You know when you’re sitting around and you get an idea and make a plan, and you get up to enact it but as soon as you enter another room, your mind blanks? Everything you were thinking five seconds ago is just gone, and the only way to remember what it was is to go back to the room you were in and walk through your thought processes. This is called “doorway syndrome,” though actually the process is more analogous to how thoughts and relationships are compartmentalized like the rooms in a house.
But there should be a term for the inspiration that strikes when you take a shower or go to the bathroom. When I’m at work and (my floor doesn’t have a bathroom) I walk upstairs to use the facilities, not only do my previous thoughts turn a page, I enter an entirely new brace of ideas and memories.
Today, and I don’t know how, it struck me that my journey as a size-fiction writer (that’s what I’m calling it now) has been a journey of self-improvement. What started as large women sexually availing themselves of tiny, vulnerable people has led to a confrontation with my own sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism, pretty much in that order.
My first stories were seamy sexual romps, no apologies, just pure fantasy. As soon as I had internet access in the early ’90s, I learned as many commands as were necessary to execute a search for giantess material. It was all waiting for me: I found a bunch of grainy, pre-Photoshop BMPs and a cache of size-fetish literature, and that spurred me to try my hand at this. Up to a certain point, creative writing had only been assigned to me by school. When I got into college I explored MUSE/MUSH environments where we referred to ourselves in third-person and told meandering, improvised stories, essentially, as we interacted. Between that and the giantess/shrink stories, I began to write out my own short stories, using beautiful women in my own environment that I lusted after but had no access to, either due to my own regressed social development or their other relationships/interest. In these stories, not only were they within my jurisdiction, but I could do whatever I dreamed of with them and they’d behave however I desired.
This is why I wonder why everyone doesn’t write. It’s the closest thing we have to real magic.
There was plenty of self-consciousness in writing these things. For one, I knew my specific kink was so perverse, it couldn’t possibly see the light of day in the hands of any friends or acquaintances in my physical proximity. I was sharing it with strangers online, obviously, but we were in on it together. We were conspirators, breathing the same rarefied air.
But long after this, there came a point when I began to look critically at my own work and wonder what kind of message I was putting out there. If someone’s only experience of me came from the stories I was hacking out and sharing in an online forum, what would their impression be of me? I was less concerned that they’d think I was weird for wanting to be a tiny person who crawls into what’s usually an ejection port for bodily waste on a woman, more concerned about how I was representing my attitude toward women. Yes, this was all a fantasy, and we should be unfettered in our imagination. But I was in my 20s, writing size-fantasy stories about teenagers, women under the age of consent. I was writing about women who were nothing more than a landscape for a tiny man to explore and exploit. Did she have thoughts, dreams? Beside the point: she had swollen red lips and hemispherical buttocks with an appetite for tiny men. Through some mental argument I realized that the Unaware fantasy, one that’s still highly charged for me, is essentially a rape fantasy: a tiny man using a gigantic woman to sexually gratify himself without her knowledge or consent. It doesn’t matter that she’s unharmed, that the gesture is so insignificant that it would take some effort to find any evidence of it, or that she could instantly execute her transgressor with the incidental brush of her hand. A little dude is getting himself off on/with a woman’s body and she’s not a willing partner. That’s frightening to contemplate.
The truth is, and this is true even in women’s erotica, rape fantasies aren’t uncommon. But the emphasis is on fantasy. You’re free to think whatever you like in your mind: how you engage with the real world, what you do to affect others’ health and liberty, that may damn you and see you rotting in a cell. Even talking about what’s on your mind is skating on thin ice, unless you know and trust and have a certain intimate understanding with your audience. But here I was, writing about this shit. And I still do. I still love to envision an Unaware scenario, even knowing what I know. I’m still reconciling with this.
There are some people who never question what they write, or they forgive themselves wholesale and paint over the issue with a large brush, excusing it all as fantasy and therefore permissible. It’s my conviction that whatever conclusion a writer comes to and however they choose to proceed, they have an obligation to seriously scrutinize their craft, their motives, and their values.
After I resolved the issue of consent (Narrator: Nothing was resolved.), there must’ve been some period of restlessness. I was looking to expand, diversify my oeuvre, explore new topics or motifs. I was on a MUSE with a woman, having introduced her to a giantess scenario, and we’d engaged like this for a while: I was tiny, and sometimes she’d let me explore her, and sometimes she would experiment with me, learning how to use me, what I was good for, what was possible. But at one point in the beginning, when she described herself as lying naked on a bed and I depicted my long journey up her draping bed sheets to her feet, she paused and asked if I knew what I was doing, or why I wanted this, something like that. I started to talk about my interest in size-differential fantasy, but she didn’t mean that. I said she was a giantess and this was what I was into.
“But I’m Black,” she said.
I couldn’t have known this through our conversations. Aside from expressed gender, she seemed a bit like me: a mid-20s college student, somewhere in the US, going online for sexual titillation. A lot of material struck me dead in the chest in this moment: she had assumed I was white from the beginning, for one thing. For another, she herself found it reasonable to engage sexually with a white man, and expected that I would find it acceptable, as long as the context was tame and conventional. The moment I brought in a sexual deviance, she had to check to make sure I was clearly envisioning her, as though I might not be interested in sharing this with her on the basis of her skin color. The fact that I took our sex-talk to a new level indicated to her that I must not be seeing her clearly.
In the moment, I didn’t see what difference this made. She was still a giantess who was willing to entertain my company. I thanked her for the update and we went on with the scenario. This exchange keeps coming back to me, however. Maybe her self-esteem on the basis of her skin color had been programmed into her for her whole life. Or maybe she’d only recently had a couple extremely unpleasant online interactions with a couple horny crackers who ended up teaching her to be more careful in these situations. And likely a hundred other things that are far outside of my experience to consider.
Looking through my stories, I was now keenly aware that all the characters were white. So were all the characters in my real life throughout elementary and high school. Integration didn’t come until I joined the Army, and boy did I make a spectacular ass of myself throughout that learning process. But now I was throwing myself into creative sexual fiction, and I wanted these stories to more closely resemble the real world. That meant people from countries, cultures, and ethnic heritage other than my own.
I tried a few stories, and they sounded racist even to me. Those have been destroyed.
I tried again, writing white characters and then rewriting their descriptions as POC and international. Not only did I discover Mark Twain was the master of dialect and, importantly, the product of a very different context and I should not attempt to emulate him, but I had to question why I was doing this at all. Why did a character have to be Black, if their skin color or worldview wasn’t a crucial factor to the story? If I wasn’t going to do something interesting with that fact, why introduce it? That led to even greater doubt: even if I wanted to do something interesting, the Black experience is very far removed from me. How could I dare to guess at it? How could I dare to represent the mindset and cultural background of something I knew absolutely nothing about?
Well, that question, for me, goes toward writing about women, disabled people, people in other countries… fuck, it applies to short people, very tall people, fat people, people who didn’t go to college, people born into outrageous wealth, on and on and on. The metric here is a matter of “punching up” versus “punching down”: screwing up a wealthy white person’s life experience is less insulting than screwing up an impoverished POC’s experience. The misrepresentation is a greater crime in one direction and not the other. Intentionally or not, punching down is a form of mockery that perpetuates oppression and privilege.
What do I do now? Currently, I have POC characters and I go very, very light on everyone’s physical descriptions. It’s fine to leave that to the reader’s imagination, and sometimes it’s beneficial to do so. If someone’s reading my story and they connect with a character, and I fixate on the character’s hair because their image is very clear in my mind, but that hair says a lot of things about that character that the reader can’t relate to, they disengage. A story that meant a lot to someone now means less.
I don’t do that with all stories, obviously. I’m writing one series where I keep bringing up the woman’s long, straight, platinum hair. I’m selling one story in which Caleb has to convince Verna to come back to him for a night of magic, and Caleb’s White and Verna’s Black. I absolutely avoided any attempt at dialect, only rarely used a couple phrases and word choices I picked up in the military, and I didn’t obsess about their skin color. There was one moment, yes, when Caleb places his hand upon the high and wide wall of his ex-girlfriend’s body, and he notes how the color of his hand stands out against the color of her side, and that is the absolute furthest I dared to go with that. I don’t even know if that was too much, but no one’s written in to complain.
No one’s written in to congratulate me on a job well done, either. No one writes in at all, for any reason.
I’m selling a story about an American woman who’s ethnically Cambodian, too. Does that mean anyone like that is going to connect with the protagonist? Not really: she gains the unrealistic power to shrink people down, and she doesn’t use it for good. So diversity isn’t a tool for tricking people into liking your story, but it’s a way of introducing some realism, acknowledging who’s here, who makes up our country. Consciously failing to include people who don’t resemble you needs some very strong justification, or else it can be dismissed as bigotry.
Homophobia. That came up too. I’m not gay, I don’t possess the gay experience, but what if I included a gay scene in one of my stories? Many writers and artists don’t give that a second thought: to them, it’s just hot if two women are making out. For that matter, this touches on the unrealistic over-sexualization of women in art, based on the premises that men are the biological standard, sexy is what men say it is, and women exist to serve men. Recently I saw a Western manga artist draw sexually objectified women, depicting them as voicing their thanks for creating them, and in his mind and the minds of his fans, that was a feminist endorsement. There, you could look on the page: a scantily clad woman with outrageous tits and ass was thanking the artist for making her, in her own words. What more could you ask for?
That was fucking chilling.
So anyway. Without being gay, how do I realistically depict two men who are connected to each other? How do I represent two strong female leads who want to fuck each other in their downtime? Maybe I don’t. Even in creative writing, maybe that’s a field I don’t need to venture into. For one thing… for the primary thing, I’m a middle-aged, straight, white, cishet American male: the world is fucking done hearing any more from people like me. My voice has been the only voice for centuries, and now the podium must be opened up to everyone else.
So why do I write? Why don’t I step down and let minority authors take their spot on the stage? It doesn’t exactly work like that, and also? No one’s asking me to stop writing. That’s an unreasonable thing to ask anyone: it’s more reasonable to simply not read someone.
You can see how difficult it is to talk about my homophobia: I keep getting distracted. I’m very reluctant to trot out all the trite declarations about having gay friends and donating to such-and-such nonprofit and marching in such-and-such protest. My concern here is accurately representing groups in crisis, oppressed groups, doing them justice in a casual, fun, sexy story. As a straight, white, cishet male, what right do I have to represent gay couples? Who the fuck wants to hear what I have to say about, well, human rights altogether?
Well, I’m an SJW who supports civil liberties and human rights, so I believe I’m contributing my voice to support. On the other hand, I don’t really bring LGBTQ issues to the fore in any of my stories. I don’t believe I’m an authority in this matter, I wouldn’t want to be accidentally insulting to anyone, and it’s more convenient for me to stick to writing what I know about. I’m not threatened by gay or lesbian relationships. I understand gender fluidity and nonbinary gender expression, I can explain it to my family members, but I still struggle with accepting the extreme and evolving forms of these. I do, I admit that. But I know what the right answer is and I want to improve myself.
One group within the concerns of equity and diversity that people forget about is ableism, and I really press this on people to remind them. Our society is structured to set certain groups at a disadvantage, and those groups have different skin colors, different sexual orientations and identities, and different physical capabilities. If I were ever to attempt to write a size-fantasy story featuring, say, a person in a wheelchair, I would have a lot of fucking homework to do first. I could go ahead and check out literature on the subject, but I would also have to talk with a disabled person, share my ideas with them and get their impression. And that would be incredibly awkward and potentially hurtful, but in these matters, that’s kind of how you have to learn. If you grow up in one very narrow, homogeneous society, and you want to write about people outside of that, you have to learn from them, directly from them. You can’t watch a documentary or read a stack of academic journals.
And, contrary to what conservative right-wing bigots believe, you cannot derive your information solely from the enemies of these people. Fuck, I had an ugly, frustrating conversation with a reader who claimed he knew all about what feminism stood for because he’d talked to men, and to women who were ex-feminists. I told him he had to read actual, legitimate feminist websites and talk to community leaders, but he was allergic to this suggestion. Oh, how he resisted. My suggestion terrified him, and he contorted his freshman philosophy background to justify doing exactly as he had been doing. He was convinced you could only learn the truth about feminists by talking to people who hated feminists. That’s how Whites learn about Blacks, how Christians learn about Muslims, and conservatives learn about liberals. They fucking don’t. They just pull shit out of their ass and spread it around.
So that’s it. I’m a white, mainstream, privileged fuck, and I’m trying to broaden my narrative and more accurately represent people in the real world. The only advice I have for other writers who might be wrestling with these ideas is just to treat all your characters like people, like regular people. Just that. Nearly all of us hate waking up in the morning, nearly all of us like chocolate-chip cookies, we all definitely have itchy little cravings we don’t think we can talk about, and we all want to be loved and feel happy. None of us are aliens in disguise (except the Republicans, you can see it in their irises and gums, they’re all dracos and reptoids), we’re all just people with different perspectives. So write about people who want things they can’t get, or two people together who want different things. Don’t write a racist caricature, don’t perpetuate homophobic stereotypes. Do your homework. Talk to people. Be better than you were yesterday.
Sorry this started to wander. I wrote half of it earlier, then came home and did some chores, started drinking, and now my cat needs attention. It’s just that I realized that in my pursuit of trying to improve my writing, to produce credible and believable fiction (even with this ludicrous premise), I learned more about people and became more accepting of and sympathetic to other people. It was just an idea that hit me on the way to the bathroom, but it’s receding now.
I know some people are sneering at this, people who think “SJW” is an insult, who think I’m being too sensitive or saying all this to feel good about myself. That’s not accurate, but you can’t convince them of that, and this piece wasn’t written for them. They choose to make people regret being aware of them, but I choose to treat people with respect.