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We’ve heard the scandals. A well-connected and politically ambitious person – usually a man with heavily conservative leanings – is caught soliciting or having sex with someone of the same sex. He declares constantly that he’s heterosexual, that he was only briefly swayed to have sex with men. Perhaps because of something he lacked from his father figure, perhaps because of the devil’s temptation and human beings’ natural sinful ways, perhaps he was just dipping his toes into a new and exciting illicit lifestyle.

Well, all those stodgy Republicans are closeted homosexuals. Right?

I recently wrote a post saying that I differentiate between stories that are f/f and stories that are lesbian (same goes with the male counterparts). Being a writer, I understand both the necessity and the limitations of labeling, which is why it’s so important that, if you must label, you label correctly. And that’s why, in cases where the identity isn’t as much an issue for the characters as the action, I default to describing the action.

Take, for instance, “In Circles.” If I wanted to be really technical, the MC is bisexual – she’s interested in men, but she is seduced by Bloody Mary. But she identifies herself as straight, never thought of women in a sexual way before. Her encounter with Bloody Mary was atypical, a one-off thing. But while her orientation may be bisexual, she doesn’t know that, and her identity is heterosexual. But the action in the story is primarily female-with-female. That’s why, when I describe that story, it’s definitely queer (for more reasons than orientation) but I wouldn’t call it lesbian erotica. Instead, it’s f/f.

In FRIGID BITCH, however, the MC never outright describes her identity as bisexual. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single piece of queer language in the novel. However, there’s no denying that her identity, orientation, and action is emphatically bisexual. Her identity isn’t as important to her in her little sanctuary where she doesn’t encounter the outside world much, but if she were asked, she would say she was bisexual. Hence, why I might call FRIGID BITCH a bisexual erotic novel. I could also call it a queer erotic novel, or an erotic novel with primary f/f and m/f, with additional m/f/f and an orgy.

We might call a girl kissing a girl in a bar for the delight of men bicurious, but it’s more likely that she’s doing it for the man’s benefit. Her action is f/f, but her identity is likely straight. (For the record, I have no problem with people who want to do this. I don’t like it when people feel obligated to do so if they aren’t interested, nor do I like it when men feel that lesbians and/or straight girls are obligated to please them sexually by doing so.)

Whether you’re reading or writing erotica, particularly ones with queer overtones, it’s important to know the difference between the sexual action going on between characters, the conscious identity of the character, and the subconscious orientation of the character.

At the same time, this is incredibly important in real life. Most of the time, the only thing that society and individuals can see is the action, so they impart orientation and identity to the action they see. Maybe now you’ll know orientation and identity are not so simple as what you see, and maybe you won’t jump to conclusions about either during the next sex scandal. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that identity and orientation aren’t as important and sometimes more important than the action.