Posted on | May 21, 2013
As an erotica writer who’s always attempted to portray both men and women as realistically as possible (yes, even my dragons, centaurs, and so on), I have a deep sympathy with the crisis Kameron Hurley shows in her brilliant essay, We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. The essay is about how stories have always been wrapped around the narratives of men, and how she’s trying, harder than ever, to depict women faithfully, to slough off the cultural baggage of women constrained to romantic, sexual, or subservient roles in any given story, and show women as just as capable of action as men.
In a paragraph toward the end of the essay, though, she struggles to re-write her women characters so that they’re explicitly not depicted in one of those roles– even when those roles might be appropriate.
I thought about that because I just finished a story where Ken is mourning the death of a beloved friend from a relatively rare (for the Pendorian Corridor) species, and how he encounters another fem from the same species. She plays the role of confidant while he sorts himself out. It is a stereotypically “feminine” role– but all she is is confidant. The love scenes are all male/male, starting as a dive into explicitly drunken abandon, and ending as something more romantic and holistic. Which was sorta the point of the story. It’s a nice arc, not at all challenging. (To me, at any rate: I understand that male/male romance is challenging for some people.)
I thought about Hurley’s struggle, and applied it to the paragraphs when Ken and Evane are talking. After a few iterations I found myself back at the beginning. Confidant is a fine role for just about anyone. Evane is not explicitly locked into anything in particular. She has understandable and humane reasons for her interest in Ken. The story doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, but that’s hard to achieve when you have a first-person narrative from a male character.
So I reverted back to the original. It’s good as is. Another story done.