There is an ongoing kerfluffle over the (unsubtly hidden) Christian romance publish house “Clean Reads,” and its guidelines that it wants only “real stories” that don’t require sex, violence, or profanity. The guidelines are pretty strict; the characters shouldn’t even have premarital sex, or discuss having had premarital sex, unless “consequences” are outlined. Rick Reed’s post stirred up a bit of a nest, and he’s since closed down comments.

Clean Reads replied to the controversy by saying that you could have GLBTQA+ characters in your stories, just not as the main characters. They could be props, but any romantic arc to their characters was pretty much not allowed.

In academic queer studies, there’s an existing line of though that goes all the way back to Fear of a Queer Planet (1991), that straight people are “people who have sexual bodies,” while gay people are “sexual bodies that have people.” The default when listening to someone is to assume humanity first and be comfortable that their sexuality is probably conventional; when gayness is thrust upon the listener, suddenly what the speaker does in bed is likewise thrust to the forefront of the listener’s mind.

The gay body is, by default, a sexualized body first and a human being later. Clean Reads falls into this line of thinking almost by default. American Christianity is not interested in God’s children who can’t or won’t belong to the Church of No-Homo. “Jesus consorted with lepers, prostitutes, and the destitute, but he drew a line and shouted, ‘No Homo.'”

It’s unfair. And sadly it will be a few generations before it goes away. The best we can do is not give Clean Reads our money or manuscripts.

In a brave mixture of desperation, curiosity, and briefly having the money necessary to indulge, I went out and bought a couple of tentacle monster porn “books” from the Kindle/Nook self-publishing arm of the universe.  I picked books that were scored better than halfway (2.5 stars or more out of 5), and those that were explicitly tentacle monster sex books.

Sheila’s Tentacle Monster by Annabel Bastione was the first one, and probably the “best” one, which is saying a lot about how bad the others were.  Sheila and her husband, Stan, have a terrible relationship; they can’t stand each other, fight all the time, haven’t had sex in months.  When a crashing noise erupts in their back yard, he goes to investigate, and then she hears screaming.  She goes out to find Stan being held upside down and vigorously sodomized  by a poorly-described tentacle monster, who then proceeds to work its sexual desires on Sheila instead.  The action is literal and highly visual.  Sheila’s emotional output is all reserved for how much she hates Stan.  The “follow up” story is about how Sheila has adopted the monster and takes care of it, followed by her and Stan arguing over who has the “right” to the monster now that Stan has discovered his kink, followed by the monster doing them both, giving Sheila more time to think about how much she hates Stan.

It’s more like bad therapy for Ms. Bostione than porn.

My New Boyfriend The Tentacle Sex Beast by Odessa Piper was doing okay.  Our heroine finds a book of “sex spells” and decides to try one.  The tentacle monster that shows up is bewildered by the idea that Sophie doesn’t actually want anything for sex other than a really good lay.  She’ll take what the monster is offering, but it’s not the point.  The monster is also a little put out by the assertiveness of the modern woman, but he takes control soon enough.  For all that, I just couldn’t get past the monster’s bad, bad 50s-era greaser/brooklyn/badboy accent.  The writer makes the monster less a multi-millennial sexbeast and more a lousy lay from your teenage memories, the pervy boy in the leather jacket who couldn’t wait to get his hands on you.  I just couldn’t get past that.

Alien Tentacle Sex by Pen Penguin was the worst of the lot.  It starts with a telling-not-showing “We’re a bad bunch of space pirates” opening, then leads into a bloody murder scene on a space station, followed by, well, I didn’t even bother to find out.  Just bad, bad writing all around.

All of these “books” by the way, are barely stories; the longest was 30 pages, the shortest 18.  At $1.99 a pop, that’s not horrible, but we should demand more of our tentacle porn stories.

The last time I read decent tentacle monster porn, it was the opening fantasia of Purrfect Plunder, by Andrew J. Offut (1982).

I guess if I want good modern tentacle monster porn, I’ll have to write it myself.

In my long-running erotic space opera, The Journal Entries, there’s been an almost as long-running thread around sexbots. With few exceptions, the sexbot stories have always been about second-hand robots; ones whose previous owners for one reason or another have died or abandoned the robot, leaving her (it’s almost always a “her” robot) to figure out how to live life without someone who absolutely needs and requires her presence.

Part of the reason I have avoided “first owner” stories is that they don’t interest me; my own reasoning is that men would buy a completely deferent sexbot because they themselves are not very competent human beings, because actual relationships with real individuals are hard, and because they’re the sort of men who would take an easy route out rather than engage in any sort of self-examination.

It may show my lack of thought, but until today I hadn’t stopped to connect that thought with two other ideas running through the fabric of our society. On the one hand, the Men’s Rights Activist movement is eagerly awaiting the emergence of sexbots, woman-shaped substitutes that will provide them with the release valve they say they need.

On the other hand, there’s the idea that women are called upon to engage in “unpaid emotional labor.” Emotional labor is the requirement of a job to depict specific emotional states toward customers or clients: you must be cheerful, or optimistic, or attentive, all emotional states you must somehow pretend to have even when your own life is not any of those things. “Unpaid emotional labor” is the acknowledgement that, outside of work, men are allowed to be angry or grim, whereas a woman being any of those things in public is assailed with requests to “cheer up” and “stop being a downer debbie.”

Relationships require some emotional labor from all parties involved. But sexbots don’t require any emotional labor at all. The “good enough” AIs MRAs eagerly await will do all of the work, and need nothing in return.

Which brings us back to the main point I’ve been making about men and sex. I fully believe that upwards of one-third of all men really don’t like sex. They like orgasms and they like expressions of their potency, but the whole sex thing, its sticky, icky wetness, the need to study and learn its ins and outs, its requirement that one negotiate fairly with a partner and come to an agreement on getting everyone’s needs met, just isn’t their thing. It’s too much work.

So when MRAs breathlessly await the coming sexbot revolution, what they’re really saying is simple: MRAs are lousy men. They’re bad at being human beings. And they don’t want to learn. “Relationships are hard. Let’s go shopping.”

This morning on Twitter, someone posted their commit log for a book they’d written. The commit messages read “Book,” “Book and stuff,” “I erased a bunch of stuff,” “Book stuff,” “More stuff,” etc. etc. Basically, a bad commit log.

I decided, in the interests of science! to show my work.  While a lot of it is “stuff,” there are some interesting tidbits, like “Making room here for a straight sex scene,” and my favorite, “Please stop talking and start boinking, girls.”  Note that it is in reverse order, most recent at the top:

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Last night I bought the second (or third) Blake Snyder book on plot and genre, Save The Cat Strikes Back, and in chapter one, while he’s describing his “one line” plot descriptions, we come across this gem:

On the verge of returning to Earth after another routine mission, a rules-obsessed warrant officer lets an unknown alien species onto the ship; but when the creature kills one member of the crew and begins to grow in power, she must do what is right rather than what she’s been told or else all on board will meet the same deadly fate. (Alien)

I read that and was flabbergasted: Dude, did you even watch the movie?

It isn’t Ripley who lets the alien into the ship. Ash lets the alien into the ship. The whole idea of the “rules-obsessed officer” breaking quarantine is anathema to an essential tension within the plot. The entire point of the film is that Ripley was right to begin with. Ripley foreshadows the doom that comes to the Nostromo. Her words have weight. That’s why she survives. That was a standard trope at the time, the girl who adheres to the rules is the survivor, and Ripley always followed the rules, down to her last log entry.

The best thing James Cameron ever did with Ripley’s character in the sequel is make her a risk-taking rule-breaker. Because the moral values conflict between “saving Kane when you have everything to lose” and “saving Newt when you have nothing else to lose” is incredibly powerful and valuable and instructive, and this facile plot description completely takes away that sharpness of that contrast.

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