the object of my affection

Well, this is an old subject. But that little drama this weekend with the crappy “article” on the All About Romance blog put it back in my mind. I’m not going to talk about that blog post or the comments that followed it. I really don’t have the skills to put my thoughts on that subject into writing in any way that will make sense. At least not yet.

But a few of the comments brought up the ever-present accusation against us women who write m/m: Fetishization.

A particularly hurtful insult because there is a kernel of truth there, deep inside.

Once again, I questioned my motivations for writing in this genre. I visited a lot of other blogs, and listened to other (smarter) members of the m/m community give their opinions on the subject. And then… I thought about the upcoming GRL (Gay Rom Lit) conference. Sometimes, flipping roles is a good way to figure out if something is offensive, and why. So I wondered how it would look if GRL was mostly men coming together to celebrate and discuss lesbian fiction.

(*mental image of men wearing lesbian pride t-shirts and collecting armloads of f/f paperbacks while chatting about their favorite fictional lesbian couples*)

Actually that would be kind of awesome, assuming the men at such a conference took as much time and effort to write realistic female characters as women writing m/m do. And assuming these men were also highly active, politically and socially, in the fight for equal rights. And assuming these men were dedicated to not only producing and supporting high quality f/f fiction, but also promoting it to a more mainstream audience,  thereby increasing social acceptance for the actual lesbian women in their lives. Someone should make that happen.

Back on track…

Lyn Gala has a great post about objectifying gay men where she says:

“Does m/m fiction objectify gay men?

Um… sometimes? Let’s be honest, some of it is wank fuel. Guess what, that’s not such a new thing in the romance world. Plenty of women in tight bodices with deep cleavage and men with wide chests brandishing swords have been relegated to wank fuel. Gay men are just the latest addition to that little club.

And yeah, I understand the frustration. Seriously, dude, do you have any idea how straight men objectify lesbians? Every straight man seems to want to either watch or join in, and they’ll come right out and say that which is disturbing on a huge level. So I get the frustration. I do.

However, other stories show gay men in a wide range situations. They get to be heroes and villains, brothers and fathers and sons. They get the sort of stories that television and movies refuse to tell.”

So then I thought, if it is a bit of objectification… is that really so bad? I saw a post on facebook a few days ago, in an m/m romance group, where an author asked “whose pov do you prefer in m/m sex scenes – top or bottom?” and there were over 50 responses, mostly saying “both!!” and some offering reasons and more specific preferences (“bottom’s first time is hotter from the bottom’s pov” and “when a top tries bottom” and “either one, just lots of details please!!”) but I was reading this with the term “fetishization” still in my head, and so it stuck out at me.

But really, that was a pretty healthy conversation. Adults, talking openly about what they find sexually exciting, without fear or shame. And I realized this is a conversation that often happens among women, especially in erotica or erotic romance forums, groups, and real-life book clubs. I’ve also seen men participate in this kind of open discussion on the comment threads attached to porn clips, though those are less frequent and usually shorter.

Here’s what I’m seeing: we (as women) are totally free to write about, and openly discuss, m/f or f/f sex. We can talk about it all day, write about it, read it, and then talk some more about what we liked best and what we didn’t. Because this is an experience which is ours, it’s not “fetishization,” and although it may well be “objectification,” no one really cares. But when we discuss/write/read gay men having sex, the accusations fly.

A photograph by David Blazquez from his series titled “Human Furniture”

Why is it okay for a female reader to say “I like reading about a guy who has never performed oral sex on a woman before, and I prefer to read the experience from his pov” but not to say “I want to read a man’s first time receiving anal penetration from his pov”? Shouldn’t all sexual appetites be freely discussed, all our preferences be accepted?

I feel like I’m on the edge of understanding why there is this difference, but I just can’t get there.

Maybe I’m having trouble understanding because, as a woman, I have seen women objectified all my life. Maybe I don’t buy into the idea that gay men are so special and different that I can’t possibly understand them, and so removed from me that I have no right to their stories. Or maybe I don’t understand it because I don’t want to.

Where is the line between fiction and fetishization? When do erotic stories, or the sexual scenes in Romances, become objectification? Does it matter who does the objectifying? Do the genders or sexual orientations of the readers or writers of such scenes have an impact? Because the truth is there is a bit of objectifying going on. And although Icould ignore that, and spin this in a way that places me in a positive light, what I’d rather do is own the truth, and talk openly about it without shame.

Someday I’ll figure all this out…


7 thoughts on “the object of my affection

  1. Meh. Just meh.
    It’s one thing to fetishize a real person. To follow them around, or make unwanted sexual comments at them all the time. This is fiction. Sure it’s mostly women writing it, but for how many centuries has we had mostly male writers writing women? And I know quite a few gay men who read m/m romance, and they don’t tend to care which gender wrote it as long as it’s hot.


    • Yeah, all good points. I wish I didn’t feel the need to defend myself about this stuff, but I get this way once in a while. I should just keep my focus on interspecies boning where it belongs. lol, I love that phrase so much! 🙂

      • Are you kidding me? I feel the need to defend the fact that I write a female lead with an active love life!

        I totally get where this comes from.

  2. “So I wondered how it would look if GRL was mostly men coming together to celebrate and discuss lesbian fiction.

    (*mental image of men wearing lesbian pride t-shirts and collecting armloads of f/f paperbacks while chatting about their favorite fictional lesbian couples*)”

    Hey, I’m cool with that.

    • I often think about this. In that sort of scenario, you’d imagine that, yes, some of the lesbian fiction by straight men would be pretty crude–clearly jerk off material. But at the same time, some of the stories would be real women with real families, and in real situations. And I’d have to select what stories to read (like I do now).

      I also think about the press that lesbian studies would get if straight men started writing lesbian romance. Colleges may even integrate it into their women’s studies programs, more men may become feminists–there would be so many advantages.

      But sadly, this is still a patriarchy, and Romance has been deemed “women’s literature”, therefore not important. In a very real way, M/M came out of a backlash women were experiencing for wanting more than the alpha male and beta female trope… which still sort of makes this a patriarchy problem (men). If Romance was seen as mainstream fiction, then stories would be classified as either erotica or fiction–and there wouldn’t be the blur we see in romances, thus confusing SOME people.

      The author of that post wasn’t making a differentiation between porn and literature, as if he couldn’t tell the difference. He used them interchangeably, and even likened reading M/M to posting nude photos, which was inaccurate to say the least. If men wrote lesbian fiction, I can GUARANTEE you I’d be able to tell the difference between spank bank material, and genuine stories. It’s sad he cannot say the same.

      Yes, men are objectified in literature. However, firstly they are objectified in our culture. And so are women. Should we stop reading? Should we stop watching porn? Should we stop going to strip clubs? Probably not. If that was his point, then I hate to disappoint him, but I disagree.

      • Yeah I guess that’s what I’m thinking about: that line between what is okay and what is not. I understand that there are aspects of m/m that are problematic, but obviously I love the genre and I don’t want to give up reading, writing, and enjoying it.
        But every few months this issue seems to come up, and I have a lot of insecurity about my place in the genre.
        I question if, as a cis het woman, I can really ever write what I do in a way that is not…well, creepy.

        I suppose a certain amount of self-criticism is good.

        I am working on (yet another) post about this. I’m interested in what kinds of things are uncomfortable in m/m for gay men. What kind of behaviors, what types of stories. And how can I be a better member of this community, or if I even should be doing this. Maybe I will figure it out someday! Lol

        Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting 🙂

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