Sep 5 2011
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.
Really? All gay romance writers pose as gay men? Goodness, I must have missed the memo! I’d better change my penname, pronto. Er, except for the fact that I’ve never hid that I’m a woman. Yes, some female M/M writers use male pennames — although it seems to be less common today than it was when the current gay romance boom was still a fledgling industry.
Before rising to fame as a suspense/horror writer, Dean Kootnz wrote romance novels under a female pseudonym. He obviously did this because the audience for these novels would likely not buy a book by a man. (One of the aspects I’ve enjoyed in his thrillers is that he often includes a satisfying romance, and I wasn’t surprised at all to learn he’s a former romance writer.)
Perhaps now that so many women are buying M/M novels, authors don’t feel it’s a detriment to their career to have female pennames. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I’ve never hidden my gender. A glance at the author list at M/M publisher Dreamspinner Press reveals a plethora of female names. So this sweeping generalization is simply untrue.
In the M/M stories–a majority of which are historical romances in which class and age inequities prevail–there is a “male” man and a “female” man. As in lesbian pulps written by men, class and power inequities force the younger, “female” partner into situations that would be untenable in a real queer relationship.
A majority of M/M novels are historical romances? Again, here’s another point that is simply untrue. Believe me, as a fan of gay historical romance, it is not the majority of stories! At Torquere Press, a click on the historical genre provides 106 stories. Contemporary? 964. Math was never my strong suit, but I think the majority is clear. Dreamspinner has 73 historicals, and 382 contemporary. (I’m using these publishers as examples because they publish solely M/M or LGBT content.) There are also many more stories in genres such as paranormal and mystery than there are in historical.
A feature of M/M novels is often rape. A stronger man rapes a younger, more feminine man. This was often a feature of lesbian pulps and lesbian porn written by men. The “male” lesbian raped the “female” lesbian, making it easier for her to desert the lesbian for a “real” man because there was suddenly no difference between a lesbian and a “real” man.
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.
I cannot think of one gay romance I’ve read wherein one protagonist rapes the other. Can anyone name one? I’m sure some must exist, but this is NOT the norm.
In “Sex and the City,” the women occasionally watched gay male porn. In the new film about lesbian parenting, “The Kids Are All Right,” the two lesbians also watch gay male porn. In “Sex and the City,” the reason for watching is clear: there are no women to interfere with the sexuality of the men. But the action is voyeuristic, not paternalistic….Neither of these scenes read as fetishistic–it’s voyeuristic but it’s also approbative. These women are not interested in appropriating, changing or reviling gay male sexuality or relationships.
Ms. Brownworth and I are in complete agreement here. And it is in this spirit that many women, myself included, read and write M/M romance. It’s not a fetishizing, or feminizing. Least of all a reviling of gay male sexuality! Why on earth would we read and write about something we revile?
In M/M fiction, there is an inherent disrespect of the gay male relationship. Even descriptions of gay male sex and the language used to describe it is wrong. The term “fisting” is used repeatedly as a synonym for masturbation. (Try and envision that physical anomaly!) The term “honeyed cleft”–long a term used for the female sexual entrance–is used to describe the male anus.
“Honeyed cleft“? Excuse me while I laugh myself silly! Whether used to describe a vagina or an anus, that’s just terrible writing. “Fisted” has been used in terms of taking a cock in one’s fist and stroking it. IMO, two meanings to the word have evolved, but fair enough.
I think the issue here is that Ms. Brownworth is reading awful M/M. Like badfic in fandom, there are bad gay romances out there. I’m not denying that. But there are also many excellent stories. She goes on to say in the comments to the article:
As long as the majority of M/M writers act as if sexual orientation is a choice like whatever one wears on a given day, then this discourse is meaningless because it misses the point entirely.
Who acts like that? Yes, there are some “gay for you” stories in the genre. But to say that a majority of M/M writers treat sexual orientation as a choice is simply untrue.
How many straight M/M writers even know what ENDA, DOMA and DADT are? And how much they impact our lives?
*raises hand* I’m Canadian, but I know what these American terms mean, and I know their importance. I’ve supported LGBT equality for years. I don’t know anyone who writes M/M and doesn’t.
Of course, I cannot speak for all M/M authors. In every genre, there will be good writers, and there will be bad. To make sweeping and simply untrue generalizations really isn’t going to help an argument. Ms. Brownworth seems to have a particular axe to grind with authors Lee Rowan and Erastes. For the record, I don’t know either of them and am not part of their “band of flying monkeys.” Then there’s this:
Eliza claimed to have read 1,553 M/M novels. (I told her that she might have less of a language problem if she were reading something less low-brow, but that was probably mean of me.)
First, it’s Elisa (Rolle). And the personal attack on her English proficiency (I’d like to see how well Ms. Brownworth writes in a second language) is incredibly unprofessional, mean-spirited and really tells me everything I need to know about Victoria Brownworth.