September 16, 2014

The Fetishizing of Queer Sexuality.
A Response.

Posted on 19. Aug, 2010 by in Opinion

As a lesbian, I came of age having my sexuality co-opted for the titillation of straight men and even women. No skin mag was complete without the requisite faux lesbian spread because every straight man’s fantasy was first to watch two women together and then join them.

The first lesbian novels I ever read were purloined pulps found in the homes of people whose children I babysat for in high school. At the time I didn’t put together the fact that these straight couples were using my lesbian life to fuel their sexual fantasies, but that was definitely the case.

One of my prompts for writing about lesbian lives as an adult has always been to portray lesbians in their entirety—we aren’t just pretty nubile “girls” doing that ridiculous tongue thing that no real lesbian has ever done in her life. We have lives beyond what we do in bed. And what we do in bed never involves a man.

Years ago when filmmaker Lizzie Borden made her iconic lesbian/political faux documentary “Born in Flames” she told me in an interview that she wanted to portray lesbians as real women, not objects of male desire–she wanted to have them seen through the female gaze, not the male eroticizing fantasy gaze.

In her pivotal semiotic essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey redefines the gaze through which we view the world. The male gaze takes precedence over the female gaze, asserts Mulvey. In the male gaze, male power supercedes female action dehumanizing the female. It is an unequal perspective. In the female gaze, women view women and men as equals: their perspective is its own power. They have agency.

Queer writing gives queers their own agency in describing and portraying their own lives.

In the September issue of OUT magazine, there’s a feature on M/M writers with a focus on Alex Beecroft and  Erastes (a 2009 Lambda Award finalist).

If you aren’t familiar with M/M fiction here’s what it is: Straight women fetishizing the lives of gay men.

Most of us who identify as queer understand the complexities of sexuality. Many of us struggled with claiming our identities and defining them. Were that not the case, we would not have the alphabet soup of the LGBTIQ community, would we?

That said, fetishizing the sexuality of others is still a blatant form of sexism, homophobia, racism. When you fetishize another’s sexuality, you make them less than. You make them Other.

Read Lizzy Shramko's Take on the M/M Romance Phenom. (Click Here)

This is the basic tenet of M/M fiction. Straight women pose as gay men—all these writers have either taken male pen names, like Erastes (who has actually had a male bio to go with her male pen name) or names that are, like Beecroft’s purposefully gender-vague—and write about gay male relationships.

Or what they think are gay male relationships.

In the pulps I discovered as a teenager, there was always a “male” lesbian and a “female” lesbian. The “female” lesbian was always weak and easily led away by a “real” man because a woman in capris was not the same thing as a man in a business suit with a penis instead of a dildo and never could be.

From the vantage point of the male gaze of these books—because the majority were written by men (Ann Bannon and Valerie Taylor aside)—the women could never be happy together because two women was a perversity. A man was needed to complete a woman. That was the inviolable paradigm. (Straight people are still arguing this in the marriage equality fight.)

The M/M genre–a romance sub-genre within a sub-genre–is all about the fantasy and the festish. As male pulp writers and pornographers wrote about lesbians as sexual objects, so too do the M/M writers.

In the M/M stories–a majority of which are historical romances in which class and age inequities prevail–there is a “male” man and a “female” man. As in lesbian pulps written by men, class and power inequities force the younger, “female” partner into situations that would be untenable in a real queer relationship.

A feature of M/M novels is often rape. A stronger man rapes a younger, more feminine man. This was often a feature of lesbian pulps and lesbian porn written by men. The “male” lesbian raped the “female” lesbian, making it easier for her to desert the lesbian for a “real” man because there was suddenly no difference between a lesbian and a “real” man.
In actual gay male relationships, men don’t rape each other. That breaks the bond–just as it would in a heterosexual relationship. That these women writers don’t know that is part of the fetishizing of the gay male bond.

In “Sex and the City,” the women occasionally watched gay male porn. In the new film about lesbian parenting, “The Kids Are All Right,” the two lesbians also watch gay male porn. In “Sex and the City,” the reason for watching is clear: there are no women to interfere with the sexuality of the men. But the action is voyeuristic, not paternalistic.

In “The Kids Are All Right,” the women explain that they watch it because of the excitement of the action–and the oppositeness of their own sexuality.

Neither of these scenes read as fetishistic–it’s voyeuristic but it’s also approbative. These women are not interested in appropriating, changing or reviling gay male sexuality or relationships.

In M/M fiction, there is an inherent disrespect of the gay male relationship. Even descriptions of gay male sex and the language used to describe it is wrong. The term “fisting” is used repeatedly as a synonym for masturbation. (Try and envision that physical anomaly!) The term “honeyed cleft”–long a term used for the female sexual entrance–is used to describe the male anus.

Read Dick Smart's feature article on M/M Romance author P.A. Brown (Click Here)

The edict for writing has always been: Write what you know. Alas, that is what the M/M writers are doing–they are writing straight male/female relationships but putting them in gay male bodies.

We can blame ourselves a bit for this unholy trend. The queer mainstreamers have repeated “we’re no different from straight people” for so long that obviously some people have come to believe it.

Except we are different. Our relationships and sexuality are sacrosanct in their differentness from heterosexual relationships.

M/M writers defend their misrepresentations and fetishizations with this simple declarative: Writers write about vampires and werewolves and they aren’t vampires or werewolves.

But vampires and werewolves are not actual people. Seriously. Not.

Imagine a group of white writers writing only about people of color and then telling those people of color that they know better about their lives than the people of color themselves.

Universal outrage–and deservedly so.

Some say the M/M trend, slight as it is, is indicative of some larger trend of acceptance by straight people of queer lives. That’s like saying slavery was acceptance by white people wanting blacks in their lives.

I would add onto Mulvey’s reinterpretation of the male gaze with the addition of a queer gaze: Can straight writers write about queers? Of course they can. But the M/M genre is not that. It’s about reinterpreting gay male relationships for heterosexuals in a fashion that is fetishistically sexual and which thus can be accepted–because it is ultimately negative. The straight readership may not see it, but queers do.

When we embrace the straight fetishizing of our relationships, we aren’t heading toward acceptance or tolerance. When we give straight writers the power to say we got our own relationships wrong and they know better, we are embracing our own oppression. That’s at the core of M/M writing–not the queer gaze but a distorted gaze. And that does not broaden perspective on our lives even a little bit.

Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She won the 2013 SPJ Award for Enterprise Reporting in May 2014. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and a contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review. Her literary criticism has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. She was book critic for the Baltimore Sun for 17 years and reviewed for PW for 20. Her book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for cultural&historical fiction. Her novels, Ordinary Mayhem and Cutting will both be published in late fall 2014. @VABVOX

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105 Responses to “The Fetishizing of Queer Sexuality.
A Response.”

  1. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 22 August 2010 at 2:37 AM #

    Oh, and before I forget, I left Tamara Allen out when I listed women writing interesting , fully realized gay men. “Whistling in the Dark” is a beauty of a book, a shining example of quality m/m.

  2. Elisa 22 August 2010 at 4:37 AM #

    Mrs Victoria, of course I know that both E. Lynn Harris than Terrance Dean are black man. Please, don’t think I’m so new or unresearched to don’t know it. In the same comment I wrote “if a black gay man”. Plus even if I didn’t know, I have the print book so both in the cover than in the back cover the authors’ photos are quite clear. Plus, more than one I featured E. Lynn Harris in my blog, he is one of my Top 100 authors, and now that he has so prematurely left us, it’s my point to try to remember him even further. You probably don’t know me, but I always try to give content to any of my post, and it’s my point to talk only of things I know.

  3. Martha W 22 August 2010 at 11:31 AM #

    Okay, I gave myself the required cooling off period of a day and, so, here I am to comment. Because I cannot allow myself to pass this by.

    To lay all my cards on the table, I’m white, female, married, have two young boys and I write gay romance.

    I have quite a bit to say so bear with me.

    First, I agree. There is a good bit of m/m or gay romance out there that is not on par with what most writers would call “good writing”. But in the same token, there are a lot of poetry, literary works, teen fic, fan fic, text books, non-fiction, memior, and other commercial fiction that are not to my taste either. So I simply don’t read them. I don’t bash them, I don’t call everyone’s attention to how god-awful I think they are. I just don’t read them.

    One key understanding that I believe is missing from many of these comments is with the word fiction. Unless you write non-fiction, everything has an element of the author’s imagination/opinion and therefore is not accurate to real life.

    Now to address some of what you, Victoria, put in your opinion article.

    Not only have you classified any straight female author of gay romance as “Straight women fetishizing the lives of gay men.” But wait… it gets better. We’re also sexist, homophobic and racist to boot.

    Aside from the obvious, that this is a gross overgeneralization, a fetish by definition means to hold something in awe or in high regard. How does that jive with the hate-filled connotations that you want to associate with it? I also have a shoe fetish… does that mean I hate shoes? Do you see how that sounds? Ridiculous, right? I understand what you might be trying to say here… but fetish is not the word you’re looking for.

    Just because I’m straight, doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the complexities of sexuality. Mine is just different than yours, Paul’s and Joe-Bob’s down the street. Everyone struggles with their identity. Everyone. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, what-the-heck-ever. Everyone. Do you know what we’d have if there weren’t all those letters??? Men who liked men. Women who liked women. Men who like women. Women who like men. Period. Stereotypes are placed on other humans by everyone… including me and you.

    I agree with you on one very important thing in your article. I despise when others hide who they are. That’s not to say I don’t like pen names. I have one. But it is feminine and my bio says who I am. I simply have it so my children don’t have to face the backlash of other parents’ ridiculous homophobic tendencies. If they were older, I wouldn’t. But one poster on this site (I don’t believe she’s made an appearance on this particular post yet) is a female posting as a man. That’s just deceitful and wrong. Here I whole-heartedly agree with you.

    I don’t agree, however, that I can’t write gay romance simply because I’m not gay. Nothing would ever get written if authors couldn’t write what they wanted. If I only wrote what my physical being is – a straight, white woman – what would I write? Because according to this theory, I can’t write the hero because I’m not a man. I can’t write a gay/lesbian/trans protagonist because I’m straight. I can’t write a villian because I haven’t killed anyone, robbed a bank, stolen money, etc… how boring would that be?

    It is fiction for a reason. Fiction serves the purpose of allowing a reader to escape from whatever is going on in their day. It isn’t an educational tool, it isn’t a platform for the author to say, “This is what you should be like.” Or it shouldn’t be anyway. It should be entertaining in some fashion.

    You said: As male pulp writers and pornographers wrote about lesbians as sexual objects, so too do the M/M writers.

    In regard to gay romance, well, yeah. If I wanted real life, I’d ask my friend to come sit at his house for a while and watch him with his husband. I don’t read or write gay erotic romance for average Joes making popcorn. I want hot men who have a lot of sex. It isn’t reality but I know that.

    You said: A feature of M/M novels is often rape. A stronger man rapes a younger, more feminine man.

    I wish people would check their facts before they run their mouths on the internet. This information is so readily available, it’s insane. In romance… rape for titillation is never allowed. Never. That comes in erotica and you know what you’re getting when you buy it. Please, please stop generalizing to the point of sounding inane.

    And to say that we, as straight women, don’t know that rape is a bond-breaker is just ridiculous. Unless a man or woman gets off on being raped… and, yes, there are people who do… it is always a deal breaker – regardless of your gender. Again, gross generalization. And wrong.

    You said: When we give straight writers the power to say we got our own relationships wrong and they know better, we are embracing our own oppression.

    Wow. That’s giving fiction a whole lot of power. That 20K novella can keep you from acheiving your dreams. Amazing…. I mean, really? If a person, male or female, gives a work of fiction – or nonfiction, for that matter – that much influence over their lives – the book isn’t the problem. There are greater issues that need to be addressed and I don’t care what’s between your legs.

    One last thing, (I know, right? I’m not done yet…) when you said in your comment that calling a man a p*ssy is a way of feminizing them… *sigh* these terms for both genders evolved from many, many years ago when calling a man or woman by an animal’s name (i.e. dog, cur, b*tch, etc) was the ultimate insult because you were calling them less than human. These words, vile as they are, are not reserved for gay men.

    So, I’ve said quite a bit and I know you won’t agree with most of it. But I have a question for you.

    Since you’re more than willing to point out who and what fails miserably at gay romance, who do you think succeeds? I saw a couple names dropped in from Paul (thank you!) but let’s talk e-pub. Who do you like that writes gay romance?

  4. Sal Davis 22 August 2010 at 2:28 PM #

    I’m commenting as a concerned buyer and reader of m/m and gay novels, and also as an embryonic writer. I’m straight. I dislike heterosexual romances and don’t read them, but I do love novels full of incident with well rounded gay couples falling in love despite the mayhem going on around them. I like to read it and I would love to be able to write it. My ideal would be something along the lines of a Bernard Cornwell novel with a gay couple finding each other at the heart of it.

    I would like to learn how to do it properly. I am sure that I have read things that would be considered exploitative, insensitive, homophobic and I apologise for that. I don’t expect to please everyone with what I write but I hate the idea of being offensive through privileged ignorance. Sometimes you need to apply the rolled up newspaper to a puppy to stop him peeing on the carpet, and I think the article above does that, but that only works if someone’s prepared to show the puppy where he CAN pee.

    Ms Browsworth, I’m making notes about the writers who DO seem to be approved by your commenters to try and see what they do right. I’ll do my best to emulate them and if I fall short I’ll expect to be corrected. BUT I don’t plan not to try.

    Incidentally I’ve never yet come across a m/m novel where one of the protagonists rapes the other, who learns to like it [a frequent and utterly horrible trope in het romances], but I suppose I’ve just been lucky.

  5. victoria brownworth 22 August 2010 at 6:20 PM #

    <<<>>

    So do I. (And learn to spell Internet.) I keep waiting for some responses to this article from the purveyors of M/M fiction or the devotees of it who have actually read the piece I wrote. I haven’t seen one yet.

    First of all, Lambda Literary is an LGBT literary magazine. We’ve been around now for several decades. We aren’t just some fly-by-night fan fic site or someone’s livejournal blog. So the dismissive “running their mouths on the Internet” comment just seems part and parcel of the overall dismissiveness of the key issues IN MY ARTICLE AND IN/BY THE LGBT COMMUNITY of which you, Madam, are not a(n oppressed) member.

    So far almost no one has even spelled my name correctly, which implies a level of disregard at the most basic level that is seriously distressing in relationship to an issue that has such emotional and political magnitude for so many LGBT people.

    No one has read every book in every genre. I never claimed to. I referred repeatedly to “many” and “in a majority of” and “a basic theme is.” In reading a significant number of M/M books and in my role as an editor, literary awards judge, writer, journalist and publisher, I am hardly writing off the top of my head. I am definitively NOT “running my mouth on the Internet.” I’m a respected journalist and writer and have been for decades. That kind of comment is just insulting, homophobic and drags the discourse down.

    One thing that the purveyors of M/M fiction always resort to saying is “But it’s fiction!”

    Try telling that to a Jew if you’d written a wildly anti-Semitic novel or a person of color if you’d written a racist one. And yes, it is indeed the same thing–stop saying it isn’t. You can resort to the paradigmatic argument that “everyone has their own sexual choices,” but therein lies the entire problem of the M/M debate: SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS NOT A CHOICE.

    What the M/M folks refuse to acknowledge is that while they claim this or that sexuality depending on the publishing trend of the day, the rest of us in the LGBT community are who we are: queer. And thus we do not have the straight privilege that allows us to do what we want with no repercussions.

    This cannot be elucidated any more clearly: As long as the majority of M/M writers act as if sexual orientation is a choice like whatever one wears on a given day, then this discourse is meaningless because it misses the point entirely. The LGBT objection to the tenor of M/M fiction is about the objectification and misrepresentation of gay men. Period.

    In our real lesbian and gay lives, we are oppressed in every way. How many straight M/M writers even know what ENDA, DOMA and DADT are? And how much they impact our lives?

    Queer lit is political because writing about queers in straight society continues to be a subversive act. That might be a titillating thrill for straight people, but for those of us who are queer writers, it’s still often a life-threatening act in most places. Most of my own books, for example, have been banned in Canada–our very demure neighbors to the north–because of their censorship laws.

    So when the straight coterie of M/M is so blythe and dismissive, they are basically saying, “But I can sit at the lunch counter, so it’s not my problem.”

    Many M/M writers, including Lee Rowan and Erastes who have inserted themselves here, have made it a policy to dismiss the work of actual gay male romance writers by reviewing and rating those books poorly while reviewing and rating their own books highly. Why should we believe that the M/M community which has rushed to “protect” these writers from the big bad queer community asking for some accountability cares one whit about gay men or their relationships, except in how much money they might make from their own books?

    Privilege comes with responsibility. I just keep hoping some of you will actually read what’s been written here–including the impassioned responses from queers—and start recognizing that our pain is not something to just shrug off like some irritating gnat, but actual suffering and concomitant outrage.—Victoria Brownworth

  6. Elisa 22 August 2010 at 8:25 PM #

    Mrs Victoria Brownworth

    > and start recognizing that our pain is not something to just shrug off like some irritating gnat, but actual suffering and concomitant outrage

    attacking someone else since you are suffering is a natural (and understandable) defense, but if in doing so you are hurting who has not hurt you, that is wrong.

    > I referred repeatedly to “many” and “in a majority of” and “a basic theme is.

    and I gave proof to you that they are not many, not the majority of, not the basic theme, but you repeatedly ignored my words.

    > We aren’t just some fly-by-night fan fic site or someone’s livejournal blog.

    and so since I’m only a LiveJournal blog, I have to be dismessed while you, from your literary magazine can continue to state unresearched assumptions?

    Can you please list me the book you are referring to? can we compare to the 1553 I read, and see if they are the majority of it? Or maybe, since you read them as an editor they have never been published? and if so, how they can do wrong to the LGBT community, if no one, aside from you, read them? Most of the Gay Romance sites state in their Submissions Guideline that rape is not accepted, and I think that, even if they don’t state it, they hardly publish such works.

  7. Martha W 22 August 2010 at 11:14 PM #

    To keep things in context, your comments, Victoria, are in italics while mine are not.

    I keep waiting for some responses to this article from the purveyors of M/M fiction or the devotees of it who have actually read the piece I wrote. I haven’t seen one yet.

    Despite the fact that I don’t have your length of experience in published works does not negate the fact that I write m/m fiction and that I love to read it. I also read your piece and quoted several passages from it. I just wanted to point out that you, in fact, have seen one.

    We aren’t just some fly-by-night fan fic site or someone’s livejournal blog.

    I agree with Elisa here. While I enjoy LL, your opinion is no different from hers or mine – regardless of your chosen venue for your opinion.

    So the dismissive “running their mouths on the Internet” comment just seems part and parcel of the overall dismissiveness of the key issues IN MY ARTICLE AND IN/BY THE LGBT COMMUNITY of which you, Madam, are not a(n oppressed) member.

    In no way did I dismiss the issues in your article. In fact, I quoted you directly and responded accordingly. You, on the other hand, avoided almost entirely every response I made to your comments.

    As for the LGBT community as a whole, I don’t have their opinions in front of me – only yours – to respond to… so no, Madam, I was not dismissing their issues as I do not consider one person’s opinion to be representative of the whole.

    No one has read every book in every genre. I never claimed to.

    No one said you did. We are asking what you are reading that you see these things because those of us who write and read regularly in this genre that you have chosen to rip to shreds have not seen it.

    I am definitively NOT “running my mouth on the Internet.” I’m a respected journalist and writer and have been for decades. That kind of comment is just insulting, homophobic and drags the discourse down.

    You are a respected journalist, which is why I was shocked at the lack of research and use of facts, though readily available, when you wrote this piece. You could be purple and from Mars, white and from Alabama, a man from Russia… and you’re still running your mouth on the Internet if you don’t double check your facts. It has nothing to do with your sexuality. Quit the name-calling.

    One thing that the purveyors of M/M fiction always resort to saying is “But it’s fiction!” Try telling that to a Jew if you’d written a wildly anti-Semitic novel or a person of color if you’d written a racist one. And yes, it is indeed the same thing–stop saying it isn’t.

    I absolutely will not stop saying it is different. Comparing a gay romance to a hate-filled tome spewing venom is so far off base, quite frankly I can’t believe you did it.

    You can resort to the paradigmatic argument that “everyone has their own sexual choices,” but therein lies the entire problem of the M/M debate: SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS NOT A CHOICE.

    Who said it was? If I didn’t choose to be straight, how could you choose to be lesbian or my friends choose to be gay? That’s just ridiculous.

    This cannot be elucidated any more clearly: As long as the majority of M/M writers act as if sexual orientation is a choice like whatever one wears on a given day, then this discourse is meaningless because it misses the point entirely. The LGBT objection to the tenor of M/M fiction is about the objectification and misrepresentation of gay men. Period.

    Again, you are generalizing because I haven’t faltered once on my sexuality – as you so clearly pointed out at the beginning of your response to mine.

    Misrepresentation is a huge problem. But just like Sal stated above – smacking the puppy’s nose does no good if you’re not willing to show him where to pee. As of this posting, I still do not see anything from you pointing us in the right direction, even though you’ve been asked directly.

    In our real lesbian and gay lives, we are oppressed in every way. How many straight M/M writers even know what ENDA, DOMA and DADT are? And how much they impact our lives?

    If they don’t, it’s from their lack of research. But any human being, let alone gay writer, worth their salt knows about them.

    That might be a titillating thrill for straight people, but for those of us who are queer writers, it’s still often a life-threatening act in most places. Most of my own books, for example, have been banned in Canada–our very demure neighbors to the north–because of their censorship laws.

    And that is a shame. Both having your life threatened and your books banned. But why are you punishing me and those like me for the wrongs of others?

    So when the straight coterie of M/M is so blythe and dismissive, they are basically saying, “But I can sit at the lunch counter, so it’s not my problem.”

    I’m still trying to figure out where I said anything like this. Nowhere have I been dismissive of the very real issues that the gay/lesbian community faces. However, saying that I won’t write gay fiction does nothing to solve those problems, does it?

    Many M/M writers, including Lee Rowan and Erastes who have inserted themselves here, have made it a policy to dismiss the work of actual gay male romance writers by reviewing and rating those books poorly while reviewing and rating their own books highly.

    There is no gender bias in this issue. If an author does this, whether they are gay or straight, man or woman, it’s wrong.

    Privilege comes with responsibility. I just keep hoping some of you will actually read what’s been written here–including the impassioned responses from queers—and start recognizing that our pain is not something to just shrug off like some irritating gnat, but actual suffering and concomitant outrage.—Victoria Brownworth

    I have read every word. Simply because I chose to respond to your negative comments about straight women writers in gay fiction, does not mean that your pain is any less important. But neither does it mean that my opinion is worth any less.

    Putting aside the fact that you are a lesbian, and only focusing on your experience and reputation as a journalist with many years of experience, you also have a responsibility of privilege to each person who reads your articles to be as accurate and unbiased as you can be each time you put yourself in the public eye. You do no favors to the LGBT community by overgeneralization and knee-jerk responses. And I know that you’ll probably say, “They did it first and worst” but, in all reality, you are responsible for your own words and how you present them. Just as I am mine.

  8. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 12:16 AM #

    Martha wrote:
    To lay all my cards on the table, I’m white, female, married, have two young boys and I write gay romance.

    Quelle suprise!

    One key understanding that I believe is missing from many of these comments is with the word fiction. Unless you write non-fiction, everything has an element of the author’s imagination/opinion and therefore is not accurate to real life.

    Yes, fiction. But you leave out the important part of the equation. “Fiction which — intentional or not — represents a marginalized group which has face decades of hate, fear-mongering, violence and offensive stereotypes and, yes, death.

    Let me ask you a point blank question. It requires a simple yes or no. If you wrote a work with a black or asian or latino character (male or female) and a member of that marginalized group told you it was offensive as hell, would you dismiss them out of hand? Remember, yes or no, no “well, it depends.” It’s a fairly straight-forward question. Because that is exactly what the m/m community does the moment someone who is actually GLBTQI speaks up. And that, m’dear, is called PRIVILEGE.

    ANd, I would like to point out that “it’s only fiction” has been shouted by the m/m group everytime this issue comes up. As if fiction has no power. All you have to do is look at the power that fiction has wielded for generations. Look at history, starting with the Bible and working forward. Words have power (and don’t even trot out the phrase “only if you give them power” which is a metaphysical piece of garbage). Fictional depictions have been the cause of indigenous peoples nearly being eradicated, hate crimes, genocide. And it all starts with the written word, whether it be fiction or propaganda. When I was growing up, gay men were sex fiends, perverts, pedophiles, murderers and frightening deviants in every movie, novel or TV show I saw. Even still these depictions– which had their genesis in *fiction* are being used against us.

    That’s not to say I don’t like pen names. I have one. But it is feminine and my bio says who I am. I simply have it so my children don’t have to face the backlash of other parents’ ridiculous homophobic tendencies.

    How nice for you that you get to protect your children from homophobia simply by changing your name. Don’t want them hearing from the neighbor kids that Mom’s a pervert for writing those nasty f*ggots. Don’t want them to be call queer or beat up on the playground. Good for you. Nice for you to have that PRIVILEGE. Don’t want some radicalized conservative knocking on your door one night to teach y’all a lesson? Good. Neither do we except we can’t hide behind a fake name. We can’t run and change our names when the Fred Phelps of the world show up clutching a piece of stereotype to their chests. Or people threaten to take our children away.

    You want to get off on the gay life, then be brave enough to face it like actual gay people do everyday.

    It’s easy to wave the gay flag from the Internet. Someone doesn’t like you, you just change your Internet name and start over. Must be nice to have that luxury. In fact, I’ve noticed here, even. Just last night a m/m writer was boasting on their blog how they’d come over here and “given them a piece of my mind.” Except, that writer didn’t use their writing pseudonym to do it. Looked at every comment here and that writer’s name isn’t here. They created *another* pseudonym because they don’t want whatever they have to say to follow them. This is common practice in m/m (and the internet in general). It’s called sock-puppeting and the m/m authors use it in droves. In fact, the person who’s first “how dare you say anything negative about m/m” has stated publically that she intends to change *both* her Internet identies because “she doesn’t want this following her around.”

    There are legitimate reasons for pseudonyms and, yes, protection from bullies and homophobes is one of them. But don’t you dare say “I can write whatever kinda portrayals of gay people I want” (which is, in essence, what many have been saying here) knowing that gay people can’t get out of the way from homophobes simply by having a fake name.

    Aside from the obvious, that this is a gross overgeneralization, a fetish by definition means to hold something in awe or in high regard.

    Oh lordy, please look into the wealth of information on fetishization and the psychological implications. What you site in the generic “pop culture” definition found via the first wikipedia or dictionary.com search. In layman’s terms fetishization is:

    “The displacement of sexual arousal or gratification to a fetish”

    That is, receiving sexual arousal and gratification from a fetish. And a fetish is, in layman’s terms, is an “object of interest.” In this case, gay men. Gay men are being objectified for the sexual gratification of others. There are hundred of psychological studies on fetishism and fetishism is not limited to simply sexual gratification as evidenced by the fetishism in america of many foreign cultures by many individuals. It often goes hand in hand with appropriation of something such as religion or culture.

    I don’t agree, however, that I can’t write gay romance simply because I’m not gay.

    AGAIN (for about the 5th time) NO ONE SAID THIS! Bingo. Welcome to diversion 101.

    Nothing would ever get written if authors couldn’t write what they wanted.

    Once again trotting out standard m/m diversionary tactics.

    Since you’re more than willing to point out who and what fails miserably at gay romance, who do you think succeeds? I saw a couple names dropped in from Paul (thank you!) but let’s talk e-pub. Who do you like that writes gay romance?

    I proffered names of good writers because I believe the good deserve more attention than the hacks and I wanted to present another aspect because the good writers of m/m (very few and far between) do not deserved to be separated from the majority of m/m writers who are deadful. However, this article is not a space to do a laundry list of good m/m writers as that diverts from the issues at hand and there has been quite enough diversion in this thread, thank you very much. There are plenty of spaces where good m/m writer recommendations can be found on the net (in fact the majority of m/m review sites review nearly *everything* positively.) But I suggest people search out quality review sites of m/m rather than puff-review sites. There are good ones out there.

  9. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 12:26 AM #

    Well, the computer crashed and sent that before I had a change to proof. Ah well.

  10. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 12:26 AM #

    :::snort::: or a “chance”

  11. Martha W 23 August 2010 at 9:02 AM #

    Paul,

    “Fiction which — intentional or not — represents a marginalized group which has face decades of hate, fear-mongering, violence and offensive stereotypes and, yes, death.”

    Hhm. You’re right. The LGBT community has suffered greatly at the hands of bigots and jerks that don’t care to understand them as human beings with lives and feelings. However, I don’t feel that gay romance is the root of the problem, do you?

    Because I’m not a lesbian doesn’t mean that I don’t understand pain, rejection, and the fear of death. There are more reasons for pain than sexuality… ones that I hope to the heavens that you and your loved ones never have to experience… ones that I have experienced. Does that make you less than me because you don’t understand? No. It doesn’t. It also doesn’t mean that an author is marginalizing my feelings when they write about rape and physical abuse at the hands of a family member and get it wrong. It means they need to be educated.

    ” If you wrote a work with a black or asian or latino character (male or female) and a member of that marginalized group told you it was offensive as hell, would you dismiss them out of hand? Remember, yes or no, no “well, it depends.” It’s a fairly straight-forward question.”

    No.

    Again, I’m not dismissing anything. Isn’t that the point of having conversations like these so that everyone can learn and understand others’ POV and make decisions? As long as people refrain from total sarcasm and name-calling, these types of discussions are exactly where opinions and attitudes change.

    I, not once, said that your feelings were less than mine. But in that same line, yours are not more important than mine.

    “Fictional depictions have been the cause of indigenous peoples nearly being eradicated, hate crimes, genocide. And it all starts with the written word, whether it be fiction or propaganda.”

    You’re not going to give one whit, but I almost agree here. Propaganda has been the cause of many hate crimes against gays, women, and minority races. Fiction has not.

    “How nice for you that you get to protect your children from homophobia simply by changing your name. Don’t want them hearing from the neighbor kids that Mom’s a pervert for writing those nasty f*ggots. Don’t want them to be call queer or beat up on the playground. Good for you”

    Not “good for you”. How patronizing and unproductive. As a parent, would you expect me to do less than protect my children from homophobic assholes?

    “You want to get off on the gay life, then be brave enough to face it like actual gay people do everyday.”

    Somehow I’ve given the impression that simply because my work is under a pen name, I hide what I do. That isn’t the case.

    ” In fact, the person who’s first “how dare you say anything negative about m/m” has stated publically that she intends to change *both* her Internet identities because ‘she doesn’t want this following her around.’”

    This upsets me. No one should say something on the Internet they aren’t willing to back up elsewhere. Whoever this author is should be ashamed.

    “The displacement of sexual arousal or gratification to a fetish”

    Which is basically the same thing I said with bigger words. Really? Of all things, let’s argue over a definition.

    [Me] I don’t agree, however, that I can’t write gay romance simply because I’m not gay.
    [Paul] AGAIN (for about the 5th time) NO ONE SAID THIS! Bingo. Welcome to diversion 101.
    [Me] Nothing would ever get written if authors couldn’t write what they wanted.
    [Paul] Once again trotting out standard m/m diversionary tactics.”

    This isn’t a diversionary tactic on my part. This is my opinion. We’re talking about writing m/m, right? These are legitimate comments. You don’t want to be marginalized, neither do I.

    “–this article is not a space to do a laundry list of good m/m writers as that diverts from the issues at hand and there has been quite enough diversion in this thread, thank you very much.”

    You did list a handful. Thank you. But the (possibly unintended) topic of conversation is how straight women writers write gay fiction incorrectly because we don’t understand. So… help us understand. Where should we go to learn? Because while you say (for the fifth time) that no one has “said” that we shouldn’t write gay fiction, it is flashing in neon lights on this post that as straight women we have no business writing gay men.

    Maybe it belongs on another post…

  12. Lee Rowan 23 August 2010 at 9:06 AM #

    O Rly? Victoria, you are offended because a few commentors have misspelled your name. I find it interesting that you are bothered by inaccuracy, because you are making things up wholesale and lying baldfaced about me and a number of other authors.

    I am, however, incredibly gratified that you spelled my name right.

    Many M/M writers, including Lee Rowan and Erastes who have inserted themselves here, have made it a policy to dismiss the work of actual gay male romance writers by reviewing and rating those books poorly while reviewing and rating their own books highly. Why should we believe that the M/M community which has rushed to “protect” these writers from the big bad queer community asking for some accountability cares one whit about gay men or their relationships, except in how much money they might make from their own books?

    Nobody’s protecting me from any big bad queer community, you ninny. I am a member of the queer community. Ask my wife. Ask the gay friends who have beta’d my books, every one, for accuracy and believability. Because they’ve actually read my books, and I’m betting you have not.

    I am calling you on these lies. I tend not to review books at all, mainly because I’m a very critical reader and I want to avoid the bullshit accusation of knocking ‘competition’ if I explain what I did not like about a book. However, if I find that someone has written something that does not make sense, I will say so in online conversation–and that’s got nothing to do with the gender of the writer, because unless a guy is telling me what to write on the basis of my gender, I don’t pay much attention to another writer’s sex. Erastes does not review her own books; she tends to avoid reviewing those of her friends. Go look at the Speak Its Name blog; I don’t think any of my books were given 5-star reviews there. It’s not a promo-review site, it is a critical review site.

    I would like you to specify where and when I ‘rated’ any of my own books… with the single exception that after seeing everyone and his cow giving their books top marks on Goodreads. I jokingly gave Ransom 5 stars on that blog. But you may note that that is the only one of my books that I have rated, anywhere. The ratings that count for many purposes are on Amazon, which does not allow its writers to rate themselves.

    As for the notion of claiming sexuality according to fashion, my sexuality–which is none of your business, btw–ought to be relatively apparent from the fact that I married my wife in Ontario the year it became legal, and we moved here in 2007. I have variously referred to myself as bisexual and lesbian because I do find some men physically attractive and have had reasonably pleasant relationships with a few of them–again, my sex life is really none of your business–and as lesbian because I am married to a woman and when I say ‘forsaking all others,’ I mean it.

    For your information–also none of your business, we’ve got a recurring theme here–when I got the invitation from Perseus to submit an outline, I looked at their (I thought) ill advised slogan and told them I was not in fact a straight woman. “Oh, that doesn’t matter,” the editor said. Little did she know.

    Please substantiate the claims you make; I want to see citations of urls where people have done the things you claim they have done. I want the titles of the books to which you refer when you make these sweeping statements about rape and other offenses. I know that there are books oiut there that I would find offensive (I don’t think much of rape as a courtship ritual), but since most of the publishers I’ve dealt with as either reader or prospective contributor BAN rape … I have to wonder what you’ve been reading.

    Your statements are dramatic, but you have as much credibility as Sarah Palin, and you are operating in much the same way–attack without foundation and assume that most people will not bother to check your claims. I doubt I’ll waste the time, either. Since I know that what you are saying about me and my books is untrue, I see no reason to believe the slurs you are casting on other writers.

    What I see in your post is not righteous indignation, Victoria: it is plain old envy. . . and not a little hypocrisy. Are you angry that Erastes, Alex, Don and I were invited to submit outlines to Perseus–or are you simply furious that you were not? Would you have recoiled from the opportunity, or sent them an outline and hoped for a contract? Somehow, I suspect the latter.

    Because writing gay erotica isn’t new to you, is it? You are also on Amazon, Ms. B.

    http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Age-Lesbian-Erotica/dp/0977431142

    Your anthology at this url has an “About the Author” note, which contains this fascinating description:

    Victoria A. Brownworth is the author of nine books, including the award-winning *Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life* and editor of 14, including … her work has appeared in numerous mainstream, queer and feminist publications … Her erotic writing has appeared regularly in anthologies and magazines, and she is a former contributing writer to the lesbian sex magazines, *On Our Backs* and *Bad Attitude.* She has published several erotica collections, including most recently, *Bed: New Lesbian Erotica.* She also publishes gay male porn under a psuedonym. She teaches writing and film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she added two new courses to the literary curriculum: Writing Below the Belt and Smut. She has also taught safe-sex education classes as well as classes on S/M and B/D for various lesbian and bisexual venues. She lives in Philadelphia.

    Let’s look at that again: She also publishes gay male porn under a pseudonym.

    So… it’s okay for YOU to write it, but not others. Dare I suggest that the motives you impute to others are actually projections of your own intent?

    You can hardly write gay male porn and tell any other woman that she is not allowed to do the same. This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

    I call credibility-fail.

  13. BenPanced 23 August 2010 at 11:01 AM #

    Wow. I’m incredibly flabbergasted by the pretentious elitism of this article.

  14. Andrew 23 August 2010 at 12:44 PM #

    Lee, although I find this article problematic in some ways, you and your band of fine BIG NAME authors are doing yourselves no favors in the way you are conducting yourselves online.

    I would like to point out that although it says Victoria publishes under a pseudonym, it does not say it is a MALE pseudonym. Many writers in the m/m genre write under pen names – it is the ones that appropriate a male identity to try and affect sales that are being called out. If Victoria is doing that, then by all means that is hypocritical.

    A lot of people commenting here are too fucking pleased with themselves and entirely missing the point.

  15. Elisa 23 August 2010 at 1:09 PM #

    @Andrew

    I agree with you that some comments were not political correct, mine probably in primis, but Victoria stated in her article that “We (lesbians) have lives beyond what we do in bed. And what we do in bed never involves a man.” this to prove that a man had no place to write lesbian fiction (or maybe she was referring specifically to romance or erotic lesbian fiction), since it was a “fetishizing” of their sexuality.

    So why Victoria Brownworth has the right to write gay male porn? I think no one pointed out she is doing it under a male pseudonym, that would be even more hypocritical. I’m saying that she stated a man had no place to write lesbian fiction, a straight woman (she added straight) has no place to write M/M fiction, but she, has a lesbian woman, has place to write gay male porn?

    When and were she gained that place? there is a specific school other women can attend? maybe that is an useful information, on the contrary on most of the assumptions she did above.

  16. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 1:35 PM #

    Cue Lee Rowan with a bag full of derail.

  17. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 1:38 PM #

    Andrew said:

    Lee, although I find this article problematic in some ways, you and your band of fine BIG NAME authors are doing yourselves no favors in the way you are conducting yourselves online.

    Unfortunately, this is how they always act anytime anyone criticizes m/m.

  18. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 1:43 PM #

    Marth said:

    Which is basically the same thing I said with bigger words. Really? Of all things, let’s argue over a definition.

    LOL. Really? Well, if you think your pop culture definition of fetishization was the same as the one I presented, then I completely understand why you keep using derail. Because comprehension seems to be lacking.

  19. Lee Rowan 23 August 2010 at 1:47 PM #

    Andrew, I am well over 21, I do not need any advice on how to conduct myself when I am attacked by a person who’s a member of an organization that I do not respect and whose recognition I do not esteem. I am not a nice little humble straight girl waiting to be enlightened. I’m a dyke who has had too much shit thrown at me by bigots to take any from people who are supposedly part of my community.

    The notion that there is one “real” way to write a romance of any sort is as ridiculous as the notion that there is one “real” way to write any story. And, again, unless JK Rowling practices magic or Terry Pratchett actually lives on the back of a giant turtle swimming in space, saying that one can only write from a narrow view of one’s own experience is absurd. Fiction comes from the imagination.

    I can distinguish between fiction and fact. If someone posts outright lies about me, I am certainly going to dispute those lies.

    I’m not a “big name” author. I have about eight books in print, was on the editorial selection committee of the two I Do charity anthologies (I strongly believe in equal rights for all people, and I don’t insist on narrow definitions of who is eligible for equal rights.) If I’m a “big name,” that’s news to me. I am not getting rich from my books–so far; I think we all hope for a best-seller, but I’m pleased that after four years my books are still selling. The opinions I’m expressing here are opinions I would still hold if I had no books in print, because the issue here is censorship.

    If somebody has a problem with my book–or with anyone’s book–the appropriate response is to write a critical review (critical=analytical, not condemnatory) of the book to which he or she objects–not to condemn an entire group of people for writing in any area or to suggest that they do not have the right to create fiction. If it’s lousy fiction, okay–that’s what reviewers are for.

    Would it be appropriate for any heterosexual writer to condemn gay men or lesbians for writing about heterosexual romance? Ah, but who would know? How many readers care? Is Madame Bovary less of a book because Flaubert was male?

    A book should be judged on its merit. Period. Some books are good, some are downright horrible. A responsible reviewer would go case-by-case.

    I’d love to spend the day here splitting hairs, but I have a book to finish for my publisher. Who happens to be a gay man. Who is, incidentally, the only person with the right to decide whether or not he wants to print what I have written. And I am very grateful that he actually reads my books before making that decision.

  20. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 2:29 PM #

    Lee said:

    What I see in your post is not righteous indignation, Victoria: it is plain old envy. . .

    Ah, the last typical ploy of many m/m writers in an argument. “You’re just jealous.” Forgive me Lee, but I’m pretty sure someone who’s been nominated for a Pulitzer has little envy for the likes of you. And with that, Lee will excuse herself from the convo with some grand sweeping statement about how she is a hard-working writer who must get to work because she just doesn’t have the time.

  21. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 2:30 PM #

    Lee wrote:

    I’d love to spend the day here splitting hairs, but I have a book to finish for my publisher.

    :::snort::::

    I should have read down in the comments. It’s like watching a script unfold.

  22. Steve Berman 23 August 2010 at 2:31 PM #

    Wow… I’m stunned by the number (and vitriol) of comments!

  23. Elisa 23 August 2010 at 3:00 PM #

    @Steve

    let see the positive side, we are discussing right? it was probably time, and it was what Victoria Brownworth wanted, I hope, a costructive discussion.

    But as I probably realized a bit too late, there is no way to concile the idea, no matter what one states, no matter what reasons you have. This is something that has deep and ancient roots and I don’t think we will find an agreement here, let alone a peace treaty.

    I will remain with my idea, a book has to be judged for its merit not for the gender of who wrote it. Victoria Brownworth will remain with her idea of not embracing the straight fetishizing of their relationships.

  24. jackie 23 August 2010 at 4:16 PM #

    Victoria:
    I am a straight female reader of m/m fiction. I agree there’s a lot of drek out there, maybe even mostly drek, but I found these sweeping statements to be untrue and offensive to both readers and writers of the genre:

    •If you aren’t familiar with M/M fiction here’s what it is: Straight women fetishizing the lives of gay men.

    •In the M/M stories–a majority of which are historical romances in which class and age inequities prevail–there is a “male” man and a “female” man.

    •A feature of M/M novels is often rape.

    •In M/M fiction, there is an inherent disrespect of the gay male relationship.

    The only statement above that I’ve found to be true in some cases – an important qualifier – is the use of male/female. Where you get the idea that m/m fiction is mostly historical, I have no idea. It’s inaccuracies like that that make what you say less credible.

    I also don’t understand your equating the fetishizing of gay relationship with making them “other”. I tend to think that exposing straights to positive portrayals of gay relationships – even those that are inaccurate – make gays less other.

    You also said in a comment:

    This cannot be elucidated any more clearly: As long as the majority of M/M writers act as if sexual orientation is a choice like whatever one wears on a given day, then this discourse is meaningless because it misses the point entirely.

    “Yes, there are ‘gay for you’ stories out there, but I’ve seen no evidence (in my own reading experience) that the “majority” of writers believe sexual orientation is a choice.”

    Finally, I understand your frustration with the quality and accuracy of m/m fiction, but I really don’t get why its very existence is offensive to you:

    “Sexual orientation is not a trend. It is a genetic predisposition. And those of us who were born queer resent our lives being taken as a publishing trend.”

    Again, even with its flaws, I would think the popularity and growth of this genre is a good thing for GLBT visibility and therefore the fight for equal rights.

    So, yes, there’s some really awful writing happening in this field, but I feel you weaken your by point by making sweeping generalizations without any substantiating examples or statistics, and by not acknowledging any of the good associated with it.

  25. jackie 23 August 2010 at 4:19 PM #

    Oops. Put quotes around my response to one of your comments rather than the comment itself. Hope you can tell what I meant. Is there no way to edit on here?

  26. Tracey 23 August 2010 at 5:08 PM #

    Many M/M writers, including Lee Rowan and Erastes who have inserted themselves here, have made it a policy to dismiss the work of actual gay male romance writers by reviewing and rating those books poorly while reviewing and rating their own books highly.

    This is demonstrably untrue.

    Here is a list of books–both fiction and nonfiction–by gay male authors that have been reviewed by Speak Its Name. You can find all of these reviews on the website.

    A Class Apart by James Gardiner — 5 stars

    A Perfect Waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer — 3.5 stars

    A Room in Chelsea Square by Michael Nelson — 4 stars

    A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood — 5 stars

    A Son Called Gabriel by Damian McNicholl — 5 stars

    American Hunks by David L. Chapman and Brett Josef Grubisic (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    An Asian Minor-the true story of Ganymede by Felice Picaro — 3.5 stars

    An East Wind Blowing by Mel Keegan — 3 stars

    Ardennian Boy by William Maltese and Wayne Gunn — 4 stars

    Aubade by Kenneth Martin — 3 stars

    Awakening by Terry O’Reilly — 3 stars

    Barbarian Tales: The Inheritance by Sabb — 2 stars

    Bent (Film) by Martin Sherman — 4.5 stars

    Better Angel by Forman Brown writing as Richard Meeker — 3 stars

    Bitten Peach by Habu — 3.5 stars

    Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss — 4.5 stars

    Black Wade by Franze & Andärle — 4.5 stars

    Calico by Dorien Grey — 4.5 stars

    Christianity, Social Tolerance & Homosexuality by John Boswell (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai — 4 stars

    Coming Home by Victor J Banis — 4.5 stars

    Common Sons: Common threads in the life by Ronald L. Donaghe– 4.5 stars

    Confessing A Murder by Nicholas Drayson — 2.5 stars

    Damned Strong Love by Lutz Van Dijk — 4 stars

    Dangerous Moonlight by Mel Keegan — 4 stars

    Dash & Dingo: In Search of the Tasmanian Tiger by Catt Ford & Sean Kennedy — 5 stars

    David Blaize by E F Benson –5 stars

    Death of a Monk by Anon Hilu — 4 stars

    Divided Hearts by Terry O’Reilly — 1.5 stars

    Doctor Reynard’s Experiment by Robert Black — 2 stars

    Erotic Tales of the Knights Templar by Jay Starre — 1 star

    Fellow Travellers by T.C. Worsley — 5 stars

    Finistère by Fritz Peters — 4 stars

    Frontiers by Michael Jensen — 3.5 stars

    Gaywyck by Vincent Virga — 4 stars

    Here and Always Have Been by Kenneth Craigside 3.5 stars

    His Master’s Lover by Nick Heddle — unrated

    HMS Submission by Jack Gordon — 3 stars

    Honor Bound by Wheeler Scott — 3 stars

    Hot Valley by James Lear — 2 stars

    How the West Was Done by various, edited by Adam Carpenter — 2.5 stars

    In the Absence of Men by Philippe Besson — 4 stars

    Inkman’s Work by Steve Berman — 4.5 stars

    Irish Winter by John Simpson — 2.5 stars

    It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle — 5 stars

    Josef Jaeger by Jere’ M. Fishback — 4 stars

    Lavender Boys by S.E. Taylor — 1.5 stars

    Living Upstairs by Joseph Hansen — 3 stars

    Lola Dances by Victor J Banis — 4.5 stars

    Longhorns by Victor J Banis — 3 stars

    Lord Dismiss Us by Michael Campbell — 4 stars

    Lovers’ Knot by Donald Hardy — 5 stars

    Loyal to His King by Sabb — 1.5 stars

    Man, oh Man: Writing M/M for kinks and cash by Josh Lanyon (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    Maurice (Film Review) by E M Forster — 5 stars

    Memoirs of Colonel Gérard Vreilhac by Anel Viz — 5 stars

    Mother Clap’s Molly House by Rictor Norton (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    Mr Page & Mr Clive by Neil Bartlett — 5 stars

    My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries, ed. by Rictor Norton (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    Napoleon’s Privates by Tony Perottet — 4 stars

    Oblivion by Harry J Maihafer — 4 stars

    Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth –4 stars

    Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death by Gyles Brandreth — 3 stars

    Out of the Blue by Josh Lanyon — 4 stars

    Outbursts! A Queer Erotic Thesaurus by A.D. Peterkin (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    Pirates of the Narrow Seas by M. Kei — 4.5 stars

    Pirates of the Narrow Seas II: Men of Honor by M Kei — 4.5 stars

    Queer Cowboys by Chris Packard — 3.5 stars

    Rainbow Plantation Blues by Robert L Sheeley — 3 stars

    Simon A Decline and Fall of the English Landed Gentry by Nick Heddle — 1.5 stars

    Snowball in Hall by Josh Lanyon — 4.5 stars

    Soaring with a Hawk by Ken Dahll — 1.5 stars

    Song of the Loon by Richard Amory — 5 stars

    Spurs & Saddles: Oil Well Ben and the Hollywood Rustlers by Lucius Parhelion — 4 stars

    Teleny: attributed to Oscar Wilde et.al. — 3 stars

    The Alienist by Caleb Carr — 4.5 stars

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chaubon — 3 stars

    The Back Passage by James Lear — 5 stars

    The Berlin Novels (Mr Norris Changes Trains, Goodbye to Berlin) Christopher Isherwood — 4.5 stars

    The Bitterweed Path by Thomas Hal Phillips — 2.5 stars

    The Carnivorous Lamb by Agustin Gomez-Arcos — 5 stars

    The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal — 3 stars

    The Facts of Life by Patrick Gale — 2 stars

    The Filly by Mark Probst — 4 stars

    The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell — 4.5 stars

    The Golden Age of Gay Fiction edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn (nonfiction) — 5 stars

    The Hadrian Enigma by George Gardiner — 4.5 stars

    The Handsomest Man in the World by David Leddick — 4 stars

    The Hill by Horace Annesley Vachelle — 4 stars

    The Lonely War by Alan Chin — 5 stars

    The Loom of Youth by Alec Waugh — 3 stars

    The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick — 4 stars

    The Low Road by James Lear — 4 stars

    The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce — 4 stars

    The Partisans by Martin Brandt — 3 stars

    The Ruling Passion by David Pownall — 1 star

    The Secret Tunnel by James Lear — 3.5 stars

    The Spartan by Don Harrison — 4 stars

    The Stallion and the Rabbit by Mike Shade — 4 stars

    The Taos Truth Game by Earl Ganz — 5 stars

    The Tortured Secutor by Jardonn Smith — 1.5 stars

    The Vesuvius Club (graphic novel) by Mark Gatiss — 3 stars

    The Vesuvius Club (novel) by Mark Gatiss — 3 stars

    The Why Not by Victor J Banis — 5 stars

    Time & Place by Alan Sheridan — 3 stars

    Two Irish Lads by Gerry Burnie — 4 stars

    Two Spirits by Walter L Williams and Toby Johnson — 3 stars

    Vienna Dolorosa by Mykola Demetiuk — 4.5 stars

    Virginian Bedfellows by Gavin Morris — 4 stars

    While England Sleeps by David Leavitt — 5 stars

    Wicked Angels by Eric Jourdan — 4 stars

    Judging by all those four- and five-star ratings, I cannot see why you would claim that the work of gay male romance writers is being dismissed or rated poorly. Have some works been given low ratings? Of course. And so have some works by women authors. Speak Its Name rates books based on the quality of the writing, the storytelling and the historical accuracy. Any author of either sex or any sexuality can get a low rating. By the same token, any author of either sex or any sexuality can earn a high one. SiN’s focus is the quality of the work. It always has been.

  27. Justin Lamar 23 August 2010 at 5:16 PM #

    I saw this on Elisa Rolle’s journal and I have to say, this sounds like a dated and narrow-minded assessment.

    It’s assuming right off the bat that straight women who read novels about gay men:
    1. Have the EXACT same proclivities as straight men who fetishize about lesbian sex…
    2. Are actually disgusted by or ignorant to the idea of an equal partnership and pawn gay relationships off as “sick”…
    3. Are reading books that were printed 40-50 years ago as mock-horror stories about “perverts doing perverted things” (I think the 60s Lesbian pulp you top your page with says it all).

    You also make some broad statements about gay fiction being rife with rape, “male/female” relationship dynamics, abuse, and the usual tropes of dime store pulp tripe.

    I am a gay man and an author of M/M fiction. My first book, Basecraft Cirrostratus, does not have a single rape, describes relationship dynamics culled from my own experiences, and never once turns abusive. The same can be said about the works of my acquaintances, Victor Banis (who has been at this since 1965; this isn’t “new”) or Kyell Gold.

    I can understand how you would feel strongly about this, and I agree that straight men who fetishize about lesbian sex are usually creeps, but it’s wrong to project that onto everyone who reads queer fiction.

  28. Tasha 23 August 2010 at 5:54 PM #

    @Justin: When your main characters are a fox and a cougar, I think it’s safe to say that yours is not one of the works under discussion here regardless of the characters’ orientation.

  29. Elisa 23 August 2010 at 6:17 PM #

    @Tasha

    I should probably let Justin replies, but Tasha I think this is a highly offensive comment. Anthropomorphic novels are just a fantasy way to represent a real relationship; Justin’s characters are gays, even if they are a fox and a cougar in his fantasy novel. Not really different from vampires or werewolves in paranormal. Please don’t forget that well before literature was born, people used Anthropomorphic characters to teach people, Fedro and Esopo in primis.

  30. Tasha 23 August 2010 at 6:23 PM #

    @Elisa: And you have missed my point entirely, as well as the point of the blog entry to which we are commenting.

  31. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 7:24 PM #

    Well, I’ve no ability to post a picture, so I’m transcribing the M/M Bingo Card, a list of common tactics that some m/m writers use to derail or deflect valid criticism or justify their work. Some of them have been used quite frequently here in this discussion.

    TOP ROW:

    BUT I LIKE IT / IT’S HAWT.
    BUT I DON’T MEAN TO BE OFFENSIVE.
    THEN WHY DON’T YOU TEACH ME HOW NOT TO BE OFFENSIVE.
    YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS OF MY SUCCESS.
    FETISHIZING DOESN’T MAKE THEM THE “OTHER”.

    SECOND ROW:

    BUT I GIVE MONEY TO (INSERT GAY CHARITY NAME).
    I USE A PSEUDONYM TO AVOID HOMOPHOBIA.
    MY BOOKS SELL, DO YOURS?
    IT’S JUST FICTION/ FANTASY…DO YOU HAVE TO BE AN ELF TO WRITE ELVES?
    DON’T LIKE IT; DON’T READ IT.

    THIRD ROW

    HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF WE TOLD YOU WHAT YOU CAN WRITE?
    MY GAY FRIEND/EDITOR/ GARDENER SAYS…
    CENTER SQUARE: YOU’RE SAYING STRAIGHT PEOPLE AREN’T ALLOWED TO WRITE GAY FICTION.
    I LOVE GAY PEOPLE/HAVE LOTS OF GAY FRIENDS.
    YOU’RE JUST OVER SENSITIVE.

    FOURTH ROW

    GAY PEOPLE DO IT/SAY IT, WHY CAN’T I?
    I KNOW MY BIO SAYS I’M (INSERT ORIENTATION) BUT I’M REALLY (INSERT DIFFERENT ORIENTATION ).
    I HATE HETERO ROMANCE BECAUSE THE WOMEN ARE SO BADLY DRAWN.
    I’VE HAD A TOUGH LIFE (aka White Women’s Tears adapted for usage).
    JUST BECAUSE I’M STRAIGHT DOESN’T MEAN I DON’T UNDERSTAND DOWN TO MY UTTER CORE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE GAY/OPPRESSED.

    FIFTH ROW:

    YOU’RE WRONG GAY PEOPLE.
    I REFUSE TO BOW TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.
    YOUR (GAY) OPINION ABOUT GAY ISSUES ISN’T ANY MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY (STRAIGHT) OPINION ABOUT GAY ISSUES.
    IT’S NOT OFFENSIVE.
    OPPRESSING M/M WRITERS IS JUST LIKE THE PERSECUTION OF THE GAYS BY (INSERT EVIL REGIME).

  32. Mel 23 August 2010 at 10:11 PM #

    Just wanted to thank Ms. Brownworth for a great article. I’ve been a part of fanfic communities for years (mainly F/F), but couldn’t articulate what I found so disturbing about the majority of M/M (besides the obvious issues of feminization of gay men as well as the prevalent rape narrative, which is bad enough), but your article crystallizes the issue for me. The comparison to tropes in lesbian pulp (which continues to haunt our representation in all media) was perfect and the use/re-purposing of Mulvey’s male gaze was brilliant as well in terms of understanding this ‘genre’.

    I’m not usually one to comment online outside of safe spaces, but thought that after the numerous abusive attack comments this article could use some well-deserved love. Thanks again for a wonderful piece and for your years of service (because, let’s face it, it is service)! And thanks to the others who have done battle with the reactionary trolls in comments.

  33. Andrew 23 August 2010 at 10:26 PM #

    And here come the troops to rally around the poor persecuted female writers of m/m fiction.

    I don’t care who writes m/m fiction as long as they do it with some inkling of respect for their subjects or understanding of them. What I hate is the self-righteous indignation when actual queers call them out on poor behavior. You only have to look at what happened with the Lambda awards to see how quickly it turns from “BUT WE’RE YOUR ALLIES” to “WHERE’S MY COOKIE?”

  34. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 23 August 2010 at 10:39 PM #

    @Andrew:

    Amen. I was just reading back over some of the comments by some of these authors during the Lambda awards issue and one is astounded by the things many of them said. That is when I realized that a good number of these writers are not allies but opportunists.

  35. victoria brownworth 24 August 2010 at 2:05 AM #

    Lee Rowan writes: “O Rly? Victoria, you are offended because a few commentors have misspelled your name. I find it interesting that you are bothered by inaccuracy, because you are making things up wholesale and lying baldfaced about me and a number of other authors.”

    I know I am supposed to be outraged by the self-important posturings of Lee Rowan and her band of flying monkeys (that was a pretty gay reference, so you might miss it, but it’s from The Wizard of Oz, which was NOT an M/M book), but when I read this I actually did burst out laughing. I’m still waiting for one intelligent or meaningful comment to come from Rowan or her little pack of mean girls/bois/gremlins. I shan’t hold my breath, though.

    First, the term is “bold faced liar” and please, since you are the leader of the M/M enlightenment, name ONE SINGLE INSTANCE of my lying or inaccuracy either in one of my three comments here or my article. Just one. Oh wait–you can’t. Because there are none.

    I left the schoolyard and petty bullies like Rowan long ago when my years at Catholic school were finally up.And yet the past few days I have felt like I am back there again because Rowan and her coterie just can’t help acting like big kids beating up smaller kids at recess. Fortunately for me, I’m an empowered adult now, not a battered school child. So much as Rowan might want to give me a swirly, she/he can’t.

    A few things: Just because Rowan has never heard of me or my writing doesn’t exactly turn me into Anonymous. I’ve published more than 25 books (none of them self-published or straight to ebook). My work has appeared in every major queer mag in the country and most of the better known national daily newspapers, including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Google me and you get about two million references. Google Lee Rowan and you get–no joke–a list of closet organizers. So maybe I am envious–because my closets are a mess. And as we know, Rowan, Erastes, et al all know closets VERY well. Who knew Rowan was the leader of the actual business, though? (Okay, so Rowan has a name a lot of people have and I don’t. I should not hold that against her/him.)

    I like the accusation that I’ve published some books. Oh my—yes, i have. A lot. I actually have always been a writer who writes. And yes, I did edit several books of lesbian erotica, including the HISTORY (I wish you gals/guys would learn to read) that is The Golden Age of Lesbian Erotica: 1920-1940, which was a Lammy finalist (no doubt I was a finalist because of my genitallia–I believe that is an assertion you have made previously about the Lammys and it has been quoted here, so let’s not pretend I am making it up; it was taken directly from a flying monkey blog) and the first book to cover erotic writing from that period. It’s a history, though. And includes Gertrude Stein among others. I took over the project when my dear friend, the photographer Tee Corinne, was diagnosed with liver cancer (she died a few months later). So by all means castigate me for doing a lesbian history. Since my degrees are in history, it’s not exactly out of my purview, Rowan.

    Somewhere along the line in these comments the tone of the discourse devolved into Lee Rowan, professional hater, hijacking the actual conversation for her/his own agenda. So tedious. I think Paul Bens’ delightful M/M bingo card states her/his repertoire from start to finish.

    The most hilarious line of the day, though, was Rowan’s statement that I was envious of her/him. Envious of what? Your handful of M/M romances that your friends gave great reviews to? Your bad attitude? Your ability to clear a room or enrage a comments list? Your ability to fly around the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle while holding Toto in your talons? Sorry, dear, but you were never even on my radar until you inserted yourself here to puff yourself up in a mixed, non-M/M devotees group where not everyone wants to lick your honeyed cleft (that was an M/M reference). Something tells me if we stuck a hatpin in you, all the hot air would disperse and all we’d have is sputter. (My kingdom for a hatpin!)

    Here’s the reality: Half the people here have agreed with me and have been intelligent and perspicacious in their responses. The other half disagree, mostly whining and complaning. Boo hoo. But what the M/M coterie–not all, but definitely Rowan and the other flying monkeys–STILL DON’T GET is that there actually IS offense in objectifying people. That’s just fact. Deal with it. Own it. And then go off and blog amongst yourselves that the rest of us actual queers are just jealous of your hetero privilege and stupendously successful writing careers in a sub-genre (and your own publisher refers to it as sub-genre, Rowan, so I am not defaming you).

    I posed a query to Erastes (which is not allowed; she/he banned me from her/his blog immediately after because one does not question the legitimacy of these writers or one will be smited with a dirty mirkin). I now pose the same to Lee Rowan: Let’s see an actual list of how many books you’ve sold. Eliza claimed to have read 1,553 M/M novels. (I told her that she might have less of a language problem if she were reading something less low-brow, but that was probably mean of me.) So if Eliza bought 1,553 and six of them were your books (don’t worry, this won;t be a difflcult math problem), Rowan, then you made at least $6 off of poor Eliza (another literary reference, but I don’t want to get too far off track here).

    Let’s see some actual proof that M/M is the new black. Or fuschia. I just think that among all your fanciful claims should be some facts. The biggest argument the M/M writers on this list seem to hold up to the rest of us is that your careers are ENORMOUS compared to ours.

    So why all the secrecy? My life is the proverbial open book. If you can’t say who you really are for fear of reprisal, doesn’t that just make my point that homophobia is a huge threat that openly queer writers face (down) daily?

    I want to thank respondents like Paul Bens, Tasha and Mel among others who read the article carefully and articulated their responses with such care and consideration and made me think more about the issues I was discussing. This is why I write. I also want to thank Tracey for the ridiculously arduous effort to prove me wrong by listing a gazillion positive reviews allegedly by M/M writers of what she asserts are gay male romances. Tilting at windmills has not gone out of fashion, I see.

    For all the attempts by Rowan and a few others to turn this into a bloodbath, for me it’s just proven and underscored the points I made. What could be more gratifying? —Victoria Brownworth

    I believe the term is “boldfaced” lliar, but then I have only been an editor for a fewe decades, so I could be wrong.

  36. victoria brownworth 24 August 2010 at 2:56 AM #

    Lee Rowan writes: “I do not need any advice on how to conduct myself when I am attacked by a person who’s a member of an organization that I do not respect and whose recognition I do not esteem.”

    I missed this VICIOUS attack on someone else earlier, but MUST comment; This is the ENTIRE ARGUMENT of the M/M cadre in a nutshell.

    I am a member of a organization (sic), Lambda Literary, which Rowan does not respect nor esteem. That’s the whole problem. Period. Rowan doesn’t like me or LL, so she/he has to continue to complain and stomp her/his feet all over us.

    If this is the case, then why don’t you STFU and sit down and get back to writing your historical naval/navel romances and stop inserting yourself here? Since you REPEATEDLY state and have stated in the past your total disrespect for all of us and what we do, then why engage with us at all? If you so disrespect Lambda Literary, why continue to post here or read anything we write? Why not focus on the things that you do respect, whatever those might be, since there has not been a single positive comment from you on this page or anywhere else I can find.

    I am beginning to understand from the tone of the M/M writers who have posted here (I am not speaking of all M/M writers by any means) that for them M/M is a necessary release from the frustrations, anger, and deep disappointments that life has visited upon them. Just like the Tea Party folowers who insist Obama is a Muslim and that immigrants are stealing American jobs, this particular group of M/M writers believes that real gay and lesbian people are making their lives a misery, Clearly the kind of rage that Rowan has toward lesbians and gay men has to be vented somehow; M/M fiction is the weapon of choice.

    So clearly these M/M folks are more to be pitied than censured (or censored). We should all feel sorry for their oppression at the hands of Lambda Literary and its writers/editors/judges.

    Which reminds me of a story I heard at Lammy time: M/M writers suggested that pink triangles be put on their blogs to represent the oppression of M/M writers by this organization–Lambda Literary.

    Perhaps those who didn’t get the point of my article and haven’t gotten the point of some of these posts should note that:
    STRAIGHT WRITERS OF FAKE GAY FICTION THOUGHT PUTTING THE SYMBOL THE NAZIS USED FOR QUEERS IN THE DEATH CAMPS WOULD SHOW THE BAD LAMBDA LITERARY AWARDS COMMITTEE THAT THEY WERE REALLY NAZIS.

    Get it now, folks? This is what I mean by co-optation and objectification. These people revile us–Rowan said it succinctly above. So why should we embrace them?—Victoria Brownworth

    .

  37. Elisa 24 August 2010 at 3:17 AM #

    @Victoria

    > I told her that she might have less of a language problem if she were reading something less low-brow, but that was probably mean of me

    Thank you. And it’s a real thank you, not a sarcastic one. Not all of us are English mother tongue and I try very hard to speak (and write) a different language from mine. I hate when people suppose my idea are not valid since I’m not able to explain them as I’d like in a language that was not mine.

    @Tasha

    I don’t see how I could have missed the point, Justin came here, posted a very kind comment, and tried to counter some of Victoria’s assumptions, and you told him “When your main characters are a fox and a cougar, I think it’s safe to say that yours is not one of the works under discussion here regardless of the characters’ orientation

    so where I missed you point? I read the anthropomorphic novel by Kyell Gold, I will probably read the one by Justin, they are M/M novels, better they are Gay Romance, and Kyell Gold won the Best Gay Novel award last year on the contest I hosted, and the Jury was mixed, authors, readers, reviewers, editors, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual. I’d like to understand why you started your comment with “When your main characters are a fox and a cougar”. Maybe your intention wasn’t to blacklist Justin due to his characters, but I read it in that way.

  38. Paul G. Bens, Jr. 24 August 2010 at 3:30 AM #

    Elisa, dear. love you madly, but I respectfully suggest that “blacklist” may not have been the term you were searching for. There is a very long history to that word and I don’t — for your sake — want it to be misconstrued.

  39. Elisa 24 August 2010 at 4:51 AM #

    @Paul

    ostracize, dismessed? you know that English is not my strength. I wanted only to highlight that Justin has all the right, and the basis, to comment and his comment has not to be dismessed since his characters are a fox and a cougar.

  40. Nat 24 August 2010 at 7:50 AM #

    Because I’m Canadian, I was very, very surprised to hear that Canada has banned most of your books, Ms. Brownworth. I like to think I live in a country where we can buy pretty much any book we like. After a quick visit to Amazon.ca (just one place of many where I buy my books), I was able to, if I so choose, to buy 11 different titles by a a Victoria A. Brownworth (some titles are Film Fatales [sic], The Golden Age of Lesbian Erotica, Bed, etc). Would that be you? I tried the same quick search on Amazon.com in the US, and came up with the same titles, plus two or three more. Which of your books did Canada ban?

  41. Elisa 24 August 2010 at 8:24 AM #

    @Victoria

    I promised myself that I would have stopped to comment, but I’d really try to explain my point. You said:

    > Can straight writers write about queers? Of course they can. But the M/M genre is not that. It’s about reinterpreting gay male relationships for heterosexuals in a fashion that is fetishistically sexual and which thus can be accepted–because it is ultimately negative. The straight readership may not see it, but queers do.

    and your main point is that M/M novels are mainly of the masculine male-feminine male type, sorry I will not consider the rape factor since, I really don’t want to go into detail listing the very very few titles I read with a rape in it, and since I don’t like it, I don’t even use a tag to remember them, enough to say I read very, very few, less than 10 in total probably.

    Ok, go with the number (a professional deviation). I read 1553 M/M novels or Gay Romance (believe me I read all of them, and my reviews are a proof of that, mine are not simple re-blurbs of the story). I will identify M/M novels with what you are identifying as novel written by straight women for straight women, and Gay Romance the most generic sub-genre (i.e. Timothy James Beck or Gordon Merrick or Scott and Scott). I use themes to classify them, and the themes that most are near to what you are referring are probably:

    - the Alpha Male character: 121 reviews / 1553 books –> 7% of the total. Mostly by women, and here you are right, but also by Bobby Michaels, Gary Martine, Eric Del Carlo, Scott & Scott, D.J. Manly. All of them are men, so even the Alpha Male character is part of the Gay Romance imaginery.

    - the Breeches Rippers: 108 reviews / 1553 books –> 7% of the total. This is probably the nearer theme to what you are referring, the equivalent of the Bodice Rippers in the ’70 romances. All of the are Historical Romances. Again I found: Johnny Miles, M. Kei, Mark R. Probst, D.J. Manly, Mark Alders, J.J. Sagmiller, Dusk Peterson, J. (Jim) P. Bowie, Terry O’Reilly, John Simpson. Same as above.

    - the Gay for You: 80 reviews / 1553 books –> 5%. A Gay for You story is about a straight man who falls in love for a gay man, and so he “chooses” to be gay. But most of the time this plot revolve around the fact that, indeed, the straight man was not so straight. Here I have, among the male authors: Kyell Gold, Victor J. Banis, D.J. Manly, Gary Martine. Same as above.

    - the Male Pregnancy (and here I’m doing the devil advocate, this is probably the worst theme according to the Submission rule of most of the LGBT publishers): 11 reviews / 1553 books –> less than 1%. No male authors here, of course.

    So yes, there is a minimal % of M/M novels that fall in the type you are referring to, but again, I’d like to prove that they are not the majority. between 1% and 7% (and inside the 7% you have also male authors), it’s not the majority.

    Then you wanto a prove that this is the new black. This is a bit more difficult to prove. Go back on 1553 to see when I wrote them and see if there is a trend it would take me too much time. I will use exactly the contrary method: how many books I have in my reading list, unread, in the last years? (I read mostly ebooks, so this is more simple to count):

    2005 1 book
    2006 13 books
    2007 162 books
    2008 170 books
    2009 507 books
    2010 481 books (and the year is not yet complete)

    I will not consider the 2005-2006 years since I was not reading only Gay Romance then. But you can easily see that from 2007-2008 to 2009-2010 the production is 4-5 times bigger.

    Did the market “discover” it? Did the readers (both male than female) discover it? On this point I want to agree with you (I think): before 2009 the typical reader of Gay Romance was a gay man. Despite the straight/gay, men are always less “talkative” on reading venues, blog, so they are there, but they are more lurking. After 2009 the women in mass (since also before there were women, but they were like the men, lurking), discovered Gay Romance. Is this point you are referring to “fetishizing”? If so, all right, it’s true.

    But my point is that not ALL the straight women writing Gay Romance are fetishizing, as they are not ALL the readers. And most of the time, you can’t really say if a Gay Romance is written by a man or a woman. Please notice that I said “most of the time”. I’m well aware that there are some example (probably around 1%) of M/M novels written by women for women.

  42. Steve Berman 24 August 2010 at 8:57 AM #

    Well, I’ve been asked to respond to this essay – and the comments/responses by various authors and readers.

    Let me start out by stating that I don’t care for labels much. Yes, if someone asked me what sort of fiction I write or favor, I would say gay spec fic. But I am I a gay writer who loves spec fic or a spec fic writer who happens to be gay?

    And so, calling books m/m or man-love or gay is tricky in my point-of-view. And, I am sure, many readers feel the same way. While wearing my “editor” hat or my “reader” hat, I am more concerned with a good book than the gender of the author. I’ve long gone on record stating my favorite book in the world is Ellen Kushner’s SWORDSPOINT. A perfect novel about an incredible pair of men in love.

    While editing BEST GAY STORIES I have published work by Erates and J. M. Snyder. I did so because the work was, in my opinion, excellent. I’m not stating that everything I have read by these authors is terrific; I have not read all their work. But their stories moved me.

    As owner of Lethe Press, I have published several books that could referred to as m/m. Tamara Allen’s WHISTLING IN THE DARK, for instance. Or Ruth Sim’s THE PHOENIX. But I believed (and still do) that a great book is a great book.

    Lethe Press’s target readership is gay men. I’ve gotten into trouble stating this on review sites, like JesseWave’s, because straight women feel I am being “elitist” or “bigoted” not including them. One book they screamed about had the subtitle “Erotic Fairytales for Gay Men.” They felt excluded despite my explaining who the intended readership is for. Needless to say I was shocked, offended, and more than a little pissed off.

    I wonder, since m/m rose from fan-fic, if readers feel a sense of entitlement, that the authors are writing “for them.” It’s an interesting hypothesis. How many gay male authors are writing for gay men? I know, with my personal writing, I am for gay readers (sometimes specifically gay male teens with my YA fiction) and anyone else who enjoys the story is… well, gravy. But I don’t want to be told by readers what to write or how to present it. That, to me, oversteps the boundary of the author-reader pact.

    Anyway, I have heard the various complaints about m/m fiction by both gay authors and readers: that these books fetishize gay sex; that their is little sense of gay community (though there is no single gay community to my knowledge); that they are poorly written and/or edited.

    Do I think all of these things are true and endemic to women writing gay erotica or romance? Obviously not. Maybe some authors do fetishize gay sex like straight men do (horribly so) with lesbians. I am bothered by the “gay-for-you” phenomenon, which I find insulting. And poor writing is only cured by practice and sharing your work, so perhaps some books have been rushed through the system.

    Yet, there are great books written by (straight/LGBTQI) women. And I encourage anyone to write a great book about gay characters I care about.

    Victoria was expressing many of the frustrations gay authors feel with the increased exposure m/m (I still don’t like the term) has been receiving of late. Some have referred to is as “poaching.” These days there are fewer and fewer review sites that cater to gay male readers – I personally have felt unwelcome on some of the m/m review sites: gay fiction released by Lethe has been lambasted as “modern fiction” and unworthy of being read because it is not primarily romantic or erotic. How am I to feel about that? Or the authors of such books?

    Everyone is allowed their opinion. And LLF has presented several essays that could be terms “pro-m/m” so I feel it is only a good thing, in the spirit of dialogue and understanding to have her present her views.

  43. Tasha 24 August 2010 at 9:55 AM #

    @Elisa: The article is discussing a specific sub-genre: m/m fiction written by straight women that the authors claim portrays gay men in a realistic way, not in a way that fetishizes gay sexuality for the sexual titillation of the writers and the women who are the primary audience.

    A story written by a gay man about a cougar and a fox clearly does not fit into that category. As I said earlier, the orientation of the characters is irrelevant–this is so clearly a fantasy setting that the whole “in a realistic way” does not apply. As it’s stated in the blog entry, “Vampires and werewolves are not actual people.” The blog entry is about the claims that m/m depicts the lives of real gay men.

    I think you need to consider where you are–the Lambda Literary Foundation, which is all about queer literature. Nobody here is objecting to gay fiction, much less gay fiction written by gay men. That’s a straw man argument that is equivalent to white people saying, “But black people use the n-word! Why can’t we?” and it’s offensive for very similar reasons.

    As far as “blacklisting”–I haven’t suggested that anyone be censored, oppressed, or any ridiculous action that, if you’d check your dictionary, by definition cannot be imposed by those minorities who are the victims of an imbalance of power upon those who are members of the power-holding majority. It’s not possible for an honest-to-goodness oppressed class (such as queers) to oppress straight women, and these continued assertions that this is happening are making the blogger’s point: These people just don’t get it.

  44. Tasha 24 August 2010 at 10:21 AM #

    Obviously the above comment is my interpretation of the column. Apologies to Victoria Brownworth if I’ve missed the point as well :-)

  45. Paul Bens 24 August 2010 at 10:51 AM #

    @Elisa:

    If I read the context of your post correctly, I think “dismissed” is probably closest to what you were looking for.

    And your English is better than mine most of the time. =-)

  46. Elisa 24 August 2010 at 10:55 AM #

    @Tasha

    so Tasha, sorry if I misunderstood you. But please don’t misunderstand me:

    > It’s not possible for an honest-to-goodness oppressed class (such as queers) to oppress straight women, and these continued assertions that this is happening are making the blogger’s point: These people just don’t get it.

    my unfortunately use of the word “blacklist” (I’d have liked to correct it following Paul’s suggestion, but it’s not possible), was totally related to your comment to Justin Lamar, not at all referred to me or any of the other straight women in this thread.

    Unfortunately I had to face a lot of recrimination when I dared to read the anthropomorphic novel by Kyell Gold, Waterways (and that was the first one, I have now read every following novels), and in primis his publisher approached me in private, since he wanted to be sure to find an open minded reviewer that could go beyong the anthropomorphic nature of the characters.

    BTW Kyell Gold’s novels are really wonderful, but there are still people who say “no, no, no” when approached with them.

    So sorry if I jumped to conclusion, but that is a sore point for me, again I’d like to prove (how many thing I’d like to prove…) that Kyell Gold, and Justin Lamar, and all the anthropomorphic novels authors are among the highest quality authors I have found lately.

  47. Paul Bens 24 August 2010 at 10:55 AM #

    Tasha wrote:

    As far as “blacklisting”–I haven’t suggested that anyone be censored, oppressed,

    I think Elisa just picked the wrong word which is why I wanted to give her the heads-up since that word has a very strong meaning and history. =-)

  48. Antonio Gonzalez 24 August 2010 at 11:25 AM #

    I’m closing this comments thread. The conversation has derailed completely off target.

  49. Tasha 24 August 2010 at 11:26 AM #

    @Paul: I was speaking generally, as one of the m/m talking points it to claim that as victims of oppression, queers have no business oppressing others.


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    [...] Lambda Literary ~ The Fetishizing of Queer Sexuality. A Response. This is the basic tenet of M/M fiction. Straight women pose as gay men—all these writers have [...]

  4. We Are Lambda Hear Us Roar! | The Naughty Bits - August 22, 2010

    [...] Victoria Brownworth ~ Real Authentic Gay Male Porn Writer Extraordinaire First of all, Lambda Literary is an LGBT literary magazine. We’ve been around now for several [...]

  5. Welcome to the ghetto « Gay Nation - August 23, 2010

    [...] go and read the articles that gave rise to the one I linked at the top of this post: this, this and this. All of these articles are a very strange attack on women writing M/M romances. That [...]

  6. Victoria Brownworth ~ Real Authentic Gay Porn Writer Strikes Back | The Naughty Bits - August 24, 2010

    [...] Victoria Brownworth ~ Real Authentic Gay Male Porn Writer Extraordinaire I posed a query to Erastes (which is not allowed; she/he banned me from her/his blog immediately [...]