Friday, April 27, 2012

Women Can't Write Realistic Men

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On Thursday last week I blogged about stereotyping of men and how continually saying how the male cookie cutter can be downright damaging. It's hard and unfair to the guys who are emotional. But it's also hard for women who write about men, because they get their fair share of bashing from people who have fixed ideas about how men are supposed to feel and behave.

Discussions about the difference between male m/m authors and female m/m authors pop up every now and then. Some are positive but some are downright nasty. Thankfully, there are people who give new female m/m authors the benefit of the doubt, but there are always those who don't and they're very loud about how women have no right to write m/m.

I'm new in the m/m book market and I take it to heart when I read about female m/m authors, because it's almost always used as a negative term. Female m/m authors, or women who write m/m, or worse yet: straight women who write m/m, is usually an ugly stamp in these discussions. It's like an anomaly that shouldn't exist in a genre that's not supposed to be about prejudice.

I've read both female and male authors. There's "unemotional writing" (what most would call "masculine") and "emotional writing" ("feminine") and everything in between. I've seen male authors write on the "emotional" side and female authors on the "unemotional" side. From the books I've read I see that it doesn't have anything to do with the sex of the author, but the author him/herself. Things aren't black or white, people! For example, I thought J.M. Snyder was a guy for the longest time because of her writing style. I also would have thought Anne Tenino was a guy, after reading 18% Grey, if she'd used a gender neutral name. Same goes for Angel Martinez and Shelter Somerset. I thought Zach Sweets was a female after reading Zombie Rain until I read the author bio. I would also have a hard time pinning the sex of Andrew Grey, Scotty Cade, Jack Greene and Edward C. Patterson. Each has their own unique style, but none scream MALE or FEMALE. I've even had emails asking if I was really a female, after the sender read Grade-A-Sex Deal.

I've seen many articles and blogs that practically down-talk female m/m authors. What's the purpose? Most female m/m authors I've read write realistic men. Are people offended that women enjoy writing and reading m/m fiction? Are women invading an exclusive area? Are people upset that female m/m authors are doing very well in the m/m market? Why? Don't we all want m/m fiction to be considered "normal" instead of being a small section hidden on the back shelves? More exposure and popularity brings about more awareness. I don't take offence to men writing women. I don't feel they write women any more unrealistically than women write women - it all depends on the author.

Up until recently, I was terrified of getting reviews that might indicate my guys were more like girls. It hasn't happened yet, but it could happen. I put a lot of work into my characters and make sure they're guys. But that doesn't mean I've made them all unemotional and unromantic - like I said in my last post: guys are as different as they are many.

I haven't read many books that feel like the guys are girls - I don't know what books others have been reading. I've read a couple, but they are the exception. Yet every female m/m author gets shoved under the same carpet until they've fought to prove themselves to this group of people who maintain the distinction between female and male m/m authors. It's weird, that's what it is.

I'd like to quote Kayelle Allen from Jerry Race's blog, "For decades, if not centuries, men have been writing female characters, and females have been writing male characters. Why, suddenly -- in the 21st century no less -- would someone think a woman writing a scene with two heroes instead of one is improper, or worse -- that she simply couldn't do the story justice? Was prejudice rearing its ugly head in an environment that demanded equal rights for all?"

I've heard these exact words: Women shouldn't write m/m. The usual reason is that women can't write realistic gay men because they haven't experienced being a gay man. What a load of crap. I wasn't an African shipped off to America into slavery, but if I put my mind and research skills into it, I believe I could write it realistically. It has nothing to do with race, sex, or even time period. Authors research. We read blogs, experiences and stories about the subjects we're writing about. By doing so, and doing a lot of it, we're able to come up with realistic characters and put ourselves in their places. Most of us don't say "to hell with research".

But wait, there's more. For those who are thinking "well, you're women, how can you possibly know what is and isn't realistic in fictional male characters?". Yes, we're women, but we have husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, sons, work partners, and male friends. It's not as if men are completely alien to us - at least not us who pay attention.

So why the attack on female m/m authors? Is it what Kayelle Allen indicates? Prejudice? Or is it envy of success?

Here are links to my other posts in this series of posts:
Men are Not Emotional
Women Maintain Gay Stereotyping


  1. Yup yup yup you're 100% right
    Matt Darringer

    1. Of course I am! I'm a woman, aren't I? Okay, that was a lame, stereotypical joke ;) So glad you agree though.

  2. Erica, thanks for the quote. It seems crazy to me that we are even asking this question. Beyond the obvious "have you ever heard of research and imagination" question, why would gender matter anyway? A thought-provoking article. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thanks for reading it, Kayelle. I know, it's a stupid question. Some women do write men who don't appear realistic, and that's probably what's ruining things for the rest of us - but honestly, that's a testimony of bad writing and not a general inability for women to write male figures. The vast majority of female authors writes great male characters.

      I assume that male writers are getting the same treatment when they write f/f or m/f, which is equally sad.

  3. I have read both good and bad m/m stories by men and women. Something things I think could be fixed if writers and editors pay more attention to details. For me there are a few details that often give it away as to the sex of the author, particularly in the sex scenes. A lot of authors are taking time to get gay friends to read over their stuff and make suggestions. This helps a lot. I have a couple of friends that I will critique their stuff to make sure it sounds legit. If the writing is good, I don't think the sex/orientation or anything else really matters write a good story.