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Hi. My Name Is Lisa and I’m a Straight Woman Who Reads Gay Fiction.

My Two Cents

See the title of this blog post? Kind of stating the obvious, yes? But it’s not something I’m ashamed to admit. I’ve had gay friends since high school, worked in the airline industry where a vast majority of my guy friends were gay, and read quite a few “gateway” books in the mainstream romance genre in my lifetime, so when I lucked into a book called Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville, the concept of two men being in a relationship wasn’t new to me. When I proceeded to find a community of readers and authors who shared the same love of reading these books, I felt as though I’d finally found a place where I belonged.

There’s an article (Warning: some of the associated photos are NSFW) that popped up quite a lot on my Facebook Newsfeed yesterday, an editorial piece by an anonymous author, a gay man who brought up a valid point or two… But not about the M/M Romance genre. I can’t emphasize that enough. I didn’t disagree with everything he said, but I did take issue with the way he said it.

The first sentence of the article is something I do feel we women ought to take quite seriously: “As a gay man, the M/M Romance genre makes me extremely uncomfortable.” We need to listen to this, ladies. If this gentleman feels this way, the odds are there are quite a few gay men out there who would empathize with him, and our goal here should be to reassure these men that we’re not here, as female authors or readers, to make anyone feel extremely uncomfortable. But here’s a point of fact I want to bring to the fore: the supporting arguments he makes following this opening statement have nothing at all to do with books, as the term M/M Romance genre would imply. His supporting arguments have more to do with the behaviors and actions of the people who frequent the genre, and that’s a different issue entirely, and it’s not one I wholeheartedly disagree with.

“A lot of women in the genre, both readers and authors, seem to fetishize physically attractive gay men. Not all women in the genre are like that, but a substantial amount. They put porn stars and gay male authors up on pedestals to praise and obsess over. They don’t actually care about who those people are beyond their sexual preference and job description; they don’t care about their feelings or dreams or goals. They see a pretty boy and want them as a pet.”

Now, I have so many issues with this paragraph that it’s difficult to know where to begin, so I’ll begin with the first sentence. If this man thinks women solely in this genre fetishize physically attractive men—gay, straight, or otherwise—he doesn’t know enough women. I can assure the author that I, and many women like me, have been appreciating the male physique for decades, well before we discovered M/M Romance, and I will steadfastly defend any woman’s right to do so. There are benefits to a healthy fantasy life—when we’re able to delineate the difference between reality and fantasy and are able to incorporate that into our everyday lives.

The author goes on later to pull the women don’t like to be objectified card, which I will again agree with for the most part. There is indeed a faction of women who are most vehemently opposed to seeing ourselves used in advertising to sell…oh, let’s say, for example, a hamburger…on a beach in a string bikini. What the hell does that have to do with hamburgers? Nothing. But you see, the thing is we’re used to seeing ourselves objectified because it’s been happening for millennia. That doesn’t make it right, not at all. Nor does it make those who feel cheapened by it wrong, but it is a fact nevertheless. Women have been owned, traded for livestock, denied the right to own property, denied the right to vote… the point I’m trying to make here is that men seeing themselves objectified is a relatively new concept that the internet has not only made possible but reinforces. And here’s another truism: We women have been liberated and some of us, not all, of course, even feel comfortable admitting we’re sexual beings who find other men (and women) sexy. Just because it makes the author of this piece uncomfortable doesn’t mean we’re suddenly going to stop finding beauty in the male form. It’s human sexual nature 101, like it or not.

And as for the comment in the article about my husband gawking at half nekkid/nekkid women, I’d be an idiot to think he doesn’t. Does it bother me? Pfft. Nope. Because there’s a vast difference between lookie and touchie.

Where we begin to split fine hairs even finer here is where we start to discuss caring about the people in the photos this author has selected to make his point. My question to the author is, how can we? I don’t mean this to sound callous, so let me expand upon that. A photograph is a one dimensional image of someone we likely don’t know or will never meet (with some exceptions, of course)—a photo offers us no insight into the personality or the character of its subject, and, let’s be realistic here for a moment, shall we? These pictures were quite deliberately taken to entice and incite a response in their viewer, regardless of what that response may be and irrespective of the audience. But a photo doesn’t tell us anything about the person in front of the camera any more than the photograph tells us anything about the person behind the camera. The important part is that we still see these men as people who have, we can assume, consented to have their photos taken in whatever way they wish to pose. And, by the way, I might add that photos such as the ones the author of this piece selected as representative of our (women’s) tastes are as exaggerated as the author’s statements. Different people find beauty in different places—it makes us individuals. I can look at a landscape photo and find its beauty every bit as breathtaking as a picture of a tattooed and toned male physique. And here’s the juxtaposition in that statement: I don’t need to know where the landscape photo was taken, what the temperature was that day, or what the setting smelled like to still appreciate that beauty.

This article veers even further off the rails as it continues on, none of it leading back to the author’s opening statement: “As a gay man, the M/M Romance genre makes me extremely uncomfortable.” That’s an extremely disturbing opening to an article that goes on to discuss fetishizing and objectifying. To support that statement, the focus needed to remain on the books in this genre. So, let me wrap this up with a statement of my own. A “substantial amount” of women fetishizing gay men and wanting to keep them as pets is insulting at worst and overstated at best. That’s not the M/M Romance genre that’s being taken to task, this is about the individual human beings who populate a community of readers and authors, so let’s be a bit clearer about what we’re discussing here.

The M/M Romance genre is not a one-way street we’re traveling, folks. It’s a broad avenue of worlds and options and possibilities that should never, ever be narrowed down or marginalized, nor should we readers feel demeaned for loving it. Honestly, it’s disheartening to have to defend myself and my reading choices in a community that’s supposed to pride itself on inclusion. To put an even finer point on it, who better than women to ally with the gay community? We, of all people, understand what it feels like to be marginalized. It’s been happening to us since the dawn of time too.

I’ll close with this: Hi. My name is Lisa and I’m a straight woman who reads Gay Fiction. I’m an ally and supporter of this community not because I have an agenda built upon objectifying gay men and their relationships but because I fucking love books, and I don’t give very many craps about who’s having sex with whom in them (or if they even include sex at all, for that matter), but I do very much care that I get to know and love the characters as people. I just want to read good stories, and here’s the beauty of the community: there are authors out there who want to, and DO, tell beautiful stories with lots of plot, and yes, sometimes some sex, so it’s a symbiotic relationship, with something for every reading taste. And here’s an even greater benefit of reading outside of our own sexual paradigms–sometimes we learn to think and feel outside of ourselves and begin to empathize with each other’s struggles. IF I have ever made anyone–author, reader, or the guy down the street–feel dehumanized in any way, please allow me to offer you my most sincere and humble apologies. I can assure you it was never my intent.

I would further hypothesize that more than a few women who love this genre aren’t here to fetishize and collect gay men but are here because we are mothers, sisters, friends of someone who’s gay, and we believe everyone who wants a happy-ever-after deserves it. Even if it’s just a character in a book.

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97 thoughts on “Hi. My Name Is Lisa and I’m a Straight Woman Who Reads Gay Fiction.

  1. Paula says:

    Okay, so I read MF romance for a LOT of years and honestly there’s no difference between the male characters in MF romance and MM romance, there are normal guys, ripped tatted hotties, etc. So it’s got nothing to do with a book being a MM romance or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! Thank you! After reading the article myself, I was left quite disheartened by it. As a writer of M/M Romance, objectifying gay men in any way has never been my intent. I just wanted to write stories of two men finding each other and falling in love. And yes, sex is part of that. So after reading the article, idk, it left a very bad taste. But you have summed up quite nicely what my jumbled thoughts haven’t been able to form. thank you, again. Will be sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christine Walker says:

    Thank you. I think I know the article you’re talking about. I, too, am a straight female who reads m/m romance. I didn’t even realize this was out there until I was at a conference and met Belinda McBride (an author who writes m/m) and I picked up her book because I was interested, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been reading romance forever — I think I was 12 when I started, and I’m 54 now. My sister told me once that we read romances for the sex — that’s not my only reason. I read for the stories. Whether it’s m/m or m/f, its the relationship between the main characters that’s important to me. If they’re pretty — that’s always a plus, but not really necessary. Everyone is entitled to an HEA and what better way to get it than a romance novel.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lloyd A. Meeker says:

    I think my only mature answer to this issue is to accept the inevitability of objectification and projection of ideals — for both men and women. In bronze age Crete, a man was chosen as the consort of the high priestess for exactly one year, when he was killed in ritual sacrifice by his replacement. That’s where the baby new year and the enfeebled old man leaving on new year’s eve comes from. Nobody cared about his personal dreams, or his personality. His death guaranteed the continued fertility and power of the realm.

    In addition to countless everyday people with beautiful faces and bodies, military heroes, spies, movie stars, political figures have all been the objects of projection, idealization, even fetishization throughout our own culture’s history. When we’re feeling generous we call it hero worship. When we’re feeling pissy we call it something else. What were Alexander the Great’s favorite hobbies? Who the hell cares? Was Mata Hari left-handed? What was she like when she went home to her apartment? What does it matter? How many gay men swoon over straight men, regardless of personality or educational goals of the lustee? I could go on, but I won’t. But I will add that ageism is a related and much more serious form of objectification in gay culture than our adoration of beautiful youth. Victor Banis once said that the definition of invisible is for a man over a certain age to walk into a gay bar. I turn 67 tomorrow, and I can tell you that is absolutely true.

    Let’s switch the nature of objectification around, from lust to hatred. Did the author of the referenced article care what Fred Phelps did in the evening? I doubt it. Maybe Phelps was terrific at crosswords. Would that matter? How many gay men gave a second thought to the less obvious aspects of his sociopathic personality?

    Every protagonist in a story is objectified. That’s why we call hiim a hero, or an anti-hero. The author’s skill at depicting that hero makes the objectification gripping, palatable, or tedious. The author’s success has nothing to do with the objectification, just the depiction.

    Have I been uncomfortable being one of the few men at a conference dedicated to LGBT fiction? You bet. I’ve often felt like I didn’t actually belong. But that problem is far more complex and subtle than the referenced article pretends.

    Once we accept that objectification — especially in romantic literature — is inevitable, we can get on with letting our literature evolve and mature. That’s what I work toward every day.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Maryann says:

    Applause! Applause!

    First of all, I want a good story and amazing characters, the rest will fall into place. I’ve read some books by gay male authors and by the time I was finished I realized there was no sex, it was just a damn good story!

    As for the pics that get posted, some are a little too graphic, but in this day and age if you don’t want it on the net don’t do it. If you don’t like it don’t look at it, because its gonna happen. But like Lisa said, women have been objectified since the dawn of man and it hasn’t stopped. I know for myself I’ve never looked at any man gay or straight and wanted him as a pet.

    When we read, listen or watch things outside of our little boxes, we grow and learn and hopefully become more understanding of all the different things around us.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wendy Rathbone says:

    Your blog is great but it’s almost too apologetic. You do not ever have to apologize for your preferences and feelings and anyone who makes you feel that way is an ass. I feel that blog post by that self-proclaimed “gay man” is a bunch of hogwash. He has not done any research, he’s just whining. Looking for something to be offended by. He must have nothing else to do. He is wrong on so many areas, as if he only sampled a few books. Probably never in his life attended a gay lit conference. It is not our responsibility as authors in any genre we choose to write in to make every single member of our reading audience comfortable. If we tried that, every book would end with one word “The.” We are allowed to write our feelings and feel them. This guy’s blog, while acting like he’s persecuted by all the lowly m/m romance out there by women (he never mentions that there are male authors, too) that’s ALL porn by the way (yeah, right) is actually doing the persecution. I’ve seen it before, including decades ago when writing slash fanfic. I’m done with people like that and have been for centuries! People trying to tell authors they cannot write about a subject, such as gay male love, because they are not gay or male. People trying to tell men they can’t write from a female pov and women they cannot write believably from a male pov. It’s total, unequivacle bs. Not every book in the genre is good, not every author is solid. Some are very very bad. Some are supreme and amazing. Just like any genre. By the way, you’re right, Zero at the Bone is awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maryann says:

      I like your point of view on this. I found myself wondering why “anonymous” even posted those graphic pictures if it upsets him so much.

      “Zero at the Bone” is the one that got a lot of us started!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Beautifully said Lisa! So agree 100% with your eloquent response. It seems like the same old arguments have to be trotted out at least once a year to cause some sore of dust up/kerfuffle. I’ve been reading this genre for the last 6 years and I for one do get a bit weary of them. I do think it’s always good for us to be circumspect about how we treat each other – whether gay/straight/bi/asexual, cis/trans, male/female/genderfluid, etc – and that should be with respect and kindness and empathy.

    I started reading M/M with Aleks Voinov’s Special Forces. I hardly think the reason I was so absorbed – borderline obsessed – was objectification or titillation. Those words sucked me in because the story was just that good. A gripping, violent, brutal, passionate, enduring love story covering decades that completely blew me away. And I wanted more stories like that. Where the characters and the action were so strong, they leaped off the page. That’s why I keep reading it – strong characters and good stories, told from many different viewpoints in many different settings but at the heart, human stories that make me feel something beyond my not so exciting day to day stressful life.

    Brava, sister! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JN says:

    Great reaponse. A couple of additional things I thought while reading the guy’s article – 1. If there is non-stop sex then yes it is actually erotica, and 2. The whole fetishizing men at conferences is not isolated to m/m. I’ve read m/f romances for decades and the same guys are at the m/f conferences too, and have been for years and years. How many women swooned over getting photos with fricken Fabio, for heaven’s sake? It’s a holdover from het romances and the romance industry in general. That’s not to say it’s right, but that’s up to each person to decide how to behave.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Forgot to add: objectification, whether we like it or not, goes both ways. It’s good to open up dialogue about this, however. And I’d say more, but I’m too overwhelmed by the Paris attacks to go on.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m a human being who writes about human beings. It’s not my intention to make anyone “uncomfortable,” but .. It is NOT a writer’s job to make anyone “comfortable.” It’s a writer’s job to tell stories.

    The existence of the gay romance genre makes a lot of homophobes and religious fanatics “uncomfortable…” You can’t please all the people all the time. It’s pointless to try and impossible to achieve.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lee, I just wanted to reply to this because I saw a quote one time that said something to the effect of, “A truly great library has something in it to offend everyone.” Or, at least a very close approximation of that, and I thought, truer words, truer words…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Sometimes you just have to weigh in #Kerfuffle | Love's Last Refuge

  11. E says:

    All I’ll say is that this post, and the responses to it, make me feel incredibly unwelcome in this genre as a gay man. But please, kept acting like it’s just all whining whiners who whine and are misogynist. Any time anyone brings up issues of appropriation or objectification, the defensive wagon circling is staggering.

    This guy’s post was rudely worded. It sounded bitter. I don’t buy at least half of what he’s saying. But there’s a major issue in this genre with people who are not queer men appropriating those people’s experiences for their own purposes, and the vast majority of the author- and readership in the genre refuses to confront it. Which is, yknow, fine, if you don’t care about the hurt feelings of significant numbers of the community the genre is allegedly about and you’re allegedly allies of. But if you DO care about it, you owe it to yourselves and to the community to take these complaints seriously instead of furiously #notallmming

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I agree that objectification is a two way street, but as a lesbian that reads M/M for the reasons you’ve listed I do have to admit I’ve seen more than a little of what the blogger in the linked blog describes. And yes, it does bother me as a gay woman because I don’t believe fetishizing an entire group of people is appropriate or sensative to the issues said people face. If I walk into a bar and two women approach me, one is respectful and treats me like a person and the other seems equally respectful but there’s something off and she keeps mentioning my hair or skin. Well I personally find the fetishization of the second woman unappealing even though I doubt she means it to be offensive.

    Fetishization in M/M Romance is something that has been a serious and ongoing discussion by the gay men and gay women who write this form of Romance. Maybe it is time that the main group writing M/M, namely straight women, start joining the discussion more. Because this doesn’t just effect gay men who read it, but the gay men and women who write it. When I see so many good books that don’t fetishize gay/bi men getting lower reviews than ones that do, I have to just hold my tongue because my fellow women seem more inclined to excuse it as a matter of taste and think no harm is being done. But harm is being done, it’s making gay men and gay women who write M/M Romance feel unwelcome. We already are a small enough subgenre of Romance, we don’t need to make LGBT writers who write this genre feel like they don’t belong.

    Liked by 3 people

    • E says:

      Well said. I pretty much sign up to all of this. I sometimes feel unwelcome in a genre whose main characters are people like me. I think that’s sad, and not just for me.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Exactly. It isn’t sad for the gay men or gay women, I am one so we do exist, who read and write the genre. It’s sad for everyone. The doubling down whenever someone of the group these books feature stunts the growth of the genre, stunting our ability to reach new readers. Part of this is quite a few women in the genre come from slash fanfiction, where the fetishitic feel is a lot more common. But part of it is thinking that because we as women have to deal with something we’re still actively fighting against, that turn about is fair play. In realitity what women, straight women mostly, are doing is lashing out at another group with less rights than straight men have. And doing that doesn’t further the LGBT cause or womens desire for equality for ourselves.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for stopping by, I’m so glad you did because this is something that needs to be discussed and taken seriously, and I think we can all agree that open dialogues are important.

    The issue at hand here, as I’d stated, isn’t the M/M Romance genre. That’s the books and that’s an entirely different subject. The real issue this man is taking to task, as was ultimately discussed in the author’s op/ed, is the people who frequent the genre, and I think we can all agree that regardless of where you go, especially on the internet, people’s behavior is going to vary every bit as much as the people themselves.

    There are some women who frequent this genre who behave differently than I do. That’s a fact. I’ll stand by that statement. I will also go on to state there are some women in this genre who are a lot like me. I’ll also say that any time a woman tries to tell a gay man to shut up and sit down when he’s expressing his opinion about things going on in this community is wrong. If anyone feels that’s what I’ve done, I can assure you that wasn’t my intent. But that’s the problem with intent: the aftermath of even the best of intentions can often go awry. My intention, however, was to point out that his opening statement wasn’t supported by his arguments, and if anything, I’m protective of the written word, and I’ll defend books, good or not, regardless of who’s written them.

    I’ll also say this: I have witnessed some behaviors firsthand that have made me cringe, and as unpopular as this next statement is going to be, I also believe that there are some women in the genre who confuse acceptance with alliance, and really, that’s no more true than confusing Christmas with Christianity. We can accept one without correctly practicing the other.

    What we need here, perhaps, isn’t finger pointing and generalizing, but educating. What makes a good ally? And please believe me when I say that telling women not to look at photos of naked men isn’t going to be well received. That’s really not the issue here either, because I can state with a fair degree of certainty that unless the photo is of two men together, we can’t tell from looking at a photo whether its subject is gay, straight, bi, or anywhere else on the spectrum.

    So, how do we open a productive dialogue?

    Liked by 1 person

    • E says:

      I think this is a really fair comment, Lisa.

      I think part of the problem is a lack of trust on both sides. There IS an unfortunate minority of gay men around the m/m community who seem to think women can’t, or shouldn’t, write queer men. I think they’re wrong, and there’s a whiff of misogyny around such statements. But because that sentiment is around, it seems to me that critiques from queer people who say in good faith that they are hurt or upset by certain aspects of m/m culture are received with hostility at worst and defensiveness at best. I think men critiquing m/m need to be aware of, and avoid, the misogynistic history of some criticism of m/m as a woman-dominated genre, and on the other side, people need to be receptive to comments from minorities who are uncomfortable with how their identities are being used.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I’m not sure I can agree it’s the people and not the genre, not entirely. On the one hand it is, there’s nothing wrong in theory and I believe in reality with women straight or gay writing M/M if that’s what they’re drawn to writing. But on the other, we seem to be enforcing on these gay and bi men we enjoy writing/reading about the same unsavory treatment we feel women get in a lot of M/F. And that doesn’t change anything within M/F, really coming across to me as a gay woman as if other writers of this genre who aren’t LGBT and tend to be more aware of this unsavory dynamic in M/M feel turn about is fair play. Which hurts the gay men writing and reading this genre as much as we may not mean it to. Intentions aren’t always or ever an excuse for behavior that should change imo.

      Which is why I don’t like when the straight women in the community close ranks and double down if a gay man brings up something problematic. Female writers are asking gay men who read our work to trust that we’ve done the research and tried our best to create an enjoyable and emotionally accurate story that they can read too, just like when a White writer writes a story dealing with Black characters and/or issues. When they say something we need to really think about what they’re saying, and this can be done without allowing them to walk all over us or walking all over them. We just have yet to find that balance and need to work together to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lloyd A. Meeker says:

      I think we open a dialogue by first agreeing not to be outraged by comments from others, so we come to the dialogue with our own feelings gently in hand. Second, we agree we don’t have to come to blue-eye unicorns farting rainbows by the time we’re done. We’re allowed to disagree. That’s a natural part of diversity, not a failure of the dialogue. Third, we agree to take care to ensure that we’re talking about the same thing. We often aren’t. For example, you will note how quickly the “you’re saying women can’t or shouldn’t write mm” got trotted out even though that was not part of the original post. Such intellectually undisciplined reaction serves only to muddy the waters further.

      Once we have those three agreements in place, I believe we can discuss radioactive issues using some basic hazmat protocols. It takes individual emotional work to stick to those agreements, though, and not everyone is willing to enter them.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You know, E, I think you’ve hit on a hot-button topic, which has bred a lot of the auto-defensive response we see any time these little fires pop up. It all began years ago when someone first said women shouldn’t write gay fiction/romance. Now, obviously I disagree with that, but I’m also not seeing myself portrayed in these stories.

    Here’s where I’ll make a bit of a generalization, though, based on my own personal experience. I’ll wager there are a great number of women like me who gravitated from the M/F genre to M/M because we were tired of seeing ourselves portrayed so consistently as the damsel in distress who could only be made whole by finding the perfect stud muffin to rescue us. LOL. But really, if that’s the case, then how can we get angry at men for taking issue with how you’re portrayed in books written about you? Logically, we can’t. Ironic, no?

    But before I get too far off topic, I do believe that’s the genesis for some of the more vehement responses we see when these things occur. It’s a natural defensive/protective response to something we love. And I don’t think we’ll ever fix it, but maybe we can help more people understand it.

    Saying, “I feel xyz,” is different than saying, “You make me feel xyz.” But even still, it’s a difficult subject to navigate.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lloyd A. Meeker says:

      Yes. Accusing someone else of making me feel a certain way is immature. Owning my feelings by saying how I feel without blaming (and thereby taking responsibility for my feelings) is essential.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it depends on the way things are phrased. “XYZ actions and atitudes within the female/straight female part of the M/M community have caused me to feel unwelcome or lesser,” is different than say, “Straight women/women tend to write gay men a certain way and that makes me uncomfortable.” One is specific and the other far more general.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I agree, Lloyd. The first thing any counselor will tell their patients is that the path of greatest resistance begins with “you” and not “I”. If we all take responsibility for our own roles in any discourse, whether the issue is resolved or not, we will at least leave room for everyone to feel the way they feel without belittling anyone in the process.

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    • I’m not sure it is. Because as much as we may not mean to, if we tell gay men who aren’t being sexist jerks that they can express themselves in A manner and not B , what we are doing is trying to control the discussion and in effect minimize their voice. We wouldn’t expect a Black or Asian person who says a certain aspect of Interracial Romances is consistently ignored to change the way they voice the emotions caused by seeing whatever the mistake is again and again and again. I hope we wouldn’t at least, not beyond the bounds of staying civil in order to fascilitate a conversation that can lead to change. We shouldn’t expect gay men to do more than that either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think what I find *objectionable about your objection (heh), Lillith, is that it seems to be giving legitimacy to the OP’s complaints simply because he identifies himself as a gay man who is offended, when the fact that he’s offended by something does not make that something offensive. And yes, he gets to be offended, and he has a right to air a list of his complaints in public. But that does not, nor should it, insulate him from rebuttals and arguments as to why his opinion is not fact.

        Maybe it’s his truth, but that doesn’t make it The Truth.

        A lot of rightwing conservatives were offended by the SCOTUS decision that gave the LGBT community an equal right to marriage. Does that make the decision offensive? Those same people are uncomfortable with the behaviors of gay people—does that mean gay people should change their ways? One of the most frequent arguments I see trotted out from the “I’m not a bigot but…” crowd is the absurd refrain of “they can do what they want, but do they have to rub it in my face?” Does that mean that gay people should not hold hands or kiss in public for fear one of these people might find it insulting?

        The OP saw some behavior that made him feel uncomfortable, decided it was a systemic problem with the women of the genre, so he resolved to educate them on why they were wrong. He decided it was a societal problem of objectification and fetishism. Does that mean he was right? No, it absolutely does not. Does it mean we should all pat him on the head and tell him we’ll do better? I certainly hope not. Because we’re not talking about fetishizing anyone, or commodifying an identity, or coopting a lifestyle. We’re talking about some women appreciating the male forms of men who consented to being appreciated. The fact that the OP finds that uncomfortable does not give him the right to demand it be changed.

        And look, I don’t even write romance, I don’t go to these events, and I don’t post pictures of guys all over my Facebook feed. There is very little sex in my books. The one time I attended a strip show, I actually ended up paying a guy to get his sweaty crotch out of my face. This isn’t really my… “fight” or whatever you want to call it. (Does this count as a kerfuffle?) But some seem to want to dismiss the shockingly obvious misogynistic slant to this guy’s post, when every mansplaining bit of it reeks of “women should stop doing these things that offend me because I’m offended”. That’s not a demand with which he has a right to expect anyone to comply. And the lack of respect with which the post was written does not deserve the answering respect of assuming he has a right to demand anything.

        There’s discussion as a result, and that’s good. That’s always good. But let’s not give this guy too much credit, or too many band-aids for his bruised feelings. I can sympathize with someone who feels hurt or offended, but that doesn’t mean I have to find legitimacy in his offense.

        (*Not really objectionable–just playing with words. ;) )

        Liked by 1 person

  15. This issue comes up every two years or so; I’ve been in the genre for about ten years now, and it seems to be some kind of cycle, like cicadas.

    What kind of.. well, I was going to say “puzzles” me, but it doesn’t; it’s a common pattern … is the way that gay erotica, written by a gay man, that follows the “let’s fuck” pattern cited in the original complaint … That gets a free ride, whereas that SAME STORY, with a woman’s name on it, is likely to set someone to complaining. The ol’ double standard dies hard. A man shows “leadership,” a woman is “bossy.” That original post was not a neutral observation, it was an attack on women who are doing something that is FINE for men to do, but not for us. I don’t think I have ever once seen a post complaining about gay men ‘objectifying’ each other or ‘fetishizing’ sexual organs – but I’ve sure seen that done in gayfic by gay men.

    I’m not crazy about erotica per se–I like a little plot and characterization, as opposed to the ‘any porthole in a storm’ aesthetic that you see in porn videos. It’s a genre, and there’s nothing wrong with it; I read some during my single-and-celibate years but, to me, there’s too much left unsaid – it’s simply not to my taste. Neither is the sort of angsty story where one character is chronically weepy and the other is a Manly Man; I’m not crazy about gender roles.

    Now that I’ve offended half those here, let me point out that what I’ve just said is ENTIRELY a personal and subjective observation. Tons of people love erotica, a lot of it is fantasy, but humans need fantasy. Ruby Tuesday. “Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind.” Many people like the fantasy of being the “strong one” or having a strong partner to care for them. They may never get it in real life; an aunt of mine was addicted to the sappiest romances because her own love life was just plain miserable. This is a matter of taste–we don’t all like the same things, we don’t even always like the same things throughout our lives. There’s room for all sorts.

    Where this hits the rocks is when the gender of the writer is an issue. There are good writers and bad writers, and dozens of genres and sub-genres. And to say that a person’s gender should disqualify them from writing anything — to the best of their ability — is like saying gay couples shouldn’t adopt. It’s ludicrous.

    I once had a brief and annoying conversation with a “damn them girl-cooties” reader on an Amazon discussion thread. This gentleman was of the opinion that woman should not be ALLOWED to write gay erotica because he felt “violated” if he found out that a story he enjoyed had been written by a woman. No joke. I guess it’s because he felt a sexual connection to the author and since he did not like women (his post made that quite clear) he was offended that a mere woman was able to write something that got him sexually aroused.

    Now, personally? I think that is 100% HIS PROBLEM. Because while we all put some of ourselves into what we write, I doubt if most of us are writing our stories with the intent that readers will see us as sexual surrogates. (Or maybe some do; the idea gives me the creeps but that’s, again, my subjective opinion.)

    I doubt if it’s possible to stop some people from objectifying or fetishizing. Anytime someone says, “Oh, s/he’s really my type,” they’re saying that they have a particular set of standards that attracts them. At what point is that considered “fetishizing?”

    My own feeling about all of this is that gay romance does far more good than harm, even the stuff that’s not top-drawer writing. With three GOP presidential candidates pandering to extremists who want to make BEING LGBT a capital offense — people who literally want to kill us for who we love — the more stories out there that show same-sex relations in the same light as het ones are something to encourage, not condemn.

    And the original complainant’s anonymity doesn’t impress me with his moral courage, either. If you have something to say, own it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit I struggled with the anonymity of it as well, Lee, but then that’s the luxury of the internet. It’s like the virtual Festivus Pole: people can air grievances and not have to bear the consequences but can sit back and watch the fallout. It’s got people talking, though, so I suppose that can be seen as a positive in some respects, in spite of not all the conversation being productive.

      I’ll most definitely not argue there’s a misogynistic bent to some of the opposition of women writing gay romance/erotica. I’ll also say one of the, shall I say filthiest (for lack of a better term), books I’ve ever read is John Preston’s Mr. Benson. If you haven’t read it, it’s purely kink/fetish erotica. I’ve yet to read a book written by a woman that even comes close to touching that level of fetishism. But guess what? Even though it got a little over-the-top in some spots, I liked it because it pushed my comfort zone that much further.

      So, yes, I get where you’re coming from and feel that maybe it’s not always that those books are getting a pass but that they’re not being read. Thoughts?

      Like

      • I just recently read M/M books by women that are roughly 60% sex and 40% scattershot plot. I also recently finished “Dark Economy”, which I love to pieces even with its issues. Of the two writers, the first now have a huge following with lots of high marks for their books. The other has a mixed bag of reviews largely because the romance and sex take a back seat to the plot. The first writers are now now on my DO NOT READ list, while the other is on my AUTO BUY list.

        I’m not a big fan of erotica, regardless of which gender writes it (even though there’s definitely a pretty clear distinction that can be made as to female vs. male writers exploring a sex act in detail – one is very emotional, at times melodramatic in description, and the other tends to be more visceral). I don’t think one is better than the other, but it certainly indicates preferences of both writers and intended readers. Personally, I’d rather have none and simply have the characters explore a blooming relationship as a subplot and have something else entirely be the book’s main conflict. Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Mystery Series is a perfect example of a couple’s ongoing love story that’s super sweet, satisfying my “more female” thing for emotional attachments while being, mostly, a mystery series, which is my favorite fiction genre.

        In general, I’m one of those readers who don’t like seeing gendered approaches to my reading, that my M/M books should be mysteries or suspense thrillers or historical fantasies whose heroes happen to be gay. Depending on the genre – like historicals, for instance – the homosexual relationship adds a different layer to the story that heterosexual characters can’t. The forbidden love aspect, for instance, is a great deal more significant with the stakes racheted up a good deal compared to, say, a het couple with a Romeo and Juliet romance thing going on because of parental disapproval or economic status or whatnot.

        Essentially what I’m trying to say is that, on one hand, it’s really difficult sorting through this issue because individual preferences come into play so much, that no matter how you argue for or against objectification, you’ll always find yourself stepping on someone else’s toes.

        On the other hand, there ARE a number of attitudes and behavior coming from both sides of the debate that skeeve me. I’ve seen a female M/M writer rant over at her blog during one of the previous kerfluffles over this, and she pretty much thumped her chest and said, “Well, M/M fiction IS fetishization for women’s enjoyment, and they should just deal with it!” (Note: she’s firmly now on my DO NOT READ list). I’ve also read blog posts from a gay man who hates anything M/M as long as female writers are behind it. He’s not a writer, but while i understand some of his arguments, his vitriol is making sympathy a little hard for me because no matter what I say, he’ll just shoot me down, unless I agree with him 100%.

        I like that your original post started a discussion, and I waited till now to come back to see if anyone from the other side of the argument’s come up, and it looks like they did. And that’s a very good thing. I agree to some extent with some of their arguments just as much as I agree to some extent with those defending women writing gay characters and the levels / quality / psychology behind the objectification behind it.

        I’m now wondering if this isn’t so much a gay issue as it is a romance issue. Know what I mean? There are tropes and formulas expected in romance – which is why it’s such a huge, successful market – that feitishization is not only par for the course, but also expected. Even required. It’s human nature to revel in beauty and ideals of perfection, and it’s also human nature to be attracted to love and strong emotions that give people a good payoff in the end. No different from mainstream movies that give us happy endings and show main characters overcoming and succeeding. These are fantasies being sold to us, and I think fantasies come with their own set of problems.

        And the het romance genre’s much, much older and established compared to M/M fiction, which is, as I see it, more Wild West than something firmly established, considering its relative age. People are both discovering it and are still flailing around trying to find their feet and experimenting on different things, including approaches to gay romance and relationships and especially gay men as real people who deserve to be treated with as much respect as the female writers who publish romances about them.

        Yeah, there are issues – pretty serious ones, as far as I can see – but I honestly have no idea beyond policing writers and readers from both sides, which I don’t like, to sort through them. Opening a dialogue and keeping it open without alienating anyone from either side seems to be the only solution I can think of.

        Addendum: I’m posting this in a hurry as I need to go to work. With any luck, I actually made sense.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Second (and final) addendum: The point I was trying to make regarding the het romance market and the gay romance market involving readers and writers has something to do with het romance mindsets that carry over to M/M. Certain things work very well in het romance, but they don’t necessarily translate as well when it comes to same-sex romances.

          Then again, there might also be a much deeper and more complex psychology (even biology?) at work behind attitudes toward gay characters. And I can’t even begin to grasp it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think you’re right about the romance bit of it, Hayden. Because I think a lot of what the OP was complaining about (where he talked about what offends him in various books) was actually a misplaced pointing of the finger at women, when his objections were more about romance tropes.

          Personally, I don’t think any of this has to do with fetishizing or commodifying. I think those are just convenient accusations coming from a place of uninformed privilege. And I don’t think I know anyone in the genre who would tolerate it if it was. (Your mileage may vary.) I think we all educated ourselves on what those things were the first time we came across this topic, and endeavor to avoid it at all costs. Which, I think, is what makes the accusations sting so much.

          You’re right, though–it’s good that it started discussion.

          And, contrary to what you may think, your post was very well thought out and made some excellent points. ;)

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think you place too much faith in our fellow writers. I have seen the fetishization first hand, knowledge of an issue doesn’t in any way keep someone from not doing something problematic. Knowledge is not action. And I don’t personally base my defense of the problem existing on the OP, but on gay M/M writers who embrace the women writing in this genre as sisters equal to themselves in ability and right to create these stories. The men who love to read and write this genre who aren’t sexist are seeing this as problem and voicing it as a problem, gay women like myself who also love the genre are seeing a problem.

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            • Well, okay, but where? And I’m not being facetious–I do really do honestly want to know. I’m definitely aware that just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And I always like to know what to avoid before I accidentally stumble into it and then need a healthy dose of brain bleach.

              I don’t buy the OP’s argument, because I don’t think he was coming from a place of honesty or objective experience. Women enjoying a strip show is not empirical evidence of fetishism. Women writing romance books using romance tropes is not evidence of coopting. And the pictures he used were not the ones that were getting people banned. But even if they were–I genuinely don’t understand why that would be offensive to him. The pictures he used were obviously professionally done, posed, and the subjects were, presumably, paid. They are pictures of the male form, not the gay male form, because, really–who could tell? So why would a woman appreciating any one of them be a problem? I suppose I can see the “objectifying” argument, but again–who is the OP, who am I, who is anyone to cry “objectification!” if the subjects were paid, consenting adults? I mean, that calls to mind people like Andrea Dworkan telling me that every time a woman has sex with her husband it’s rape, or women trying to “save” strippers and prostitutes who made conscious, informed decisions to participate in their professions and have no desire to be saved.

              I agree that all of these “ism”s should be located, pointed out, and learned from. But I think we have to be careful of labeling things such simply because someone somewhere finds it offensive. The fact that the OP finds things in the romance genre objectionable, when he obviously doesn’t even know what a romance trope is, doesn’t mean that he’s coming from an informed place and speaking to anything other than his naive experience.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I honestly can’t name the number of books and authors I’ve seen do this, and I’m completely serious about that. I literally only feel able to enjoy books and authors I know either first hand or by word of mouth from authors I know don’t do or condone this type of thing because of it of this atitude. It would be easier for me to give you a list of authors and books I’ve found that don’t do that.

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            • I’m sorry…and I rarely weigh in on things of this nature but I find this lack of faith in writers offensive. I write because I want to entertain. I try to be careful with how I depict the characters I create, including their flaws and values. To paint me with a brush soaked with the label of fetishism is both offensive and appalling. Because you are painting ME with that brush. I’m going to take this down to the grit of it. In that statement, I am included in that circle of writers.

              The romance genre is exactly that… a romance genre. We are writing to that audience, regardless of gender or labels or sexuality. Just as we write mysteries or paranormal or historicals, we are writing to that audience. To condemn or shame that readership in any way is horrific, regardless of who makes up that readership. It could be a group of one-eyed, blue-haired 49 year old men with a fetish for balloon animals but if that is the audience I am writing for, that readership’s likes and dislikes are as valid as any other genre’s. And so are the people…and I mean people… writing for it.

              I hope you eventually see that by dividing us into little groups and slapping on generalizations, you are doing exactly that, dividing us where no divisions need to be made.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, knowledge is not action. You may and other writers I know may try to avoid it, but that doesn’t mean everyone does or cares enough to. Writers don’t owe each other an automatic sense of loyalty, though we may try to understand where each other is comming from. If you’re offended then I’m sorry, but as the vulcan saying goes, and this really shows my geeky side since I’m quoting something from Star Trek: there is no offense where none is taken.

                If you’re not one of the people I and other LGBT Gay Romance writers, because that’s mostly who the people noticing this trend are, are talking about then there’s no need for you to take offense. We aren’t talking about you or anyone else like you, and believe it or not we do appreciate your efforts. But for me, and yes I’m including myself in this despite being a woman, it is like reading something created by White people that objectifies Black people. They may think that by increasing representation they’re doing enough to help how we’re portrayed in books and other forms of media, but that isn’t the case. It hurts me to see that as much as I know fetishization can and does hurt a lot of gay men who love this genre. And knowing how much that can and does hurt, I can’t in good conscious give everyone a free pass just because they may be trying. Trying isn’t enough, we as writers have to also be able to listen to the people these stories are about.

                Liked by 1 person

                  • E says:

                    Rhys, can I ask how you’d react to a queer male reader writing to you and saying that something in your books read… off? Like not deliberately offensive, of course, because I don’t think anyone in the genre does that, but ignorant of some aspects of the queer male experience. I’d hope it wouldn’t be “go away I write what I want.” Because all I’m asking for, at least, is the chance to be listened to when I talk about things that I have personal experience of. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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                    • Oh no, if someone wanted to discuss something with me, then yes, we have discussions. I DO have discussions with people and they are always good ones. Mostly. Let me take that always back.

                      I have gotten emails from people who ID as gay men who tell me I shouldn’t be writing M/M and I should stop writing. Those are the only ones I don’t reply to.

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                    • I honestly wasn’t trying to do that and I’m sorry you think that.

                      What I was trying to say is that I don’t understand why a White writer, straight writer etc. that is trying and willing to listen to the people being written about should take offense to the idea not everyone is as careful as they are in their writing. It isn’t an indictment against them, but a fact. No matter the topic not every writer is going to be as thoughtful as another writer is, some people do write about Black people or gay men for the kink more than anything else. That’s their perogitive, but it doesn’t stop Black or in this case LGBT writers and readers pointing out when that perogitive feels too prevelent.

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                    • I’d suggest you go back and really read what you’ve written to me because yes, you are being read as giving me permission to be offended. I am telling you I do not want to be painted by the brush you are holding…and I, as do many others, are not as you perceive. I’m not bringing race into this. I am a mutt of many cultures. I am speaking to you as a writer who does my damnedest to write within a genre I love, admire and respect. If you cannot afford me that, then I fear you are what you think is out there. Not everything is a conspiracy of ignorance or willful disregard. Not everyone has discussions about gender or race out in the open but to dismiss that those discussions occur because you don’t see them is a fallacy. That you can’t see that is troubling. That you keep shoving that at me is worrisome. Especially when I’ve already said…no.

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                    • Think what you will. I’m not interested in changing your mind or giving you permission for anything. I’m not your parent and that isn’t my job. But I don’t appreciate being painted as the bad guy or stick in the mud because I don’t think effort automatically absolves what members of a certain group may see as poor portrayal. To me, and you can think differently because it’s no skin off my nose if you do, absolution for past mistakes comes from also listening to whatever the group being portrayed is. If the reasonable and respectful people among the group, not the jerkoffs who say women shouldn’t write M/M , consistently have an issue then maybe, just maybe it is a real issue.

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                    • I in no way said you were the bad guy. But I do think I am owed a modicum of respect for saying there is more out there than what you are perceiving. You are coming across to me as aggressive and grandstanding when I’ve asked you to consider what you are saying and how you are perceived. Just like you are asking me to do. That you aren’t willing to see that truly is a shame. I wish you luck in your life and endeavors.

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                    • It is a general Someone, a way to draw paralells with my own experience as a Black person and the atitude people seem to take with portraying us that I find similar to the way gay men are portrayed.

                      Like

                    • I’m sure there’s more out there and contrary to what you seem to think, I am considering what both of us are saying. If you feel I’m grandstanding and agressive then you’re entitled to feel that way, but only I can know whether I’m feeling agressive towards anyone or not. I think you’re pulling the “your been to agressive” card as a way to attempt to shut me down, but I can’t say for sure. I do know however that I don’t particularly feel agressive towards you or any of the oposition on this blog.

                      Like

          • LOL, thanks – I guess it turned out much better than my first-first post above, which can be misconstrued as snarky. Serves me right for responding to a hot-button issue while reeling emotionally over a major tragedy (Paris). I should give myself a day or two to post something in response to this kind of topic. Now to read the rest of the discussion thread…

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    • I’m unsure what to tackle first, the faulty assumption that any coverage is adequate coverage or or the strawman that anyone except the sexist jerks literally saying women shouldn’t write M/M are covertly saying that just because most of the people with this particular writing flaw are women that women shouldn’t write M/M. So I’m just gonna go a different route and focus on what I feel is a troubling minset instead.

      The matter of gay men objectifying other gay men is a different matter than women doing the objectifying, it is an intracommunity problem for them to adress if it bothers them. Which it increasingly does if you pay attention to gay men writing M/M and what they’re saying about the tendency of other gay writers to fetishize the men in their work. Saying that women objectfying them because they do it to themselves is ok, frankly, is untrue and an immature viewpoint based on the idea an opressed group needs to clean house before being treated like humans. And, no, they don’t. Even if gay men weren’t trying to clean house it still wouldn’t be anymore ok than men doing it to women. One opressed group doesn’t have the write to treat another like crap just because they’re more or less opressed by society.

      Liked by 1 person

    • E says:

      Carole, you said in your comment on that post:

      “Let’s start with a bit of education, and I’ll put this very bluntly—Dude. This isn’t your genre. You’re welcome into it, of course, because it’s just that inclusive and open, but really? It’s got nothing to do with you, unless it’s something you enjoy reading. Which, apparently, it isn’t. But that’s okay. Every single person who’s involved in it knows it’s not for everyone. We’re women—we’ve come to expect a lack of understanding and respect. Especially when we’re doing something that makes men uncomfortable.”

      And I’d just like you to know that it literally made me cry. Maybe you don’t care, because this genre isn’t for me – which you DRASTICALLY made clear – but it did. So well done. This is a place I thought I could find some intellectual refuge from a world where it’s sometimes quite hard to be gay. Clearly I was wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, E, I do actually care, and I’m sorry that the words I chose upset you. But maybe you can explain to me why? Because what I was saying to the OP was that if he didn’t enjoy anything about the genre or those who participate in it, it wasn’t for him and it isn’t his to do with as he pleases. Perhaps my wording led you to believe I was saying something different, and I… *think* I can see what that might have been. But it wasn’t meant to be excluding, and I do apologize that that seems to be the way it came across to you. A poor choice of phrasing on my part.

        My point was that it’s a very inclusive genre. Everyone is welcome. *I’m* welcome, and I don’t write romance. But if it’s something that one finds offensive, it’s simply not the genre for them. I thought the rest of my post sort of elaborated on that, but I can understand if you saw that and stopped reading. Again, my fault for word choice, and I apologize.

        The thing is, E, this is a genre that’s so often mocked, insulted, and dismissed, along with all of the people who read and/or write it. I see it quite frequently, and it always comes from a place that hasn’t truly experienced it. “Puff pieces” in newspapers or magazines; angry posts explaining their disgust in online forums; that piece we’re all talking about right now. It was disrespectful, and came from a place of bitterness and dishonesty. I saw no reason to give the OP any more respect than what he was leveling at people who I know take their craft very seriously. Who strive *not* to do the things of which he was accusing them. Who march, who donate, who lobby, who protest.

        I was angry and offended on their behalf. I am honestly sorry that the way I expressed that hurt you. If it means anything, what I think you read was not what I meant.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. E says:

    If the genre isn’t at least partially for the people you’re writing about – queer men – then isn’t it inherently appropriative? And if you didn’t mean “this genre isn’t for queer men”, then why did you say “this genre isn’t for you” to a gay man raising concerns about appropriation? I don’t think it’s a failure in my reading comprehension to read that as “This genre’s for women, and screw you gay men who have problems with how your own community is depicted.”

    Look, I get that you were reacting angrily to the quite nasty misogynistic undertone in that post, and I think that anger is quite justified. But go back and read that comment again with the eyes of a young queer guy discovering the genre, and see if you think maybe it was a hurtful post to make.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Why does the fact that he’s gay mean he’s any more right than some MRA knuckle-dragger accusing the genre of the same things? I wasn’t treating the OP as a gay man making a complaint; I was treating him like any other person who makes uninformed judgments based on their own biases. As I said above–the mere fact that he’s a gay man and is offended does not make his accusations true.

      I did go back to the comment, and I left a reply to my response to hopefully clarify my poor choice of words. I didn’t fault your reading comprehension, if you’ll look back at what I said above. I apologized for my own poor choice of phrasing. But my poor choice of phrasing does not negate the fact that the OP’s points were poorly chosen in and of themselves. I might be inclined to listen a little closer because he identified himself as a gay man, and examine the points he made for legitimacy. But once I find a lack of that legitimacy, I’m not going to lend his arguments more credence because of his sexuality when those arguments are based in v3ery obvious personal bias.

      He’s a gay man who got his feelings hurt and took it out on the entire genre. I can be sad that he’s missing out on what is a wonderful, inclusive atmosphere, but I don’t have to respect his opinion.

      And really, this is part of what I was trying to get across in that response–we’re not talking about a genre that’s trying to depict the gay community. We’re talking about romance. It’s got formulas and tropes that have nothing to do with reality. No one is pointing at the M/M Romance genre and claiming it represents the gay community. The writers of it I know try very hard to present balanced and accurate representations, but it’s romance, and not reality. So please don’t shackle that onus onto the backs of the writers of this genre. Sometimes someone’s going to get something wrong. Sometimes a trope is going to interfere with an realistic characterization. Sometimes a formula is going to strike a person who doesn’t live in a romance novel as unbelievable. That’s romance. That’s what it is. It’s not Gay Lit. M/M Romance does not represent the gay community any more than M/F Romance represents me. It tries like hell, and more so than any other “respectable” genre I’ve seen, so I really think it should get some points for that. Every writer I know does their utmost to depict their characters and situations with as much realism as possible. But you have to allow for mistakes and nonrealism sometimes.

      It’s actually a common frustration among the male writers I know. That some of the relationships and characterizations are not representative of their community. And I get that. I understand why it might be frustrating. But again–romance. The tropes and formulas have been around for centuries, and they’re not going to change. If someone is looking for reality, this is not the place to do it. In all honesty, I think that’s a big part of the appeal for some people–some of whom include gay men.

      Like

      • E says:

        I think there’s a bit of no true scotsman fallacy going on here in defining what m/m is. Regardless, I like the tropey stuff, when done well, as much as the next romance reader. I think it’s a red herring to say that people are demanding accuracy and perfect depiction at all times. What I, at least, am asking for, is for queer men – who by definition are the people m/m is about – to be listened to when they critique some aspects of the genre, not defensively dismissed. This kerfuffle has shown (yet again, I might add. The same thing happened a couple of months ago when very similar issues were raised with none of the misogynistic claptrap that pollutes the post at issue here) that defensive dismissal continues to be the default response to critique. And that’s fucking sad.

        Like

        • I think there’s a bit of no true scotsman fallacy going on here in defining what m/m is.

          I’m… not really sure why you’d think that. The history of this genre has very specific origins, and some of the people who write it have been doing so since its inception. It has always included the romance formula, and was never meant to be Gay Lit. That’s why it’s called M/M Romance. I think it’s currently in the process of expanding outside the romance formula, and I think that might make some of the things that come out of it more palatable to some gay men.So, that’s good, yeah?

          I don’t know what other kerfuffle you’re referring to, but in this case, I have to disagree with you as to what constitutes “defensive dismissal”. And what deserves the definition of “critique”. Critique is done objectively and is backed by research and evidence. I don’t agree that women enjoying a strip show or racy pictures = evidence.

          I think you’re getting a lot of what you’re asking for, E. If you weren’t, there wouldn’t even be a discussion. And I’m not saying there aren’t problems with the genre. I just don’t think that post depicted what the OP saw as problems accurately or fairly.

          It seems you agreed with at least one or two of the OP’s points. Would you mind if I ask you to elaborate on which ones and why? And I promise to watch my phrasing in any responses. ;)

          Like

          • E says:

            Sure. And you’re right, it is only 1 or 2 points, but I do think they’re really important.

            The first is the inherent appropriativeness of any group of people writing about a minority group for their own purposes. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it – and I would (and have) challenged anyone who suggests women can’t write m/m – but it does mean you need to be aware of the risk of accidentally upsetting or harming the group that you’re writing about. And be receptive to comments from that group when they feel you’re got it wrong. I’d say the same thing about white people writing people of colour, or people writing books set in another culture and getting that culture wrong.

            The second point, related to the first, is the elision between queer men and sex. It’s pretty easy to find examples of the significant minority in the m/m community who trash books that don’t have “enough sex” or see it as a literary flaw when there isn’t on-page penetration. There are whole, prominent review blogs dedicated to that philosophy (not, I might add, this one!).

            I know this isn’t universal (your own books, which I’ve read and liked, don’t do this), but the fact that it isn’t universal isn’t a reason to ignore it.

            Like

            • Yeah, appropriating. I agree with you on that, but I also think it’s a difficult thing to pin down. Especially when you’re dealing with fiction. I know the OP threw that one around, but I didn’t see any instance of it in the examples he gave. I think it’s a legitimate concern if it’s happening, though. It just seemed to me that the guy had a bad experience and used some buzzwords to legitimize his position without actually knowing what those buzzwords mean. I don’t think his feelings of exclusion and appropriation came from people saying something along the lines of “you’re a gay man, what do you know about gay issues?” I think it came from “I don’t like this and I’m a gay man, therefore it’s bad from a gay perspective.” In other words, I agree that it’s a legitimate complaint within the genre, but I don’t think he had a legitimate reason to use it.

              Regardless, I agree that appropriation is a good topic of discussion, and that a lot of the women who write in this genre would appreciate a clear consensus on what they need to avoid. Where is the line, and who gets to decide when it’s okay to cross it for art’s sake? (I’m not really asking you for answers, though if you have some…)

              I’m afraid to comment on the second point, because I get that kind of “what is this plot doing here and why is it getting in the way of these guys having sex?” stuff all the time. I just kind of muddle along, telling myself “to each their own”, but then again, I’m not a gay man, so my stake in it isn’t as high.

              I used to read slash fanfiction, way back in the day. And there were always two kinds of people who gravitated to it in every fandom: the people who came because they wanted more of the story and the characters, and the people who wanted to see two hot guys together. I think this is something like that. Is there a problem inherent to that? I don’t really know. That’s probably for you to say, more than me, and since you do say it, I’ll tell you that I agree as much as any straight white woman who comes from a place of privilege can. (To clarify: I agree with you, but I come from a different place than you do, so I don’t know how legitimate my agreement is. Phrasing!)

              And thank you for that last comment. It was very kind and generous of you. :)

              Liked by 1 person

              • Lloyd A. Meeker says:

                You make a good point about stakes, Carole. Perhaps one of the keys to mutual understanding in this matter is simply to acknowledge that the stakes we each hold are of different intensities and made up of different concerns. We don’t all have the same horse in this race, whether it’s sensitivity to depictions of one’s sexual identity to sensitivity about authorial integrity. That we have different stakes means we’re sensitive to different parts of the puzzle. If we begin to respect the differences in our investment (stakes), we may find more room for peaceable answers.

                That said, when someone raises the issue of cultural appropriation, I ask that the comment be received calmly and with respect. There might be something to it. Raising that issue does not mean the speaker thinks women shouldn’t write fiction (splitting genre hairs is not very helpful, the way I see it) featuring same-sex attraction. It means that some ways a queer male character is depicted might, for us authors, be worth reviewing, maybe even reinventing.

                I’m going to suggest that even the original post that sparked this exchange did not claim straight women should not write gay fiction. That issue was brought to this table by responses, and strikes me as a defensive ploy. Exhuming that old outrage as if that was really the current issue to hand is not helpful. It’s a zombie looking for gullible brains. That issue was settled long ago, by demonstrated reality alone.

                The issue now is more of sensibilitiies, and sensitivities. What messages, both unintended and not, are our stories sending? Not all readers will get the same messages from the same story. Allowing for the possibility that we have different stakes in the matter gives us a chance to raise our voice of concern as part of the evolution of our literature, instead of a battle between groups holding differing stakes in our literature.

                Maybe that’s a naive hope on my part, but I’m putting it out there anyway. Full disclosure — my stake in queer literature is to see it evolve into a deeper, more thoughtful, and more emotionally powerful one.

                I appreciate everyone who has contributed to the conversation. It shows that in spite of differences of stakes we may hold, we care about queer literature.

                Like

                • Yup. For example, I know that when it comes to LGBT Lit my stake is hoping that discussion now means less of this atitude has the chance to do trickle into the F/F segment of it. I feel sad for gay men who’ve been hurt by this and want to avoid the same hurt if I can. Seems like a loosing battle to me considering how much one trickles into the other, but I know I personally still feel compelled to try.

                  Like

                • You’re right, Lloyd, and I know a lot of women in the genre take their cues from the consensus of the men in the genre, as well as the gay men in their lives. Whether that’s enough for others I suppose depends upon their particular sensitivities.

                  I only really disagree with you on one point, and that’s “splitting genre hairs”. I think that very splitting could actually be a key to avoiding this sort of thing. Because there is a very big difference between romance and real life, and a gay man who is under the impression that this genre is trying to accurately depict–and, as a result, appropriate–their lives is where the problem seems to have its roots.

                  Or am I missing a connection somewhere? Is that, as you see it, appropriation in and of itself?

                  (Also–a zombie looking for gullible brains. *snicker* I want to hug that one.)

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Lloyd A. Meeker says:

                    Re: splitting genre hairs — I believe it’s dangerous to give romance a special pass. That can lead an author to rely too heavily on over-used tropes, stereotypes and convenient emotional shorthand at the expense of a good story. The same standards of story craft should be applied to romance as rigorously as to any other kind of story, including all other genre and literary. That’s Ursula LeGuin’s opinion (she insists there is no distinction between genre and literary) and I share that view.

                    We write fiction, which is by definition not real life. The beauty of fiction is that it can explore some facet of humanity without taking on “real life” (and which “real life” would you take up? It varies by nationality, economic, sociological, racial and educational contexts, to name but a few variables.) The power of fiction is not that it replicates a slice of real life, but that it can shine the light of insight on some particular aspect of character, society, power, you name it.

                    Mark Twain said that the only difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to be believable. A good story is not only believable, but insists on showing us something deeply, humanly true regardless of fictionalized setting.

                    Conventions of a particular genre are important, but they make a poor skeleton for a story. Once we focus more on the universal qualities of story and less on the conventions of genre, I feel our literature will be free to grow by leaps and bounds.

                    My two cents…

                    Like

                    • Well, I wasn’t really giving it a special pass, but I see what you mean. And I think that “focus more on the universal qualities of story” is starting to happen now. I really do think the genre is beginning to expand and absorb all the little divisions and schisms that seem to cause so much angst among the denizens of the community. Maybe it’s slow, but I think it’s happening. I have hope. <3

                      Liked by 1 person

            • ALSO! I want to thank you, E, for telling me how you felt. I don’t like hurting people, I certainly don’t generally do it on purpose, and whether you’ve accepted my apology or not, I appreciate that you gave me the opportunity to offer it.

              Like

      • Another considered reply to someone who only wants to fight. I’ve seen this “no true Scotsman fallacy” phrase on Facebook just recently, and it was by a troll who wanted nothing more than to pick a fight. I notice “E” is also anonymous…

        Like

        • Did we read the same comments by E? You are basically saying that he’s a troll. On what grounds? I only see a frustrated person trying to express his feelings, and being open to honest discussion.

          Like

          • I’m saying that I’ve run across someone who uses the same expressions and the same circular argument of insisting that the other person is in the wrong. Interpret it as you will.

            Like

            • Lotta says:

              What circular argument is that? I’m genuinely asking, because I can’t see it here. Of course, I will interpret it as I will (don’t we always?), but I doubt my interpretation is the same as yours.

              Like

        • E says:

          With responses like this from you, why would I expose myself? You could try engaging with my arguments rather than making irrelevant personal attacks. I said I was hurt, Carole, the person I complained about, engaged respectfully and we had what I thought was a productive discussion. You barrel in and attack me. Why? This kind of proves the point I was making about women in the genre reacting defensively to queer men pointing out their views rather than engaging.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Um. I know that some writers do write “to” a specific audience – and it’s frequently minority writers; I’ve run across lesbian writers, awhile back, who didn’t want men reading their stuff at all. But no writer should be expected to guess who is going to read and enjoy or dislike what’s written.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve got a point, Lee. I get around that by writing what I like to read, and if anyone else doesn’t like it–*shrug* Well, they’re not me. But that’s the thing, I think you said it somewhere on that other post–we are NEVER going to write something that’s okay with everything. I think we can try not to be deliberately offensive, but sometimes, the art IS the offense. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all to any of this.

        Liked by 2 people

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