Reclaiming “Squicky” and the future of F/F fiction by Ana Vitsky (2014 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event)

Jan 5, 2014 by

Reclaiming “Squicky” and the future of F/F fiction by Ana Vitsky (2014 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event)

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“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.

No, they didn’t say it quite like that. But after writing The Way Home, Lighting the Way and Editorial Board, something strange happened. My F/F couples said heck with friendship and let’s get it on.

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.

 

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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.

 

CONTEST!

 

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.

 

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53 Comments

  1. I stumbled into F/F whilst looking for diverse sci fi romance and… I don’t know why, but something about it just clicked with me. I’ve been reading M/M for about 18 months but it doesn’t turn me on as much as reading lesbian fiction. And I find that much easier to write.

    And anyone who can’t think of what two women would get up to has a severe lack of imagination! 😉

  2. Michaela Rhua

    I agree, writing to change minds is more powerful that lecturing at people. Great post!

  3. Ana, I hadn’t heard the term “squicky” before, and now I won’t be able to get rid of it! Definitely hear, “Does it sell?” I think, eventually, the market will expand.

    • The term was *so* insulting the first time I heard it directed at me, and I had difficulty explaining just why it was insulting. Writing this post helped me clarify, and it also helped me re-define why I am so passionate about F/F. Thank you for your encouragement. 🙂

  4. Terri H

    I love romance stories, straight, gay, lesbian, ménage, whatever. I just require an HEA to make me happy. 🙂

    terrihawk66@yahoo.com

  5. If you think that F/F squicks people out, try M/M. (Or maybe I’m just hyper nervous right now because 2 of my 3 beta readers for Sanguine are male.)

    BTW, in Bastia, are M/M relationships also the norm?

    • Yes, in Bastia M/M is the legal and religious norm, but it is secondary to F/F…as opposed to our current society in which LGBT has been re-written as *G*LBT with emphasis on gay men. And while some heterosexual women salivate over the eye candy on M/M covers, F/F seems to push a lot of buttons. It’s a complicated issue.

  6. Thank you to Margo Moon who let me know the link to the Becoming Clissine trailer does not work. This should do the trick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4st00bwMKg0

    If nothing else, please go to youtube and enter “Becoming Clissine” in the search engine. Sorry!

  7. I don’t get what the issue is. I don’t personally like to read M/m but I’m not against it or bad mouth it. Why would people be uncomfortable with two people expressing feelings for one another no matter what gender? Great post Ana!

  8. I often get frustrated because our stand of tolerance and acceptance usually only goes one way. We teach and preach it constantly in schools however; it really does not mean true freedom; only the appearance of understanding. Everyone should be allowed to be whom they are and should not be forced into the “accepted norm.” I’d like to know who decreed what is acceptable and what is “squicky”? (love that word) When we understand the true freedom to love and accept all people only then will we have peace. You go for it Ana and we will keep buying and reading your books.

    • Renee M, thank you so much for your thoughts. You are right about tolerance and acceptance only going one way, more often than not. I agree with you about wanting to know who decreed what was acceptable.

      Readers like you are worth a million. <3

  9. I had never considered reading F/F literature until I participated on the Advent calendar and read The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus. I found a whole new point of view, enough such that I am considering a F/F scenario for one of the characters in the DD book I’m working on. You have to understand, she was flat and disappointing before I explored that idea for her. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and what you write, Ana!

    • Hooray! I would love to see that scenario when you are finished. I think characters do tend to be flat and disappointing when we don’t have enough invested in them. I can’t wait to see what you do with her now. 🙂

      *I* can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reading and commenting, Sherilyn!

  10. Chickie

    It’s all silly, really. A good story is a good story. There’s been some m/f that I just didn’t like and dare I say that one was squicky! I’ve read two f/f now, and only liked one but that was because storyline not interesting or realistic-ish. I don’t like m/m but not gonna scream about it being squicky. I’ll just pass.

    • Absolutely. Any story can be squicky, not just based on sexuality. I wish more people could understand/open their minds to a good story being just that–a good story.

  11. Squicky. ?? !! You run with a rough crowd, Ana dear. @..@ I’d have trouble taking seriously anybody who used the word “squicky” unless we were only goofing around.

    How will I contribute to the future of F/F fiction? Well, it would appear I may be donating one of the fruits of my own non-squicky (pfft) M/F encounters. She is an aspiring young writer who recently disclosed she is on Team Squicky. (Sorry for besieging you with my irreverent nonsense. You struck my funny bone with that ridiculous word! Reminds me of Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. Smh!)

    Beyond that, I haven’t given any thought to contributing to the future of F/F fiction. I didn’t know it needed a boost. I always considered it to be a niche market like anything else. I didn’t realize publishers were resistant to it until you mentioned it. That is just really strange to me. If the market is there, why not sell to it? It’s not as if people are forced to buy it if they are squicked out by it and don’t want to read it. 😉

    Okay, moving on… 😉 Hugs to you!

    • I was pretty insulted, Irishey. You see what happens when I get insulted. 😀 Wait wait..an aspiring young writer you know is interested in F/F? Send her my way!!

      And good about funny bone…laughter is a force for social change, just as much as stories.

      I’m glad that publishers are changing their minds, too. Ebooks have made a lot of things possible that weren’t possible before.

      Hugs back!

  12. catrouble

    Hey Ana…love reading about how you began and have progressed with writing F/F.

    As you know, I am really in to M/F because I have a tendency to place myself in a story. But dang! The way you bring your characters to life and the emotions you infuse in them, I get so invested I don’t put myself in to the story but they become real characters to me…as if they are my next door neighbors! Just keep on writing your wonderful stories!

    Blessings…
    Cat

    • That’s it, isn’t it? Getting emotionally involved, period, rather than holding ourselves at a distance because we assume certain pairings are squicky. We can have our own preferences and lifestyles, but calling someone else’s lifestyle squicky is awfully judgmental.

      I am sure if Hana and Mira were your next door neighbors, poor Mira would run to you for comfort quite often. 😀

  13. I’m so glad I got reading this article, Ana! I’d already given my BR the link and she said your thoughts were interesting. I do love what you’ve done with Bastia and can’t wait until I’m able to read “Becoming Clissine”. But yeah, the “squicky” response irritates me, although I’m much more used to hearing about it in terms of M/M and the disgust coming from men who find F/F hot, but M/M gross. So sad, the judgments too easily placed on something “not the norm”

    • That’s great, Joelle! I’ll love to hear your thoughts about Becoming Clissine when you get a chance. And men finding F/F “hot” disturbs me just as much as hearing that it’s squicky. Not objects for viewing pleasure, thanks.

  14. I loved reading your post about this-it got me thinking about the one I had starting writing for this event and ended up changing it a whole lot. F/f is a genre that a lot of people are uncomfortable with. I don’t know if it is homophobia or what but the term squicky really does say it all. I came across an anthology for witches that had an amazing f/f romance/marriage scene and I was hooked. I don’t remember ever reading a story about a lesbian before but it was magic. I felt like I belonged there. It was beautiful.

    Yes-I am a straight woman-but that in no way means I can’t and don’t enjoy writing and reading f/f fiction and erotica. I believe in diversity in all forms and the freedom to be who you are.

    What will I do to further the cause? Keep writing and reading lesbian fiction and erotica. I will host every author I can on all of my blogs and write once more for anthologies like Coming Together: For the Girls to put my talent where it can do the most good.

    Best,

    Erzabet Bishop

  15. Roz

    Wonderful post Ana. Love ‘squicky’. You mention writing to change minds. I will be honest and say I was squicked out initially at the thought of FF and I’m not even sure I can fully explain why. It is thanks to getting to know you and your stories that my eyes have been opened 🙂

    Hugs,
    Roz

    • Roz, I don’t mind if people tell me they are hesitant about F/F. To be frank, I am often hesitant about M/F. What I mind is when people stop there. I have read a ton of M/F because there was a time when little else was available, but M/F readers have never had that issue. So I understand that there are steps in between…and I’m so grateful I got to be the one to show you more to F/F. 🙂

  16. KTGrant

    Thank you, Ana for writing the stories that you do. 🙂

    • Thank you for hosting such a wonderful event! It was wonderful to feel free to speak as a F/F author, not apologize for not being a M/F author.

  17. Michael

    Hi Ana, sorry I am late. First, I would like to thank KT Grant for this wonderful and much needed Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event.
    Ana, I am very distressed to hear the prejudice you and others have experienced in your personal life as well as your professional writing life. Growing up and to this day I could never understand any form of prejudice or bullying other than it made my blood boil. And in this day and age even though we have made great strides in overcoming homophobia I think we should be further along. I am very glad I live in Minnesota which has approved gay marriage and am proud to say that along with my wife Season we voted in favor of its passage 15 months ago. But even that is troubling because it should have never come to anybody voting on what should be a basic right. Nobody voted me the right to marry Season. As a heterosexual couple we always had that right. So unfair that an intrinsic right needs to be bestowed like a gift when it should have been a basic right for centuries.
    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox and just say I am so happy that you, Ana, and other authors had the courage of your convictions to blaze a trail and create magic on your own terms. Oh, and love that Blushing Books was so supportive of you. Makes me feel good that I am one of their customers.

    • Not yet late! Still in time. 🙂 Magic on my own terms…I love that! That’s part of what an author does, right? Or at least a good one. 🙂

      • Michael

        Yes, Ana, a good author creates magic, and you, dear Ana, are a veritable magician. 🙂

  18. I have to agree. I hate it when people look at me like I am from another planet when I tell them what I read. It’s no different than the books they read. Maybe they should try reading one they may get hooked.

  19. I thought briefly of writing F/F under a different pseudonym then decided not to. I didn’t know how my M/F readers would react.Men are hot, women are hot. This is who I am, and I want them to see both sides in my writing. Thank you for sharing your story and I’m happy to have you as a friend 🙂

  20. KTGrant

    I’ve had epublishers specifically tell me that they hold F/F to a higher standard because of the belief it doesn’t sell. Hearing that angers me in so many ways because it’s assumed authors who write F/F or Lesbian fiction are automatically submitting shoddy work.

  21. Great lead-off post. I would like to believe that if readers try just one title, they will see the romance at the heart of the story and realize it’s about love between two people. Reading LGBT fiction doesn’t make you LGBTQ – but it does open your world to more books.

    • Thank you, Leigh! I agree. If people would only open their minds and give it a try, I bet they would be changed. So many people tell me mine was their first F/F story, and now they are hooked.

      Especially true that we can read anything and it doesn’t make a statement about our own sexual identity.

  22. Sheila

    I guess it’s me. Love is love no matter what the sexes involved. I read it all and enjoy it all. I can get as hot and bothered by f/f or m/m as I can m/f or more.

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