Saturday, 9 January 2010

More on the M/M genre (because I’m not above flogging a dead horse :P)

Someone referenced an LAWeekly article about women in M/M as relevant to what prompted a previously problematic post so I went looking. this article is the only one I found. It’s possibly my google-fu is weak and there may be another though, so let me know if it’s another article someone is referencing.

I have to say this article annoyed me a lot. I didn’t see any sexism in it particularly as was suggested to me (but I’m not a woman so don’t have the awareness) but disrespectful to gay men? Oh yes. It annoyed me further that it contains so much that is problematic and it fails to acknowledge any of it - and sadly these are many of the things that so annoy me about the m/m genre.

First of all - the article is 6 pages long. Number of gay men in it? Zero. Comments at our complete absence? Zero. Gay men are completely absent in this article, completely vanished from a genre that uses us as subject matter. Really - this needs to be said very loudly - We’re not pose-able action dolls, we’re not objects. We’re not things. We’re people and this article gives us no respect as that. You can’t have an entire damn genre that uses us but not acknowledge us at all.

Secondly, and a major loathing of mine. Some of the authors - straight women using male names to pretend to be gay men (or 2-3 gender neutral names so they can imply they’re gay men). “James” Buchanan even admits she uses a male name to sound more “authentic.” Authentic... I’m sorry, I just had to get up from the keyboard and walk away after that one. Authentic. A straight woman is using a male pseudonym to seem more authentic writing about gay men. Why is this not seen as wrong? Why is this not seen as a gross appropriation? With this deception she is claiming a gay life experience she does not have. She claims our identity with no experience and no life history of it - she claims it for profit yet avoids all the pit falls of prejudice and homophobia. This shows us zero respect and it’s shocking that it was passed by with so little comment.

Can you imagine a young gay man, looking to connect desperately with the LGBT community, goes to a book shop to find gay characters written by gay men - but he leaves with a James Buchanan book, because he has been lied to. Because she feels it’s ok to use us like this, that our identity.

Women - write m/m fiction by all means - but do not lie to us. Do not claim to be one of us. Do not claim to understand what it is to be a gay man. Do not claim gay male identity. Do not imply it, do not try to assume it, do not appropriate our experiences and our lives as toys for your enjoyment or tools for your profit. It’s dishonest and grossly disrespectful.

Then we’ve got some wonderfully shallow stereotypical musing about gay characters “who pitches, who catches” “sweet, subservient beta males” who are the bottoms (What. The. Hell.) and even touching on the gay men acting stereotypically female in these books - yet such ignorant stereotypes are not challenged or questioned. They see and perpetuate this but don’t for a second challenge how problematic they are. Because that may involve treating gay men like people.

And the fetishisation is rampant. Gay men having sex is hawt. Let’s all get together and do some salivating. Oh look let’s see what new things we can come up with - vice cops in chaps? Yay. More in a bed, yes moar moar! Oh and let’s, for some gods unknown reason, dredge up Laurell K Hamilton’s depiction of a woman under a pile of shapeshifters who shift and start licking each other because, hey it’s all freaky sex right? Gay sex and shapeshifter sex? And who cares that we’re evoking the whole “gay sex is on par with bestiality” trope? Let’s throw in some bisexual male elves that rape human women - because Gay and Bi men as the alien and the sexual predator is TOTALLY not an issue. But the publisher wants more sex scenes! MORE SEX SCENES MOAR! Screw the plot, we need 4 more sex scenes in this book! Totally not fetishising gay men though - MOAR BUTTSEX!

And a special bonus prizes to:
but there’s also pleasure lurking beneath the surface, a thrill at almost being caught. A sense of the illicit. It’s hard to say whether these novels would be as compelling if mainstream culture accepted being gay.

Y’know I’m REALLY glad that our oppression is titillating to you. Ye gods this could have been worded better and more respectfully (again, if it could be written with a nod towards the idea that gay men actually EXIST) to treat a homophobic society as a thrill.

“The guy in that story ruins everybody’s life because he can’t accept who he is. It’s just all so horribly painful. If these people only had the balls to be happy.” In reference to Brokeback Mountain.

Now I had many problems with Brokeback Mountain, mainly because I don’t need to see another tragic story of lives destroyed by homophobia (asides from other issues like the differing treatment of gay interactions and straight interactions) - I always thought it was better for straight people to watch and maybe buy a clue than for gay people to watch and be triggered by. However - for a straight woman to summarise coming to terms with homophobia, your sexuality and the closet as “not having the balls to be happy.” Really, no. Seriously no. There is so much ignorant privilege there I can’t even begin to address it. Sorry if depiction of the reality of homophobia spoiled your Happily Ever After.

And a special irony prize goes to
Tamara McNeill is a fan of Buchanan’s books. At the Hustler store reading, she said that she believes formulaic straight romances of the Harlequin type work only when you’re a kid. McNeill is 37. “By then you’ve had life experiences,” she says, pulling her shawl closer around her shoulders. She likes the roughness and complications of Buchanan’s romances.

Yeah, life experiences. But not gay male experiences - but some of these authors feel free to claim they have and appropriate at will.

Frankly, I think the article is a train wreck - deeply problematic and epitomises that in some areas of the m/m genre actual gay men don’t matter at all - we are objects to use not people to be respected.

ETA: I have since learned that James Buchanan is genderqueer and I assume is using an exclusively male name for hir own identities sake. So while the issue is the same the specific in this example is likely inaccurate. I can only assume the "authenticity" comment was a direct fabrication by the article, though I cannot say because there has been no refutation from hir or anyone else quoted in it