This issue has cropped up pretty regularly, I’d say every four months or so, since I started following the ‘m/m genre’ blog-o-sphere.
Yes, it is time again for a “women writing m/m” post. Though, as was recently pointed out by an astute blog-commenter, this really is about “straight women writing m/m”- an important distinction.
Every time this comes up, I comment and post and respond (pretty aggressively, truth be told), and I try to defend my presence in this genre. Perhaps I doth protest too much. Because a big part of me does wonder: do I even belong here? Should I be doing this? Am I being a total ass-bag for writing about gay men?
I talk about equality, and I insist I am doing this to promote the ‘love is love’ agenda. I talk about marginalization, and how mainstream acceptance of gay issues requires mainstream participation in, and consumption of, gay literature. I very carefully never mention the fact that a sizable portion of m/m functions, for straight women, in the same way “lipstick lesbian porn” does for straight men. I don’t talk about the fact that this large segment of m/m is basically paying the rent for the rest of the genre.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, mind you. Sex in all varieties is great, and should be celebrated. Also, many women who get into m/m for the titillation stay for the stories, and become advocates for LGBT issues in small, everyday ways. (you know, like voting)
But although outwardly I am always defending my presence here in m/m, inside my heart and mind I go back and forth between feeling like I totally belong here, and like I am a horrible person for doing what I do.
On one hand, I do belong here. I believe writing, as an art form, is not something I can be told not to do, not something which anyone has the right to regulate. I can write about whatever I damn well please and fuck you if you think you’re going to shame me out of this genre.
On the other hand, who do I think I am? A straight, cisgender, woman, appropriating the gay experience for my own monetary gain, writing romanticized stories about gay men as a total outsider with no vested interest in LGBT causes. Aren’t I? Isn’t that exactly what I’m doing?
I can say I’m fighting for acceptance of LGBT people everywhere, fighting for human rights, but the truth is I personally risk nothing in doing so. Then again, maybe that means I should be here more than anyone? That I, as an untouchable in this ‘war’, should be fighting the hardest, since I have nothing to lose. But the little voice says: if I really wanted to “fight”, I would not collect profits from my battleground. So again I wonder, what am I doing here? Should I leave?
‘What am I doing here‘ is a good question, and one I think about all the time.
When I first started reading gay stories, back in the early 90’s, there were no e-books. And really not much m/m “Romance” either. There was gay fiction (boring), or there was gay erotica: essentially literary porn, written by gay men for gay men. And I, as a 19 year old straight girl, loved it. I was lucky enough to live in a fairly liberal area, close to urban bookstores that stocked such things, and I read a lot of it. Back then, it was definitely about “fetishization” for me. To be fair, I read a lot of m/f erotica and also f/f (though that was harder to come by) as well, but the m/m was the wildest and most raw and therefore the best.
The men in those stories were kind of nasty, but they were also super interesting. They owned their sexuality, and when they were in the company of other gay men, in the fantasy worlds of those books, they were open and proud and wild. They were not ashamed to desire sex, or to give in to their bodies. They never apologized for their sexual appetites. And as a girl who basically fucked her way out of depression, I loved reading that. It empowered me.
I’ve written before about why I personally write m/m, so I won’t re-hash that here. Suffice it to say, my reasons are many. I have tried to write other things. I have written m/f erotica, with some success. I have tried to write fantasy, but somehow it always turns to romance, and usually veers into the m/m variety.
So I can’t stop writing m/m Romance. Or, rather, I don’t want to stop. But I still ask myself ‘what am I doing here?‘ and I still don’t have a definitive answer.
A few days ago, some people who are way smarter than me blogged about this issue:
Many great comments on those posts as well.