I spent the weekend at Fourth Street Fantasy, which was up to its usual high standards. All of the panels consisted of smart and amusing people, and The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel was no exception, so when I quibble, please note that I'm not quibbling with individuals. Some panels simply don't cohere, which may mean they need to be held again, or may mean they're not quite Fourth Street Panels, or may just mean I wanted more than I should've.
Before I say anything about sex and storytelling, here's what underlies my thinking:
1. I like explicit sex in stories when the scene shows a significant change in the relationship between the characters.
2. I like writing to educate people about sex. There's a reason there's a condom when Wolfboy loses his virginity.
3. I completely sympathize with gay folks who want more gay characters. There's a reason I've done my best to include some in every novel I've written since the first, and if I ever do a sequel to Cats Have No Lord, I'll be revealing that not all of the characters are as straight as they may've seemed. (But I'm not making a retroactive announcement, 'cause what's not in the text doesn't count.)
That said, when I listen to panels like The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel, I feel like people doing alt-sex panels want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate sex in the same way NRA members want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate guns. They're not quite getting the point of stories.
At the beginning of the panel, someone shared the fact that 3.8% of the adult population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This isn't significantly different than eighty years ago, when the accepted percentage was about 2%. People were surprised that the number was so small, which is common: the media has gone from making minority genders invisible to making them seem more common than they are, and fandom has lots of folks of different genders because we've always prided ourselves on being accepting.
But I'm a little sorry I didn't raise my hand to stress the change that matters most: The US has gone from a few folks supporting gay marriage to the majority of folks supporting it, and the majority of Americans would not be upset if a child was gay or lesbian. There are people who say the future is queer, and they may be right, but the data we have suggests the future may still be more straight than queer, yet no one will judge anyone on the basis of their preferences for consensual sex.
ETA: Shorter version: In the future, no one will give a fuck who you fuck, so long as the fucking's consensual.
ETA: Related in my head: Your Sex Is Not Radical | Yasmin Nair