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Are straight women appropriating gay culture in the romance genre?

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LarsonFan

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This question sprung out of a discussion I recently had about sex scenes and romances. As a gay man I'd rather not write them because I just don't care about heterosexual sex or romances, and most of the readers, and creators, of gay romances are women writing for other straight women. I'm finding this increasing offensive that women, who aren't gay men, have mostly had limited contact with gay culture, have created an entire literary sub-genre, a sub-genre that isn't even trying to attract actual members of that population as readers or creators.

On some level I want to be supportive of it because it's probably helping the cause, but on another level it's straight up appropriation. Imagine there was an entire genre of Asian romances written by straight white women for other straight white women. That would be appropriation, right? So why is gay romances written for and by women allowed to continue to be a thing?

The little I've read of straight women writing gay romance doesn't feel real, and that includes the original Brokeback Mountain story. The story and movie wasn't really written for us, but rather straight women. It was written by Annie Proulx, a thrice married straight white women. Proulx was married and divorced three times before our relationships were legally recognized. One of the landmark films in gay cinema is a story from a woman who never had to fight for the right for the state to legally recognize the commitment and dissolution of three of her relationships.

Again, I get that LGBT people are reliant on straight people for our continued legal existence, and this whole female fetishism of same sex romances has its benefits in the fight for equality, but at the same time why is allowed? What other group has an entire literary sub-genre that doesn't seek to be accurate, activist, or even attract readers from the culture it's it's stealing from.
 

Tazlima

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As a gay man I'd rather not write them because I just don't care about heterosexual sex or romances, and most of the readers, and creators, of gay romances are women writing for other straight women.

I'm not knowledgeable enough to speak authoritatively on gay representation or romance writers, so I'll leave the rest of your post for someone wiser, but I did find this line intriguing.

As a gay man I'd rather not write them because I just don't care about heterosexual sex or romances, and most of the readers, and creators, of gay romances are women writing for other straight women.

I'm with you in the first half. If you don't care about heterosexual sex and romances, then it makes sense not to write them. But judging from this post, you DO care about gay sex and romances, very deeply. So why not write those? Write gay romances that "feel real." It sounds like there's probably an untapped market just waiting for the right author to show up.

They say if you can't find the story you're looking for, then you should be the one to write it. You could be the groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting gay author who leads the genre in a whole new direction.
 
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I have mixed feelings about this thread being posted in Romance rather than QUILTBAG.

I'm going to leave it alone at present, but this is a topic that has come up multiple times in various places on AW.
 

Maryn

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It invariably makes those of us who write and sell gay romance prickly to be told our work doesn't feel real. I won't go on the defensive here. It's exhausting to explain why no romance feels real, regardless of the pairing.

But I'll second the notion that if you don't care for gay romance as written by women, you are, one, fully entitled to your opinion, and two, also entitled to try to do it better.

Maryn, reasonably polite
 

ChaseJxyz

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LarsonFan said:
Imagine there was an entire genre of Asian romances written by straight white women for other straight white women. That would be appropriation, right?

Boy what 'til you hear about yaoi you're going to lose your mind.

This debate comes up every so often in fandom spaces, about "fujoshis" who create and consume yaoi/bl (boys love). Here in the west it's stereotypically young cishet white girls/women writing/consuming stories about Japanese (and more recently, Chinese and Korean) cis gay men, but that's not always the case. There's plenty of queer creators, including transmasculine folx like myself. BL has been a recognized genre in Japan, especially in fandom, since the 70's. In the west a lot of the roots of modern fandom is from Star Trek shippers, which is also many female writers creating gay male stories. So this discussion has been happening for 50 years. It's not new.

As a writer, you're always going to be writing about people different than yourself. There's nothing inherently wrong with people writing about people different than themselves. If we only "allowed" gay men to write about gay men, then there would be way, way less stories about gay male romance. Having it, even some of the bad stuff, normalizes it. In the past it was very difficult for minorities to get published or to be taken seriously. It sucks that we had to have allies tell our stories, but that's not the case anymore. But I'm also not going to hold it against a cishet person to want to write a queer story, or for a cishet person to want to read a queer story. We're people! We have relationships! We also have sex!

Yes, there are works out there that are gross and fetish-y but you usually can tell when reading it (mostly because it's clear they have no idea how sex that isn't PIV works). They get rightfully called out for it, and, especially in fandom spaces, they tend not to gain traction. Also I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "gay culture." Is it doing drag? Is it talking a certain way? A lot of "gay" terms/slang like "yaaaas queen" are originally from Black communities. IMO "queer culture" is a lot of things that people should be doing anyways, like not enforcing cisheteronormative gender roles and expectations on your selves or your relationships. Having frank discussions about your expectations and boundaries in regards to sex is very common in trans spaces, but that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't do it. I can go on and on here but I'll stop for now.
 

LarsonFan

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Also I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "gay culture." Is it doing drag? Is it talking a certain way? A lot of "gay" terms/slang like "yaaaas queen" are originally from Black communities. IMO "queer culture" is a lot of things that people should be doing anyways, like not enforcing cisheteronormative gender roles and expectations on your selves or your relationships. Having frank discussions about your expectations and boundaries in regards to sex is very common in trans spaces, but that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't do it. I can go on and on here but I'll stop for now.

This is honestly one of the most offensive things I've ever seen, and I don't know if I can explain why it's so offensive.

Seriously.

There is an entire history of gay culture going back Enkidu and Gilgamesh. We have our own writers. Our own cinema with our own films. We have our own music, and musicians, not to mention the massive contribution we've made to mainstream culture. There's the gay subtext in stories that existed long before it was safe to tell gay stories. We have our own spaces with our own music, our own etiquette, norms, taboos and expectations. We have our own baggage. Gay men survived a pandemic that many straight people were actively cheering on. Gay men have dominated fields like fashion and art. We have our history, our own struggle, our own scars, and you reduce all of that - A history spanning the existence of humanity -- to drag queens and cliches that most gay men don't even use?

AND YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO WRITE BOOKS ABOUT US?

I'm apoplectic right now.

I had to take a break to talk this out with my boyfriend because I was literally screaming at the computer. So, I took some time to erase what I wrote in an effort to not make this a personal attack.

What I landed on was this. It is okay to be ignorant of gay culture. It is not okay to create art about gay culture from a place of ignorance, and I think this is fair for everyone writing in this subgenre, if you don't have a deep, lasting connection to gay culture you shouldn't be writing books about us.
 

LarsonFan

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It invariably makes those of us who write and sell gay romance prickly to be told our work doesn't feel real. I won't go on the defensive here. It's exhausting to explain why no romance feels real, regardless of the pairing.

But I'll second the notion that if you don't care for gay romance as written by women, you are, one, fully entitled to your opinion, and two, also entitled to try to do it better.

Maryn, reasonably polite

I'm sorry you find it exhausting, but it's exhausting to have to explain to people what straight privilege is, so thank you for being so incredibly dismissive of a member of the community you're writing about. I couldn't have written a better example myself.
 

mccardey

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It is not okay to create art about gay culture from a place of ignorance, and I think this is fair for everyone writing in this subgenre, if you don't have a deep, lasting connection to gay culture you shouldn't be writing books about us.

Disclaimer: Not a Romance Writer.

This sounds like a perfectly fair statement, to me. We make it all the time when we're talking about appropriation of race and experience.

Also: I wish I phrase myself as clearly and cleanly as this when I'm apoplectic - I always rely too heavily on outraged spluttering.
 

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...but at the same time why is allowed? What other group has an entire literary sub-genre that doesn't seek to be accurate, activist, or even attract readers from the culture it's it's stealing from.

Not quite what you are asking, but related:

In my personal experience of having buried our first child, much fiction centered on losing a child feels as though it was written by people seeking to sensationalize some aspect of that tragedy, for general consumption by the public. I find such stories offensive for how they misrepresent the reality of surviving one's child.

There are writers who use, for example, deadly school shootings as an opening 'hook.'

It feels appropriative, to me.

Sometimes I wonder if any fiction does not appropriate from another person's pain, toward sales (and maybe this is part of the definition of appropriation; I don't know), although I suppose it's good that very few of us carry all the pain of the human condition.

As a straight female reader, I can say this about gay culture--I've always felt it was something I could identify with to a certain small degree, in the sense that there is discrimination against gays, and there is also discrimination against women. Because of that shared space of discrimination, there is a sympathy that I feel for gay culture, broadly speaking. Maybe this explains (in small part) the existence of a market for books you reference. I don't know.

I was going to reply earlier, and decided against it, but my heart goes out to your obvious pain and so now I type this up. My words are offered in friendship.
 
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You know what? We're done here.

There's so much offensively, stupidly wrong, and strikingly ignorant, in many of the every posts in this thread, that I don't really even know where to begin.

So I'm locking this thread until I'm less pissed off.

You wanna talk about queers writing queers, take it to QUILTBAG, where I absolutely will not tolerate any foolishness.

In the meantime: When we say Respect your Fellow Writer, we mean it.

There are a fair number of cis het people who have been writing queer characters for many, many years. Hell, I'm old enough to remember when Odd Girl Out had to be smuggled from hand-to-hand.

It can be done without it being cultural appropriation. It can be done with care and sensitivity.

Here's a better solution than a generic complaint. Surface the good stuff. Talk about what you read and loved, talk about the books you think others should read.

ETA: I'm moving this from Romance, because it's clear that the OP was deliberately trolling (since he just had to start the same discussion again, and again, in a context that wasn't queer), and is so clueless that he doesn't spot queer cultural references and cues, and he hasn't stumbled on to the fact that m/m, like f/f, isn't defacto LGBT fiction.
 
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LarsonFan

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As a gay man I have a more than growing objection to straight women creating an entire sub-genre of romance novels (including Yaoi and other brazen appropriations of gay men) that are exclusively written by women, for women, with no gay representation in the editing, writing or marketing of these novels, and they don't donate any of their proceeds to LGBT non-profits, they don't encourage their readers to seek out gay men writing gay characters in other genres, they don't march at pride parades, they don't advocate for LGBT mental health. They don't help the community in any way, but the will absolutely use us to cash a paycheck.

The women I've confronted about this obvious appropriation have unapologetically stated that they will continue to profit off my culture. And oh my god, when they write in first person it's just so obvious it's a woman writing what she thinks gay men think. A lot of these authors have done so little research it's literary blackface.
 
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Larson Fan I'm not interested in seeing you, again, attempting to stir shit, after already getting one thread locked.

Again, RYFW.

You know what's really offensive? Badly written books.

The cure is not to restrict who can write what, but to craft honest reviews and, more importantly, surface the good stuff.
 

Maryn

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I might add that no one knows whether I donate any of my royalties to LGBTQA+ causes, march in Pride or other parades, who I advocate for, or anything else that isn't their business. The assumption that I'm all and only about me and those like me is offensive.

Maryn, with gay, lesbian, trans, enby, bi, and other friends and family members
 
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