Sunday, August 22, 2010

RANT: On women who love men who love men.

As my loyal blog minions well know, I'm a woman who writes gay fiction. Specifically, erotic gay fiction. Recently, writers like myself have been the subject of some very opinionated articles, and after a couple of days of grinding my teeth over them, I feel it's time to comment on those articles.

The first article is from, and is an interview of two female writers of M/M fiction. The second is from Lambda Literary, and is a response to the previous article, as is a third from Brian Moylan at

Quite honestly, I can't decide which article gets further under my skin. And I'm obviously not the only one (from Gehayi on LiveJournal).

Now, moving on, starting with the original article...
"It is in no way visually apparent that [Alex] Beecroft is one of the most popular and beloved authors in the rapidly expanding male/male romance genre, a defining feature of which is explicit gay male sex. "
Really? I figured the defining feature was romance between two men. Yes, a lot of it is erotic. But...last I is a lot of heterosexual romance. Actually, the rebuttal on Gehayi summed this up so much better than I did, so I'll quote that author:
"Both Wilson and [Moylan] describe m/m romance as "gay porn" because it contains the occasional sex scene. In fact, almost all romance novels nowadays--straight or gay--contain sex scenes...but no one is describing male/female romance as "straight porn" because of this. In fact, most people would consider "romance" and "porn" to be two separate categories. The underlying and unstated assumption is that gayness is always about having sex rather than relationships, commitment or love." (emphasis mine)
This. A thousand times, this. Of all the articles I linked above, I highly recommend visiting this one and reading it all the way through; I'd quote more of it, but I don't want to be in violation of her copyright. Here's the link again. Read it. Seriously.

Back to the Out interview, Wilson goes on to say:
"Since women are not equal to men in society, a straight romance narrative—the usual machinations that bring a brutish alpha male and a wasp-waisted young female beauty to the point of bodice-ripping penetration—can't deliver the same heady emotional frisson as a "bromance," which slashers and M/M authors alike view as a courtship between equals, which culminates in the emotional jackpot of a true love based on loyalty, trust, caring, and mutual respect."
W. T. F. Really? I don't even know where to start with all the assumptions that are wedged into this brief paragraph. Why the fuck can't a hetero romance be "a courtship between equals, which culminates in the emotional jackpot of a true love based on loyalty, trust, caring, and mutual respect"? That's how I write my hetero stuff, and it's what I look for when I read it. If women don't like the "brutish alpha male and a wasp-waisted young female beauty" trope, they're more than welcome to write hetero stories to the beat of a different drum. If they are envisioning a love story - sexy or not - between two men...then why does that have to have some deeper, more disturbing meaning?

Oh, but clearly is does have a deeper, more disturbing meaning. Quoth Moylan:
Author Beecroft says, "In my sexual imagination, I'm a gay man. I write to satisfy a sexual desire that I can't physically satisfy in this body." That sounds like the extreme embodiment of a woman's desire to have what would traditionally be considered a "male" sexuality. In Western sexual dynamics, women are often assumed to be passive, the ones who are ravaged by men. But, by aligning herself with a gay male identity, the straight female reader can envision herself as powerful, sexually potent, voracious, and the active participant (or top)—all things that are associated with macho sexuality. And all of this while still in the company of another man."
WHAT. How the hell did he get that from Beecroft's quote? First of all, Beecroft self-identifies as genderqueer, something the authors of the articles conveniently gloss over. Second, last I checked, the 1820s are over, and women CAN envision themselves as powerful, sexually potent, etc. Just look at all the steamy heterosexual romance out there.

Moylan isn't done, though...
"Even more forbidden is making another man a bottom—which is what author Erastes says she imagines herself doing. This act, though imaginary, not only expresses her power, but turns other men into passive participants. Now, the woman is no longer on the receiving end and she becomes the vanquisher herself, literally sticking it to the man."
*headdesk* Dude. First of all, in the article, Erastes said she envisions herself as the top. Everything after "This act..." is nothing more than speculation on the part of Moylan. Being the "bottom" does not make someone a passive participant. Listen, Mr. Moylan, I think you might want to brush up on some of the realities of sexual dynamics. The catcher can be just as active and just as in control as the pitcher. I sincerely hope that 21st century women don't think they need a penis to be "active" or in control or any of that nonsense. If I wanted to write about a woman being a "top" and having all those "macho" pieces of sexuality, I'd write about a female dominant.

Oh, wait, a Domme would know that in Dom/sub situations, the sub is the one who's truly in control, so she wouldn't have all the power after all.


Guess I just can't win. Damn you, ovaries. Damn you.


I can't quote more of his article without overusing the content, but he ends it with "As long as everyone is getting off, what's the big deal?"

*headdesk again* It's. Not. All. About. Getting. Off. A gay ROMANCE is just as much a love story as a mainstream heterosexual romance. Yeah, they're hot. But the emotions are there too. I don't see anyone making the same assumptions about heterosexual romance. Just because it's two men instead of a man and a woman doesn't mean it's all about the sex.


Now, I think it's the Lambda article that really bugs me. Probably because the author, Victoria Brownworth, seems to have an ax to grind with anyone who has the audacity to be turned on by other sexualities (i.e., men turned on by lesbians). After all, in her view: "If you aren’t familiar with M/M fiction here’s what it is: Straight women fetishizing the lives of gay men."

"This is the basic tenet of M/M fiction. Straight women pose as gay men—all these writers have either taken male pen names, like Erastes (who has actually had a male bio to go with her male pen name) or names that are, like Beecroft’s purposefully gender-vague—and write about gay male relationships.

Or what they think are gay male relationships."

I honestly have to wonder if this particular writer actually read any M/M romance beyond some slash fiction. She paints M/M as always having a "male" and "female" (as in, there's always the "guy" in the relationship and the "girl" in the relationship). And sometimes that stereotype does occur, but I wouldn't call it the majority. Certainly not enough to paint the whole genre with that brush.

Also, while some of us do use gender ambiguous names, many do not. Marie Sexton. Scarlett Parrish. Plenty more. Yes, I use my initials and last name, creating a gender ambiguous name. However, I don't hide the fact that I'm female...nor do I hide the fact that I'm also Lauren Gallagher, a purveyor of *GASP* heterosexual erotica.

One of the more offensive statements in the article:

"A feature of M/M novels is often rape. A stronger man rapes a younger, more feminine man."

WHAT?? Okay, yes, I have read some M/M fiction containing rape....and I've promptly thrown every last one of them against the wall (except where doing so would have damaged my ebook reader). I've read even MORE rape in hetero fiction, and a shameful amount of BDSM fiction. Seriously, one of the things that is a welcome relief for me when I read M/M is the lack of rape compared to hetero romance and BDSM fiction. In the dozens of M/M books I've read, I would say a very small minority contained rape or anything close to it. The books I write certainly don't.

But what do I know?

"In actual gay male relationships, men don’t rape each other. That breaks the bond–just as it would in a heterosexual relationship. That these women writers don’t know that is part of the fetishizing of the gay male bond."

Again, I have to wonder how much gay male fiction she's read, because I sure as hell haven't seen this trend of rape.

Now, there is definitely some bad M/M fiction out there. There's no shortage of it. Ditto with heterosexual fiction. However, the majority of it (in my experience) isn't so far off the mark as to include rape as a normal part of a gay relationship. Also, I don't hear many people bitching about the unrealistic, sometimes offensive portrayals of heterosexual relationships in romance.

Here's the thing: as a female, I enjoy reading about two males just as much as I love reading about a male and female together. I do think two men together are sexy. Further, I think their love stories are just as valid and poignant as any male/female love story, and if I have such a story in my head, I will tell it to the best of my ability. I've made a point of consulting with gay, bi, and straight men to make sure I have my facts straight (so to speak), just as I've consulted with Doms and subs about my BDSM fiction. The fact that I am not a gay male makes me no less capable of writing gay fiction than my lack of a Dom makes me incapable of writing BDSM-lifestyle fiction.

In closing, what I see here is people trying to categorize M/M authors into neat little boxes, apply labels and stereotypes, and paint us with a broad, inflexible brush based on assumptions, fallacies, and disgust.

Which is exactly what WE are being accused of doing to gay men and their relationships.

Think about it.


  1. I would definitely agree that both articles are infuriating. What could have been great press for our genre turned into "let's make fun of the weird girls" in both cases.

    What the fuck ever.

  2. And WTF is up with this?

    "A feature of M/M novels is often rape. A stronger man rapes a younger, more feminine man."


  3. Very eloquently stated!

    Marie: That sounds more like a feature of yaoi than a feature of m/m novels...

  4. Holy shit. Okay, so I followed the links from Chris (above) to read all the articles and the articles associated with this one. OMG!

    I'm seeeeeething. The generalizations of our industry just prove how little they know. If they can't get the minute facts correct, there's no reason to assume that the more complex ones are even remotely close. Assholes!

    And let me just add, I've never met a man named Mia, nor would anyone picking up a book by Mia Watts assume she is male and hell YES I write m/m. My characters are both strong alphas and they have deep emotional connections with each other.

    Excellent article you have here. I'm so pissed off at the general impression of the genre by people who have no idea, that I can't even get my retorts organizes enough to spew back at them.

    *off to grumble and write more m/m*