So for all of you rushing over to read this and expecting a well thought out, academic article on these issues, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.
I've been trying to write several articles on some of these issues and keep failing. Mostly because of my lack of time but also because I think my thoughts on these issues need to be worked through before I can write anything coherent.
First off I am not seeing any of these issues talked about publicly within the M/M Romance writing community. I could be wrong and people could be discussing them in places where I don't go, if so tell me. I would love to see these issues talked about. I think that would make us stronger, better writers to get some stuff out there and on the table. It's easy to say "we write romance. It is light, it's silly, we don't take it too seriously and neither should you." Every image that is put out there though, whether in a book, a tv show, a movie, or a picture has power. I personally as a writer want to be aware of and take responsibility for some of that power. Or in other words I want to use my powers for good not for evil.
So here are, very briefly, some of my thoughts and some questions I've been mulling over:
How do we as romance writings represent the male body? I've noticed in M/M romance men tend to come in two types: large and muscular (read often dominant) type. Then there are the guys who are small and slight (and too often submissive when paired with type A). Often both of these types of guys are ripped, young and hung like horses. There isn't a whole lot of older guys, chubby guys, guys with small or tiny dicks, etc.
I know this is romance and I am not necessarily criticizing as much as wondering what thought process goes on in making these desitions? How thoughtful are we? And what does it in turn say about (gay)masculinity when we construct it on to these particular bodies?
this is one that gets talked about a lot when it comes to women's bodies but I think it's important to talk about it in terms of men's bodies as well. We create images of men -- usually gay men -- which are meant to be consumed, "looked at" through the medium of the word, and to provoke an emotional reaction in the "viewer." Although what we do is written it often also has a visual component. Most m/m romance book covers feature models and lots of authors most pictures of the models that inspire them.
So what are the politics of creating images for consumption and sexual enjoyment? What is the politics of representing a minority group for this purpose?
Again I'm not trying to point fingers or anything, I just want to hear it discussed.
Privileging the Penis:
Let's face it in M/M romances there are a lot of cock and a lot of penetrative sex. Neither of which is a bad thing.
But: penetrative sex is privileged in American society and I would say Western society in general. It is held up as the best kind of sex, the only real sex one can have. Linked to that is the idea that the only right thing to be doing the penetrating is a penis, and the ability to penetrate with a penis is highly privileged. Actually you could arguing at its crudest this is how modern masculinity is constructed in Western society: real men use their penises for penetration. To penetrate is wrapped up with masculinity and strength in our society, to be penetrated with femininity and weakness. Attaching "real" masculinity to the penis is problematic because it
denies masculinity to people who don't have a penis. To attach
masculinity to the act of penetrating is problematic because it denies it to those who either can't or don't enjoy penetrating others. It also gives credence to the construct of masculinity as stronger and better then femininity and men as stronger and better then women. Finally to privilege penetrative sex stigmatizes and depowers everyone who has sex any other way.
This being said I feel very uncomfortable continuing to make images which privilege the penis and penetrative sex, and sometimes even followed the above power equation. I should be clear here, this is penetrative sex and penises in my writing and I'm not saying writers should stop writing either one. It's just I try to be extremely careful and mindful of how I'm portraying things like this. I am interested to know what others' thoughts on these issues are.
Porn and the Naming of Things:
This is a subject which involves the entirety of the Romance genre not just M/M Romance. Recently I went on a kick reading through blog entry after blog entry by romance writers trying to define the difference between porn/erotica/erotic romance/romance.
I think there are differences and I think these each as separate categories can be useful. I am made uncomfortable though by the erotica writers who defined what they did as "not porn" the erotic romance writers who defined what they did as "not erotica" and romance writers as "not sexually explicated."I think that's problematic personally.
So, thoughts, questions, discussion? What do writers think? Have you considered any of these points and if so what is your take? Do you think these kind of questions are important? Or not and if not why not?