What is Love? (Baby don’t hurt me!)

Alright, welcome back! I know I didn’t blog last week, as I said in the beginning these are coming as and when I feel that I have something to post about and I thought that this week I’d share my thoughts about the many forms of relationships that maybe go overlooked in mainstream media. This is unlikely to be a comprehensive list but I’ll try my best to cover a few key examples. As with all my blogs I hope not to offend and if there’s anything that I have mis-worded or you feel could be said better do comment below.

Now, most stories will (at some point) have romantic story lines whether they fall into the tempestuous or ill-fated love triangle or the ‘Will they, Won’t they’ style situation and the vast majority of these stories fall within the ‘traditional’ gender binary. The rise of same-sex, trans and any form of LGBTQI+ romance is a heartening thing in my book because, the more it’s out there, the more it’s recognised the less ‘fringe’ or ‘strange’ it becomes to the general audience but that’s not really what this blog is about.

I’m here talking about other forms of relationships that may or may not involve love in its myriad forms. You might believe that the word ‘love’ is over-used, you might believe it isn’t used enough but I feel that there are situations where it can and should be used more.

It’s likely that you’ve come across the term ‘toxic masculinity’ but if you haven’t it’s a destructive reinforcement of the ‘traditional’ values ascribed to Cis Het males and (at it’s root) the denial of certain emotional responses and playing up of machismo and bravado in their place. So where does love come into it? Well, how many times have you read a scene where a male MC is faced with an emotional trial and sits with a close male friend to talk it out? Probably not as often as the ‘go out, get drunk’ response. Even in a platonic or fraternal bond of friendship there is a place for love. How many times have you read or seen a scene where two Cis Het male characters say ‘I love you’ without the semi-comedic veneer of the ‘Bromance’. Is it unbelievable? No, it has simply fallen out of fashion. Shakespeare is full of male characters professing love for each other and it is mostly in friendship so why can’t we bring that back? We see Cis Het Fem characters do it all the time which leads me to my next point.

Platonic, none-romantic love between a male and female character. I mean, this could also cover non-hetero characters in gay literature who ‘could’ but won’t it’s the deep bonds of friendship between characters who could become romantically entangled but don’t and is (for the general audience) best represented in this example by Black Widow and Hawkeye in the Avengers movies (certain comments by certain actors notwithstanding). I don’t want to share any spoilers, you’ll have to go see the films to really find out what I mean, but the culmination of their character arc was a truly moving moment that had nothing to do with romance. Now, again there’s something to say about where ‘friendship’ ends and ‘love’ begins but, in this case, the two are not mutually exclusive. If you read the Dresden Files (no matter your opinion of the MC’s ‘White Knight’ form of misogyny) there is the professional relationship between Harry and Murphy that becomes a true friendship (until it becomes ‘will they, won’t they’ hanger). Maybe the fear is that, by using the very phrase ‘I love you’ from either party the audience will mistake it as a budding romance and then be disappointed when nothing happens.

Another relationship I wanted to cover is non-romantic sexual relationships and I’m not talking about one-night-stands here. There was a movie some years ago called ‘Friends with Benefits’ and, you guessed it, it was a Romantic Comedy. The situation played for laughs and why not, but. Where are the mainstream examples of a healthy sexual relationship between two individuals without the romantic element involved? A platonic arrangement with a healthy base of respect for each parties autonomy? Over the course of the Camelot 2050 books I avoided writing sex scenes. I’d build up to the situation and then ‘draw the curtain’ unless there was something deeper involved. It’s not about shoehorning sex scenes in but simply exploring the many different form of human interaction and feeling.

At this point I don’t feel the need to cover Poly, Trans or Gay relationships because I think my message might be coming through and (whilst the specifics might change) the love those relationships embody does not. These ‘alternate’ relationships don’t need to be the focus of the story but it would be nice to see them clearly represented. If we were more generous with the word ‘love’ and allowed it into the places where it exists but isn’t truly acknowledged by some groups of the population in our stories it might just bleed over into real life.

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