Monday, July 23, 2018

Women and MM Romance


Let's discuss MM Romance and the women who write it—who are the vast majority of writers within the genre, followed by queer people outside the mainstream binary (that is, they identify as genderfluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, and so forth) and of course transgender people.

First, my credentials, since that is important. My name is Megan Derr, if that wasn't already apparent. I am 36 years old. I've been involved in MM since high school, though back then it was almost entirely slash and yaoi, not the formalized MM Romance (MMR) genre that exists now. But we'll get to that. I am asexual and biromantic, have a wife, two queer sisters, and countless queer friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and peers. I have two BAs – one in History, with a focus on Meiji Japan (I had initially planned to be an academic/professor, a career I noped out of pursuing later). The other, actually relevant, is a BA in East Asian Studies, with a focus on yaoi (more specifically, yaoi and women's sexuality/feminism). I've been writing MMR since 2002, publishing since 2007, and a publisher (at Less Than Three Press) since 2009. TL;DR I do know what I'm talking about.

This is going to be a long post. There's a lot of ground to cover, and I don't want to rush anything. But the primary question we are addressing today is the one at the heart of all the latest posts, comments, blogs, and so forth written by gay men about feeling as though they have no voice in the community and women are just using them for money and masturbation.

So in sum: Are women (and other queer people) appropriating cis gay men/romance/sexuality for their own selfish ends?

The short answer is twofold:

  1. No, nothing is being appropriated
  2. Women are allowed to enjoy things sexually, and only sexually, just as much as men


For the longer answer, we'll have to cover a few things:

  1. Women and Sexuality
  2. Appropriation, MM Romance, and Gay Fiction.
  3. Entitlement and Sexism



PART ONE: WOMEN AND SEXUALITY

I'm not interested in playing Oppression Olympics, let's make that clear. I have fibromyalgia, which means I'm in some degree of pain every single day of my life. That doesn't mean that when my wife complains about her feet hurting that I tell her to suck it up because I have it worse.

But it does mean that there are differences to our pain, and those differences have to be take into consideration when we do things. I can't really help her with a lot of yard work and stuff. I definitely can't mow the lawn (not that I did it more than like twice a year anyway, I hate mowing lawns).

What does this have to do with women?

Gay men have certainly had a horrible time of it, historically speaking. The AIDS epidemic struck that community harder than any other. We have awful words like 'faggot' because of the horrific attitudes toward gay men. At the end of the Holocaust, everyone was set free except the gay men, who were simply moved to new prisons. I could go on for pages simply listing the wrongs that gay men have endured for centuries. It's important that not be dismissed or trivialized. Those hurts and wrongs are very real and deserve to be remembered and respected.

But in all these rants by people like Hans M. Hirschi, SM Collins, and F.E. Feeley Jr. not a single one acknowledges they understand the bigger picture of MMR. That women have a dark and ugly history regarding their sexuality too. And that history has a huge bearing on the path that culminates in MMR.

Name some famous gay men, past and present, as many as you can in say, three minutes.

Bet you can come up with a pretty long list.

Now do the same with famous lesbian women.

That list was probably a lot shorter.

What about for bisexual men? Asexual women? Transgender men? Genderfluid people?

The further you get from cis gay men (important to note: also white, we won't even start on POC and the maltreatment thereof, we'd be here for the rest of the year), the fewer names you know. The Greeks, the Romans, the Samurai, cowboys, and all sorts of artists and writers throughout history—all of these have acknowledged gay cultures/sub-cultures. They're not hard to find. History is FILLED with accounts of men fucking other men, even in times when such was taboo and came with a death sentence.

Where are all the accounts of queer women in those same times? Outside of Sappho, most people probably can't rattle off queer Greek women. What about Romans? Know any queer women in feudal Japan? What about the wild west? Or early America at all (like Boston Marriages). What about Renaissance Italy? Everybody knows of Leonardo and Michelangelo, but what lesbians can you name from that time? You probably thoughts of Oscar Wilde, maybe Byron. But what female contemporaries who were queer can you name?

If you could name several, awesome. That means things are improving. But I think it's a safe bet to say that most people could not rattle off a list of queer women as easily as they could gay (and sometimes bisexual) men. And yes, the phrasing is intentional: between the broader 'queer women' and the narrower 'gay men' still the narrower category wins out.

Why is that?

Because historically women's sexuality is considered a nonentity and/or a moral failing.

Gay men are punished for having gay sex. Women are punished for having sex, period. Throughout history, men could leave their house and have all the sex they wanted, married or not, and nobody saw a problem with that. But a woman who has sex without being married, or who has an affair? Condemned. Trollops. Sluts. Ungodly. Ruined. Women who sold sexual services? Trash. You see the same attitudes today: strippers, prostitutes, etc. are constantly looked down on because they provide a service that men want. Nobody ever condemns the man who goes to the strip club; they condemn the woman on stage.

Gay men are condemned for having the wrong kind of sex. Women are condemned for even acknowledging an interest in sex, or for catering to the sexual demands of the men around them.

And when we're not being punished for having a sex drive, we're simply erased—mostly for being women, but also for being women who dared to have sex and be loud and proud about it. Or do you think it's coincidence that H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are considered the fathers of science fiction, even though Mary Shelley's Frankenstein predates them by almost 100 years? Margaret Cavendish published The Blazing World in 1666, but you almost never hear mention of her. That's just one example of women being erased and ignored, and they were both straight to my knowledge. When queer women do anything, they're often rewritten as straight if they're acknowledged at all.

If you don't believe me, look at the way some sports stars were treated by the news in the past couple of years. When Collin Martin took to the field to play a few days after coming out as gay, he was given a standing ovation. After winning an incredible victory and rushing over to kiss her wife, Abby Wambach was first written in reports as celebrating with a friend. It was only later, after outrage, that that mainstream media acknowledged she was queer and kissing her wife. Gay man shows up to work, gets a standing ovation; queer woman wins an incredible victory, gets called straight.

Throughout history, women have been consistently punished and thrown out simply for existing, for simply wanting to enjoy sex the way men have. This has led to a lot of sexism, overt and internalized, in men and women (much like racism is deeply impeded in cultures, to the point we don't even realize some of what we say and do is racist as hell).

But women make do, and have found various outlets throughout the years to express and enjoy their sexuality as best they can. One of the ways they do this currently is via yaoi, slash, and MM.

Yaoi has taken a lot of hits over the years, mostly rightfully, for a lot of its problematic elements (one of those being rape, yaoi is filled with alarming amounts of rape). But it's important to note that yaoi is a Japanese thing that made its way overseas, and eventually overlapped with slash, but slash developed wholly on its own here in the States. Most consider the start of slash to be Star Trek, with the classic Kirk/Spock pairing (the name slash in fact comes from that slash, which differentiated gay pairings from straight pairings). Long before the internet, women typed up and printed and photocopied volumes of stories—what came to be called fanzines, or zines, and mailed them to each other, traded at conventions, and so forth (an interesting parallel to doujinshi culture, which for the sake of brevity, are basically the Japanese comic equivalent of fanfiction).

This is the first argument against women coopting gay culture. It was developed 100% separate from it, by women who saw a compelling couple (or couples, or threesomes, or whatever) and wanted to explore it—romantically, sexually, however. For many women, MM is a way to explore and enjoy their sexuality without all the baggage that comes with being a woman. That is a vitally important point. When you spend your entire life ingesting things like:

He acts like a girl
I'm not like other girls
She dresses like a slut
I'm saving myself for marriage
Sit like a lady
A lady doesn't talk like that
Men don't like it when you do that
Your boyfriend won't like it if you cut your hair
She was asking for it
If you dress like that you're going to get raped
I heard she's slept with lots of guys
You're such a bitch
Don't be such a girl about it
Stop being a drama queen
He's acting like a princess

And much more, what you want most is a way to be free of all that shit. This is not a problem that men have ever faced and would ever understand. Men have never been punished for being sexual, only for having the wrong kind of sex (sex that, basically, makes them "too womanly," as is best demonstrated in the fact that "non-masculine" men like twinks, flamers, etc. are looked down on, as well as those who prefer to bottom or like to wear panties and so forth. And the way cis gay men treat trans men, GQ, and non-binary people is often even more horrific).

Some women enjoy reading romance novels with het relationships, but others prefer to read MMR because for them het MF simply comes with too much baggage.

It's also important to remind everyone here that more than cis women inhabit MMR. Genderfluid people, transgender people, and so forth all have their own reasons for preferring MMR to het MF. The latest wave of anger was in fact started because a genderfluid author wrote about why mpreg was so important to them.

Again, I am not belittling or dismissing the pain that gay men have endured. But a common theme amongst all the angry posts written by them is that women are appropriating their culture, their lives, without considering all the pain and horror they've endured.

But not once have any of those men seemed to consider the painful history that women, as a whole, have endured, and why that might affect what they read, write, and enjoy (in any medium). Men turn to FF only to get off. Women turn to MM to enjoy romance, enjoy stories, and sometimes, yes, to get off without the painful baggage that reading MF and FF often brings.

At no point in history have cis men, as a whole, had to turn to FF to be able to enjoy themselves and their own sexuality because enjoying MF was too difficult or painful.

Which leads to the next point.


PART TWO: APPROPRIATION, MM ROMANCE, AND GAY FICTION

I'm not going to linger long here, mostly because I'm not fit to. I'm a cis white women, and we occupy that awful space of being both oppressed and oppressor, something too many of us like to pretend isn't the case. White women have a long, ugly history of demanding equality for themselves while stomping all over POC, especially WOC, while taking from them those things we like and claiming all the credit, which is some breathtaking hypocrisy.

But the main argument lobbed around this week is that we are appropriating gay men/culture for own our pleasure and money.

I've already covered in the previous point how that's entirely true, but let's flesh it out.

One of the mistakes people make is that MMR is a part of gay fiction. This isn't true. Gay fiction is its own entity, populated and enjoyed predominantly by gay men, and coming primarily from literary fiction., which includes love stories.

MM Romance sprang from slash, yaoi, and evolved as a subgenre of romance, which means it began life with all the tropes, styles, trends, etc of romance (and of genre fiction in general).

These are very different categories. The expectations of literature have next to nothing in common with those of genre fiction. And nothing makes that more apparent than the difference between 'love stories' and 'romance.'

I'll stick with some het examples for this one.

Most people are pretty familiar with at least two love story authors: Jojo Moyes of Me Before You fame, and Nicholas Sparks of The Notebook (and several other books) fame. These are love stories. One of their key traits is that they seldom end happily; most are bittersweet at best. Love stories are closer in style and goal to literature than they are to genre fiction.

Literary fiction is hard to give a precise definition to, and most of the ones you can find can basically be summed up as "better than genre fiction." One particularly contentious definition is 'having literary merit' (seriously?) and another prize one is 'has value or merit in the social world.' Yet another is 'emphasizes meaning over entertainment.'

I think the general takeaway here is that literature is regarded by and large as social commentary first, and everything else second. Genre fiction definitely offers social commentary, but isn't obligated to, and also acknowledges people want to have fun with what they read most of the time.

Probably still not a great definition. My point is that literature plays by very different rules, and love stories are closer to literary fiction than to romance.

Literature is also predominantly by men, as most categories and genres are.

Romance (along with YA and chick lit) is dominated by women. This is important.

Romance, or more specifically genre romance, is defined as (by the RWA):

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. 
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. 
Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction

Love stories have to obey none of that, save there is a couple involved. And MMR, which was largely sprung from fanfiction, follows all of the conventions of genre romance.

Gay romance, as in those stories primarily written by and for gay men? Come from the literary end of the spectrum. Part of this is because for a long time queer books couldn't really be published unless they were miserable (the infamous Bury Your Gays trope that still exists in most mediums) and essentially "punished" for being not straight.

But the other reason is that it was written that way because they're men, who wanted nothing to do with the garbage romance drivel enjoyed by airheaded women. Romance keeps publishing in money – it draws the most money of any genre by far, at 1.44 billion. The next genre down? Crime/mystery at 728.2 million. Literature? Not even in the top five.

And yet it's romance that is constantly derided. Sneered at. Dismissed. Called garbage. Romance authors often get asked "why don't you write real books?" and other awful, demeaning questions. Men who write het romance tend to do so under female pennames and don't advertise they do so.

So gay fiction, including gay romance, is heavily influenced by male-dominated literary and general fiction, and MMR is heavily influenced by genre romance. The only place those two converge, sort of but not really, is in love stories, where, you guessed it, a man is the most famous writer (Nicholas Sparks).

This not a past trend. It continues strong to this day. Men do not want to be lumped in with women. At a convention I once attended, a cis gay author was asked why he wrote romance, and he replied "I don't write romance, I write love stories" even though it was a romance convention, populated by romance authors and readers, and all his books follow the hallmarks of romance books and are published by romance publishers. Men do not want to be associated with women, even as they show up to profit and otherwise benefit from a genre we built.

Because make no mistake, MMR as it looks today was built and shaped by women. From the earliest days of slash and yaoi, when it was labeled slash, m/m, m/m romance, and yaoi on various sites like ff.net and others long vanished, until the founding of Torquere Press in 2003 made it an official genre, where it was written, published, and marketed as part of the romance genre. When Dreamspinner Press opened in 2006, it followed all the same conventions. Before all else, MMR is romance and romance has always been woman-centric. Gay men, like most men, had little to nothing to do with romance until very recent history, with the rise of MMR. Straight men certainly have next to nothing to do with it.

So to say that women appropriated or coopted MMR from gay men is grossly inaccurate. It was inevitable that MMR and gay fiction/love stories would cross paths, but they've been two different entities from their inception.

Gay fiction is predominantly by and for gay men. It was developed from literature, and the trends and conventions therein. It's also influenced by literary requirements/trends that stories about queer people must be punished for being so, and molded by the awful history and present that gay men suffer for daring to not be straight. It focuses on being gay, the gay community, and so forth. These books are gay-centric first, and everything else second.

MMR is predominantly by and for women and queer people, some who simply enjoy reading about two men having sex, but also a great many people who aren't always comfortable expressing and enjoying their own sexuality via MF and FF focused books. It follows the conventions and expectations of the romance genre it's part of, meaning an emphasis on romantic relationships and an emotionally positive and satisfying ending. While they are certainly about queer people, and sometimes the difficulties of being queer, they are romances first.

And this brings us to the final section of this post.


PART THREE: ENTITLEMENT AND SEXISM

Let's tackle the simplest point first: the complaint that women only write MM to get off.

Why exactly is that a problem? Don't gay men use MM to get off? Don't straight men use FF to get off? Don't women and other people use MF and MM and MF and whatever else to get off? So why is it a problem that women and queer people not cis gay men use MM to get off? Why is it only when women are sexually enjoying themselves that men start to get angry? It's not a matter of staying in your lane, because then gay men would be equally angry that straight men use anything other than MF to get off, and lesbians use anything but FF to get off, and they complain about neither. Only about women using MM to get off.

As usual, it's only when women are owning and enjoying their sexuality the way they want instead of the way men tell them to, that men get angry.

So this point is frankly hypocritical and ridiculous. Sexuality is diverse and complicated, and nobody has any right to get angry about what others use to get off (unless it's bring real harm to real people, such as pedophilia).

Which brings us to the next point.

White cis men comprise the most privileged group on earth, and being gay does not absolve them of that privilege, any more than being a queer woman strips me of the privilege that comes from being white.

I'm not denying the problems that exist in MMR. There have been plenty of instances of fetishizing, of women who are homophobic in life enjoying the "dirty" thrill of writing/reading MMR. Of sexual harassment of cover models and porn stars at conventions. The problematic elements of the 'gay for you' trope, the way so many books contain things like forced blowjobs but don't treat them like the rape they are. These are only a few examples, and they need to be better addressed than they have been thus far.

But to say an entire genre is a problem because of bad elements is to basically condemn everything under the sun as wrong because nothing on earth is without problematic elements. Not your favorite person, book, or movie. Even my cats aren't perfect, although Kerberus comes really close.

This latest round started with someone who wanted to talk about why writing mpreg (one of the most contentious elements of MMR) meant so much to them. The comments that have come from gay men (some of them, I want to stress that other gay men have been nothing but supportive and don't deserve the misery brought on by the few) have been distressing, but unsurprising. I've already responded to SA Collins, so I'm not going to rehash him. We're going to focus on three others, and why what they say is so troubling, and what it has to do with the larger matter. We'll start with Liam 'rape comment' Livings:


Think about that. A person makes a heartfelt personal post about what mpreg means to them and a gay man, instead of just chiming in with reasons why he doesn't like it, but can understand why other people might (something many other commenters said) comments with 'I'll just write about women raping each other, first vaginally and then anally and how romantic it is.'

Which was not remotely related to what OP said. A genderfluid person says 'this thing mean a lot to me' and a gay man replies with 'how about if I write about women getting raped, then you'll see how it feels when people write about this thing nobody is making me read.'

And that's not an uncommon reaction with men. A frequent comment that comes up with discussions of equality is 'so if women are equal now does that mean it's okay to hit them?' and when women rant or rave or otherwise dare to talk without bothering to be polite and demure, a depressingly common reply is 'I'm going to come to your house and rape you.'

I once received a DM from a complete stranger who said, 'I'm going to come to your house, tie you up, and throw you in the trunk of my car.' I reported it to FB, who said it wasn't a violation of their policies. A man threatens to kidnap me and he's allowed to carry on without even being banned from FB for a few days.

Somebody who is not a cis man simply says, 'this is why I like X' and a cis man replies with 'well I'm going to write about women getting raped.' He never retracted those words, either. he just doubled down and refused to listen when people tried to correct his misunderstandings regarding the genre and point out why what he'd said was ignorant/harming.







  

What did all this result in for Liam "rape comment" Livings? Pretty much nothing. He just deleted his comments, walked away, and a couple of days later got around to making a shitty non-apology (exactly like SA Collins did) wherein he says bringing the raping of women into the discussion was a "knee-jerk" reaction, which is frankly so distressing that I hope I'm never in a position I have to trust him with my safety.

Now on to our next exhibit, the post of Hans M. Hirschi, well-known in MMR circles for being sexist.

Frankly, his entire post is awful, and filled with ignorance about the romance genre as a whole, not to mention conventions and other components of the business (why never bakers, etc. on the covers of books? Because bakers make their living baking, not being cover models. Same with porn stars – they star in porn, and often do other such work, so they'd be familiar with at least some of the elements of romance/erotica and wouldn't look down on what is essentially paying customers, unlike tax accountants and so forth).

But there are a couple of parts I want to focus on. First, this one:

If anyone were to actually read this, I’d be accused of hating romance, and they might not be entirely wrong. I’ve really begun to dislike the genre as a whole, but not because I dislike love stories, it’s because of the many rules regarding sex in romance and particularly the appropriation of gay men in M/M

Do you notice the qualification? Love stories, not romance. As I mentioned in the previous section, people who don't want to be lumped in with romance writers (but still like the money they think all romance writer make) love to qualify they write 'love stories' and not romance. Even though fairly often their books are, in fact, romance.

Because of the many rules regarding sex in romance

That would be the genre rules, though I've read so many books (MM, FF, MF, MMF, FFM, and more) – that I can honestly say the only hard and fast rule for sex is that it must be consensual to some degree (this is where you get into dubious consent, a staple largely of yaoi but which also has popularity in slash and MM circles) unless the book is heavily focused on consent issues (slave fic being the primary type of story in this category) and related topics.

The next part I want to discuss:

So where do stories about real men go? Those of us (regardless of gender) who write outside the M/M sea label them "gay fiction", but now even that is contested because some of the M/M authors claim that if “M/M is about fiction primarily for women, then I’m not an M/M author. I write gay fiction!” Thank you very much. Now you've just taken our last refuge. I feel like the proverbial Indian being evicted from his reservation! No offense to my native American friends, but you get the point. These people don’t care about us, they care about their balance sheet, and gay men are the pen(ises) to balance their checkbook. #CulturalAppropriation

For the record, there is a lot of confusion and frustration within MMR because so many (men, women, cis, trans, etc) do write books they feel don't belong under the MMR heading – and rightfully so. But MMR is really the only place they can go and be seen, so that's where they go, and both they and readers are left frustrated. This is not a problem unique to gay men, though certainly I can understand the frustration stated here.

I'm not even touching on his "real men" comment, suffice to say it's one more element of the sexism I'm discussing.

I'm mostly focused on the grossly offensive, impressively hypocritical appropriation comments. Worse, it’s not unique to Hirschi, but is in fact an attitude frequently found amongst gay men. Livings even had something to say on the matter:



His experience "may" be wrong. He's cis, he's male, he's white. Being gay doesn't erase that, and being gay and feeling appropriated doesn't mean it's all right to compare how you think fictional gay men are treated to how very real Native Americans were slaughtered and herded until white people were finally content to leave the few that were left alone(ish). It doesn't mean it's okay to threaten women and genderfluid people with rape, even fictional, hypothetical rape.

On to my last exhibit, F.E. Feeley Jr., who thinks MMR is just 'homophobia without the bible verses' which… plenty of homophobia exists without bible verses, but I'll let that one go.

Once you parse through the badly written …whatever that is, you can somewhat ascertain that a man walks into a bathroom where an “Omega” (the one supposed to get pregnant by his alpha) is so “in heat” that he has to bang himself with a vibrator.  It’s pretty gross this idea of dehumanizing someone. The concept of alpha male/ omega male is nothing more than the literary way of walking into a redneck bar with your boyfriend and a well-meaning but slightly inebriated associate asks, “Which one’s the guy and which one’s the girl?” And I think I’m being nice.

He's not being nice. At all. Again, this is an example of a man who ignores all the nuance and history behind a genre, especially since he says that MMR has only been around for ten years.

It's interesting, the vitriol, the violence, that has come from these men regarding mpreg – because all them, to the letter, have spouted horrific things about and to the people who enjoy mpreg. Why is that?

Because sexism. Because pregnancy is generally regarded as a viscerally cis female thing, and the absolute worst thing you can call a man is a woman (slut, bimbo, girly, whore, you're such a girl, stop acting like a woman, bitch beer, girly drinks; the way men have to be male nurses, mannys, wear manbuns and manties, so they're masculine and very much separate from their womanly roots).

What is mpreg? This post is 5000 words long as of this sentence, and I could write at least that much on mpreg alone.

The most basic elements of mpreg is simply that a cis male or cis male equivalent (if the pregnant character is an alien where human definitions and constraints may not apply) gets pregnant, often through highly unconventional means (conventional for this sake means 'doesn't have a uterus or equivalent'). But there is a lot of nuance and variety to the sub-genre.

The most prolific type of this story is called ABO, where people are divided into Alpha, Betas, and Omegas, with Omegas being the cis males who can get pregnant. An almost-universal element of these stories is that the Omegas (and sometimes the others, but always the Omegas) go into heat and the only relief comes from fucking (be it another person, a toy, whatever). Some verses include birth control type drugs, some don't.

Livings' rape comment possibly sprung, at least in some small part, from the fact most of these ABO books deal heavily with consent. It's not uncommon for an Omega to have a horrific past filled with rape and abuse (they're often regarded as 'less'), to live with worries of being too ugly, too used up, too old, etc. to ever find true love, a happy home, loving family, etc. For them to constantly struggle to be seen and treated as equals, instead of always as less, and often not even as human.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Does anybody reading this see what these stories could possibly parallel? Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes not (and sometimes people just want to write a kinky story about a dude crazed with the need for sex that only another hot man can fix. I've watched porn. I know 'sex-crazed' is not a premise unique to women writing/reading ABO MM fic).

I'm barely touching the surface of mpreg and ABO fiction. It's a category that doesn't get the credit it deserves, probably because it's A) mostly written by women and queer people who are not cis gay men; and B) it puts men in a "womanly" position, which men have a long and sordid history of finding repulsive (or are we going to ignore how often gay men describe vaginas and breasts as 'gross' and call themselves gold-star gays if they've never interacted with a vagina? And don't worry, I think gold-star lesbians are equally awful).

What do all these screenshots and quotes demonstrate?

That cis gay men, broadly speaking, think they are entitled to MMR and that women should not be encroaching on it unless they write what and how cis gay men tell them to. Even though MMR as a genre was built by and for women and queer people, and originated with slash and yaoi, whereas gay fiction has always been the domain of cis gay men and originates with literary fiction.

That cis gay men, broadly speaking, are privileged, are sexist, and both of these things show through in the hostility they display when speaking to and about women in MMR. Nothing demonstrates this more than the vitriol that rose up from cis gay men when a single person simply posted briefly about how much a small category in MMR meant to them, a post that hurt no one and simply demonstrated all the nuance that MMR can and does contain. Instead of appreciating that and having a discussion about viewpoints, the goods and bads of various tropes/premises/etc. they made it all about them, the cis gay men, and ignored everything that was said regarding genderfluidity and exploring one's self, and how much such things mean to people who do not identify as straight or cis.

In summary, no single part of literature (in its broadest sense of 'books') belongs to any one person or group. Care should always be taken when an author writes outside their own bounds (like a white person writing about POC, or an abled person writing disabled characters), but we all come to the stories we write by different paths, for different reasons.

Women have, throughout the course of history, been punished simply for existing. Even cis gay men have a long history of treating us like objects, from marrying a woman for convenience before popping off to spend time with a lover, uncaring at how neglected and hurt their wives felt, to the disgusting history of 'fag hags' and threatening things like rape, real or fictional, the moment their temper is up.

Since so much of that treatment was internalized, many of us turned, ironically enough, to men to enjoy those things we were punished for enjoying as simply ourselves. Because we can explore safely, and with far less censure, those things we couldn't explore with spouses, lovers, friends, or even by enjoying het romances.

To the cis gay men who say that we've stolen their house and should obey or move out of their way, I say:

No. We built this house. It's our safe space to simply be. All are welcome, the more the merrier, and gay men definitely should not be entirely ignored and dismissed.

But it was men who drove us to build this house, and we'll be damned if they turn around and take it from us like they have so much else.

If you can't respect us, all the work we've done, and all the reasons we built this house to begin with?

You move.






SOURCES

This comprises a very small number of relevant resources. I no longer possess many of my old books, some sources simply aren't available anywhere I can find, and I've already spent a lot of hours I didn't have on this and there is work I really really need to be getting done. If there is someone willing to contribute further resources in the comments, I'd be eternally grateful. ~M












Yearning Void and Infinite Potential: Online Slash Fandom as Queer Female Space by Alexis Lothian, Kristina Busse, and Robin Anne Reid

Fanfic and Feminism by Morgan Britt









Friday, July 20, 2018

My response to SA Collins's "apology" regarding his behavior and comments on Leta's recent post about mpreg.

His comments are in red. My responses are in black. Troll-like comments will be deleted with prejudice.

Update on my thoughts post my wild flare up yesterday. For the record, I am not proud of how it went down. But here are my thoughts after sleeping on it: I handled it poorly, I realize that. But I saw that post and just saw RED. I am not proud of how it went down. But

See, if you have to qualify your (non-existent) apology with 'but' then you're not apologizing at all. This is literally called a non-apology. Google it.

what it did explain to me is that I am not meant to even associate with that community of writers.

No, that is not what it explained. What it explained was that if you're going to lash out and say awful things, you're going to get called out.

The gay men that are having issue with all of this is because we are constantly shut down for our feelings about characters from within our own community.

You mean the way gay men constantly shut down all the things women say about this being about far more than gay men fucking to us? Did you miss the part where the original author EXPLICITLY SAID that she liked to write mpreg because she's genderfluid? Like, I'm sorry her reasons for writing MM don't line up with your reasons, but that doesn't mean her feelings and motives and goals are any less valid.

All under the blanket of "it's fiction" and "I'm an oppressed group too (women)" and while both of those are true, it doesn't excuse the fetishization of gay men in those stories or how we're blown out of proportion at cons where it is closer to a hen party at a gay nightclub and things get way out of hand - all in the name of "good fun."

I mean, I'm not going to deny there is a problem with fetishizing in the genre. This is a discussion that's been happening since the dawn of slash and yaoi, and probably well before then. But one, ALL cons have these sorts of things? Know what else is full of cocks and glorifying gay men (often to the exclusions of all else)? PRIDE. You think a ridiculous romance convention is bad, try going to pride, where you'll get to enjoy seeing men wearing dildo dresses and many other amazing sites. Why is it okay at pride but not a convention that celebrates queer romance?

Should women be grabbing the cover models or touching men without permission or otherwise harassing them? Hell no. That shit is not okay. All conventions should have a zero harassment policy and anyone who disobeys it gets thrown out. I personally do not care for all the penis knitting and strippers and all else. Mostly it's an ace thing. But there are plenty of people who have fun with that, because in their day to day lives they can't celebrate being a romance/erotica/etc writer and that's what they do at these conventions. Exactly like they do at pride. And no, it's not different, because entire swaths of romance writers are queer, or are allies, exactly the same demographic that shows up at pride.

We are at a point where our very existence is on the line here. That fear is great and eats at us constantly.

You think the rest of the queer community doesn't suffer these things? I'm sorry, but that is highly privileged and ego-centric. There is more than G in the queer community, and ALL of us live in fear of a great many things, up to and including being murdered.

The anger and venom is born from the way that fetishization keeps escalating to the point of absolute absurdity. And all the while the half-naked (sometimes fully naked) posts keep going up. Then we (gay men) are hit back with - "well, women have been dealing with the male gaze leering at us - so turnabout fair play."

Anyone who says turnabout is fair play is, frankly, an asshole. But the majority of women just want to be allowed to enjoy things, to read, and write, without men telling us what we should be doing and how we should be doing. Ever notice that no one ever tells straight women they can't write men? No one ever tells men they can't write women. Literally the only group harassed this much about who and what they write are women (or anyone not cis enough by men's standards) by men. So yeah, we get fed up after a point.

Like yes, own voices and such is important. Especially for minorities, who so often get shoved aside so us white people can tell their story instead. However, that doesn't mean we can't write things. Interestingly, I wrote a story about a transman who gets pregnant. It's one of my most popular books – the most popular in the High Court series, in fact. I'm cis. I also wrote about abuse, none of the main characters were white, and many other things that are, strictly speaking, outside my purview. Because no single genre or premise or trope or anything belongs to anyone person. Do I need to be writing a story about the struggle of Native Americans? Hell, no. But can I write a story that includes Native American characters? Yes.

Uh, you'd think then that those women would be far MORE sensitive about turning that gaze in our direction - but no. We're just shut down and ignored. It's a case where we just can't win.

Are you sure you're shut down and ignored because women are insensitive? Are you really sure? Because what I see most often is writers who take their craft damned seriously. It's hard to write a romance novel if you don't care about people. There are always exceptions, you see them in het and sapphic fiction and YA and everything else. But by and large, MM writers are in fact pretty damn good at writing PEOPLE. But it's also important to remember that we bring our experiences, wishes, wants, and goals to the table. Just because they don't line up with what gay men want doesn't mean we're being dismissive or insensitive.

The problem here is that too many gay men seem to think MM romance should belong to them and only them. But that's not true of any genre or subgenre. Plenty of men write romance, you might be surprised to learn. Usually under pennames, but so what? Most authors I know use pennames, for varied reasons that are valid. Plenty of queer people write straight romance. Huge swaths of lesbian erotica are written by men. Do you see women whining and complaining that they shouldn't do that? No. Because no genre belongs to any single group, and the reasons women enjoy MM go way, way beyond 'it's hot'.

Leta Blake writes mpreg because of her genderfluidity. I tend to write extremely emotional characters because I'M emotional, and it's something I felt I've been punished for by society and various communities all my life. I once wrote a book where a character attempts suicide because my brother's attempts at suicide haunted me. I write MM because sometime het romance just strikes bad chords with me. Because I feel more at home in queer romance, and for decades MM was all that you could really find unless you wanted Bury Your Gays.

Very few people in MM can do it for the money. Most of us do it for deeply personal reasons we shouldn't have to explain to anyone. Some of us do it because yes, it's hot, and that's a perfectly valid reason. Cis gay men can post pictures of half-naked men all over their blogs, use them as twitter banners, but the moment we do it we're just gross fetishists who should do as the men tell us? I don't think so.

To see MM book recs where requests are so completely tone-deaf in how they are looking for the "next read" is truly disheartening. It's like what check boxes do I want to read today. It categorizes us and we have to see that. And when we raise the issue - even in a calm collected manner - we are immediately cast aside. And that anger builds. I bu

Um. Do you know how genre fiction works? Literally ALL genre fiction works this way. It's not an MM thing.

"I'm looking for a medieval-ish farm girl turned hero fantasy but with no magic."
"I'm looking for hard sci-fi with ghost in the machine and stranded travelers"
"I'm looking for secret baby friends to lovers."
"Anyone know of an urban fantasy where humans know about the paranormal and a human and elf have to cooperate to solve a murder?"
"I'm looking for a trapped together, one of them is a killer suspense"
"I'm looking for a YA boarding school murders"
"Is there an MM may/december about a grandfather and an ex-SEAL?"

I NEVER said she should only write what I stated. To my mind, it was a missed opportunity. That's what I was trying to do in the midst of my anger.

Well, let's go over these comments of his, while we're here.

Personally I've never liked MM Romance - most of it is laughable in the extreme.

Condescending and dismissive of the hard work that writers put in, and all the readers who enjoy their work. This is also a pretty typical opinion held by people (predominantly men) about romance in general. Also the same comments you get on what is termed 'chick-lit' and YA, the other two genres dominated by women writers.

Like, I'm not sure why I should listen to someone who clearly already holds me in contempt and thinks my writing is, in his terms, nothing but "paperdolls"

(has Collins ever read most of general literature? Because I have some news about the likes of Salinger, et al.)

Then why not write about YOUR segment of the community and give them a voice?

Hey, homes, here's an interesting tidbit: NOTHING ELSE SELLS. Nothing else is taken as seriously or considered as interesting as MM. I just released an FF book that I think is cute and fun, but it hasn't sold a tenth as well as my MM stories do. And my recent trilogy? That had two MMF stories and one MMM? Guess which book sold the most? I could write the same premise twice, one MM, one FF, and I promise you the MM book would be loved and the FF would be accused of being boring and predictable and "just not my thing."

With rare exception, nobody gives FF or trans or anything else the time of day. Because mostly sexism, and also rampant queerphobia (of which a lot of gay men are guilty, nobody has been crueler to other queer people the way cis white gay men have, though they are followed by cis white lesbians, which correlates with the fact that white people are usually the problem).

And most writers want, you know, a career and money to buy groceries and maybe something nice once in awhile. That’s not a crime.

NEXT POINT: not everyone in the queer community is comfortable writing about their own demographic, for an entire host of reasons. I enjoy everything. Yes, I've written mostly MM to this point, partly because I do need to eat, but also because that's where most of the fiction was for a long long time. Some women don't like writing/reading about women, some people don't like reading MF. I have friends who are deeply uncomfortable reading about women having sex, for reasons that are none of your business.

It's interesting. When my brother plays WoW, his favorite character is female. Nobody thinks that's weird. But when my mom plays as one of her male characters, she catches all kinds of hell (nevermind my mom has something of a legendary status in WoW she's so good at it)

And a lot of the things that gay men say to women in MM remind me a lot of that stupid double standard my mother endures.

So don't ask people why they don't write for their section of the queer community. One, you don't always know what their section is, and two, sometimes people just want to write something that has a chance of selling until they're on solid enough career footing they CAN write the books they really want. Plenty of authors have done this, including Dickens, Poe, and Doyle. Funny nobody lambasts men when they do anything for money.

Why keep appropriating men for your personal, professional and monetary gains? And let's be clear: it's ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. It's simply that MM romance sells.

I already covered this, really, but the funny part is that most authors barely break even, if they manage to, and only a tiny percentage of writers make enough at their writing to live on. Most can just splurge on starbucks or cover a small bill or two. And that's true of writers in general. Very very few make even decent money at it. So while yeah, MM does sell better than FF, etc it doesn't even come close to what het romance writers make, not even close to what fantasy, mystery, etc. authors make. So this is an empty, ignorant remark spoken by somebody who is not terribly informed about the nitty gritty of the genre.

You claim to be a member of the community then ask yourself, what can I do to augment and support MY part of the community and give voice to non-gender, trans, fluid character as the FOCAL point - not some side character so you can stay smack dab in the middle of MM because it sells? Now there's a thought. Takers? Anyone?

Umm. Lots of authors these days have ace, demi, pan, bi, trans, and more. If you'd like recs, I'm happy to provide them. I'd go ahead and add them but this post is already too long.

And if a reasoned conversation happens now that I've raged, then I am fully willing to take the hit to the chin for this community. I'll fall on the sword so the real conversation can be had with respect and dignity all the way around.

Well, here is your reasoned conversation. And it's not falling on the sword when you're the one who messed up in the first place. It's called atoning. But given you never once said "I apologize for my behavior" you haven't really done that either.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Plagiarism is NEVER okay


I honestly had no desire to write this post. I'm tired of fighting with people I considered friends. I'm tired of finding that I've burned another bridge. I'm tired o feeling like my entire damn community hates me. I just want to be left in peace to write, publish, and be with my family and friends.

But I have my lines, and I got an email this morning that reminded me, viscerally and painfully, why plagiarism is one of them. Why I will never forgive the likes of Cassandra Clare, Santino Hassell (who stole people's LIVES) and countless others.

The short answer, that I shouldn't need to give at all, is that stealing is wrong. Stealing someone's work, whether you get paid for it or not, IS WRONG. Women all over the world know what it's like to have their work stolen by men while they're ignored. POC all over the world know what it's like to have their history stolen, to have things that POC did instead claimed by white people. This is never okay, even if the author "only" steals it for fanfic.

And in a better world, that would be more than explanation enough. Stealing someone else's work and claiming it as your own is wrong. The end.

The problem, though, is that whether they realize it or not, too often people do not truly see authors (all artists) as people ourselves. They see us as little better than a store they can walk into whenever they want to grab what they want to read - and if it's not there, they get upset. They get really fucking callous. Sometimes they even get downright cruel.


No, the author in question did not die.

But her aunt died. Then her uncle died. Then her father died, after years of fighting with a debilitating disease. Then she got injured. Then she had to deal with her mother having cancer.

And authors don't get things like bereavement. Even that one small thing, we don't get. Most readers are kind and understanding, but when you're sitting on your couch crying because your life fucking sucks - because your cat just died, and money is a problem again, and you don't know why you're in constant pain - it's the 'why can't she do her fucking job like everyone else?' comments that stick most in your mind.

What does all this have to do with plagiarism? If you haven't figured it out, I'll get there.

That email I got this morning. It was from a very sweet author of ours at LT3. Their father died on Friday. Back when they knew it was only a matter of time, LT3 made sure their first book would be out in time for their father to see it before he passed. We put it in print, even though it was too short, so their father could see it and hold it. You can imagine how much that meant to the author.

We got another email a few months ago, from an author asking if they could withdraw their book and have rights reverted. Because the cancer their doctor initially thought was minor was in fact terminal, and they had little time left, and wanted to take care of as much as they could before they passed so their family wasn't left dealing with it. Despite my nearly twenty years experience with words, I cannot describe to you how devastating that email was.

Now picture any one of these authors finding out their work had been plagiarized. Put yourself in their shoes. An author too distraught and in emotional turmoil and grief to write, and who is still catching up now on all the books she'd like to finish. An author who dedicated their first book to the father who died soon after. An author who will never get to write a second book.

How do you think it would feel to them, or their surviving family, to learn that someone had turned part - or all - of their story into a Snarry fic? Into a stuffed novel on KU? Into an international bestseller?

Authors are people. We feel all the safe joy and anguish and amusement and pain as the rest of the world. Sometimes we write just to write. Sometimes we write according to a prompt. And sometimes, when the pain has nowhere else to go, we bleed on the page so we can breathe again.

And then we wake up one day and find that someone has stolen our work and claimed it for their own, without doing ANY of the things that we had to in order to put those words on the page.

It has also been well established that plagiarists are repeat offenders; they never do it just once. Even after they get caught, they either find a way to continue on, or they start over under a new identity and keep going.

THAT is why I will NEVER tolerate plagiarists, no matter if they "write" fanfic, published fic, poetry, or whatever. That is why they frankly can burn in hell so far as I'm concerned. If you disagree, that's your prerogative, but this is my line.


Megan


Friday, July 13, 2018

WIP - Like No Other

Alright, peeps. I'm in sort of a glum and frustrated mood, but writing as ever cheers me up and I'm really excited whenever I get to work on this one.

This is a VERY VERY rough draft. PLEASE forgive all the terrible Italian, etc. that will be corrected further down the road by betas and such. There are probably also brackets where I haven't come up with names because A) Italian/Japanese is too hard for me to figure out on my own or b) I haven't decided what to go with yet. There are also typos, inconsistencies, etc etc.

I also have about 3k+ written on the next Anti-Heroes story, about Byron and Leland, but that's for my Patreon ^^

This is the prologue and first chapter. I hope peeps enjoy!


A Sad Farewell to an LT3 Author

There are things that have come up, being a publisher, than I did not anticipate though frankly I should have. One of those, sadly, is the...