A Wave of Nausea

So I’m sure by now you’ve probably heard of the latest kerfuffle from JesseWave. A nasty little blog post bitching about mf content in mm romances. What Wave wants, apparently, is a trigger warning for every occurrence of het sex  in books sold as mm, in order that she and her ilk can avoid them. Well since when did straight sex become a trigger up there with rape, incest, underage sex and taboo practices?

Why are M/M readers treated so disdainfully? Are we not on par with het romance readers? M/M romance has been around for a decade, so why can’t our authors get it right? Clearly we are not respected because if we were this wouldn’t happen, and so often. Would authors insert graphic gay sex scenes in het romances? Not f*****g likely…

You know why most authors won’t insert graphic gay sex scenes into het romances? Bigotry. That’s why. Because the mainstream consumers of het romance would find it squicky to see two men or two women getting it on. I’m old enough to remember the days when a side character (the Token Gay) having even one weeny, fleeting little kiss, was enough to see a film slapped with an 18, or at least a 15, certificate. Suffer the little children – no one wants to see that!!

But times are a-changin’. These days the Token Gay is pretty much a staple of any het-centric film or book. Sometimes they even – *gasp* – get a little romance of their own, to a greater or lesser extent. Why? Because we’re people too, we deserve the same recognition and screen time as our heterosexual counterparts. We do not exist in a bubble.

Yet that’s exactly where Wave wants to put us. What she’s advocating is the ghettoisation of queer men at exactly the time when those of us who aren’t cis-gendered straight are coming out of the ghettos and finally being recognised as full and equal members of society. In Wave’s world, gay men all live on a little island somewhere where they can angst and fuck to their hearts’ content, well away from any nasty women (who are, of course, crowding the next island over, clutching binoculars and panting).

MM, let’s face it, is fetish. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s gay-for-pay for the titillation of (predominantly) straight women. So I find it hi-fucking-larious that it’s straight women who get so upset about straight sex; about the dreaded ‘girl cooties’. I mean, how self-loathing do you have to be?

Turn this beat around and do this in het romances and you will get an earful and an angry uprising from your fans because het romance readers wouldn’t tolerate gay men screwing their brains out or other body parts  in their romances.

Actually, JR Ward’s fans would beg to differ; and the staggering success of Lover at Last would certainly imply that readers of het romances are more than welcoming of a little variety. No, it’s mm readers of Wave’s ilk that are the least accepting. Not so long ago she was complaining that all mm books were boring these days, remember? And why are they boring? Perhaps because Wave’s site, in particular, refuses to read anything outside of an increasingly narrow remit. Is it any wonder you feel like you’re reading the same book over and over when you refuse to read anything but the same book, over and over?

But more than stigmatising straight sex (and no, I’ll never not find that funny) Wave’s post does far more damage because it marginalises and renders invisible bisexual and trans*folk alike. What Wave wants to read is two cis-gendered alphamen getting it on with each other. Usually they start out straight, but once they’ve set eyes on each other they never look at another – and certainly not a female other – ever again. Because looking is cheating, of course. (But that’s a rant for another time.) These men do a total 180, from straight to gay overnight. GFY is an enduringly popular trope but it ain’t real life. Bisexuality is far more common – and indeed more likely in those scenarios. But having an mm hero still retain some vestiges of interest in women simply wouldn’t do. Why? Is it, perhaps, because lurking beneath all of this apparent misogyny is the belief that women are somehow inherently better? That if a man had a choice between loving men and loving women, he’d always choose the latter?

Forgive me, I thought we fell in love with people, not bodies. I mean, just because Angelina Jolie exists doesn’t mean your husband’s gonna walk out on you because she’s got a hot bod. It’s you he loves. 

Equally, in mm, why is it so difficult for the readership to believe that a man can love another man – even a flawed man – to the exclusion of all others; not because all temptation is removed (by absence, or absence of interest) but because he chooses to ? Because he doesn’t want to be unfaithful? Because he loves that one man enough to forsake all others and only be with him?

Le sigh. In my own books, at least, I prefer realism. When I read an historical, the last thing I want to read is the two heroes going off into the sunset hand-in-hand with not a thought for the succession of the family title or inheritance of land, because it’s not realistic. If you can get the two lovers to their HEA without a marriage and do so in a way that rings true, all kudos to you. (Ava March, I should note, does this rather well.) But if not then give me the accurate version, wife and all. And yes, he can even sleep with her.

I’ve read books where every. single. bloody. character. was a gay man. (Usually they’re set on a ranch or something.) BORING! I’ve experienced the ghetto first-hand and I left for a reason. Part of the beauty of the world is its diversity: part of the fun of reading is seeing that represented. I don’t need my books to play out like something from a Bel Ami shoot – I’ll watch the Bel Ami videos for that. They’re more entertaining, and at least they’re honest what they’re about.

In my own writing I am, so far, pretty light on the girl cooties (and I swear, if I never hear that term again, it will be too soon…). So far, anyway. I think offhand there’s one instance in one book where an MC gets it on with a girly – and no, I’m not telling you which. Straight sex is not a trigger. Women are not triggers. Non-cis-gendered non-gay bodies are not triggers. No-one would dream of demanding a trigger warning for interracial sex – or accuse authors who included it without triggers of disrespecting their audience.

Moreover, where’s the respect for authors? I know we’re meant to kowtow to bloggers and be grateful if they even glance in our direction, but fuck Wave and fuck her twice for treating us like unruly children; for acting like the CEO of MM, Inc. Who put her in charge? She reads books and says if she likes them or not, that’s all. She’s not God and her site is not the holy fucking grail. I have never followed nor submitted to her site, and posts like this remind me exactly why. Just because something doesn’t push her personal buttons, doesn’t mean it isn’t entitled to exist. It doesn’t mean the authors did anything wrong or showed any disrespect. I mean, how big does your ego have to be that you take a plot-point personally?

Writing a book is hard fucking work. We pour our blood and guts into what we produce, and then we send our babies out into the world and hope that other people will like them. Some won’t, and that’s entirely their prerogative. That doesn’t mean they get the right to say the book shouldn’t have been written. No one is holding a gun to Wave’s head (as, indeed, the veritable flood of DNFs she’s claiming attest). Don’t like a book, cease to read it. It really is that simple.

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END NOTE: I am, however, heartened by the overwhelming rejection of Wave’s post from authors and readers alike. Several authors who had something to say (far more eloquently than me, I might add) are Amelia C. GormleySteelwhisper, Aleksandr Voinov, Amelia Bishop (THIS. So much), Heidi Cullinan and Heidi Belleau, among many others. Read their posts; I applaud every word.

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28 replies on “A Wave of Nausea”

  1. fenraven says:

    Beautifully, perfectly said. You covered every point and managed to pinpoint the ones I hadn’t yet consciously recognized. Thanks, Kate.

    Shared to Facebook. If I could reblog it, I would!

  2. Well said!

    Especially, in my opinion:

    ” MM, let’s face it, is fetish. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s gay-for-pay for the titillation of (predominantly) straight women. So I find it hi-fucking-larious that it’s straight women who get so upset about straight sex; about the dreaded ‘girl cooties’. ”

    And:

    ” Moreover, where’s the respect for authors? I know we’re meant to kowtow to bloggers and be grateful if they even glance in our direction, but fuck Wave and fuck her twice for treating us like unruly children; for acting like the CEO of MM, Inc. Who put her in charge? She reads books and says if she likes them or not, that’s all. ”

    This is the third time that blogging site has posted something that made me think UGH.

    Very saddening. Glad to see people giving articulate responses! Because i’m too angry to, lol.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      If I’d replied last night when I first saw it, believe me I would have been far less articulate. Still I think there were others infinitely more eloquent than I managed to be, but this stuff makes me soooooo angry. She runs a blog that could be a real force for positive change, and instead this is what we get. SMH.

  3. Sharita Lira says:

    Bra—fuckin—vo! Awesome post. You and Ameilia are spot on!

  4. AJ Llewellyn says:

    Thank you for this post Kate!!!! I am surprised Wave hasn’t deleted the ping-back yet…
    Wave spat the dummy when people disagreed with her. Her post was nasty – no surprise there – and as usual, when more people disagree than agree with her she CLOSES HER POST TO FURTHER COMMENTS!
    Most of her defenders were her own in-house critics – another non-surprise.
    I found it mind-boggling that her post was a slap-down to us M.M authors, yet after the first few comments, she was trying to turn it around to make it sound like she was blaming the publishers for not adding labels to books with M/F scenes!
    Come on…what a mean-spirited post whipped up out of nothing…much ado about…even less…

    • The post is gone now. Scrolled through her blog to make sure I wasn’t missing it then tried her twitter and the link she posted there and nope can’t find it. I’m sure someone screenshot it – the Internet never forgets.

      Great post, Kate. To me, M/M means that the relationship is between two men, and even if some girly bits get thrown in there, the end of the story has the two men in a relationship. They get a HEA. I guess I can’t really say much on the matter because all the M/M books I’ve read haven’t had any on page M/F sex. It just doesn’t seem like it should be as horrible of a thing as JW is making it out to be.

      • Kate Aaron says:

        It’s only just gone.

        And I agree, I read practically nothing but mm, and I can think of one off the top of my head that included mf – funnily enough, by Josh Lanyon, the unarguable behemoth of our genre. As was stated elsewhere, the only problem I see with mf content in mm is if you’re reading SOLELY for titillation. If it’s erotica they want, they should read erotica. That’s all clearly labelled so we can all go straight to our happy place. Laying such pre-requisites at the door of fully-rounded novels with three dimensional characters is just asking for boring literature, IMO.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      Indeed, a complete storm in a teacup. And so unnecessary. I, like most authors/publishers, am well aware of Wave’s reviewing guidelines and I fully defend her right to read and review whatever she wants. Her playground, her rules. But when she makes a sweeping and personal attack against ALL mm authors, and accuses us of being ‘disrespectful’ to our readers simply because we refuse to endorse in our books her own narrow view of what constitutes – to her – an acceptable mm romance, then I have a problem.

  5. Adrienne says:

    When you start labeling every aspect of a book blurb it turns into an ingredient list.

    Ingredients, m/m sex, fast cars, park scenes, dog with allergies, man with allergy to dogs, goat on a roof, chicken stuck in a stove pipe, ugly boxers, canola oil, various condoms (natural and artificially colored), angst, and true love.

    Novel facts
    Serving size one book
    Servings per book 1

    Pages: 250
    Pages of sex 50
    Total Sex grams 30%
    Same sex 20%
    Het sex 10%
    Angst 35%
    Cliff hangers: 15%
    Action: 12%
    Happy ending 5%
    Total Love quantities 25%

    *Percent daily based on a true love, love story.
    And no those percentages don’t add up. So what, I don’t care.

    Allergy alert: this product contain penises and nuts.

    • *sporfle*!

      One of my publisher already asks on the book’s paperwork what the percentage of sex is in the book.

      I’ve been known to warn for everything including poetry. But that was back in fandom.

      • Kate Aaron says:

        Well mm began life in fandom and I wonder how much of this is a crossover from that field. Requesting a percentage of sex is not unusual (indeed, some of the biggest romance publishers’ pay schemes are based on nothing else) but refusing to continue reading a book that – one assumes – the reviewer was previously enjoying because of one little mf scene is utterly absurd.

        • They don’t request a certain percentage–they’ve published everything from 17% to 63% from me–they just want to know how much is in it, approximately.

          And yeah, a lot of us came from fandom. That’s where the no one under 18, lots of warnings, etc comes from.

          I write as I please. All this does is limit where I promote.

  6. It’s all been said, except this: now I’m following you. 🙂

  7. Louisa Bacio says:

    I’ve been slammed often for intermixing m/m, m/m/f, m/f, f/f in my stories. Really, I go by what the character wants. Not so much what I see for the character. That said, I like reading all forms, so don’t think much of the combinations. I know where *not* to send a story for review 😉

  8. Kate Aaron says:

    Absolutely!

    I’ve been heartened to see so many authors reaffirm their right to create the stories they believe in, rather than pander to some ‘formula’ laid out by one (very vocal) blogger. Early in the (now removed) post she accused us of “getting it wrong”. If encouraging inclusivity across the rainbow is wrong, I don’t wanna be right 😉

  9. Lily G Blunt says:

    Superb post, Kate. Bravo!

  10. Just seeing this post (thank you Triberr!). I agree totally with you. I know as authors we are not supposed to react to reviews/reviewers no matter what they’re like, but her review for my m/m book (actually it wasn’t her – it was one of her reviewers) was unnecessarily snarky. Several people called her on it.
    Since then I haven’t read a single review from her site and will never send another book to her again. I know I’m not the only author who feels this way. I respect a person’s right to not enjoy my books. You can’t please all the people all the time. But we authors work our asses off and to have our efforts thrown back in our face — as with posts like this recent one and in reviews like the one for See the Light — is disheartening.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      Yes, none of the other big bloggers feel the need to be snarky or spew bile and vitriol every few months to keep the hits coming in. Elisa Rolle springs to mind as an obvious comparison. Her site is the behemoth of the genre and yet she’s never anything but kind and courteous, often going out of her way to be so. Would that more people were like her!

  11. A nonny mouse says:

    Awwww, poor Jesse. Such a victim.

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