Not for the first time I saw a m/m writer on my FB list asked by a fan to write m/f. I was actually asked to do the same by one of my editors.

I did it and I’m fairly pleased with how it came out, but it circles back to the question of why would people ask m/m writers to write m/f?

Obviously I can’t answer that for everyone. The answers are as diverse as why authors write m/m. There are some who do it for the money. Some who just think it’s hot. I myself enjoy the availability of nuanced personal roles vs gender roles. I suppose I could write lesbians, but I think at the root of it, men can define their own roles to an extent.

Drag queens? Everywhere. Drag kings? Hello? Kings? Where are you?

Not saying that men who cross the gender divide have it easy, exactly. Just saying that there is a social framework that provides better context for a feminine acting man than a masculine acting woman. At least, that’s been my experience.

I could go on about “oh the troubles I’ve seen,” but that’s not today’s question. Today’s question is: Is it possible that m/m writers get propositioned to write m/f not because of connecting bits, but because there’s a real hunger out there for more role-balanced relationship fiction?

I think chicklit was supposed to quench that thirst, but those I’d seen had a Mary Sue character shitting all over men up until the very end where the stories reverted back to bodice ripperland. I’d start stories and think, “Jesus Christ, what a raging bitch. Why the hell would anyone want a piece of that?”

I see a lot of “she won’t take any crap from anyone” and it doesn’t make me think girlpower. It makes me think “jerk.”

One of the things I liked about the “Buffy” series was when she did have boyfriends and there were some role conflicts because she really was a very powerful woman. And she couldn’t just not be a slayer. It’s a really hard balance to strike and probably why I don’t write it very often.

In “A Model Boyfriend,” I tried to have the m/f protagonists come together as equals. They’re both sort of trapped in relationships with very defined roles (this is all subtext, I don’t make a huge deal of it) and find each other and how they can fit in a more balanced way. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

I don’t have any current plans for more m/f. Writing it was a little outside of my comfort zone. But if I do, it’s likely these are the themes and issues I’ll be exploring.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on m/f v m/m

  1. Interesting post, Clancy. My scifi romance “Isolation” was written before I started writing m/m. Even then I struggled with getting the balance right for the heroine. Plotting wise, the gender difference kept rearing its ugly head. Plus, the publisher kept wanting more sex scenes. I complied to an extent but it still only measures “1” on their erotica scale. Straight scifi might have been easier, but throw in a romance and I think there are just too many cultural boundaries to cross. At least with scifi I can play with those boundaries a bit and if I ever get tempted to write the sequel (which is in my head) I will push a few, however while my m/m books outsell my m/f 50:1, why would I?

    I know just what you mean by chick lit. That’s why I was attracted to Linnea Sinclair’s books as she writes strong women heroines who are not bitches. Funnily, I can cope with Regency Romance because the women there are not expected to be strong and there are strict rules for the roles. They can be eccentric (think Georgette Heyer’s Grandy Sophy) but never dominant.

    So, what dos that say about the role of women in today’s culture? To be frank, I look at some young girls and I go, whoa! I’m gad I’m not a male to have to contend with that! Man eaters on the surface (when in a group especially) but are they really interested in who men are and understanding them? Most not.

    And I also like playing with the nuanced personal roles instead of gender roles.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post….

  2. My m/f didn’t start out with the mad sales that the m/m often does, but it’s actually chugging away and a decent seller in the long term. It was a Book of the Month for one of the Goodreads groups (an honor I don’t think any of my m/m has received) and I was pretty proud of that. It didn’t really get a lot of attention, but I guess word of mouth has made it sort of a steady seller.

    Or my husband keeps buying copies in the hopes I’ll write another.

    One thing that keeps coming up because of the popularity of “Fifty Shades of Gray” is what that says about women. Of course, what I want in bed has nothing to do with what I want day-to-day and it’s easy for me to separate.

    But there is still a very visceral cultural taboo relating to gender.

    The woman who does those Cleis anthologies I do sometimes wrote a blog post about how she had really agonized over whether to give a good toy that only came in pink to a baby boy. Of course, the baby wouldn’t care one way or the other, but the affect on the parents and potentially their friendship. Over a color. And honestly, those were color designations made by marketing people whenever ago. And yet, Legos is making pink building blocks for girls.

    Boys slay the dragons, girls get rescued. I always wanted to pet the dragon, but I was really into Puff the Magic Dragon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puff_the_Magic_Dragon_(film) ) which is really just a whole other set of issues.

    1. Peter, Paul and Mary. Amazing when you think that the song charted so well. A more innocent age?

      My daughter’s boyfriend’s favorite color is pink and he wears it a lot. People assume he is gay because of it, but no he just likes confronting dragons. I’ve watched him play multi player online computer games and he’s the sort that jumps into the thickest part of battle and relies on my daughter to snipe from the bakground and watch his back.

      So, the color itself forms battle lines.

      It’s becoming more accepted that guys can be nurturing and metrosexual without the world falling down, but the assertive, take-charge woman is still not seen in literature all that much. Weirdly, though, in real life they do occur. My hubbie encourages me to be independant and do different things.

      1. It boggles the mind to think that where you want to put your dick or not put it means you like pink or not. Ridiculous. But what it has become is a sign that a man is okay with being seen as feminine. People are people. We all have our own preferences and ideas. I’m a woman who by no means wanted to have a child. My mother gave me a baby doll and I left it out in the rain hoping that would destroy it so I would never have to look at it again.

        Maternal instinct? Not so much.

        I work in IT. I get gender issues all up in my grill all day, every day. I’ve been here long enough now that everyone know my dick is biggest, but still gotta prove it every day. Not fun.

  3. You know I have a skewed idea of gender for obvious reasons. It makes it nearly impossible for me to imagine what it looks like from the other side of the spectrum. I just can’t understand why people think some things are girly and some things are manly because I see macho men liking those girly things and girly girls liking the manly stuff. They might hide it or play it off, but if you’re watching closely, you can tell.

    Some extremely aggressive, alpha kind of guys are absolutely ruled by their diminutive daughters and love nothing more than to be dressed up in a tutu and made to have a tea party with teddy bears and Barbie. Some dainty, prissy fashionistas drive muscle cars, watch boxing and football, and curse like sailors when their handpicked stocks take a loss. That macho guy is submitting to a 6 year old girl out of love, and I think he might say it’s just cause he’s a good dad, but I think he’s engaging in that spirit of whimsy that drives the child for his own sake too. That girly girl is dominating her social group and a force to be feared. None of it is a sex game, none of it has to do with romance. Those people are just being who they are and doing what comes naturally. That’s a beautiful thing. I want to read a romance novel where those two hook up now, actually. Hm.

    Anyway, I just feel a sense of uneasiness and revulsion when people try to enforce external mores on people. I think the romance publishing world direly needs more stories about men and women engaging on a modern stage with honest acceptance of their own personalities and motivations. Do I think that’ll happen in m/f? Maybe.

    Someday.

    But in m/m, it happens by default because unless you start the book with a sex scene to show who’s bottom and who’s top, the reader doesn’t start off “knowing” who’s the “feminine one” by way of pronouns. It’s funny how much power exists in those little syllables and the way they summon a whole world of assumptions.

    1. If nothing else, I hope that m/m romances will slowly rid the world of the concept of who is “the girl” in a gay relationship.

      1. That drives me nuts. Sometimes we play it up against “type” just to shake things up. One of the m/f stories I wrote involved a male crossdresser but I didn’t like how it turned out.

      1. bitter woman with draining, thankless job grows tired of feeling out of touch with her feminine side no matter how much time she spends shopping for handbags online…burly sexy half-samoan beefcake in a tutu asks her to a tea party. he rekindles her love of darjeeling and whimsy, and they make sweet love on a pile of pink disney princess pillows where she’s on top only until she gets tired and bored, and then he proves he’s really as muscular as he looks. the end.

          1. She’s the man in the relationship. If he can’t get himself off, well, she’s done. She’s going to have a nice nap, and he can get in the kitchen and make her some salmon. And a pie.

Talk nerdy to me