Response to “Is Male/Male Romance Fundamentally About Men” over at Jessewave

A very thought-provoking article has been posted here at Reviews by Jessewave, to which I want to respond. However, for some reason their response form keeps telling me my comment is spammy, which it’s not and I can’t figure out why. So I’m posting it here instead.

Well, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for bucking the conventions regarding physiotypes predetermining sex roles until I got to the stuff about biting and hair-pulling.
I think we have to differentiate here between tropes and kinks.
I find the idea that one’s stature determines one’s sexual inclination to be ludicrous. It’s an absurd trope that springs solely from the desire to heteronormalize gay couples. So yes, I would consider that very damaging and demeaning. I base my character’s sex roles on their personalities, not their body types. And sometimes the larger guy DOES have a more aggressive/dominant personality. But it’s not because he’s larger.
So I might have the skinnier and less muscular of the two men be more aggressive, more sexually experienced, and just all around tend toward dominance, while the larger and more “masculine” guy is more retiring and (this is somewhat due to his relative lack of experience) more desirous of being guided. But another story might have things work differently, but that was because of the characters, not because of some heteronormalizing trope.
However, as a woman coming from the kink community (and keeping in mind the kink community has a huge QUILTBAG presence within it and I’ve been to munches and play parties where at least 50% of the attendees were QUILTBAG) I always figured if biting/hair pulling/marking/claiming were such prevalent kinks and turn-ons shared amongst so many, there is no reason it WOULDN’T be shared by my m/m characters if it suited their personalities.
Hair pulling is just flat-out sexy, especially in a rough sex context. It’s sexy for m/f and it’s sexy for m/m. I don’t think it’s a thing that people assume m/m couples do disproportionately. I think it’s a hugely common kink and people want to read about it. As my husband well knows, pull my hair and I am yours.
I regret nothing.
As for biting, I think there is a very animal appeal to it. Especially at the neck. Mating animals often bite each other there, and I think we associate it with something savage and primal in our minds. So when my characters are in a savage, primal mood, they go there. When my husband and I are in a savage, primal mood, we go there. The next time, however, my characters are just as likely to tenderly make love.
Personally, I don’t see this as demeaning. I wouldn’t feel and have never felt demeaned to be bitten by my husband/lover and I can’t see why it would be demeaning for my characters to do so either.
Maybe it’s my perspective as a woman, but the idea of being “claimed” by someone I am intensely involved with, to the point of wearing a physical mark representing that claim, is a very powerful and compelling one. Why do you think so many lovers get tattooed with something that reminds them of their lover?
What romance is about, at its heart, is our desire as human beings, to belong to and with someone. We read romance to experience that sense of belonging vicariously. When we feel a connection that intensely, we want to wear it on our skin, and we see that reflected in the romances we read and write.
Again, I don’t see this as either stereotyping gay men. I see it as reflecting something a great many of us desire and find appealing. And I’ve been to play parties and munches where gay men and women preened and bragged and showed off their bruises just as enthusiastically as the straight femsubs.
So while I think that yes, there are troubling tropes in the m/m romance genre that could be demeaning to real gay men, I have to take exception to the citation of these kinks. Because to say these kinks are demeaning to m/m couples implies there’s something wrong with having these kinks, and that toes the line of kink-shaming, and we just don’t want to go there.
I’m new to this genre, and really to m/m fiction. And the reason I’m new to it is that I was very afraid for a long time of presuming to… I dunno… “appropriate” stories of gay men when I can’t possibly ever truly understand the perspective of a gay man. So when I finally did step into the pool, I made sure to do so very cautiously, trying always to keep in mind the need to avoid stereotyping, to avoid problematic tropes and to deal with troubling themes respectfully. Whether I’ve succeeded or not, only my readers can say. But that has been my mission so far and will continue to be my mission from here on out.


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