Last weekend Twitter once again blew up with controversy. This time it was a subject that I’ve struggled with for the last few years so buckle up friends, this is going to get uncomfortable. On Sunday, author Jack Harbon posed a question, what do women gain from exclusively and solely writing about queer men? I’ll admit, the Tik Tok meme he used to start off his tweet rubbed me the wrong way, but the rest of his question is completely valid. Why does it seem like cis (mostly white) women are gaining from exclusively writing m/m stories?
In September, the most popular romance publishing group, Harlequin, released its first m/m novel. Previously they had a LGBTQ publishing line under Carina Press but The Lights on Knockbrige Lane is the first one that has the Harlequin title on the cover. The author, Roan Parrish, identifies as female.
In an essay written in 2018 Claire Rudy Foster investigates the popularity of m/m romances written by and for women. It comes up between fetishization and monetary benefits. Unpopular opinion, I believed at one time that it was completely fetishization. In a bid to cover their love of m\m stories, they claimed representation. Others claimed that it was easier to read m/m romance because there isn’t a power dynamic like there is in m/f romances. That reading m/f romance is inherently misogynistic. That there’s always a power dynamic that benefits the man in m/f stories and m/m stories feel safer. And while there are queer writers who experiment with queer romances to explore their own gender preferences, again, the majority of the popular authors are women.
Why just m/m? If woman authors want to explore their gender preferences, why not write f/f? There’s no answer for that. The consensus seems to be that f/f books are unrealistic, there’s still a power dynamic, it feels icky which doesn’t make sense. Women should know and understand how to write women. Queer cis women especially should know how to write women, so why are women writing about men?
Jack’s initial question was replied with a lot of internal misogyny and screams of “representation!” And yes, while there have been people who have explored not only their sexuality through queer romances, but also their gender identity, those are not the main quotient of the women who read these. There are many hetero cis women who read m/m romance for their own pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that. But admit it that’s why you’re reading it.
There are power dynamics in m/m stories, there are generalizations of gay men in m/m, feminization, toxic relationships, the so-called “Alpha” males. The same tropes I’ve read in m/f romances, I’ve read in m/m romances. And full disclosure, anyone who’s read my blog and my reviews know I’ve read m/m romances. A good many of them. Because they’re easy to find. However, I have read f/f romances as well and granted not as many because I had to put out a call in several groups asking for recommendations of f/f romances. I can’t go into the local Books a Million and pick up a f/f romance novel like I can a m/m romance novel.
But again, this is on me. And I plan to expand my queer reading. My favorite books are the ones where the characters speak to me. I loved Harry and Alex, I adore Zack and Richard. But I also can’t get enough of Darcy and Elle, and the upcoming review for this month gave me London and Dahlia (London is non-binary). Am I making excuses? Possibly. Am I trying to be better? Yes.
The answer isn’t that readers of m/m romances should stop reading them. Just expand your author list. Reading m/m romances written by cis women if fine, but read romances written by gay men. Read f/f written by queer women. Read bi/pan sexual romances written by queer and nonbinary people. Read nonbinary romances written by queer people. Expand your horizons. There’s a whole world of queer romances out there that go beyond m/m written by cis women. Give other authors a chance. As for me, while researching for this, I looked up Jack’s website. There’s an adorable looking romance called Meet Cute Club and a horror anthology called Desires Darkly. I’ll be picking those up.
In the meantime, investigate these books: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite, Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefluer, One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, The Love Study by Kris Ripper, The Doctor’s Discretion by E.E. Ottoman, and Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn.
I’ll be taking my own advice and picking up the ones I don’t already own from this list.
Next week begins baking/cooking romance month. First up is Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall.
Stay warm everyone. If you weren’t in the snow trajectory, you at least have cold weather so grab your favorite warm cover, a warm drink and curl up with a good book.