Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Forty-Nine: Exotica

I'm never quite sure what to make of the current usage of the word "problematic". The gender warriors and the neo-puritans of the "social justice" world have a particular meaning for the word. It's used as a weapon, of course, as a moral condemnation. To call something "problematic" is to condemn it out of hand, to say that it's morally flawed and needs to be done away with. Like the current invocation of the word "privilege", "problematic" is used to point the bone at hapless opponents, to silence argument, to flaunt one's own moral righteouness and brand opponents as thoroughly (and ab initio) discredited and probably evil.

One of the "problematic" things out there these days is the idea of the "exotic", or the idea of "fetishising" something. An acquaintance who writes erotica posts links at Twitter on a daily basis--- links to photos of handsome gay men having sex. She's bisexual herself, and the male characters of her novels are almost inevitably bi. She prides herself on writing hot male-male scenes, and she seems to have a fair number of female readers who sigh over those scenes. Yet the other evening she posted a series of apologetic tweets about her daily gay links. She apologised for "fetishising" the scenes in the photos, for "fetishising" the men in the photos.  Someone had found what she was doing "problematic" and attacked her for finding male-male sex hot to look at and for encouraging her female followers to become aroused by the photos.

I don't quite follow the argument, of course. I fail to see the moral failure in looking at something outside one's own usual experience or one's own world and finding it hot precisely because it's new and unknown. I fail to see why something can't be simply desired based on novelty. My literary acquaintance was attacked for finding two handsome men together to be a hot thing to watch, and I've known other people who were attacked for wanting to try something based on novelty or visual appeal. To say that one wants to date an Asian girl, or a red-haired girl, or to say that one is excited by a category, an image, is now "problematic", meaning morally evil.

I'm not sure why it's evil to seek out novelty, to want to be part of something new and different, to want something that've  you've never had, to want to be part of a scene that has visual or literary resonances. Is it only that the desire is purely for novelty, or for what enters at the eye? Is it that the desire isn't about the person, but about the novelty? Is it that simple? I'm still left shaking my head.

We're creatures who tell stories, who live for and through stories. We construct stories about what we see, and we long for new stories and new experiences that turn into stories. To "fetishise" is only to look at something and see the inherent stories. That's what it is, really. I've spent my life seeing the world as a set of potential scenes, as the raw material for stories. I won't apologise for that, and no one--- not my acquaintance the erotica writer, not someone wondering what it would be like to take someone who's [fill in the blank] to bed ---should ever have to apologise for that.

No comments: