Monday, January 17, 2011

Gender Discrimination in Erotica and Romance

Yesterday Kathleen Bradean wrote a great post, here, about gender discrimination in erotica and romance. I think it's worth reading partly because this issue is rarely mentioned and partly because it's spot on as far as I'm concerned.

I post a lot about my support for straight women (and men) who write or want to write m/m erotic romance, romance, or fiction. As a writer...not an author...I believe there shouldn't be any limits set upon any writer, especially when it comes to fiction. In other words, just because someone isn't actually gay it doesn't mean they can't write fiction with gay characters and create as much emotion and story as anyone else. I think I've already proven this with a lot of the books I've written in the past two years. Many of my books have storylines that were originally written for straight/hetero characters in films and I turned them around and re-wrote them with gay characters. I believe, when it comes to love and emotion, it doesn't matter whether you're gay or straight. The dynamics are still the same.

But I know there are many who disagree with me. And that's fine. I respect their opinions. But I also know what it's like from the other side of the coin, too. I've personally written more than several hetero erotic romance and romances. My favorite, believe it or not, was a pg rated romance novel with steamy but very tame love scenes. And I chose to use pen names with each hetero story I wrote. Mostly for the same reasons Kathleen Bradean wrote about in her post. I figured I'd play it safe and keep my real name just for anything I write in the m/m genre.

The only problem, with me, was that I simply couldn't get into the pen names and promoting the books with pen names. It's a peculiar experience I wasn't fond of. Other authors who didn't know it was actually me treated me differently with the female pen names, especially when it came to blogging. And I tried everything, from blogging to social networks. I even made the pen names totally opposite from my own personality, creating a completely new identity. The books sold, too. And although I enjoyed writing them all, I didn't enjoy anything about promoting the books with pen names. For me it was too secretive...to the point of being creepy and often repulsive. And I simply wasn't willing to give up my entire identity for the sake of selling books. I know others would disagree here, too, but this is how I felt at the time. And what ultimately happened is that I gave up promoting the books with pen names and moved forward with my real name.

So check out Kathleen's post. It raises some interesting questions about the difficulties writers face when it comes to being boxed into certain genres or sub-genres because of their gender. And it was probably the first time I've seen it addressed so well, to the point where I could actually identify with it as a writer. And, for those straight women writing m/m romance who take heat all the time. My experiences writing hetero fiction is one of the reasons why I'm always so supportive. I know what it's like. And, frankly, I don't like anyone, not the LLF or any other group, telling me that because I'm gay I have to only write gay fiction. Stepping out of that proverbial box once in a while is a good thing.

2 comments:

Eyre said...

To me, the gender of the author doesn't matter. A good story is a good story.

There was a a time when female authors were encouraged to use male pseudonyms just to get published. Harper Lee dropped her first name of Nellie. Mary Ann Evans became George Eliot. The Bronte sisters first published under the names Acton and Currer Bell.

As the romance genre became popular, we saw the reverse. Male authors used female pseudonyms in order to get published. If you've read a V.C. Andrews' book published since the early 90's, then it was probably written by the man who took over her name after she passed away in 1986.

Honestly, the only thing I worry about when it comes to the gender of an author is that I know what pronoun he/she prefers the readers to use when referring to him/her.

ryan field said...

I totally agree. And if I write something outside the m/m genres again, which I probably will, I'm sticking with my real name from now on.