Monday, March 18, 2019

Craig Chats: The Sexual Roles Of Gay Men In MM Fiction

The Sexual Roles Of Gay Men In MM Fiction

The relationship between Indie-author and reader is much more personal than those going through traditional publishing, that’s a fact and cannot be disputed. And as I’ve mentioned previously in my blog posts, this can lead to very negative behavior on all sides. For example, I’ve spoken about authors dragging their bad reviews (and reviewers) through the mud, resulting in a less-than-honest working environment where people only seek to hear their praises sang rather than face criticism. Likewise, sometimes readers (with their ability to privately message any indie-author through Facebook) take it upon themselves to give their opinions in other forms. This isn’t always constructive, and for the specifics of this posts, it’s uncalled for and doesn’t make any sense. 

As with most of my posts, this was a subject that was brought to my attention through a fellow author and then verified by several others upon questioning. I haven’t yet faced this personally—then again, I haven’t put out half as much work as the authors that bring these things to my attention. However, I did feel somewhat personally offended by this particular matter as it plays into my real-life situation with my fiancĂ©.
So, without further ado, today’s topic is The Sexual Roles Of Gay Men In MM Fiction, the twisted expectations of *some* readers, and the culture of people “owing” sex to their partner. 

Let me paint this picture clearly with a quote – “Character A is vers, but Character B is a bottom. That’s selfish. Character B should’ve topped Character A at least once throughout the story to make him happy.” 

There’s a lot to unpack here and I’m not the most structured writer, so I’m going to try and break this down into sections as to not leave any stone unturned, or something like that. 

First, let’s tackle how this “complaint” came about. 

Reviews exist for a reason. Sometimes we (authors) don’t agree, but that’s because deep down we all just want people to see and love our work the same way we do.

Still, they exist as an unbiased opinion on our work so that others may make an informed decision before spending their hard-earned money. That’s it. They can stroke our ego, they can make us feel like shit, but mostly they exist to give others the information they need before purchasing a product. The same as restaurant reviews, hair products, hotels, etc. That’s their purpose. And so, with that in mind, exactly what goes through someone’s head when they personally message an author to complain about their book? This isn’t productive; it’s not going to make the author pull their finished product and tweak it to the individual’s liking. It’s not going to do anything for anyone, except maybe allow the person complaining to express themselves? But, again, that’s why reviews exist, and there’s plenty of FB groups for that sort of thing.
I’m not going to beat around the bush on this. I stand wholeheartedly against a reader privately messaging an author to complain about their work. If you’re not a beta reader, and your opinion for the work hasn’t been requested by the author, then express yourself through reviews. If you hated a meal, would you find the chef on FB and message them directly? Would you befriend a hair dresser on the internet just to tell them you hate the bangs they’ve given you? Just like I’ve called out authors for complaining about reviews by readers, I have to look at the other side and ask readers to please stop directly sending their complaints to authors’ personal inboxes. Neither of these things foster anything positive in our community. 

That’s not to say readers opinions aren’t valued—of course they are, and constructive criticism is always wanted, but again, that’s why reviews exist. It’s their purpose.
Now let’s move on to the real topic—the idea of “owing” someone something sexual regardless of if you enjoy it or not (which exists way beyond the bounds of the LGBT community and fiction).

As stated in my previous blog post, I am in an open relationship now, and it came about for one reason; I don’t top, and my partner wants to bottom.

Would you ever tell a woman she had to give her husband a blowjob if he enjoyed them and she hated them? Would you ever tell a man to let his wife shove a butternut squash up him if that was the only way she could orgasm? Would you ever tell anyone to do something sexual for their partner, despite how unappealing that idea may be to them? Would you ever make someone you love do something they dislike, knowing they’d get nothing out of it? 

These characters are obviously fictional, but the culture of “sexual needs should come before discomfort” is too fucking real. When we speak about toxicity, sexism, etc, these themes of “owing” someone sex often come up. You can’t be an advocate for freedom of expression and love, and then demand people love in a way that suits your needs. And you don’t get to dictate the “roles” of gay men in the bedroom, either. And let me be very blunt here; my dick wouldn’t get hard if I knew I was going to top, it would be an impossibility for me because I find absolutely no sexual satisfaction from the act whatsoever. Sure, for some gay men “roles” in the bedroom is merely a preference, but as I’ve stated before, my “bottom-ness” is a part of my sexuality. It’s ingrained into me, as hardwired as my being gay. You may as well tell me to stick it in a woman if you’re going to tell me I need to “top” because both are as equally unappealing to me. 

And that’s the way my author friend described her “Bottom” character, but still this reader insisted he should’ve topped. She insisted he was being selfish for not doing so, and with that comment, she made a statement about my life. I am living the reality of this situation, and there isn’t a single person on the planet that would get a nice response from me should they tell me I was being “selfish” for not topping my partner. Despite the fact I dislike it. Despite the fact it’s not a part of my sexuality.
No one owes anyone sex. No one should be made to do anything their uncomfortable with for the sexual satisfaction of someone else. And if you force someone to do those things? Well, I’m sure you’re aware we have a word for that. 

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  1. This!! This is brilliant. Well said and _thank you_ for saying so. It drives me nuts, the whole 'let me tell you how your character should act'. The only people who get to decide how a character should be are the writer and the character. Full stop. Fictional or real, the only one who should be deciding what a person's role in sex should be is themself. Even the partner shouldn't have a decision in that role - an opinion, within reason sure, but that's it.

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  2. Well said!
    People can have opinions, but forcing it on other people is wrong. Real or fictional, they are the way they are... dont force your shit on someone else. Support everyone exactly as they are! <3

  3. "I’m not going to beat around the bush on this. I stand wholeheartedly against a reader privately messaging an author to complain about their work. "

    As ever Craig, I'm in complete agreement.

  4. Honestly, I think she was making a statement about her life, more than yours (though I don't dispute that just by virtue of the statement itself it's about you). Women have been indoctrinated for centuries into the "please your man" mindset, and we're only now starting to emerge from it. But some things run deep, and are so internalized we don't realize they're even there. On the surface, it looks more like this person was saying more about how she's been taught to view sex in the male/female dynamic (which, when unthinkingly applied to gay relationships is a whole other essay in itself) than she was about the actual choices of gay men--and exhibiting a severe lack of understanding of individual preferences and choices while she's at it. Because yes, absolutely, there are still women out here who will tell other women they should give their husbands a blow job even if they hate it. We still have a whole generation of women out here who've been taught sex is a duty and they're not only selfish but *sinful* for wanting pleasure out of it. I'm over 50, I was brought up Catholic, my mother is hardline conservative--believe me, that kind of indoctrination is hard to pull yourself out of. Luckily I was a rebel and my mother had very little influence over me. ;)

    I agree with everything you've said (except for the unbiased part--reviews by and large are *hugely* biased). I'm just offering a sidenote that I think the statement says more about the person who made it than it does about anything else. That doesn't mean it's not a harmful attitude and shouldn't be called out when the opportunity presents itself, as you've done here. But I also think it means women in general have to closely examine and dissect their own baggage before asking others to shoulder it along with them.

    1. I agree with the rebuttal about reviews. All reviews are by definition, a personal opinion.

    2. I disagree that a review is inherently biased. I agree it's simply an opinion and any individual will approach a book review from the basis if their own experiences.
      But I don't think that makes it automatically biased.
      Not on the true sense of the word at any rate. When I review, I'm looking at how the book made me feel, whether it made sense within its own narrative, if I believed in the outcomes and the emotional impact.
      All of those things should be from a position of neutrality not bias imho.

    3. But if you're basing a review on how it made you feel, that *is* bias. I'm not saying you're wrong to do so, but if we base an opinion on anything other than provable facts, that's opinion, which by definition is biased.

  5. Thank you for speaking up! I've received complaints about this myself. I think I'm just going to link this post to people now hen they take it upon themselves to dictate to me how my characters need to act.

  6. I agree with everything you wrote here, except for the fact that Readers shouldn't DM authors. What I'm gathering from this is that you would rather the reader leave reviews on review sites instead.

    Personally, the writers I know would rather receive that private message because, well, it's private! Those same review sites are also where people go when they want to look for new options to try. A bad review can cost the author real, physical money. The DM might make them need a hug, but as long as it's constructive criticism, the author should be open to it.

    Just my opinion.

    TL:DR version - Readers should PM authors their criticisms rather than post them in a review because bad reviews cost authors money.

    1. While i get what you're saying, i still disagree. This doesn't happen anywhere else. Not to mention that most authors just aren't looking for that kind of criticism on a personal level. If you don't want to leave a review, then don't, but you also still don't need to PM the author. No author i know is actively looking for readers to PM them their thoughts (unless it's betas)

      Reviews exist for a reason. And if you don't feel like doing that because you don't want to hurt the author, then that's fine. But the unsolicited PM's are still a big no.

  7. As a reader I would never DM a author with my review that's what review sites like goodreads, booklikes kirkusreviews, etc or the eretailer sites are for. I leave it up to the author (or their friends/assistants) to find their own books and pull any useful criticism from there. People can be weird and have their own standard of perception and interpretation and I rather not just put myself in that situation where something I said is misinterpreted because I reached out. The only time I do DM an author and think it is appropriate is when I find some error in a book I'm reading in exchange for a review, I think it's a nice act to make sure their fan base get grammatically correct paperbacks. I largely think authors should be left to their own devices to figure out how well their book sold or why it did not sell. I see DM/PMing an author with complaints or as some would like to put it "positive input/criticism/suggestion or constructive to better the story" to be rude and feels harassment-y. The only reason to go that far to make sure an author saw their negative review is because the reader was dissatisfied and got disgruntled and ticked and felt they were entitled to say something. As for positive reviewers who send out DM's I have my own thought on that and know it'll get some up in arms so I won't go into my reasoning because of that.

    Like I said I feel there's no reason to go messaging an author since an author can easily see how their book rated on sites like goodreads and check out those low star or high star ratings on their own time if they decide.

    Readers have preferences that make them bias so no book review is really unbias. They can be honest and that's the disclaimer I like to use when reviewing a book in exchange for an unbias review. I live with the fact that some books are more satisfying to read than others. Not everyone will be pleased with a product that's why in business models they tell you to envision and target who your audience is so you can pull them in.

    As for sexual positions when reading M/M I always have high hopes that the couples will both be versatile/switches. There have been times where I've felt weird/strange that a character didn't bottom or top according to their described physique because I had perceived them as being a bottom or a top even thought I know that that's not how it works. When that happens I know there's nothing I can do about it and frankly i have to accept that this was the decision of the author or in the author's case the characters chose this themselves and told the author how it was going to be. There's no reason to cry over spilled milk. The characters still end up together.

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