I am a bad writer and a P.R. marketing/advertising nightmare, depending on your perspective.
Flat out, I do not write m/m fiction, but some of my work is in the gay fiction genre, and I don’t write enough sex scenes (according to some). I don’t focus my stories around sex. Sure there are writers who can create believable characters and situations and ALSO include copious sex scenes, but my stories which feature it are about gay life, love and relationship as I’ve personally experienced or observed and that’s what I aim them to be. They are about love and real people. Sex might be mentioned, and it is an eventual reality for most people who are in love and accept each other, or their mutual needs, in some way. But I don’t write a story simply to focus on the cleverness or detailed nature of the sex scenes. I get the distinct feeling that many m/m readers or those who think anything with gay characters in it has to have lots of sex to really be “authentic” or that’s what it’s going to include.
I think too many people confuse gay fiction with erotica and/or m/m romance or fiction. That gay fiction is going to be about sex or focussed on sex, which is why, in the first place, I have an issue with people automatically slapping a “gay” or “m/m” label or characterization on a story because it has gay or bisexual characters in it, or the central romance might be between those characters although there are several other things going on in the story besides the relationship and especially more than sex.
Why is it people assume if it’s a book or story with gay characters it is going to heavily rely on or involve sex? Why do they think graphic details need to be used? While answering an opinion question on an anime/manga board a couple of years ago, the question being “why do so many females love yaoi”, I got bashed and fumed at because of my answer which was, “Like many who are on the ‘outside looking in’ as it were, many are fascinated by seeing or reading what they themselves do not or could not do. It’s like a peep/freak show for them. I seldom if ever read/view something just for sex, especially gay sex, because if I wanted to see that I’d simply put mirrors on my ceiling. It’s no particular thrill, and I am much more interested in relatial dynamics, emotional conflicts and resolutions.
Most readers, or so I’ve been told by publishers, who are seeking gay “romance” or fiction are actually seeking erotica. If your story doesn’t have “heavy” content, then you are going to be received tepid at best. I received a complaint because I didn’t have enough sex content “Good story, but not enough sex!”, but I refuse to add it “just because”. “Mainstream” won’t often take a story, especially a short story because it has male protagonists in a possible romantic situation together or especially if it has sex in it if you are not a “well known name”. Talk about conundrum!
What this suggests to me about m/m readers in general, is that they still by majority see gay males, gay relationships, as only being about sex, or primarily so. They want to get their titillating kicks but if a story is a really a romance, in the classic sense, where characterization and story is foremost, not so much. I take it as a badge of honour that I remain true to my stories, my characters, myself.
To me gay romance or fiction is not just a “side point” or for that matter even a great hobby or desire…or obsession. It’s my life. It’s what I live everyday. Sure, some readers, like any other genre, from spy thrillers to sci-fi, are seeking escapism. They want a vista to temporarily escape from their own life and look into another’s, some are seeking reading to turn them on and make them fantasize sex further, a type of sex they have never experienced or more exactly: never can. If they are females, straight or gay, seeking to know “gay” sex between men, they cannot have it even if they are proficient with a strap-on and have willing “bottoms”.
Maybe they’re just wanting a sexy slice for amusement, and at the very real risk of alienating some readers, but hell I’m being honest, I don’t feel many consider the emotions behind it. These are characters in a book true, but they are based on real life, in my writing anyway, real situations I’ve endured or been a part of. BUT for those only seeking sex, I say, more power to them, and have no objection to them finding what they want. There’s plenty of it out there.
We are a “cabinet of curiosities”.
I write my stories and I am in them. The struggles, the agonies, the joys and pain of what I’ve endured or experienced. Not to say other writers don’t include that, because they do, but when I read a writer saying, “I got tired of writing about m/f so I thought I’d write about m/m and use my imagination”, I think that belittles what gays really experience, especially when what they write is mostly about sex as if we are ravenous beasts only concerned about fucking, that every expression or phrase someone says, everything we see we will twist into a sexual innuendo. And there’s always a current of resentment in the waters, in a way. You have some gay or bisexual writers who don’t like or won’t read female written m/m works, or at least they are reluctant to.
If you’re gay and male and a writer and you’re “with” or published by a certain house many of which are female based and run, and that’s the majority of the writers on staff, if you don’t play the pretty and helpfully to answer their questions of lurid details so they can “work them in.” If you don’t laugh at their jokes or questions which often border an attitude so stereotypical and demeaning for gays you are seen as anti-social and spiritless, well…I choose to be PERCEIVED anti-social.
Although I’ve written stories with more graphic sexual content, in answering an email query as to why I don’t include more….some stories, some characters need it, it is what they are, or the setting, but with some others, the tone and mood….it is not necessary.
Although I’ve been an editor far longer than a submitting and published author, I see exactly why someone like me might be considered a bad m/m fiction writer. It’s because I don’t, won’t and refuse to write to suit some readers or publishing houses’ demands. It just reminds me of the people who love the media frenzy over celebrities. They just want more and more salacious details. When someone doesn’t produce or allow them, then they are disliked or deemed difficult. If they don’t “play” along.
It’s not arrogance the reason I do it, nor condescension, it’s just that my characters and the situations they find themselves in are part of my life. They project some aspect of it. Just like I won’t dance and pose for pics in general at a pow-wow from the a person who wants to take a momento away from a “real live red Indian”! Sorry, that’s how it looks to me with some readers. I won’t submit to the typing and include more sex just to be popular, get accepted, and have more stories published. My sales will be dented since I don’t “play pretty” but if I fell in to that, it would be not just losing what I am, who I am, but it would be a betrayal of myself and what I believe in.