Difficult to Categorize | 2 | Is it ADULT?

The fact is that Famepunk Part 2: Middlemarch concerns the birth and progress of a passionate, comical, highly combustible love affair between two teenage girls who also happen to be competing as champions on the international tennis circuit in 1988--and it contains a great deal of lesbian sexual content. It just does. In the Famepunk series, this is the book about young dumb love, the modern take on Romeo & Juliet & Heathcliff & Cathy; like Twilight. Except—importantly! importantly!—with actual sex scenes and lesbians. Lots of and quite long scenes, too, this book is 800 pages long.

RIP Roger Ebert 1942-2013
I don’t mean to exaggerate. Middlemarch is not a porno. It has erotic moments (many) but it’s not erotic like Judith Krantz’s Scruples, for instance, or The Story of O or Anne Rice’s Beauty novels. All of which, yes, while admiring them I would vote YES to save aside in the adults’ reading room at the public library as in the North American home. But Famepunk? Tons of sex, sure, but all plot-driven, not the plot itself. There are many other things that happen, many other characters. Ronald Reagan appears in a phone call, for goodness sake—there’s a potluck buffet in a Panhandle church basement. You ask me, is Famepunk Part 2: Middlemarch for adults? I answer: Certainly—all adults! All adult readers are welcome.

But is it ADULT?

I spend some days slightly flummoxed by this question. I’ve returned to Smashwords and as directed in the FAQ, I’ve clicked the homepage adult content filter ON to OFF. I see what they’re getting at right away when “Criss Cross Romance Short Story” gets replaced by “Fuck the Foreplay” at the top of the Gay & Lesbian Most Downloaded list; there are many additional lesbian ADULT titles to browse. I've now read two, one set in Japan and the other written by an extremely prolific young man from Oklahoma (male authors have always written a lot of the lesbian fiction that sees the light of day).

Clicking the ADULT box while publishing a book in the Lesbian Erotica category, as the hard-working author of Daisuki did, I can understand—if I believed Middlemarch belonged there, I'd do it, too. But what the hell motivation lies behind clicking the ADULT box for a book with hardly any sex? I’m mystified—although I assume there’s some concerted effort going into the pursuit of horny reader dollars, the ADULT tag here advertising the presence of sex to an audience that favors, for whatever reason, softcore material. Finally it hits me. This is the ADULT from the cable TV warning: The following program contains adult subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised. This is that category, out in the world now, inside writers’ heads, as a question: Would that warning be required up-front if their novel were a TV movie?

First: for Famepunk, yes, naturally. But: I do not accept that category. I think it’s bogus. I decry the strain of self-censorship it fosters, the infiltration of private imagination by market forces that it both invites and represents. I believe all art works, including those created for children, should aspire to excite interest and pleasure among the most sophisticated and discerning "grown-up" adults available. Only books that have no hope of doing so should come with warnings, in my opinion.

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