lacto-pisco-vegetarian (eggs, milk, and fish OK, other meat forbidden);
  7. Nothing that requires killing any vertebrate (so, milk and unfertilized eggs OK, along with honey and shellfish, but not salmon or trout or frogs or turtles or snakes or poultry or ...)
  8. Nothing that requires killing any animal whatsoever;
  9. Nothing that requires killing or robbing any vertebrate (so no eggs or milk, but honey OK);
  10. No animal products of any kind (strict vegan).
Like the gender-identity and sexual-orientation spectra, some people might insist this be re-worked as a two-dimensional spectrum, or even that they personally don't fit anywhere along it, even if it's re-worked as more-than-one-dimension. And AFAIK they might be right.

I'd think this would involve just as much opportunity for conflict as the sex-and-gender stuff.

Is it possible that the reason it would be less interesting to the average reader (assuming, even, that it would be less interesting), that when two people have acrimonious arguments about this kind of thing, neither of them is hoping to love the other nor hoping that the other will love them?
Or is that even so?
Spoiler:
And, believe it or not, the carnivore-vs-vegan spectrum actually did occur to me before any politics-or-religion spectrum!
But "why aren't webfictions classified by the politics or religion of their main characters instead of their sexuality or gender"? is not a question I feel comfortable discussing on the CBB.
So I request that responders don't bring it up until after their second posts on here, please.
Assuming I get any responders at all; or any who respond twice or more.

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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by qwed117 » 23 Jun 2017 02:19

I have never heard of this. I'd imagine that this is because I hardly read (at least fiction) nowadays though.

I guess one could say this is merely because that's the major conflict of the day. Our modern Bildungsromans must be at least centered on something that is important to us. We grow up in response to some crisis we suffer, some identity we no longer see, something that marks us disappearing. And I guess gender is where they lay strewn.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by elemtilas » 23 Jun 2017 02:26

eldin raigmore wrote:Why is it that, on the web at least, in classifying fiction, especially webfiction, (and perhaps even more especially webcomics), so much emphasis is placed on what sorts of persons the main characters (both protagonists and deuteragonists) want to have sex with and/or to fall in love with?
Nothing new here. Literature (high and low) has had its elements of sex for ever. Newer stuff is simply exploring how current society has (d)evolved in such matters. Variety may be the spice of life, but I do think a lot of modern writers have no concept of portion control when it comes to the ghost pepper paste in their works...
(In order to help responders avoid derailing this thread before their second posts, let me specify:
(1. I do not object to that classificatory tendency.
(2. I regard it likely that it does make sense. I intend to adopt, as a working hypothesis, that it does make sense. I just don't understand why it makes sense.)
As for the classification, I think it may have something to do with Western culture's increasingly open attitudes towards discussing all matters sexual.
Why, for instance, wouldn't it make just as much sense, to classify fictions according to where the main characters and their main friends and enemies fall on a carnivore-to-vegan "spectrum"?
  1. Strictly carnivorous;
  2. Meat-and-potatoes;
  3. Fruits and vegetables in spring, summer, and fall, but meat-and-bread-only in winter;
  4. Anything and everything any time at all, like most people;
  5. No red meat, but any other kind OK;
  6. Öö-lacto-pisco-vegetarian (eggs, milk, and fish OK, other meat forbidden);
  7. Nothing that requires killing any vertebrate (so, milk and unfertilized eggs OK, along with honey and shellfish, but not salmon or trout or frogs or turtles or snakes or poultry or ...)
  8. Nothing that requires killing any animal whatsoever;
  9. Nothing that requires killing or robbing any vertebrate (so no eggs or milk, but honey OK);
  10. No animal products of any kind (strict vegan).
Presumably one could. And quite possibly in some dark corner of the Interwebs, such literature is so classified.

I think that such a scheme would be much more likely to develop where stories are written that revolve around these kinds of foodways as major plot or setting elements. Sex and "romance" are typically much more likely to be prominently exposed in literature and are much more likely to form the nucleus of plot or setting or character than eating disciplines. Also, they're much more popular and therefore garner more attention.
Like the gender-identity and sexual-orientation spectra, some people might insist this be re-worked as a two-dimensional spectrum, or even that they personally don't fit anywhere along it, even if it's re-worked as more-than-one-dimension. And AFAIK they might be right.
Yet another niche classification scheme. This one at least intersects in numerous planes with the sex-n-romance schemes. Neither of those really mesh with whether a character has a moral objection to eating carrots.
I'd think this would involve just as much opportunity for conflict as the sex-and-gender stuff.
No doubt! Any kind of relationship, any area of inner struggle is bound to be the source of conflict and thus good fodder for a story.
Is it possible that the reason it would be less interesting to the average reader (assuming, even, that it would be less interesting), that when two people have acrimonious arguments about this kind of thing, neither of them is hoping to love the other nor hoping that the other will love them?
Or is that even so?
It might be less interesting to a wider audience. Same sex attraction is not everyone's cup of chai, and while the human emotions and conflicts involved are universal, many people may be put off by the kind of obvious nichery. Same goes for "ethnically based" literature. If a story is couched in terms of "black relationships" and "black struggles" and the author comes across as "this is a story for black people and you stupid white people won't get it"; well, I'd think many people will be more likely to just say "fuck you, I'm just not going to buy your book!"

On the other hand, if an author writes such a story and couches the otherwise niche relationship type in universal terms, she'd be much more likely to find acceptance by a wider audience. In other words, the classification scheme wouldn't matter so much.

So yeah, I think any of the schemes you present are valid (as well as any number you don't mention). I'd just sum up by saying that popularity of the given axis is what might be driving classification schemes. Sex has always sold. Right now, same gender attraction is a hot niche topic. Some decades ago, I'd imagine that "interracial" / cross-ethic relationships were hot or at least just risqué enough to warrant such classification treatment. Vegetarianism has been a thing for quite a while now, but I just don't think it rises to the level of sex, interpersonal relationships or the like for the purposes of classification.

Hope I make some sense here!
Spoiler:
And, believe it or not, the carnivore-vs-vegan spectrum actually did occur to me before any politics-or-religion spectrum!
But "why aren't webfictions classified by the politics or religion of their main characters instead of their sexuality or gender"? is not a question I feel comfortable discussing on the CBB.
So I request that responders don't bring it up until after their second posts on here, please.
Assuming I get any responders at all; or any who respond twice or more.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by LinguistCat » 23 Jun 2017 02:44

A lot of people like romance in writing, and probably an equal number like sex though that is a little more restricted depending on culture and the age of the reader. But both of these is even more true if you include people who don't like genre Romance or Erotica, but also include stories where the romance and/or sex is not the main plot, or only implied.

And here's the thing: It's probably easier to imply that someone has eaten but not what they ate, than it is to imply that someone is romantically inclined toward someone but not who they are interested in. There are ways to do that of course, but it gets exponentially harder if both characters are part of the main cast.

A lot of people seem to get hung up on whether a romance (or sexual relationship) involve two people with different genitalia or the same, and whether one's genitals match those assumed for your gender and other related things. This means there are people who would be absolutely appalled if they read a book where a character's genitals didn't match those expected of their gender, or people with matching genitals (or genders, regardless of genital configuration) were in a romantic relationship; and other people would be very happy to find those books.

With food however, even if one has a specific diet, one is unlikely to care if characters in a book do not share your diet, unless you are at one of the extremes and particularly militant about your eating habits. Even then, you will probably project your eating habits on the people in the story, unless it's otherwise noted, or write your own stories where the characters all eat as you do, or the ones who don't are the villains.

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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by eldin raigmore » 23 Jun 2017 02:55

Thanks, @elemtilas!
Your post included too much interesting, "meaty", pertinent stuff, for me to quote it here; I will merely refer readers to "elemtilas's latest post before this post of mine".

There used to be a popular kind of story called "picaresque".
It became popular in Spain, if I recall correctly, at a time when not everyone who could read could necessarily usually count on getting enough to eat.
The heroes (or, at least, the protagonists) tended to be down-on-their-luck would-have-been-a-hero-in-better-times rogues/roguish persons/thieves-or-con-men-by-necessity, who were motivated by hunger.
It was (and still is IIANM) unusual among literary classifications in that hunger was a frequent literary motive in these stories.

Have you ever heard of it?
Spoiler:
Considering the varying dietary restrictions of Roman Catholic Christians, Sephardic Jews, and Moorish Muslims, in Spain at that time, couldn't things like, for instance, the availability of pork but not of beef, or of fat from the thigh but not from anywhere else, or of grapes/figs/grapejuice/whatever that one couldn't be sure wasn't fermented, etc., have been "a thing"?
--------------
Or am I already straying into religious territory?
Could the food-sensitivities of picaresque heroes not have been obvious criteria for publishers and sellers of picaresque novels to subcategorize them?

[hr][/hr]

I think you're especially right about the idea that in earlier decades the cross-racial or between-race love might have been considered a classification in fiction.
Cross-bloc (i.e. Western vs. Communist) love-affairs, also.

But I still have more sympathy with, say, a Canadian having to choose between, e.g., borscht vs burritos.

[hr][/hr]
[hr][/hr]
[hr][/hr]

@doomie, you're probably right, too.
When I watch (the current season of) Fargo, I like seeing Varga pig out on foods I like (which he then throws up -- not the part I find appetizing, in case anyone were wondering).
Even before my baryiatric stomach-shrinking surgery I couldn't have eaten as much as he does. (I doubt David Thewliss actually eats all the stuff he manages to imply Varga eats!)
I wonder whether I've aged into a "food porn" phase? (I still like regular porn, btw; haven't aged out of that!)

BTW @doomie;
I'm usually fine with knowing that a main or main-ish character is in a relationship, and whether s/he enjoys it or is worried about it, as a subplot or side-plot.
Often the first shock I get is suddenly finding out that the pronoun I'd been imagining for the SO turns out to have been the wrong pronoun.
I'm one of those people who easily absorbs that shock and then carries on.

But I can imagine that there are people for whom that would ruin the story.
Maybe they'd be fine with any kind of relationship as long as it were all specified whenever it was first brought up.
But they don't like being surprised.

I remember seeing an episode of "All In The Family" in which such a surprise was the whole point of the episode.
(Turned out Archie Bunker was more put off by the advanced age of both lovers than by the fact he'd made wrong assumptions about the gender/sex of one of them!)

Maybe they'd wish that the blurb on the jacket said "Gender surprise inside!"?

[hr][/hr]

In SF, wouldn't it be reasonable to have more concern about inter-species love-affairs than there is?
(Also, I'd think food-incompatibility would be even more of a problem than reproductive-incompatibility if SF were realistic-ish!)
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Lambuzhao » 23 Jun 2017 03:18

eldin raigmore wrote:Why is it that, on the web at least, in classifying fiction, especially webfiction, (and perhaps even more especially webcomics), so much emphasis is placed on what sorts of persons the main characters (both protagonists and deuteragonists) want to have sex with and/or to fall in love with?
I think elem touched upon this; true or not, there is the adage that "sex sells".
IMHO a good solid story and memorable plot & characters ought to sell,
but in shilling reams of copy, think booksellers (and some authors) still adhere to this dystruism.


Why, for instance, wouldn't it make just as much sense, to classify fictions according to where the main characters and their main friends and enemies fall on a carnivore-to-vegan "spectrum"?
  1. Strictly carnivorous;
  2. Meat-and-potatoes;
  3. Fruits and vegetables in spring, summer, and fall, but meat-and-bread-only in winter;
  4. Anything and everything any time at all, like most people;
  5. No red meat, but any other kind OK;
  6. Öö-lacto-pisco-vegetarian (eggs, milk, and fish OK, other meat forbidden);
  7. Nothing that requires killing any vertebrate (so, milk and unfertilized eggs OK, along with honey and shellfish, but not salmon or trout or frogs or turtles or snakes or poultry or ...)
  8. Nothing that requires killing any animal whatsoever;
  9. Nothing that requires killing or robbing any vertebrate (so no eggs or milk, but honey OK);
  10. No animal products of any kind (strict vegan).
Like the gender-identity and sexual-orientation spectra, some people might insist this be re-worked as a two-dimensional spectrum, or even that they personally don't fit anywhere along it, even if it's re-worked as more-than-one-dimension. And AFAIK they might be right.
I dunno. In fact, I googled some things and came up with these sites showcasing novels for vegetarians, vegans & Animal-Rights folks:

novels aimed at or promoting Vegans/Vegetarians/ARAs
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3210 ... for_Vegans
http://www.ashlandcreekpress.com/books/veglit/

novels with a Foodie/Gourmand-bent
http://flavorwire.com/426164/50-essenti ... /view-all/


Some memorable films that capitalize on food include (in no particular order):

Ang Lee et al. - Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
María Riploi - Tortilla Soup
Lasse Hallström - Chocolat (based on the novel of the same name by Joanne Harris)
Gabriel Axel - Babette's Feast
Juzo Itami - Tampopo
Jon Favreau - Chef


And a few food-horror stories to mention, of principally of a cannibalistic nature:

Jonathan Swift - A modest proposal (not a novel, but not to be forgotten)
Harry Harrison - Make room! Make room! (the basis for the film Soylent Green)
Peter Greenaway - The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (film)
Jonathan Demme - The Silence of the Lambs (food & cooking were certainly relevant to antagonist Hannibal Lecter, both in this film and in the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris)

I hope this helps some
Bon Appetit!

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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Micamo » 23 Jun 2017 03:41

Are you joking, or do you actually not understand this?
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by eldin raigmore » 23 Jun 2017 03:45

Micamo wrote:Are you joking, or do you actually not understand this?
I am not joking; I actually do not understand this.
Why are you surprised?
I thought you knew me well enough to know that I often don't understand things that are obvious to everybody else.
I thought I even made it clear in my Original Post on this thread that I accepted the probability that it does make sense; I just didn't understand why it makes sense.
I'm hoping this won't be one of those (thankfully rare) times when, even after it's explained to me, I still don't get it.

Or is it just that my post is similar enough to many of my jokes that you thought it might be a joke this time too?
Rather than that you are surprised?
That would be entirely understandable. Many of my jokes are me seeming to persist in an initial misunderstanding that it would be absurd IMO for me to persist in.
Edit: Or, perhaps, as qwed seems to wonder, it was not any of my comments you were asking about.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by qwed117 » 23 Jun 2017 03:52

Micamo wrote:Are you joking, or do you actually not understand this?
Could you explain your comment further? I'm not quite sure what comment you're criticizing.


It's great seeing you again, Micamo. On the IRC channel, we were getting worried about your absence. [:O]
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by elemtilas » 23 Jun 2017 04:09

eldin raigmore wrote:There used to be a popular kind of story called "picaresque".
It became popular in Spain, if I recall correctly, at a time when not everyone who could read could necessarily usually count on getting enough to eat.
The heroes (or, at least, the protagonists) tended to be down-on-their-luck would-have-been-a-hero-in-better-times rogues/roguish persons/thieves-or-con-men-by-necessity, who were motivated by hunger.
It was (and still is IIANM) unusual among literary classifications in that hunger was a frequent literary motive in these stories.

Have you ever heard of it?
The name seems familiar. I don't think we ever read any such stories at uni, but the genre does look interesting.
Considering the varying dietary restrictions of Roman Catholic Christians, Sephardic Jews, and Moorish Muslims, in Spain at that time, couldn't things like, for instance, the availability of pork but not of beef, or of fat from the thigh but not from anywhere else, or of grapes/figs/grapejuice/whatever that one couldn't be sure wasn't fermented, etc., have been "a thing"?
--------------
Or am I already straying into religious territory?
No, no straying this time!

I don't think this particular axis would have been viewed as a central theme. I mean, hunger I get: that was a monster that stalked everyone, rich, poor, Jew, Christian or Mohammedan. Simply because everyone from the king on down relied upon the same insecure food sources and relatively poor agricultural techniques. But I don't think a novel would have been based on dietary distinctions. Now, I could see an author bringing in satire where a roguish Christian picaro might flaunt his "nothing that enters your mouth defiles you" non-restrictive meal of bacon in the faces of his Jewish and Moslem confreres.
Could the food-sensitivities of picaresque heroes not have been obvious criteria for publishers and sellers of picaresque novels to subcategorize them?
Doubtful. In that time period, novels were still, well, quite the novelty! I don't think litcrit had evolved to the point where such a category would have made itself obvious to a publisher.
In SF, wouldn't it be reasonable to have more concern about inter-species love-affairs than there is?
(Also, I'd think food-incompatibility would be even more of a problem than reproductive-incompatibility if SF were realistic-ish!)
I think this motif rears its head quite frequently, actually. From Spock and Uhura right on down the line. The Enterprise, at least, could be dubbed in all truthfulness an intergalactic Love Boat.

I can think of but one SF novel where food figures so prominently that it becomes the entire plot/setting of the novel. James White's The Galactic Gourmet. I recall reading with relish.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Micamo » 23 Jun 2017 04:14

It's because in our culture gender and sexuality are very important aspects of our individual identities, and readers want to read books sometimes where their identities are shared with the protagonist. "I want to read a book where the main character is a lesbian like me" is as valid of a desire as "I want to read a book where the main character is a wizard." (Why not both?) Books are marketed so as to help them find their audience, and so the gender and sexual identity of the characters is thus important to this.

The reason why you don't see diet used this way is because while there are a few people who strongly identify with what they choose to eat, there generally aren't enough of them to make an audience. The people who strongly identify with their food choices tend to be vegans, and there are indeed books centering veganism. Maybe there are some hardcore paleo fans who are really hungry for a novel about paleo-ism. I wouldn't know.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Axiem » 23 Jun 2017 04:16

eldin raigmore wrote:Why is it that, on the web at least, in classifying fiction, especially webfiction, (and perhaps even more especially webcomics), so much emphasis is placed on what sorts of persons the main characters (both protagonists and deuteragonists) want to have sex with and/or to fall in love with?
I think a lot of this starts with the fact that most people seem to consider their sex, gender, and sexuality to be deeply core elements to their identity. And, people like reading about "people like them". So most straight cis-women would—ceteris paribus—generally prefer to read stories about straight cis-women, and in particular, stories where straight cis-women are the protagonists. (I'm a bit weird, as some people are, in that I like seeking out literature that has protagonists distinctly not like me)

(A digression could be had here about the role of race and (dis)ability here, which also tend to be things tied deeply into one's identity)

Furthermore, people have strong feelings about the nature of homo- vs. hetero- sexual coupling. Some of it is that some people simply object to (in particular) homosexual coupling, and therefore don't want to read about it; some of it is that people are aroused (in a general sense) in different amounts by different couplings for whatever reason. (To take myself for example, homosexual content does little to arouse me compared to heterosexual content. It's not that I have any particular objection, it just doesn't provoke the same emotional/physiological response)

So before reading a story, you might want to know whether or not you're getting a story that arouses you in the way you want to be aroused.

As for your example of an eating spectrum, while I have known people who have considered their vegetarianism an integral part of their identity, it doesn't hold quite the same level of core identity in the way that sex/gender/sexuality do, nor is it quite as societally contentious.

In much the same way that if I'm spending a fair amount of time with a coworker, I might explain to my spouse "Oh, he's a gay man" when I'm asked who said coworker is; I'm not likely to say "Oh, he's a vegetarian".

Also consider that when a person is pregnant, the first question is almost always "Do you know what it is, yet?" (I would snarkily reply "hopefully human. It'd be really awkward if it was a dog", which did me no favors), by which they mean "do you know what its sex (and therefore presumably gender and sexuality) is yet?"

Now, you can think that people considering sex/gender/sexuality to be so core to their identity is silly, but that's not going to change a bunch of people, and not going to change how the market (in whatever form) responds to the desires of its clientele.

That's my initial (and probably poorly-worded) thoughts on the subject.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Iyionaku » 23 Jun 2017 05:43

eldin raigmore wrote:Why is it that, on the web at least, in classifying fiction, especially webfiction, (and perhaps even more especially webcomics), so much emphasis is placed on what sorts of persons the main characters (both protagonists and deuteragonists) want to have sex with and/or to fall in love with?
Because who you want to spend time with will inevitably influence the plot, i.e. determine which persons become important in the protagonist's life and actions. This accounts for other topics like food as well (for example, if someone dispises McDonald's they'll never meet someone who eats there every day), but not so much.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Reyzadren » 23 Jun 2017 10:20

omg, you have exactly my thoughts!

There are so many gaming forums/communities out there that emphasise so much about gender/sexuality, most even requiring that you fill in a (fictitious) form upon registration that asks about that spectrum, that it baffles my mind.

Again, I have nothing against gender per se, but out of all things to require a mandatory category for, why these though? It's as random as asking for your favourite font or favourite cooking TV show, except more annoying and trivial.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by elemtilas » 23 Jun 2017 11:36

Reyzadren wrote:omg, you have exactly my thoughts!

There are so many gaming forums/communities out there that emphasise so much about gender/sexuality, most even requiring that you fill in a (fictitious) form upon registration that asks about that spectrum, that it baffles my mind.

Again, I have nothing against gender per se, but out of all things to require a mandatory category for, why these though? It's as random as asking for your favourite font or favourite cooking TV show, except more annoying and trivial.
Spot on!

While categorisation schemes are always interesting, it's not so much the scheme itself that's weird but the unhealthy fixation on those categories. With all due respect to the notions of sexuality and gender and so forth being so important to the individual (they are, no doubt about it), normal people just simply don't fixate on these things to the point of pathology. Normal people just don't really give a fiddler's fart what gender you call yourself, what strange combination of animal, mineral or vegetable you're attracted to or any of those other matters of TMI.

Case in point (and one that I find somewhat irksome): one of the language invention Discord forums actually has in its mission statement the fact that it is queer friendly. I mean, really? For ever (.i. as long as I can remember), language invention forums and the people that gravitate towards them have always been welcoming of people of all those stripes (and many more besides). But does the community really need to fixate on sexual attraction --- a matter really quite private and entirely tangential to the Art --- to the point of making it a bullet point in the group's constitution?

This whole politicisation of the Art has really become terribly disappointing.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Salmoneus » 23 Jun 2017 11:55

... I have no idea what you are all talking about. In the UK, in my experience, books are classified by genre, not by sexuality - so, 'fantasy', 'crime', 'romance', etc. I have literally never seen a classification like the one you suggest in this country. Maybe if you found a romance-only specialist bookshop, then they might do that, I guess? I wouldn't know.

I know that, online, there are websites with porn/erotica/romance stories, which often specify the sex of the participants, but surely even you aren't puzzled by that - it's natural that gay men, for instance, might not be as turned on by lesbian erotica, so would like to know the content in advance.

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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Iyionaku » 23 Jun 2017 12:42

I thought they were not talking about genres, but certain plot influencers, and stated that the context drive is sexuality way more often than, for example, food. Which is only natural, in my opinion.
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by eldin raigmore » 23 Jun 2017 15:10

elemtilas wrote:I can think of but one SF novel where food figures so prominently that it becomes the entire plot/setting of the novel. James White's The Galactic Gourmet. I recall reading with relish.
I see what you did there. [;)]

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Micamo wrote:It's because in our culture gender and sexuality are very important aspects of our individual identities, and readers want to read books sometimes where their identities are shared with the protagonist. "I want to read a book where the main character is a lesbian like me" is as valid of a desire as "I want to read a book where the main character is a wizard." (Why not both?) Books are marketed so as to help them find their audience, and so the gender and sexual identity of the characters is thus important to this.

The reason why you don't see diet used this way is because while there are a few people who strongly identify with what they choose to eat, there generally aren't enough of them to make an audience. The people who strongly identify with their food choices tend to be vegans, and there are indeed books centering veganism. Maybe there are some hardcore paleo fans who are really hungry for a novel about paleo-ism. I wouldn't know.
Thanks!
BTW I expected "because it's popular" and/or "because it's a way to sell books" et/vel cetera to be intermediate answers.
My questions were more "why is it popular?" and/or "why does it sell books?" (perhaps among others).
I do not have any information more reliable than your assertion to support the idea that sexual orientation is more strongly felt as part of identity than food "choice" (wouldn't some regard the use of "choice" here as offensive as calling sexual orientation "sexual preference"?)
(Of course, gender identity is, by definition, part of identity.)

For me, the unchosen and unchangeable parts of my identity that I can think of are two;
1. my nerdishness
2. my atheism

These are the only things I have ever had to "come out" about. Well, atheism and conlanging; not nerdishness in general.

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@Axiem; your response is essentially the same as Micamo's. It's a bit longer, so I won't quote it. There are some parts that are different; and I'll respond to some of them separately.
I still don't see why sexual desire should be more important to identity than food preference, when sex is less basic on the Maslow hierarchy than food.
I still don't see why you and Micamo and as far as I can tell everyone else but me can tell that it's more important to identity.
I accept that it must be, since you can all see it; but at the moment I can't see for myself why it must be.
I don't think it's at all silly. I hope I haven't given the impression that I do think it's silly.
It's just that, relative to me personally, it seems inexplicable, or at least unexplained, or at least, not yet explained by an explanation I currently understand.

As for how to respond to questions about "what" an expected baby is going to be; some people might respond as if the asker wanted to know what race the baby would be?
(When I was around four, my mom brought my newborn youngest sister home, and I told one of the men who commonly worked for my parents "Sam! I have a new baby sister, and she's white, too!". At that age I had no idea how someone's race was determined.)

I like to read stories in which the protagonist has a very different gender or sexual orientation than the author, if the characterization is well done.
This requires at least two things from me; (1) finding out about the author and (2) reading the story just in case it might be well-done.
Not every reader is going to want to do that. Sometimes I can't do that.
Among other permutations, reading a story by a cis-hetero-female author about a well-characterized cis-hetero-male first-person hero is enjoyable.
Some people claim that the opposite arrangement can't be done; that no male author can write a well-written female protagonist or a well-written female-to-female relationship (sexual, parent/child, best-buddies, life-long-enemies, or whatever).
Some people used to claim that women authors couldn't write well-written male characters.
I love seeing counterexamples to those claims.
So clearly I'm one of those readers who does care about, at least, the gender-identity of the characters and of the authors.
It's just not all I care about. And I don't know (in a very fundamental sense) why booksellers know or think it's the main thing readers care about.

Caitlin Kiernan is one of my favorite authors.
I don't understand her personal life at all. It turns out I don't have to.
Some of my favorite stories of hers don't really have anything to do with the sexual orientation of her characters, and barely mention their gender-identity (beyond giving them stereotypical male or female names and using masculine or feminine pronouns). Among these are the Alabaster stories.
Others, OTOH, very definitely have everything to do with the sexual and romantic orientations of one or more of the main characters. IMO those are good too.

Elemtilas mentioned the race(s) of the character(s) as something else readers and authors and publishers and retailers-of-fiction care about.
He said that the author can write "a story about (e.g.) black Americans" so that it effectively said "you dumb white people won't get it"; or, instead, can write it to have universal appeal.
I very much liked the movie Sounder when I was young. As I recall most of the characters, including all of the main characters, were black Southron Americans. I don't remember having any problem with that, then.

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Iyionaku wrote:Because who you want to spend time with will inevitably influence the plot, i.e. determine which persons become important in the protagonist's life and actions. This accounts for other topics like food as well (for example, if someone despises McDonald's they'll never meet someone who eats there every day), but not so much.
Good point, and well-put.
Iyionaku wrote:I thought they were not talking about genres, but certain plot influencers, and stated that the context drive is sexuality way more often than, for example, food.
Thanks. You appear to be right.
Iyionaku wrote:Which is only natural, in my opinion.
OK, but; Why is it only natural?


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@Reyzadren, @elemtilas; Thanks for your remarks, too.



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Edit:
qwed117 wrote:I guess one could say this is merely because that's the major conflict of the day. Our modern Bildungsromans must be at least centered on something that is important to us. We grow up in response to some crisis we suffer, some identity we no longer see, something that marks us disappearing. And I guess gender is where they lay strewn.
I can't believe I missed, and failed to respond to, this!
Yes, qwed117, I believe that is probably true.
It would explain why, for me, reading about nerds and/or atheists is more appealing than reading about transgendered or genderqueer or homosexual or bisexual or other-variant-gender-identities-and/or-sexual-orientations.
Those things were the major causes of my suffering when growing up, and nerdism and atheism are both more accepted these days, although, in the case of atheists, there's also a lot more overt hostility than there used to be.
Last edited by eldin raigmore on 23 Jun 2017 16:52, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by Micamo » 23 Jun 2017 16:47

Well, correct me if I'm wrong, Eldin, but that's probably because you're a straight cisgender man. ("Cisgender" just means "is not transgender.") In terms of gender and sexuality, this is what our society considers neutral and default. One thing you have to understand about identity politics is that they are inherently reactive to a threat to this identity, perceived or otherwise. There's no need to march in the streets when you aren't under attack. Gay pride is a response to structural and personal oppression of the queer community by society at large. "Straight pride" is a reaction by those who are threatened by queer people having rights now that we didn't have 20 years ago. (These people are garbage. Don't be one of these people.)
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Re: Why is sexuality & gender-identity so key 2 grouping fic

Post by eldin raigmore » 23 Jun 2017 16:55

Micamo wrote:Well, correct me if I'm wrong, Eldin, but that's probably because you're a straight cisgender man. ("Cisgender" just means "is not transgender.") In terms of gender and sexuality, this is what our society considers neutral and default. One thing you have to understand about identity politics is that they are inherently reactive to a threat to this identity, perceived or otherwise. There's no need to march in the streets when you aren't under attack. Gay pride is a response to structural and personal oppression of the queer community by society at large.
All understandable and correct.

Micamo wrote:"Straight pride" is a reaction by those who are threatened by queer people having rights now that we didn't have 20 years ago. (These people are garbage. Don't be one of these people.)
I very much doubt that. Are men's rights activists just male chauvinists by another name? I don't think so; I think the loss of the privileges they should never have had has made it clear to them they still don't have rights they should always have had. I could be wrong.

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