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.
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. Gormley, Steelwhisper, Aleksandr Voinov, Amelia Bishop (THIS. So much), Heidi Cullinan and Heidi Belleau, among many others. Read their posts; I applaud every word.