In all of the years that I’ve been reading gay erotic fiction online, even before I began writing my own, I can’t say that I have ever been overly concerned with the gender of the person writing the story. There were stories that I thoroughly enjoyed, some that were ‘entertaining’ for a while…but not much else, and some that I turned away from and never went back to. However, it wasn’t until I started self publishing my own ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords that I began to notice something that, frankly, confused me. As many of you know, I don’t want to spam anyone with advertisements and the like, but I have no issues with promoting my work wherever and whenever I can. And that’s when, while browsing through the many community forums and perusing the comments within…I kept finding requests for M/M fiction that was written by men, specifically, and NOT by women. Well…I thought that was weird when I first saw a post like that, because…why would it matter, right? But as I kept reading, other posts like this kept popping up again and again. Some were (In my opinion) so harsh that they were basically putting a Little Rascals, ‘No Girls Allowed’, sign on the door to their exclusive clubhouse meetings. It was at that point that I realized that this wasn’t just the sole opinion of one or two people with particular tastes and requirements for their fiction tastes anymore. This was an actual bias against female writers thriving off of gay fiction. Something that I didn’t even know was a ‘thing’ at the time.
So…since I only have one point of view and one perspective on the situation, I decided to ask a community of my online writing peers from GayAuthors.org their thoughts on the issue. I am happy to say that all came out and gave me some real insight on this, and I’d love to share them with you! So, buckle up! And let’s get into this!
Now, whether you’re a male or female writer of gay erotica, there are many talented authors who have never been a victim to this kind of discrimination. In fact, there are authors that, like me, didn’t even know that it existed until it was presented to them. Cassie Q is a well known author on GA, and she had this to say:
Cassie Q – “Wow, so this is news to me? I had no idea that there was any kind of bias against female writers. I’ve never had anyone tell me that they think I don’t write as well as a man does.
If there are people out there who think females shouldn’t write gay fiction, then screw them. I’ll write whatever the hell I want.”
Totally agree! Hehehe, and nobody’s told her that she can’t write as well as a man, because it’s just not true! So…kudos!
Krista goes a bit more in depth with:
Krista – “I, personally, have never experienced negativity. I came to GA when there were a lot of authors and Viv and other female authors were already well established here. On nifty, I don’t think people cared one way or the other, but I never hid the fact that I was female. The most asked question that I receive is, “How do I know the male mind so well?” or.. “How do I portray male characters so well?” Stuff like that. Then questions about sex, how do I write m/m sex scenes as a woman.
To be honest, I feel that I am just writing about people falling in love. The fact that they just happen to both be male is just the major underlying theme in the genre that I write. We’re not really alien beings, there aren’t worlds that separate the male and female genders. So me being able to portray a male character as a female isn’t a massive challenge that I’m undertaking. I don’t go into writing thinking that this character is male so he should act a certain way or that this character is female so she should act a certain way. I like to think that I go into writing thinking the characters are individuals governed by the way I want them to be portrayed. If they are stereotypically male, fine. As long as the characters, male or female, are of my creation and portrayed the way I want, I feel like I’m doing a good job. I’m definitely not doing anything special, just writing the way I want to write.
As far as sex goes, again, it isn’t all that different. What makes them real is how well you have written the characters engaged in intimacy to begin with. The mindset of sex between a man and a woman, between two women, or between two men cannot be universally different either. The reactions, fears, feelings, etc are similar so even my life experience as a heterosexual woman is somewhat beneficial in writing m/m scenes, especially those dealing with, “first timers.” For those things I cannot know, like physical sensations, etc there is always research.”
And this is the whole point, right? To be able to write a convincing love story between two people and having it resonate with an audience that came looking for such a concept. “People falling in love.” How could any writer, regardless of gender, sexual preference, race, religion, or age, go wrong in putting their specific point of view out there for people to read?
To quote ‘Comicfan’:
Comicfan – “I’ve never had an issue with a woman writer. Hell, I have had beta and editors that were female, and trust me, they have no problem calling out an issue with a character in my stories – regardless if the character is straight, gay, bi, alien, or whatever.
When I do have an issue is when a story just doesn’t make sense. That has nothing to do with the writer’s gender and everything to do with their ability to tell a story.
Hell, we have some very talented authors here. If people start saying women can’t, or men can’t, or transgendered people can’t, then we eliminate so many stories, views, and new understandings. When people use blanket comments or broad strokes they do away with the fine details that make up so much of the world.”
And that brings up an issue that I’ve thought about myself on occasion, to be honest. For readers of my stories, you may notice that there are a wide variety of characters from many different walks of life, and there always has been. But when it comes to something that I’m unfamiliar with, or don’t have first-hand knowledge of…I do try to get some personal insight from people that know that perspective, personally.
One example…I have a character in the “Billy Chase” series who is a female to male transgendered character. It was a story that I wanted to tell and approach with the dignity and grace that it deserved. But, I’m not trans. So I went to a few trans Shackers from the site to ask some questions and make sure that the portrayal of that character was genuine and not just a list of stereotypes. I didn’t want it to come off as insulting or condescending. But how can I be sure that I’m presenting a true image of a trans character when I feel like I’m standing on the ‘outside’ of the situation? Does that count as exploitation? It wasn’t my intention…but am I a fair judge of that?
Without citing the sources directly, I have done some research online about this ideology, and I have seen comments where it has been suggested that women in the industry who write M/M erotic fiction are actually ‘appropriating’ a culture that they know nothing about. And are possibly even fetishising gay relationships through a heterosexual lense. Sad, but true. These are some of the things that I’ve been reading while putting this article together, and I’m determined to try to understand why there’s a percentage of erotica that feels this way.
One possibility may come from the descriptions of sex in stories of this nature. Now, this doesn’t apply to every female that’s ever written a gay story…but the truly amazing writers aren’t the once who get used as an example when it comes to this discussion. They go to the bottom of the barrel in order to make their point. So…the response is understood. Why wouldn’t it be?
BHopper2 and BlindAmbition make good points when they say:
BHopper2 – “I’ve said it before, my only criticism of any Gay Fiction writer, male or female, is how some sex scenes are so badly written, you know they were written by people who have never had gay sex. There are some things, and some positions, that are just not biologically possible. For Example: two characters are barebacking, and the top shoots his load inside the bottom. The bottom is not going to, “felt his seed splash across my intestinal walls.” Nope. Not Possible. Go back to Biology 101.”
BlindAmbition – “I have read good and bad by women. Just as I have men. I have seen some women clearly not grasp M/M relationships. That’s not to say they can’t, or shouldn’t. It’s more understand and research before writing.”
I can’t help but to agree on that front. That’s not to say that there aren’t PLENTY of female writers who are in tune with the idea of gay sex, and don’t hit it right on the head every single time. But for those who don’t? Why do it? Is that a form of exploitation of gay culture? Or, is it simply a writer exploring themselves in a genuine way? One that deserves to be respected and embraced as a part of the gay erotic fiction genre?
It can create a conflict when you first begin to think about it…but believe me, hehehe, it passes. Because, at the end of the day, I have read stories by some of our heavy hitting female authors on this site alone that can’t be disputed or denied. Stories that touch the heart, as well as ‘naughtier’ places, without fail! Authors who deserve recognition and respect for what they’ve created, despite whatever gender politics that some people have put before the display of their obvious talent and understanding.
I believe that Page Scrawler said it just right:
Page Scrawler – “Honestly, in my experience, I’ve seen some (non-GA) female writers pull off gay fiction more successfully than a few male writers.” ” I don’t know what it is. I guess women are better at relating to other people, including gay men? *Shrugs* Or, maybe straight men are completely clueless about how gay men think.”
Perhaps! Hehehe! Or maybe, they’re just as capable of bringing love and romance (and yes, SEX) to a story that they’re passionate about as the rest of us. I really do believe that. And there are years worth of quality examples to prove that if you know where to look!
(And thanks to the listing on GayAuthors and this article…you now know where to look! Hehehe!)
No female author should ever be made to feel like they have to put in any more effort or heart into their stories than the rest of us. If you have a story to tell, and you believe in it, then WRITE it! Write what you feel, and let the readers decide. Not the ones who ‘claim’ to be readers and disregard your genius before reading a single word of what you have to say. But REAL readers! The ones who evaluate you on the merit of your writing, and your ability to move people with theheart you’re willing to bring to the table. They’re the ones that truly count in the long run.
A few more quotes from male/female writers on this that I HAD to add to this article:
Northie – “I have an ambiguous name, but that was chosen long before I started writing. Go to my profile and I don’t hide. I’ve not had any adverse comments about being female. Because of another topic here on GA, I did ask my beta reader specifically to comment on whether my male characters came across as truly male. His answer was ‘yes’.
In many ways I find women difficult to write about, mostly, I think, because I relate better to men than women. Many situations that characters find themselves in are universal, which only leaves some which might be thought of as ‘specific’. We’re all writers here, with imagination, capacity to empathize and an ability to research. It shouldn’t matter who we are.”
Headstall – “Maybe it’s because I’m a man that I have heard those disparaging comments about women writing gay fiction. I don’t get it, and I give it no consideration or credence at all. If someone writes an unbelievable scene, it’s not because of their gender… it’s because they are putting the work in. And in my opinion, there is no ‘right’ kind of gay, so there is no ‘right’ kind of gay character.
When I first came to GA, two of my favorite writers were Cia and Nephilym. As far as I know, they’re both women. My favorites list has greatly expanded since then, and gender plays no part whatsoever. I won’t even guess whether that list is balanced between male and female writers, because it doesn’t matter. A good writer is a good writer. Period.”
Renee Stevens – “I’ve seen this time and time again and it frustrates me to no end. I’m a woman and I’ve never hidden it. It’s sad that some women who write gay male fiction feel the need to write under male pen names (or ambiguous pen names) for this exact reason. The one that annoys me the most is when I see someone saying about a female writer who writes gay male fiction, “You can’t write what you’ve never experienced.” If that were truly the case, then there could be no fiction period. All stories would have be some type of non-fiction. We wouldn’t have sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or any other number of genres. The characters from a single author would have to have the same personality, the same types of jobs, etc (ie. cookie cutter characters). As a woman who writes gay fiction, one of the most important things, besides research, is my team. I’m lucky in that I’ve always had gay friends who are willing to read what I write, and they’ve never hesitated to tell me “Sweetie, we love you, but this scene just isn’t possible/doesn’t work” or similar comments. They’re not afraid to tell me when I’ve screwed something up but they also tell me when I’ve got something right.”
Caz Pedroso – “I have been very lucky so far to not have been subjected to any of the nastiness of people thinking I shouldn’t be writing about gay men. I have, however, seen it happen to others. Authors have been forced to shut down their Facebook profiles and reopen under different names to try and get away from the people targeting them.
The only backlash I’ve seen has been in real life, losing friends (who obviously weren’t friends and so don’t matter) and having to change Churches due to bigots.
If we follow the hypothetical premise that men can only write men and women can only write women it would make for very boring stories. By that premise, I should be writing lesbian romance, since I can’t write about men and therefore, by extension, shouldn’t write straight romance let alone gay romance. Well, that would mean I’d still be writing about something I know nothing about. So where would it end? Of course, my answer is that people should write what they’re comfortable writing and what their muse compels them to write. And other people should butt out and just not read the stories if they don’t like/agree with them.”
Valkyrie – “I’ve seen negative comments written about women who write m/m fiction, but have never had any directed specifically at me. Like Renee, I don’t understand women writers who feel the need to assume a male persona when publishing their stories. And honestly… they’re not fooling as many people as they think they are. Writing is a craft that has nothing to do with gender or sexual identity. Establishing a good beta/editing team is essential, and I’m lucky enough to have formed a close relationship with my beta reader, who happens to be a gay man. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me “guys don’t act this way” or if a scene is implausible. I’ve never felt the need to hide who I am. I’m a pretty open and honest person, so it’s not in my nature to try to be something I’m not.”
I want to thank everyone who gave me comments and stuff to quote in this article from GayAuthors.org! If you get a chance, and want to bear witness to what a talented female writer can do with a gay story, keep these names in mind! Look them up at GayAuthors.org and use the search engine if you have to! This is what is possible if you guys give these stories the chance they deserve! And for those who refuse, well…this is what you’ve been missing out on! So…good luck, riding the ‘lesser than’ train! 😛
I’d like to end this article with a rather deep and relevant quote from Cia, detailing what might be behind this mentality, and may one day be a part of erasing it for good:
Cia – “The crux of the issue is our perception of gender. A man in love with a woman who curls around them and watches a sappy movie and gets tears in his eyes is a sensitive man (and oh so sexy). A man in love with a man who curls around them and watches a sappy movie and gets tears in his eyes is too feminine, especially if written by a female author. I’ve said it time and again, but we won’t get over this issue until we get over the base assumptions about what constitutes masculine and feminine behavior. Then we can stop attacking authors for writing their characters in those ways.
Men can write women. Women can write men. Businessmen can write serial killers, doctors can write blue collar construction workers, and vice versa. If someone creates a one-dimensional character, or constantly adds in actions that don’t fit the character, that reflects far more on their research skills and respect for the craft than their gender.”
Well said! That’s a true queen talking to you guys! Hehehe, so take notice!
Take care, you guys! And HUGE thanks to everyone who weighed in from GayAuthors on this topic! You guys were a great help! The response was overwhelming! I hope I did ya proud! 😛