piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
elsenet i was linked to victoria brownworth's article in the lambda literary blog.

let me first say that i read brownworth's article and thought it was abysmally bad, so bad that it totally obscured its own central concern. that's a crying shame. it's also a shame that there was no enlightenment had from the other side in the comments, for the most part. it was typical defensive derailment, complete with the usual bingo excuses, as paul g bens showed so poignantly. but, having observed such discussions before, commenters would have derailed the thread anyway, even if victoria had done her research instead of putting more falsehood than truth out there about m/m, and being rude to everyone who disagreed with her. they wouldn't have listened even if she had been well-informed and courteous. but they should listen, because the central concern is important.

the central concern is that m/m AS A GENRE fetishizes gay relationships for the titillation of heterosexual women, and that this is detrimental to actual gay people.

i believe that concern is warranted.

i read a lot of m/m, and by "a lot" i mean around 1500 stories a year. i do not just read based on reviews; i pick a large number of books at random. disclaimer: i know that there are some actual male writers behind some of the pseudonyms (as well as lesbians and bisexual men and women and trans folk), and i know that some actual gay men read m/m and enjoy it. end disclaimer.

but the vast majority is born from slash fiction and yaoi, is written by straight women, and is read by straight women. and yes, yaoi is much worse when it comes to faulty information and fetishization -- but that doesn't mean m/m escapes the accusation. some of m/m's best selling authors are its worst offenders. and IMO the majority of the genre is at least mildly offensive to actual gay persons.

i also know that m/m is empowering for many women and genderqueers (i won't go into why here, but it's fascinating. and way cool. some of the analysis in fandom way surpasses anything i've seen come out of gender studies.).

but i've also read many comments from fangirls that show they get a lot of misinformation from m/m, and that they thoroughly objectify the men in m/m. if an author writes badly informed fiction, some people will swallow that crap with gusto, and will think they now know something about gay people and their sexuality, their relationships. and they will be wrong. that's not empowering anyone; it damages.

writers who're defensive when confronted with the accusation that they're appropriating and objectifying, are not being asked to "get out" of writing about gay relationships. however, if they don't get it right, if they are lazy, if they write formula, then they better be prepared for scathing criticism from gay people whom they offend with that dreck. it is totally possible to write authentic gay fiction as a non-gay writer; there are many talented m/m authors who're taking their craft seriously. the problem is not THAT women write it, it's HOW they write it.

the entitled whining from some m/m authors in the comments to brownworth's article was painful to watch, and it didn't impress me one bit. yup, it can be hard to look at one's own work with a critical eye, even if one writes "just fiction". but one doesn't get to trample all over an already oppressed group with impunity "just for fun". because fiction is never "just fiction". fiction has power, fiction teaches, fiction influences people. and if, as an author, you appropriate a facsimile of people's lives in order to gain personal profit from what happens to also be their pain, they have every right to tell you that you're an arse who makes their lives harder.

an author is not directly responsible what people do with the information they convey. but the author is culpable. i suggest to take that seriously, even if one just writes plot-what-plot stories -- getting it right matters to those whose lives one borrows in order to have a bit of fun.

Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 08:05 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
In my eyes, m/m is about the same as lesbian porn. Fake relationships made up by uninvolved people for their gratification. There's nothing wrong with that as long as they know it's fake. And stop claiming that they totally understand everything just because they wrote something that people in their group enjoyed.

(I understand that there are queer women involved in writing. However, I feel the issues faced by queer men and queer women are very different.)

Yet the minute this issue gets brought up, my experience has been that the overwhelming response is "You're sexist, you're trying to oppress women's sexuality!" No, I couldn't care less about women's sexuality, I'm just tired of them using the cute, socially-acceptable parts of mine and acting like they're doing me a favour and "raising gay awareness" by doing it.

(What's even funnier is the number of women I've seen who've said they would find a man writing f/f a bit suspect. Clearly, all men are evil perverts - unless we're fictional.)

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 09:55 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
Sorry, yes - I meant to put that in quotes - not real lesbian porn, I mean the stuff made by men, for the purposes of getting men off, involving actresses who's sexuality has nothing to do with it because the whole thing is fake (They might like girls, they might not but be willing to fake it for the money.)

And yeah - I'm aware it's not exactly the same, because of men having more power in the wider world, but I'm very tired of being told I don't get to have an opinion on how *my* sexuality is used, because I'm male. I mean... I'm disabled, but I don't get able-bodied women telling me I don't get to talk about disability because I have male privilege, or white privilege. This, sexuality, is the only area I've personally met where another group feels they can say "No! Shut up, and if you try to speak, you're clearly doing it to oppress us!"

I can understand why a man writing f/f would be suspect - but considering my experience of women around gay men has been fag hags, the kind of women who want men to follow them around and dress them up and help them with their love-lives, I could very easily say that on a smaller scale, women have a shitty history of dealing with gay men. (Note: I have lots of female friends, so I don't believe "all women" are like that, but I've had women latch onto me as soon as they found out I had a boyfriend. Because they decided, based on me liking men, that I must be into pop music and fashion and fluttering around adoring women. Um. No. I'm bi, and I shop like a stereotypical straight guy.)

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 11:12 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
Yeah - and the thing is, I *get* that I have male privilege. I think hanging out in the corner of DW I do, it would be hard to forget that, because it's discussed a lot. So I'm not pretending to be some Enlightened New Man or whatever, but I do get annoyed by the idea that automatically, because I'm a guy, if I tell a woman I disagree with her then I'm being oppressive.

And yeah - I think part of it is that if someone calls me a fag, they don't act like they're doing me a favour. Whereas the whole fag-hag thing - they act like they're doing me a favour by allowing me to tag along and tell them they look wonderful in that dress. (I've pointed out that since I won't be wearing them, my only interest in women's shoes is if they're on someone who plans to have sex with me - because that's someone where I care about how they look. Otherwise... they're just shoes, I don't get the big deal...)

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-04 00:42 (UTC)
beaq: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] beaq
Ew, is that fag-haggery? I guess I was doing it wrong, tagging around after gay men hoping they'd be nice even if I wasn't as cool as they were. I wonder what that made me.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-04 07:35 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
"even if I wasn't as cool as they were."

Um.Really not sure how to take your comment, in a thread about fetishisation...

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-04 08:02 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
Whoa. Good point.

Um. It was more like an aside: it did not occur to me that that was the primary image people had of the people they called "fag hags." My experience as a younger person was of baby dykes and various other marginalized women clinging to the fringes of tight clusters of more-or-less out gay men who seemed (at the time) to have their shit together regarding their identities. There may have been some fetishization involved, though I only remember having crushes on individual men who were later revealed to be gay, myself. The appellation "fag hag" was used casually to refer to the women tagging along. The gay groupies. I don't remember women toting male pets around to fawn over their fabulousness, but showy women are kind of alien to me, so. I can see where that might be the more prevalent kind of thingy, though.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-04 08:16 (UTC)
beaq: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] beaq
Sorry, I commented anonymously by accident -- if p approves it, there will be a response. :-)

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-04 08:27 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
*nods* I thought it was you! I'm... possibly not coherent enough right now to have a sensible response to that anyway (I'm sick enough to have just mis-spelled my own name. Hint: It's only got four letters) so I shall come back to this after some sleep!

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 12:37 (UTC)
maize: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] maize
I think the distinction that you're getting at in the last paragraph can be made clearer by asking if there's a significant body of f/f literature being written by men for men in which the women remain lesbian and/or their relationship is not being played for male enjoyment within the confines of the story (i.e. there's not a male character in the story being titllated, as opposed to a male reader being titillated).

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 14:15 (UTC)
hiddenheart: Rainbow flag with small heart (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hiddenheart
There certainly is a significant body of f/f fiction written by men, many using neutral or female-sounding handles, a fair amount of it comes across as being written to titillate guys, even though the characters focus on other women. I'm a little hazy right now and would have some trouble articulating the differences in feel from stories that don't feel like they're mostly written to get straight guys off, but there really is a different kind of set and ambience.

I like piranha's word choice of "culpable".

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 16:38 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
For the most part, I think it's a language thing. I joke that I sound like a woman because I was "raised by slashers" - I was hanging out online around slash writers, reading and writing it, age 12. So for half my life, the main influences on my writing have been women (of varying ages and nationalities) who wrote slash. So I watched them, learned from them, got feedback from them.

Though what's funny is when I wrote something for RP that was through the eyes of one of my male characters (a story supposed to be written by him, in-game) it came out sounding like the porn from the back of gay mags. Very much gay-guy stuff.

*Takes off ex-English student hat*

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 16:58 (UTC)
hiddenheart: Rainbow flag with small heart (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hiddenheart
*laugh* I'm sure there's a lesson here for all of us.

Explaining what that lesson is, is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:04 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
It was weird, because as I was writing it, I thought "OK, the style does suit [character], but I'm sure I've seen this kind of stuff before..." and when I thought about it, it was the "By gay men, for gay men, about gay men" wank stories that always went out on the back page of the glossy gay mags. Completely different style to the way I usually write.

Sorry to [personal profile] piranha for the off-topic!

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:06 (UTC)
hiddenheart: Rainbow flag with small heart (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hiddenheart
Oh boy do I know that feeling, of realizing somewhere along the line that what I've written is very representative of something and very much not exactly what I was out to do. The mind, it is a very peculiar place.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:10 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
Yeah - thankfully, it fit (Because he was coming from that kind of background), but it was definitely a "huh" moment.

Obviously, any statements are sweeping generalisations - I'm sure there are plenty of men who pile on the adjectives and plenty of women who have a very sparse style. But you *can* generalise with regards to how certain groups write - which is another reason why there's such a difference between m/m and "gay fiction" - not only is m/m not about the gay experience (which ack, there is no one "gay experience", but you know what I mean), but it's linguistically very different.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:12 (UTC)
hiddenheart: Rainbow flag with small heart (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hiddenheart
Yeah. It's hard to recognize in some specific cases, but you can identify the general shape of groups and associate them with kinds of authors, and be generally valid even with all the specific variation.

I've been looking back at my own prose through years of changing gender identification, and thinking about this stuff, lately.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:20 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
It's actually what my A-Level (last year of school) English project was on. My conclusion was basically "Yes, there is a difference in word use", but it was a pretty short project - obviously, we're talking "one guy in high school" standard here! There has been a fair bit of research into it though.

I suspect socialisation has a lot to do with it - so I would imagine people place closer to the group they're "around" most in a writing sense - be that their actual gender or not. But it would be interesting to see if, for people who aren't cisgender, it's changed beyond just "getting older" or "becoming a better writer".

...now I'm all curious, dammit!

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:26 (UTC)
hiddenheart: Rainbow flag with small heart (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hiddenheart
I should do up an entry about that soon over at my journal. Feel free to noodge me if I haven't done so by this time next week!

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 17:34 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
I shall keep an eye out!

on 2010-09-04 00:38 (UTC)
beaq: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] beaq
The only upside, I guess, is that gay men don't often wind up having sex with people who have learned everything they know about their sexuality from poorly-written porn made up by people who aren't gay men. o.O

on 2010-09-04 00:39 (UTC)
beaq: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] beaq
OK, I have absolutely no idea what comment I just responded to. That was supposed to go to the OP.

on 2010-09-04 08:13 (UTC)
beaq: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] beaq
Eh, just being facetious. I think most porn is a good way to get bad sex advice.

Re: Popping in from /network

on 2010-09-03 09:56 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
I haven't - I put it aside, because I'm having an arthritis flare-up so my eyes are too foggy to see anything clearly right now. But ideas would be welcome - I can bookmark them for in a few days.

on 2010-09-03 09:08 (UTC)
jd: (every boy)
Posted by [personal profile] jd
Thank you for this post.
Edited (QR subject bug) on 2010-09-03 09:08 (UTC)

on 2010-09-03 12:41 (UTC)
maize: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] maize
This is much of what bothers me about gay male characters (and I specify male here mostly because I'm not as familiar with lesbian characters in this context -- their situation may be the same) on mainstream television. They seem to be all drawn to the same stereotype, and seem to appear primarily as fun safe accessories to the female characters. (I didn't think of it this way before now, but isn't there something a little weird in that -- in taking a confidante-and-shopping-buddy type of role that traditionally would have required another female character on the show and instead finding a way to have a man play it?)

on 2010-09-03 13:29 (UTC)
jackandahat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] jackandahat
It's the desexualisation of gay men (I say "gay men" as shorthand for men-who-are-attracted-to-men, because bisexuals don't exist). We're not scary if we're not doing icky things like actually have sex.

On the one hand, it could be shoehorning in men. But - both on TV and in real life - it seems like a way of filling that role... without inviting competition. Because another woman might try and steal that man she has her eye on - while a gay man might be attracted to men, but obviously, gay men never get the man because the Love Interest is automatically heterosexual.

So. The Gay Sidekick is a man, but without any of the problems there, and filling a female role without any of the dangers there. The perfect neutered pet.

on 2010-09-05 20:55 (UTC)
sothcweden: birds flying high at sunset/dawn (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sothcweden
I remember a lot of discussion about this subject going on earlier this year when the Lambda Literary Award submission requirements were announced and how some writers reacted very badly. Your post reminded me that I never followed up on some of the reading I meant to do in the wake of that event, so thank you.

I'd be very interested in the possible post you mentioned about good m/m fiction, since I don't have any idea who is considered a *good* author. I read slash fanfic, but haven't ever tried published m/m, and would be interested in reading something good to better understand the issue. I'm guessing the m/m that explicitly fetishizes gay men bears some resemblance to badfic, which I'm sufficiently familiar with, so I probably don't need to read it, but if you know of a particular example, I'd appreciate the direction.

on 2010-09-15 00:01 (UTC)
sothcweden: birds flying high at sunset/dawn (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sothcweden
I'd appreciate that if you've got time and spoons enough. I realized over the weekend that I actually have read one m/m story, Kate Sherwood's Dark Horse (from Dreamspinner). She's on my flist, and I helped pre-read it before she submitted it, so I'd forgotten that it's m/m published fic.

When reading slash I prefer that the relationship be part of the story, but not the only reason for the story most of the time. I'm a fool for long, plotty stories (esp. with character development), where the sex is part of the story, rather than just that it's time for a sex break in the plot. And really, if you recommend some stories I'll consider them, since you've already vetted them.

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