The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bloodthirsty lesbians

I just love it when women cause trouble. Growing up I never understood all that 'sugar and spice and all things nice' that girls were supposed to aspire to. So I couldn't help being a bit pleased when I read that female authors and especially lesbian ones are far more bloodthirsty than men – according to popular crime writer Ian Rankin. Speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rankin said, "The people writing the most graphic novels today are women. They are mostly lesbians as well, which I find interesting."

It seemed like an innocent enough comment, but the shit subsequently hit the proverbial. Val McDermid – one of a number of lesbian crime writers and famous for her Wire in the Blood novels which have been made into a TV series – slammed Rankin's comments as "so offensive". Yet according to the Sydney Morning Herald, McDermid's The Last Temptation features a killer whose signature is to take a pubic "scalp" from his victims, The Treatment by Mo Hayder has a crazed killer who forces a man to rape his own child and Heartsick by Chelsea Cain features a beautiful serial killer who tortures the detective hunting her by hammering nails into his ribs, pouring bleach down his throat and removing his spleen without anaesthetic.

So does Rankin have a point, and does it really matter? If men write about women being cut up, tortured and raped, it's often seen as misogynistic, so what happens when a lesbian writes these kinds of scenes involving women? Obviously it pushes some people's buttons: on the Girls' Wall on gay message board Pinkboard, one poster said she was so disturbed by the "gratuitous" and "sick" sexual violence portrayed in one of McDermid's books that she vowed never to read her again. But some female writers argue that what they write is less gratuitous than men because they highlight the consequences of the violence because they have a keener appreciation of what it means to be a victim of it.

McDermid may have taken offence at Rankin's comments, but, political correctness aside, the truth is, some of us are a bit bloodthirsty. We much prefer to immerse ourselves in crime novels such as McDermid's Wire in the Blood, with their depictions of axes slicing through human flesh and other horrific scenarios, than succumbing to the ancient art of lesbian poetry, for example. Call me trash if you like, but the only sort of poetry I have any affinity for is silly ditties you can clap along to with lines such as 'Four and twenty virgins came down from Inverness and when the ball was over, there were four and twenty less …The mayor's daughter she was there and having forty fits, jumping off the mantelpiece and landing on her ….' (You get the picture). As a young teenager my creative stories consisted of epic disasters in the vein of The Poseidon Adventure but in which there were no heroes and everyone died horrible deaths. I think Rankin may have a point.


  • At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Annie said…

    Interesting. But despite what Rankin or Mc Dermind has to say-- in the end it's the nature of the beast: creative fiction writers, lesbian or not, will do what their art demands -- Create Fiction, creatively! Bloodthirsty or otherwise.

  • At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    having just found greek mythology, (well i knew it existed) I am finding it a great read. patrica cornwell, one of my favourite writers is also very good at describing crime scenes and torture, all the aspects of a good crime writer, also i believe she is gay.

    Maybe i am wrong with the next thought, but i think what make her writing more balanced is, because she has both qualities of female and masculine as part of her. so maybe its the sugar and spice all things nice, plus kick butt aspect. that men and women both poses.


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