Book covers and the objectification of gay men

The other day, my friend Leta Blake and I were discussing a few things we don’t like about the current state of the m/m romance/erotica publishing industry. One of which was the covers with all the manly-man ripped torso beefcake.

Then today my husband comes in the room and we’re talking about the book and he’s teasing me that my cover is OMGSOPORNY! And I was like, “Nonononono, wait, wait. You need to see what OTHER covers in this genre look like.” So I went over to Rainbow Book Reviews and showed him some of those ripped-torso covers, and as I did so, I realized something.

The men on those covers aren’t just ripped. They’re almost universally beheaded.

Not every cover is this way, of course, but enough are that it shows a deeply, deeply disturbing mindset in the genre.

One of the biggest complaints feminists very rightfully have toward advertising is the frequent portrayal of dismembered women. Armless or headless, only the torso, the part showing the sexy bits, is used. It’s believed to be another form of violence against women, or at least a means of portraying women that objectifies and dehumanizes them so that violence against them becomes more acceptable.

The majority of consumers in the m/m romance/erotica genre are women. What does it say about us, that we’re doing the same thing to gay men? Though we, women, are the consumers in this genre, are we looking at the physical representation of the characters with the internalized male gaze?

Suddenly, I’m very glad my book has the cover it does, and that I self-published rather that going through a publishing house for m/m romance and erotica, where I might not have had control over the cover art.

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