Reclaiming “Squicky” and the future of F/F fiction by Ana Vitsky (2014 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event)
“F/F? The whole idea squicks me out.”
“What do two women do in a bedroom, anyway? Wear a strap-on?”
“They need a real man to show them what they’ve been missing.”
“So who’s the man in the relationship?”
“No one reads F/F.”
“F/F doesn’t sell.”
“Who would want to read stories only about women?”
As writers of F/F fiction, we have all heard at least one of these statements at one time or another. On a daily basis, I am floored by how many people feel comfortable telling me they are squeamish about F/F or that they find it “squicky.” By “squicky,” we usually mean that something (or someone) is sick, disgusting, bizarre, revolting, or induces nausea. Watching someone sliced open for surgery would be squicky, as would smelling fresh vomit.
“Squicky,” really? How would it come across if I told my M/F friends that I found heterosexuality “squicky?” I’d be laughed at because M/F is (supposedly) the norm, right? I’m here today as part of KT Grant’s Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event because I believe, with every bone in my body, that F/F fiction is anything but squicky. We need and deserve stories of women, of diverse women, and of women who live complete and fulfilled lives beyond pining for the perfect man.
You say squicky; I say social justice.
My journey as a F/F writer began with apologies. I wrote platonic stories of F/F friendship because I didn’t want to squick out M/F readers. Quite a few readers told me they were wary of reading my stories because they were (guess what?) uneasy about F/F, but that my characters’ sexless friendship reassured their homophobic fears.
As someone who tiptoed around homophobic sensibilities for most of my life, I was horrified. Simple Gifts should have been the story of a friendship between a classical violinist and her pianist best friend, but in the midst of a spanking scene sparks flew and electricity tingled. Before I knew it, Leila began unbuttoning Carene’s shirt and I hastily faded to black. I didn’t want to squick anyone with forbidden lesbian sex. Because we all know that heterosexual sex is yummy and delicious and sells books, but sex between two women must be disgusting, revolting, and bizarre.
As I grew more daring, I confronted the questions all F/F authors will have to face at some point. How do we respond when people tell us that they are squicked by our stories? Do we engage them in dialogue? Do we try to proselytize and convert them to F/F? Do we tiptoe around the M/F crowd and keep F/F sex out of our stories? Or do we isolate ourselves and stay within F/F only circles? (Let me tell you, if anyone can do drama it’s the F/F crowd.) Do we try to educate the ignorant/prejudiced, or do we focus our energies where we are more welcome? If we try to educate those who are resistant to F/F stories, what do we lose of ourselves in the process? What can we afford to give up in order to play nicely with others? How can F/F fiction move forward in the future?
For me, all social action begins with a story. I write for a paycheck (don’t we all?), but I also write to change minds. When we have alternate stories to challenge the mainstream myths that prompt inappropriate questions and comments, we broaden the discussions of what it means to meet and love another person. Why do we assume that M/F is normal and F/F is squicky? What if we lived in a world where the order were reversed.
Becoming Clissine, my first political book, took on this misconception of F/F being “wrong” and M/F being “right.” It asks the question, “What if heterosexuality were a crime?” In Bastia, the storyverse of Becoming Clissine, F/F relationships are the norm and M/F are a sin against religion and society. Clissa, the main character, is thrown into prison for kissing a boy, and she is subjected to an extreme form of conversion therapy—assigned to new parents who treat her as a child in order to change her sexual identity. For an idea of the story, please view the trailer here. Many M/F readers told me they had never before understood what it might be like to live in a society that considered them abnormal. What if F/F were accepted as normal? What if we didn’t have to defend who we are and what we write?
Desire in Any Language, my first F/F romance, tells the story of a coming-of-age and coming-out story I wish we all could have experienced. Mira’s crush on her female tutor throws her into an emotional tailspin until she realizes her longing for love. When love comes in the form of diplomat Hana Takahashi, Mira’s heterosexual roommate is not only supportive but envious of her good fortune. The sequel, Mira’s Miracle, will be released on January 10th and includes one of my very first F/F sex scenes. (You can read an extended preview here.) I wrote to my publisher, Blushing Books, and asked, “I know that sex sells, but what about F/F? Will the increased marketability of a sex scene be undercut by, frankly, the homophobic aversion to F/F sex?”
My publisher responded, “Write it.” And that they believed in what I write and what I stand for.
That’s all we can do, right? Stand up for our beliefs and write what we know to be true. How will you contribute to the future of F/F fiction?
About the author:
Please visit Anastasia Vitsky at governingana.wordpress.com, follow her on Twitter at @AnastasiaVitsky, and read free excerpts of her Kat and Natalie stories at katsitting.wordpress.com.
I will draw one random commenter to win a book of the winner’s choice from my backlist, including The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus, Daughter of Discipline, Editorial Board, Desire in Any Language, Simple Gifts, The Way Home, Lighting the Way, Becoming Clissine, and Love’s Reprise.