Friday, May 09, 2008

Does sex matter?

I'm just finishing Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman. Now, living in the UK I'm used to the name "Jessie" being a girl's name and I don't know anyone who has the name "Jesse". So I read it as though the author was a woman, not a man.

When I came to a sex scene I thought: "I don't really believe sex can be like that for a woman". I checked the author's name, and sure enough, it was "Jesse" - a female name. I thought: "Hey, what about that! It's a woman writing it so maybe that's how it is for her. Oh well, you live and learn."

Later on, when I looked at the name again, I realised that it is a guy writing it. There was a clue on the back cover:
The author is the son of mega-selling thriller writers Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman

so really I should have known. When I realised it was written by a man, I went back to thinking that he really wasn't any good at writing sex from the female point of view.

So I wondered if you notice the gender of the person writing the book you're reading. And if you do, does it matter?


therapy in the making said...

I always notice the gender of the writer. It helps me put myself in their way of thinking so I can understand the book the way they intended it to be understood and not just from my point of view. The problem with this is that I judge them. Yes, I do. If they are a man I judge how they portray a female character and vice-versa.

It is also in my nature to observe things like this. I enjoy seeing people's thoughts on matters that they normally shouldn't know about. In the case of Jesse you'd think he would had done his research first, right? Or maybe he did.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one noticing and judging. I'm hardest on men who write as women but get it wrong - or get it wrong as far as I can see.

Sometimes it's quite little things that sound 'off' to me. Anything that makes me think 'women don't do/think/say that' causes me to lose belief in the story.

writtenwyrdd said...

I like seeing someone do a good job with points of view that aren't their own, be it a sex scene from the point of view of another gender to the point of view of the Evil Overlord bent on galactic domination. It's a craft thing.

But if they do it badly (and a bad sex scene is a good example, lol) it does stick in my mind. And, yeah, it does set up an expectation in my mind an an attitude of prove it to me that you can write that.

fairyhedgehog said...

I think I'm quicker to object to sex scenes that are allegedly from the woman's point of view, than to any scene that is from the Evil Overlord's point of view.

For the obvious reason that I've never been an Evil Overlord.

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, true, we can be more judgmental about things we actually know, can't we? Human nature, etc.

All I was trying to say was that I do pay attention to how a writer presents a situation that he or she cannot know from firsthand experience, and fantasy or SF is loaded with Evil Overlord situations.

fairyhedgehog said...

I can see that with fantasy neither reader nor writer has experienced the situation and it's possible to judge whether you think the writer has got it right. I probably do it too.

I'm sure you've seen the Evil Overlord List which parodies the worst excesses of Evil Overlords.

Merc said...

I notice all the time. Well, that is, if I bother to look at the author's name. ;)

I usually see a title, read the blurb, and scan some pages. It sometimes never even occurs to me to see who wrote it until I'm a good ways in...

I try to guess the author's gender if I don't know a I read... and pretty much I do judge them on how they do characters regardless of gender. O:)

This reminds me, I was gonna do a test to read some stories without looking at the author and see if I can guess. Should be interesting...


fairyhedgehog said...

Hi merc,

I hope you'll let us know the result of your test. It should be interesting.

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