Category Archives: Politics

Belated #TeaserTuesday from Saugatuck Summer (#mmromance coming May 2014 from @RiptideBooks) inspired by a FB convo

So over on Facebook, Lisa from The Novel Approach posed this question about barebacking in m/m romance:

Okay, peeps, opinion:

Brand new M/M author, chapter one, first few pages, guys are already gettin’ busy. It’s their first time together, neither are virgins. They bareback, no mention at all of condoms or status.

This is a real-world contemporary, not paranormal, not fantasy.

Thoughts – irresponsible on the author’s part? Not a big deal? What?

This question keeps popping up occasion. Leta Blake has had a couple great posts about her research into why gay men bareback over on her blog, and it came up not long ago at Jessewave as well.

Yesterday, people on Twitter were doing a #UnpopularOpinion thing. Well, here’s mine:

The prevalence of protected sex in m/m romance is out of proportion with reality to the point of being a rather trite.

(/me dons flame-retardant suit. Any flames on this post will be unanswered and/or deleted)

I know WHY this is. M/M romance is written primarily by straight women, and we love the gay men we write about and we want to portray them in as positive and responsible a light as possible and never show them doing things which are, in popular opinion, Bad Things.

But we as storytellers have no moral or ethical obligation to show our characters doing the perfectly correct thing all the time. We do, however, have a moral or ethical responsibility to portray minority characters as fully rounded, complete, un-stereotyped beings. And that means letting them do things that maybe aren’t politically correct.

The Perfectly Correct use of condoms is another branch of the same school of thought that says 1-finger-2-fingers-3-fingers-fuck is the only way to gear up to anal sex, and that spit isn’t lube. Except some men–and women–have anal sex without any manual prep whatsoever, and some of them are perfectly okay using spit as lube. What we assume as gospel because our genre has been preaching it as gospel Ain’t Necessarily So.  When you scream “SPIT ISN’T LUBE” you are basically telling real people who use it as their lube of choice with no difficulties URDOINITRONG.

I think the insistence on the Protected Sex All The Time Unless They Have The Talk trope in m/m romance is its own form of well-intentioned homophobia. First off, because most people don’t raise nearly as much fuss–if any at all–if characters in an m/f romance have unprotected sex. This reinforces the idea that HIV/AIDS is a Gay-Only issue, and yes, it is an issue in the gay community, except maybe there are members of that community who don’t perceive it that way. Who, for whatever reason, to not consider condom usage to be an Absolute Necessity in any and all circumstances. Maybe they’ve just decided it’s their risk to take, for whatever reason they want to risk it.

Secondly, it trivializes the other issues surrounding the choice whether or  not to use condoms, many of which are emotional and personal and subjective to each individual. We like to over-simplify and make it a black-or-white issue, but it ain’t.

If we as writers are going to portray characters within the gay community, we need to give visibility to all its various schools of thought and behavior.

Someday I’m going to write up a blog post about Strain and why I chose the fuck-or-die trope for it. Let’s just say a lot of it has to do with subverting the idea that fluid exchange = death. But this #TeaserTuesday segment is about Saugatuck Summer and one of the many reasons why a character might willfully, knowingly, choose not to use condoms.

And this time I’m going to put it behind a cut because this is actually from Chapter 12 and features a rather significant conflict spoiler.

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11 Comments

Filed under Politics, Upcoming Releases

Some clarification on what is offensive about yesterday’s brouhaha

Okay, before anyone comes at me with the old “it’s so-and-so’s site, she can review what she wants” battle cry, misrepresenting what are the issues with this entire debacle over female-bodied-sexuality in m/m romance, let me get a few things on record.

Yes, people can read what they want. They can review what they want. No one is debating their right to do so. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that it’s misleading to cast ones site as being inclusive when it’s not. Don’t pretend to be a champion of all folk under the rainbow when you’re actually just a fan of the peen.

The problem is that it’s hypocritical to QQ about discrimination and disrespect while being discriminatory and disrespectful. It’s hypocritical to take readers and writers to task for making the genre about “the erotic needs of straight women” while maintaining a policy intended to pander to the erotic needs of straight women.

The problem is that it’s disingenuous to claim the issue is about het sex when what you’re actually frequently talking about is male-bodied/female-bodied queer sex, which is not the same thing. Worse, it’s extremely offensive to mislabel male-bodied/female-bodied sex as “het” sex because in doing so, you’re deliberately and repeatedly misgendering trans* folk and committing erasure against bifolk, intersex folk, and any number of other people under the rainbow.

The problem is that the m/m genre is a hotbed of gynophobia and internalized misogyny by people who ought to fucking know better, and to further that problem while patting oneself on the back for being on a crusade for representation of under-represented peoples is absolutely absurd. And worse! It’s hypocritical to hop on the feminist platform rail about how badly female characters are presented in m/m romance with regard to characterization archetypes and tropes, while simultaneously perpetuating gynophobia and internalized misogyny with regard to the mere mention of certain anatomy and sexual situations.

The problem is that it’s absolutely infuriating to act as though female reproductive anatomy and female-bodied sexuality is so shocking and off-putting on-page that it requires the same sort of warning usually reserved for controversial and triggering subjects as rape and graphic violence and abuse.

The problem is the entitled attitude behind behaving as though authors have a moral and ethical obligation not only to write what you want to read, but to protect your delicate special-snowflake eyeballs from anything they might find objectionable. Do you think Stephen King included warnings for underaged sex and domestic violence in IT? Did V.C. Andrews (or her publisher) warn for incest and underaged sex and rape in Flowers in the Attic? They didn’t, at least not in any of the editions I’ve read. I don’t see anyone weeping big crocodile tears over the lack of warning labels there. Labels and warnings are a courtesy, not an entitlement. You are not owed them. When you pay for a book, you aren’t owed anything but pages with some text on them. that’s it. There are no guarantees you’ll like it. There aren’t even any guarantees it will be well-written (Dan Brown, I’m looking at YOU.) You’re not owed a book that is to your taste and specifications and has nothing within it that you don’t find objectionable and warnings if it has something you might. In fact, the use of warnings and labels is generally considered to be a form of censorship and to have a chilling effect on free speech, which is why there have been huge legal battles over warning labels and age restrictions on music and video games. You’re lucky to get them when you get them. So be grateful authors and publishers include them at all from time to time.

So. Read what you want. Review what you want. But don’t be hypocritical, offensive, or an entitled princess in the process.

16 Comments

Filed under Musings, Politics

A warning about fair warning

So today, a popular review site posted a predictable and very, very tired rant about girl parts in m/m romance. Over on my Tumblr, I responded with my own rant calling them out on trans*phobia, biphobia and internalized misogyny.

But what gets me more than anything else is the sense of entitlement. The entitlement of the audience to tell the artist what to create. The entitlement of the audience to claim disrespect and even discrimination for daring to create something some members of the audience might not want to see.

You know, in gaming circles, we get a fair number of rants on that nature, only they go like this:

Dude, the majority of the gaming audience is men and we don’t want to see games about chicks and fags, and omg! if you make a game featuring chicks and/or fags, or if you complain about misrepresentation of chicks or fags, you’re discriminating and oppressing TEH MENZ!

Sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? The rational and reasonable response would be “the majority of games feature and appeal to “teh menz” so you shouldn’t begrudge the small minority which represent and include woman and gay players. We would rightfully call the authors of such rants out on their rampant blindness to their own privilege, which allows them to perceive even the smallest step toward representational parity as discrimination and/or oppression.

The majority of m/m romance features dick and only dick, and I’m okay with that. I like that gay men are being portrayed as heroes in books. But don’t trans*folk and bifolk deserve portrayal as well? And how freaking absurd is it to claim that readers of m/m romance are being disrespected and oppressed by the portrayal and/or inclusion of these characters? And why should your trans*phobia, biphobia, and the internalized misogyny that makes you uncomfortable with the notion of female-bodied sexuality dictate who should and shouldn’t receive representation in a book?

Of course, the refrain, the one single attempt at rationality in the rant in question is that it’s about labeling and fair warning. That it’s fine to write those stories, just make sure to WARN the reader/reviewer about the content. In other words, warn the reader if there are “girl parts.”

You know what? No. Fuck you. You warn for things that might trigger your audience: underaged sex, abuse, graphic violence, dubcon/non-con/rape fantasy or roleplay, and character death. (And let me go to say this is a fanfic convention, not a publishing convention, because do you think people who write mysteries, or war stories, or horror stories warn for shit like that? Hell no. But the new wave of small-press genre publishing, which is largely frequented by people who got their start in fandom, do warn for stuff that like.) These things are warned about as a courtesy, not because the author and/or publisher has any moral or ethical obligation to telegraph their punches by telling readers and reviewers in advance what is going to happen.

These things that are traditionally warned about all have one commonality: they can be shocking and/or traumatic, particularly someone with PTSD triggers.

Since when is pussy considered triggering? (spoiler alert: it’s not, this basically all boils down to “eww, girl parts” with a dash of “I don’t find that personally titillating so I don’t want to read it.”)

In either the post or a comment responding to it, someone said the audience has a “right” to know. I think this person has a mistaken concept of what “rights” are. When you buy a book, you have a “right” to exactly one thing: the book you bought. Doesn’t matter what’s in it. You pays your money, you takes your chances. You have a right to dislike the book, but you don’t have a right to demand the author to write something different if you don’t like it. And you certainly don’t have the right to demand that author spoil major events of the book and plot by announcing them in advance.

So, here is fair warning about what I will issue warning for: underage sexual activity whether it’s consensual or not, domestic abuse whether physical or emotional, dubcon/non con (and I’ll even throw in consensual non-consent, i.e. fantasy role play about forced-sex scenarios), graphic violence, and maaaaaybe, if it doesn’t spoil the whole book too badly, major character death.

I will not warn about the death of secondary characters, minor violence, or activities where all parties are consenting and of-age, even if those activities are things that aren’t everyone’s cuppa, like BDSM and “eww girl parts.”

There. Caveat Emptor. Consider yourself warned.

56 Comments

Filed under Musings, Politics

Politically neutral? I don’t think so.

I know prevailing wisdom is for authors to remain politically neutral. It’s one of the things the publishing guru blogs warn about if you want to attract and hold an audience.

That ain’t gonna happen here.

First of all, I’m about 99% certain the vast majority of my audience leans liberal, politically, and I happen to share those leanings, and I am happy to commune with my audience about our shared hopes and fears.

But secondly, I write for and about people and issues that have a lot at stake in our present political climate. Who are the main audiences for m/m romance? Women and LGBTQ folk. Both of which groups have a lot to lose or gain depending on which way the political winds blow.

So no. I’m not going to be neutral. Not now, not ever. It’s not going to happen. I am a woman, and I have too much to lose. And I stand united with LGBTQ folk of all stripes, fighting for their rights and well-being. I may be privileged not to have had to live their struggle, but I will fight to ease it and make sure they have equality if I can.

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Filed under Politics