Today I am excited to welcome author Violetta Vane to the blog. She is here to share more about her new book, Cruce de Caminos, co-written with Heidi Belleau. (see review)
Work pushes limits. Whether you work flipping fries or you’re a CEO, you’re always going to end up doing something you don’t want to do for the sake of that paycheck.
Sex work is no different, but the limits crossed involve the barriers of your own body. Who gets to look and who gets to touch? It isn’t just a personal decision anymore, it’s an economic and social one.
Sexual orientation is one of those limits. It’s extremely fluid once you take a step back from that personal level and start considering your body as a commodity. Think of it like acting. Acting is totally unlike sex work in most ways, but actors are also selling their appearance, their bodies… their skill with their bodies, how they move them in carefully crafted ways that can make their onlookers gasp and laugh and cry. Actors push limits, actors cross lines. Gay people play straight people, straight people play gay people.
Performance of desire and love is not the anathema of real desire and love. But it’s not a pale shadow, either. It’s its own thing, and metaphors really break down when we try to talk about it.
Since men are the primary consumers of sex, most of the line-crossing goes in one direction: towards pleasing men. There are plenty of lesbian sex workers who have sex with men. Here’s a short article about one. I’m not a lesbian or a prostitute, but I did do some non-prostitution sex work in the past, and I understand that general mode of thinking. You put yourself in a zone where you’re performing a service, and your pleasure is derived from, or directed by, the successful completion of the service. Sometimes a personal desire bleeds in at the edges if the client is unusually attractive or repulsive to you, but it’s mostly irrelevant.
Getting to “gay for pay,” we have straight men who cross lines to have sex with gay men. This is, in itself, a fetish, in a way that “lesbians having sex with men” is not. Gay porn is full of this fetish. Certainly, in real life, straight men do have gay sex for money, but the fantasy is so overwhelmingly popular that much of it really is pure fantasy: gay porn stars pretending to be straight pretending to be gay for pay.
I think a lot of the appeal comes from the appeal of dominance. The client (or porn consumer) gets off on making the object of their desire cross a limit. For straight men, that fantasy usually involves women having sex with each other for male entertainment. For gay sex fantasies, it involves having straight men (who as a class are in a position of social power over gay men) cross a limit into gay sex… thereby giving up that power.
The fetishizing of “gay for pay” isn’t all about dominance, though. Sometimes it comes from a place of sadness and self-doubt. In researching our story, I ran across several narratives of gay men who were uncomfortable with their attraction to straight men (real or fictitious) because they recognized it as a sign of internalized homophobia. One was even seeing a therapist about it.
Escort perspectives on this were fascinating. The upper levels of prostitution are highly social, collegial, competitive, and involve a lot of professional pride, unlike the lowest street level fueled by economic desperation. The escorts who posted in public discussions with each other were self-identified gay and bisexual men. They mainly discussed client limits in terms of age and race (the subject of furious debates). And, sometimes, women. Some of them said they couldn’t imagine taking on a woman client. Others said they identified as 100% gay, but maintained a small minority of women clients they were quite happy to have. The self-identified bisexuals just did the internet equivalent of shrugging.
Some escorts would pretend to be straight or bisexual, even discussing fictitious girlfriends in front of clients, because they were selling a gay-for-pay fantasy. Others were completely against that.
The research we did about performance and sexuality in sex work was a big influence on Cruce de Caminos. We wrote an erotic horror story, not a treatise on sexuality, so the research comes out more in terms of little details, of unsettling flashes of perspective. Our young and impressionable character, Sean, does “gay for pay” on the street level, then is thrust into a much, much more complicated world of performance. I can’t give away the ending, which is both cathartic and highly ambiguous, but I will say that the events of the story do not help him resolve his sexuality. I think that would be too simplistic in light of everything I’ve learned in my life and research.
I’ll end with an exchange in Cruce de Caminos from a turning point where Sean is just beginning to find his footing in this new world.
Sean moved toward him, stopping when they were nearly knee-to-knee. Ángel reached up and tucked his fingers under the top fold of Sean’s towel. Instinctively, Sean breathed in, holding his breath and sucking in his stomach.
“May I?” Ángel asked.
No way, he wanted to say, I’m taken, and I don’t swing that way. But he wasn’t taken, and whatever way he swung didn’t matter when someone else was pushing the swing. And Ángel was going to see it all tonight, anyway.
Just keep it professional.
“Yeah. Okay.” He hoped Ángel couldn’t feel his stomach quivering as the towel slipped across the skin of his hips.
Want to win some Cruce de Caminos swag, as well as a few other surprise New Orleans goodies? Leave us a comment on this or any of our other Riptide Rentboys blog tour posts with your email (or other contact info), and we’ll enter you into our week-long draw!
How about a copy of The Druid Stone, which picks up Sean’s story five years later? Click here to try your hand at our Cruce de Caminos quiz!
About Heidi and Violetta
Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane are two unlikely friends and co-writers from different sides of the same continent. Heidi, from Northern Canada, is a history geek with a soft spot for Highlanders and Victorian pornography. Violetta is a Yank (and a Southerner, and a Japanese-American) with a cinematic imagination and a faintly checkered past. Together, they write strange and soulful interracial and multicultural m/m with a global sensibility and the occasional paranormal twist.
Visit us online!
HeidiBelleau.com | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Tumblr
ViolettaVane.com | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Amazon | Pinterest
New Release Mailing List for Heidi and Violetta (new releases only)
About “Cruce de Caminos”, out now from Riptide Publishing:
Addiction drives Sean O’Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?
Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.
A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.
When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.
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