Lesbian does not always equal sex

(Admit it. All you saw in the heading was “lesbian sex”).

Now that I’ve got your attention, I wanted to chat about a couple of things that have been annoying me no end the last few weeks. I’ve been doing some research on an idea I have for some steampunky type characters and plots, and having some real fun checking out some of the steampunk websites around the place. (Check these cool gadgets out)

The first one I seem to be encountering whenever I search for lesbian steampunk. There doesn’t appear to be too much around, which is great for me in a way, because I can tap into a fresh market. But I’ve stumbled across a few forums where other people have been asking for recommendations for some lesian steampunk, and the answers have almost always been to the tune of “I don’t have anything to recommend for lesbian steampunk, but here’s some cool erotica that you might like instead.”

Now, I’m not big on the erotica genre anyway, but why is it always assumed that if you’re looking for any type of fiction with lesbian characters (or gay for that matter), that you’re automatically after erotica?

Here’s a tip: I’m JUST after lesbian characters. I’m squeamish about badly written sex scenes, be they same-same or otherwise. Hell, I’m squeamish about sex scenes, badly written or not. I like to use my own imagination for those types of scenes, and much prefer the “fade out” effect. I’d rather not have a blow-by-blow of who puts what, where.

What I’m really looking for is this: steampunk stories, that don’t have sex as the end goal, with lesbian characters. Simple? Apparently not.

The second thing I’m frustrated with is the amount of gratuitous sex in a lot of the lesbian books I’m reading. (I have a whole other post whinging about other stuff I don’t like about lesbian fiction, but I’m sticking with the sex for this one).

I was reading a sample of one a couple of weeks ago (a sample, which is only the first 10%), and the lead character stops what she’s doing to jump in the sack with some hussy she just met, within the first five pages. THE FIRST FIVE PAGES!! Give me a break. That is not characterisation. That is gratuitous sex. Not even James Bond jumps into bed with the women plotting his downfall in the first five pages (or the first five minutes in the case of the movies).

I get it. We have this image to protect where BBLs (Big Butch Lesbians) can bed anyone they want without consequence, and that makes them super cool. Women, straight and gay, fall at their feet and worship the ground they walk on.

I don’t want to read about those characters.

Here’s what I want.

I want characters who go through shit that doesn’t happen just because they’re lesbian. I want characters whose major trait is something OTHER than the fact that they’re lesbian.

So the question is, how do I find those characters?

The answer: in my own head. My answer to my frustrations is to write what I want to read, since no-one else seems to be doing it.

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  1. It’s not true that nobody is doing it. All my books have lesbian main characters but no sexual content (beyond tame stuff like kissing). All my books are about shit that happens to women who just happen to be lesbian. I’m not the only one who writes that type of story.

    The problems are: As a reader, how do you find those stories? And as a writer, how do you find the people who want to read that type of story? I don’t have answers for those questions (yet).

  2. Amen. I am on that boat with you. I agree with Sarah Errritch also. The problem is putting the right reader with the right book. I have been a loud proponent of an honest assessment of the lesbian fiction category. I really don’t think it is too much to ask to make it easier for the erotica reader to find material, and the reader who prefers a standard genre fiction book with lesbian main characters to find her selections as well. It’s disdainful and disfranchising to dismiss readers who complain of unexpected sexual content in a lesbian fiction book. The wave of the hand says, “Thanks for stopping by, but lesbian fiction is not for you if you don’t want the pages sizzling.” There are quite a few of us writers of fiction with lesbian characters who do not produce erotic lesbian romance novels, which is different from erotica as I have recently learned. We fade to black authors, or fade to gray as my friend says of my novels, are being dismissed with the readers who are seeking our books. So off to genre land we go to be hidden among the heterosexual books, unable to use the lesbian fiction label because it doesn’t fit.