Frequently Asked Questions
thought it would be fun to answer some of the questions people ask.
- Q. Do people really ask questions about this book?
- A. Not yet.
- Q. So this is just kind of masturbatory, right? You're just
fantasizing that people ask you questions?
- A. Yeah. And it's fun to write Q and A. If anyone really wants
to ask a question, I'll be glad to answer it.
- Q. Are you just doing this as a way to avoid working on your
- A. Yeah.
- Q. Okay. So, about that "Prom" story. What's
- A. I attended a mammoth and ghastly high school in suburban
Houston, Texas. The school is located a mile or so away from where that
woman Andrea Yates killed all her kids
one morning; but that happened in 2001, and I wrote this story ten years
earlier. To say I had some kind of special insight into the violence and
desolation that is Clear Lake City (see the section on locations, below)
would be pushing it. You'd have to be a moron to live there for five years,
as I did, and not see that someday, somebody would snap. In fact, I'm more
surprised that it doesn't happen more often.
- Q. What's so bad about it?
- A. It is a collection of several tens of thousands of houses
plunked down where, before 1961, there was nothing except cows, brush,
and the occasional oil well. Situated halfway between Houston and Galveston,
and adjacent to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center -- a huge office park
that is NASA's headquarters -- and a shut-down Air Force base, the suburb
has no center, no landmarks, no history, no culture, and no taste. There
is nothing whatsoever to do besides go shopping at the mall. In this cultural
vacuum, the desperate thrill-seekers who inhabit the lookalike dwellings
are left to amuse themselves with all manner of crime and perversity. As
I say in the story, on the surface everything is "normal," which
is to say utterly commercialized, paved over and landscaped, criss-crossed
with streets with named like Willow Hill (no willows, no hill) or Meadowbrook
(no meadow, no brook). Behind the beige façades, God knows what
- Q. But isn't that simply a description of most of suburban America?
- A. My point exactly.
- Q. Is this setting used in other stories?
- A. Yes, in "Cousin" and "Incest."
These two stories, and "Prom," all deal with teenage sexuality,
so I naturally set the stories in the place where I regrettably spent my
teenage years. As I pointed out in the Afterword to the book, the sterile
suburban environment provides a sort of blank slate on which to write perversion
- Q. There's a lot of incest-related porn in the book.
- A. Yeah, it's just kind of a turn-on for me to write about.
- Q. Surely there's more to it than that.
- A. Well, there is something about the brother-sister incest
theme that I find very touching. Here's this person that knows you so intimately.
A brother and sister with a close relationship trust each other with secrets
they'd never tell their parents. And although you spat sometimes, there
is a deep love and trust. Or there should be; I don't know many people
with close relationships with their siblings, so clearly I'm idealizing
the relationship. Anyway, it's this emotional closeness that I extend,
in the pornographic world, into sexuality.
- Q. What else is interesting to you about the idea of a brother-sister
- A. It's essentially a revolt against the nuclear family, and
anything that perverts, undermines and tears down the nuclear family is
okay with me.
- Q. That business with the little girl in "Incest"
is pretty edgy. You're not some kind of pedophile, are you?
- A. Of course not. But something turns me on about that scene,
- Q. How the hell did you even get that published?
- A. Well, in the context of the whole book, it doesn't exactly
stand out. It's just one scene in the middle of a story in the middle of
a book full of edgy, transgressive sex scenes.
- Q. You're sort of pussy-footing around the whole underage issue
here. The fact is that your book is full of teenagers doing it, just about
all of them underage, and then you've got this young girl who sort of breaks
- A. Well, it's not like they have this big orgy with her or anything.
I just depicted what I thought would be reasonable for the sexuality of
a girl that age. Mostly a lot of masturbation.
- Q. Even so, aren't your friends kind of looking at you weirdly
- A. No, not yet, anyway. Maybe they haven't got that far in the
Q. But you really should address the issue of a writer's responsibility
when depicting -- as you do -- incest, murder, rape, urination, defecation,
abuse, all in the context of sexuality. Do you think your publishing pornography
about these subjects influences people to imitate the people in the stories?
- A. No... Look, first of all, all the stuff that happens in "Prom"
-- the murder, raping and pillaging, etc. -- is fantastic, not realistic.
There isn't any way you could imitate it, any more than you could imitate
what you see on TV in Star Trek. As for the more realistic "Incest,"
I did shy away from abuse that happens in real life -- namely older males
abusing younger females in their families. That's real incest, and it's
not funny or a turn-on. I turn the tables and show an older girl seducing
her 15-year-old brother (as I did in "Lizza" in my book Too
Beautiful). In this way I show a powerful female who chooses an incestuous
relationship. That probably happens extremely rarely in real life. So there's
really nothing here that anyone is going to imitate.
- Let's go back to Andrea Yates and that morning she killed her five
kids while hubby -- who worked at NASA, naturally -- was in the office
checking his email. Or think about all the high school shootings that took
place in the last five years or so. That's reality. What I write about
is people who love each other and turn each other on. It's a lot nicer
and sweeter than the daily news.
- Q. Turning now to other stories in the book: Do you regard "Ordinary
Story" as gay male porn or bisexual porn?
- A. By any definition of bisexual porn, it's the latter. But
most of the story is about gay men and their attitudes toward bisexuals.
Q. What's your beef there?
- A. As a bisexual, I've heard all the jokes and attitudes from
both straight and gay people. The fact is, there are plenty of self-defined
gay people who have some kind of sexual contact with the opposite sex but
who do not define themselves as bisexual. I just thought it would be fun
to exploit these attitudes for humor, then explode them. Having the Ron
character admit, at the end of the story, "I'm a big bisexual fag,"
is a bit of wish-filfullment, I guess. I don't resent people who behave
as bisexuals but fail to identify as such, because there's not that much
to be gained, aside from a little visibility for bi's. There are much more
important issues that bisexuals have to confront for themselves, chief
of which is "heterosexual privilege" and the extent to which
they take advantage of it.
Q. What do you mean?
- A. I'm a bisexual male in a long-term domestic partnership with
a bisexual woman. We could get married anytime we want, and receive tax
benefits and the approval of most of society. That's heterosexual privilege.
But my lesbian and gay friends don't have that option, and it would be
hypocritical for me to take advantage of it when they can't.
- There are other reasons I don't want to get married: The domestic partnership
Cris and I have sustained for 15 years, is an improvisational work that
grows more significant as the years go on. For all intents and purposes
we may look like a regular couple, but we aren't, and that's important,
to me at least.
- Q. "Trick" is also set in the gay male milieu. But
once again, you undermine stereotyped gay male sexuality by parodying,
first the "Daddy" figure, then gay male video porn. Do you find
it hard to treat gay male sexuality seriously?
- A. I think the key word there is "stereotyped." The
Daddy figure in gay male porn and in the gay demimonde is a total stereotype,
and a somewhat toxic one, in my opinion. It's not the fatherly or intergenerational
connotations that I have trouble with, it's the macho posturing. Except
where it's done as complete play-acting, and as easily dropped as a mask,
I pretty much despise everything that's macho. Emotional invulnerability,
cruelty masquerading as cleverness, boorishness, hot-temperedness, competitiveness
-- it's a recipe for emotional sickness, and anybody who acts that way
as a lifestyle is an asshole. Nevertheless, some people find it attractive,
and in "Trick" I wanted to play with the mixture of attraction
and repulsion that are present in the narrator.
- Q. In fact, in this story, in "Prom," and in the title
story of your other book, "Too Beautiful,"
the true objects of the narrator's affection are femme Asian males.
- A. Yep, well, I'll take 'em any day over some macho character.
- Q. Isn't this preference for feminized males, and your "repulsion,"
as you put it, for masculine males -- isn't this really homophobia?
- A. How could it be homophobia with all the cocksucking that
goes on in these stories?
- Q. My point is, in some cases the male objects of the narrator's
lust are sometimes so feminized that they seem to be almost stand-ins for
women. In fact, in another story in "Too Beautiful" you refer
to male pubic hair as "cunt hair."
- A. But that's what I really call it. That's what it looks like
- Q. You refer to your own pubic hair as "cunt hair"?
- A. Yes, I do. And anyway, the exception is the Ron character
in "Ordinary Story." He's specifically described as masculine.
Q. And as forgettable. And you make him bottom to a woman. What
kind of masculine male is that?
- A. But that's just my point. You can be masculine without being
macho. The reason the narrator in that story loves Ron is that he has the
capacity -- revealed in the story -- to step outside his own gender role,
and even his stated sexual preference ("I'm not bisexual," he
protests) for the sake of pleasure. That's the transgressive element of
the story. The sexual revolution is not about guys getting to dress up
like motorcycle cops and live out their Tom Of Finland fantasies. The sexual
revolution is, for gay men, about opening up the range of acceptable roles
and behaviors for what it means to be gay. So you don't have to be a "real
man" who is so afraid of seeming vulnerable that he never even lets
himself get fucked.
- Q. There are still plenty of men like that.
A. And there are plenty of self-hating fags who advertise in the
personals for "straight-acting" dates. Isn't that pathetic?
- Q. What about the narrator in "Lessons in Submission"?
Isn't he just the kind of macho top you say you hate?
A. But he's a man having het sex and acting like a top. He's not
femmy, certainly. His pushiness and top-iness are coming from his real
core of certainty and strength.
- Q. He's not acting emotionally invulnerable, cruel, and the
other things you named above as being intrinsic to the Daddy stereotype?
- A. A little bit -- he's not boorish or cruel. He's just being
very controlling. It's kind of essential to an s-m story. I think that's
an important point. Daddy in "Trick" is not doing an s-m scene;
he's just like that because he doesn't know any other way to be. He's of
the right age for the sexual revolution but he missed out on it; more than
anything else, he's acting out a lot of white male privilege. The narrator
in "Lessons in Submission," on the other hand, as well as the
narrator in "How I Adore You," are cruel within the context
of s-m scenes. That's what you want in s-m scenes. That's the whole idea,
for one of the people; you can't do an s-m scene with two bottoms. (You
can do an s-m scene with two tops, though, if one of them eventually gives
in, as Pat Califia has brilliantly illustrated in more than one story.)
- Q. "Lessons in Submission" strikes the reader as being
a little different from other pieces. It lacks the characterization
and the narratives of the other stories. It's really just a depiction of
two s-m scenes between a man and a submissive woman.
- A. Yes, I guess that's because I wrote it in the middle of an
affair to sort of commemorate the affair.
- Q. So the story is autobiographical?
- A. More than the other pieces, yes, which is not to say every
bit took place. I wrote it to capture the emotional tone of that affair.
- Q. With someone named "O."?
- A. Someone whose name started with "O." That was fun,
considering it's an s-m story. It's like writing a story about baseball
and dedicating it "to Willie."
- Q. I don't get it.
- A. Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Do I have to spell
- Q. So we have straight, bisexual and gay sex of both genders
in the book -- what are you, anyway?
- A. Bisexual. But to get back to the question about whether "Lessons
in Submission" was autobiographical -- all the stories are, to some
extent. I really did live in that Texas suburb. I really did trick with
an Asian college student in a motel, though it wasn't as much fun as it
is in the story.
- Q. And you really are a butch lesbian as depicted in the title
story, "How I Adore You."
- A. No. But even there I put in snatches of my own experience.
I have had sex in a car parked below Twin Peaks, shielded from passers-by
by the fog. And the flashbacks in the story are based on real events told
to me by a lover.
- Q. How can you, a man, write a story about two lesbians having
- A. You mean how, technically? How can I as a writer pull it
off? Or do you mean, how dare a man write about lesbian sex?
- Q. Let's take the first one first.
- A. A writer's ability to write convincingly from the perspective
of someone different from them -- someone of another gender, or race, or
from another era -- is a combination of observation, research, and being
able to really put yourself in the skin of the person you're writing about.
In this case, the emotional conflict in the narrator, that she can't risk
revealing her true feelings to others, is not gender-specific. (In fact,
it's probably more of a male problem, but it becomes interesting in a woman,
especially when they're having sex. Because you're supposed to be revealing
your feelings during sex.) So once you have the main conflict of the story,
you're pretty much set. And as to how it is that I can write a convincing
sex scene between two women, well, it's not exactly a secret what women
do together. It's in tons of written erotica for the last twenty or thirty
- Q. Now for the other question that some people will ask: What
gives you, a man, the right to write about lesbian sex? Aren't you ripping
off lesbian sexuality for the titilation of straight men?
- A. Yes, for everyone's titilation, actually. I addressed this
at some length in my essay " Male Lesbians
and Other Cunts."
- Q. In the book's afterword you talk about how you wrote the
first section of the title story and then had trouble finishing it.
- A. Yes. The first section came out all at once and I liked it
very much, but it was hard to follow up, partly because I hadn't established
the characters yet outside the bedroom and didn't really know who they
were. I finally did write an ending that was needlessly sentimental and
completely different from what I ended up with -- I had a roommate character
for the narrator and a bad mushroom trip and all kinds of stuff I ended
up taking out. But then a relationship I was in suddenly got complicated,
and I was able to bring some of the dynamics of that emotional conflict
to the story. It happened like this: I was seeing a friend fairly intensely
for about four months. Then suddenly I didn't see her for several weeks.
I went off on a writing retreat where I had to finish this book. So I had
all these exploding emotions and no way to express them other than through
the medium of the story.
- Q. So this story is autobiographical in some way? The narrator
is really you?
- A. It's not as simple as that; there's no one-to-one correspondence
between me and my paramour on the one hand and these two characters on
the other. In fact, I'm probably the only person who can see how our emotional
struggles are reflected in these two fictional characters. But in any case,
by sublimating this live emotional material through the story, I was able
to create a story that's as emotionally intense as any I've written.
- Q. Yet it has this funny interlude in the middle.
- A. It helps balance the intense opening and closing parts. I
realized that the main character had this strange self-loathing quality
that reminded me of Jane DeLynn's great book "Don Juan in the Village."
This scene is an homage to DeLynn, who I think is one of the best and most
neglected writers working today. I've loved her work ever since I read
"Some Do" about twenty years ago.
- Q. Since you mention it, who are your other favorite authors?
- A. I've already mentioned Marilyn
Jaye Lewis and Pat (now Patrick)
Califia, and now Jane DeLynn.
Kathy Acker and
Gaitskill are two others I've always admired, and, through it may sound
strange, Larry McMurtry
has influenced me a lot -- his novels set in modern Texas, not the cowboy