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.
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…