Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are There Any Gay Men Out There Who Think the Word "Coitus" is Sexy or Romantic?

I thought I was finished with the "writing m/m fiction" thing for a while. I don't like to harp on something. I truly don't. But then I saw something yesterday that was too interesting to ignore.

And here it is. Hold on. While reading a popular book review blog, I noticed a review about a collection of m/m short stories. I'm not going into details; I'm not a book reviewer and I didn't read the book. But the reviewer was a woman, and she basically trashed one short story because it sounded, to her, like a romance written by a man (I swear she said this, in writing, in the review). The review was brutal in every sense that a book review can be brutal. And the author of the story is a man. I'm not sure, but he's probably a gay man...unless there's a new trend out there and straight dudes are now writing m/m fiction, too.

But more than that, this same reviewer gave an absolutely spectacular review to another story in the book. This other story was also m/m fiction and it was written by a woman instead of a gay man. Everyone who reads this blog and knows me, knows that I support women who write good m/m fiction. My former blog posts prove it. To name a few, EM Lynley, Bryn Colvin, GA Hauser. These writers know what they are doing. I offer advice all the time to women who are interested in writing m/m fiction.

However, when I read the review yesterday and saw an except from this particular woman's story, I had to step back and take a few quick breaths. There was nothing in that one excerpt that would appeal to a gay man, and there was nothing in that excerpt that was authentic to gay men in general. As a gay man, I found both the review and the excerpt insulting, politically incorrect, and so annoying that I'm writing about it today.

I could have overlooked most of the things in review and the story excerpt, except for one. The author, who was repeatedly praised by this book reviewer, used the word "coitus" in a m/m love scene. I looked the word up and found more than one definition that said "coitus" was, basically, the act of procreation between a man and a woman. Aside from the fact that it's just a creepy word, WTF would "coitus" be doing in m/m fiction? Speaking as a gay man, you can't get any more off base. Even if you try to use this word loosely, I'm sure that most gay men would agree there's nothing even remotely sexy or romantic about the word "coitus."

I didn't leave a comment on the thread. Another gay man had already done that for me, and he did a great job of explaining how I was feeling.

However, to be sure I wasn't over-reacting to "coitus", I e-mailed a very good friend who is a long time literary agent, one of my best friends, in New York. He agreed with me, and offered a few snide comments of his own about "coitus." After that, to be sure I still wasn't over-reacting, I posted a question on facebook that went like this:

I'm wondering how other LGBT romance writers and readers feel about the word "coitus" in m/m love scenes. Just curious, is all.

This is how one gay man, a friend, replied:

Just make sure, when you describe any kind of coitus, you take care to cook it thoroughly to avoid ingesting nasty bacteria. And, for a nice effect, you may want to serve it covered in a nice Browned Butter Sauce.

I swear this is true.

And sad, because the story and the woman writer received a rave review while the gay author suffered the torture of one of the worst book reviews I've ever read. And I have a strong feeling that his review was not deserved. I think I just might buy the book and read his story for myself.

This is one of those times when I'm more than willing to stand up for what I believe in. So, c'mon women writing, reading and reviewing m/m fiction. We love you all, but get it right. Gay men have had to suffer the pains and hassles of discrimination all their lives. What happened in Maine the other day is proof of that. Do they now have to suffer the audacity (and stupidity) of being totally misrepresented in fiction, too? To me, this is the equivalent of emotional gay bashing. And my apologies to all the women out there right now who are writing m/m fiction and are doing a damn good job of it. But I couldn't help getting this one off my chest.

I can only hope that talent, hard work, and a keener understanding of gay men will win out in the end. And, that words like "coitus" will disappear from everyone's vocabulary forever.


Anonymous said...

I know what book you are referring to, and of the 4 stories, 3 by men and 1 by woman, I think the better one was the last, by a man (I think, he used a only one letter name, but I think he is a man). I didn't find anything particular in the first story (woman) if not that it had an happily ever after that the other three hadn't (and woman or man, I like my happily ever after). I think the second story (man) was good for setting, but I didn't like the characters. And the third story (man) was very good, but so sad... So my vote goes to the fourth story in that anthology.

And I hope I'm not included on the rebuke for straight women who review gay romance ;-) Elisa

ryan field said...

Of course you're not included in the rebuke. What you're doing right now, and have been doing for a long time, is extremely important. You're bringing both men and women authors together for the first time. I love that!!

Actually, the reason I'd never mention any names is because, one, I'm not a book reviewer, and two, I have a strong feeling that the female author who was praised would have liked to see the male author get a better review.

The one review was absolutely brutal, and to pit one author against another, in the same anthology bothered me. But this review site seems to be typical for doing these things.

If anything, I think this does prove one thing for sure. Sometimes even bad reviews work. But in the opposite direction. I will buy the book and read it now, and that's in spite of the one bad review. I hope the male author didn't take it too personally.

Anonymous said...

In a way it was strange, that author in particular is good, but he is "shy", meaning that he is not at all erotic. Way far from that. And usually this brings positive reviews. I didn't particularly like that story since both characters weren't good from my point of view, and I'm not saying the writing style, I'm saying the personal impression they gave me. But I don't think the story was bad, only it wasn't a romance, that is all. And yes, also I think the only woman in the group didn't particularly like to be outed as the best when her other fellow authors were taken down. Elisa

ryan field said...

Well, I'm sure that I'm buying the book now. And I think it might be the bad review that makes me buy it.