Let’s Talk About Women Who Write About Gay Men // Discussion

Let's Talk About Women Who Write About Gay Men.

Hello everyone, today I’m back with another discussion post! This topic is a pretty common one to discuss, so I figured it’s time to add my voice to the masses! Let’s talk about women who write about gay relationships! This topic’s a pretty complex one, and there’s a lot of different factors to consider. I’m not trying to say I have all the answers, so I would love to hear your opinions too!

So, what’s the deal with women who write about gay men? Why are you talking about this, Bertie? I think it’s fair to say that the majority of Achillean representation in books, especially within the romance genre, comes from women authors. There are many reasons why women might want to write about queer men, but the issue often highlighted is whether they’re fetishising them. That’s the crux of what I wanted to discuss today, so let’s get into it.

Are All Women Who Write About Gay Men Fetishising Them?

My answer to this question is: no. I don’t think every woman who writes about queer men is being fetishistic, even if there’s sexual content in their work. There are many reasons why someone might want to write about queer men that isn’t fetishistic. One of the largest ones we need to consider is writing them as an exploration of queerness. For sapphic authors, exploring their queerness through the use of queer men can feel like a safer option. A queer woman who writes about queer men is exploring a form of queerness that’s removed from her gender identity. It can be a place where questioning and closeted people can explore queerness with a safe distance from their own identity. A woman who writes about Achillean relationships is less likely to be thought of as queer than a woman who writes about sapphic relationships.

Queer women who are open about their identity might be interested in writing queer men to explore another form of queerness. Maybe they want to write about them because they have shared experiences as people who fall outside the realm of heteronormativity. That’s not to say that queer women can’t be fetishistic, but I’m giving an example of a non-fetishistic reason a woman might be interested in writing about queer men. There may be more I haven’t touched on, or perhaps you completely disagree with me. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Can straight women write about queer men? Well, straight women may want to explore queerness for a multitude of reasons. An exploration of gender identity, gender norms, or wanting to move away from cis-heteronormativity could be a part of it. I believe, when trying to figure out whether the representation is bad, you should be looking at patterns of behaviour, and the content of an authors work. You shouldn’t completely ignore identity, but it’s often a lot more complex than you might think.

Non-Binary People Are Not Women

You may be saying, obviously non-binary people are not women. Why are you talking about non-binary people? Well, people who critique women for writing about gay men often do the same for non-binary people. I’ve seen non-binary authors be described as women by people who haven’t looked into it or don’t care. So I thought it was an important point to bring up here. Authors may have complex gender identities, even if they look cis to you, even if they’re not out. Writing about queer men as a trans or non-binary person is a completely different experience. The gender identity of the author might be linked to men, perhaps they’re exploring masculinity, perhaps they once identified as a gay man, perhaps they’re a gay trans man and not out, perhaps they just want to write about queer sex and romance. People who critique women for writing about queer men need to make sure they’re actually talking about women. How can you do that if some people aren’t out? There’s no easy answer to that.

You Can’t Tell If An Author Is Queer

The fact is you can’t tell if an author is queer, trans, or LGBT+ unless they say so. Some people will forever be questioning, some people will never have a label, some people want private lives and don’t want to talk about their identity, some people might not be safe to come out. There have been LGBT+ authors who have felt like they needed to out themselves to justify why they write queer stories. That shouldn’t have to be the case. We have to balance the fact that we can’t know someone’s identity with wanting our community to tell it’s stories. This isn’t to say that every woman writing about queer men is queer (or trans!) themselves, but we should consider the possibility.

Being queer or LGBT+ does change the context of stories. Some things are okay to say if you’re inside the community, but insulting from an outside perspective. I don’t have the answers of how to balance this with the understanding that we don’t know author identity. I do think that saying all women who write about queer men are fetishists is not the answer. We need to recognise there is a multitude of reasons why gay sex and romance is written. We need to not put pressure on authors to come out to justify themselves. We need to critique work and people on their actions and not their (potential) identity. Again, I think it’s important to note that queer women can be fetishistic, and although I’ve highlighted reasons they may not be, we should still be critiquing their work with care and consideration.

But More Men Need To Be Writing About Gay Men!

You may be saying, but Bertie, these women are taking away opportunities from men! We want men to write their own stories! And I agree, we should be supporting and highlighting the stories written about queer men by men. We need to pressure publishing to take on stories written by men, we need to buy the stories written by men to show that they do well commercially, we need to uplift the voices of men who write about queerness. There’s a lot of work to be done in this area.

There’s a lack of men writing romance generally, and publishing companies that do romance are less likely to accept men’s work. That’s something we need to critique. Perhaps this is a topic better aimed at publishing, rather than individual writers. Do you have any ideas about how we can best support these men? I think we’re taking steps in the right direction, I am seeing more queer books written by men, but it’s still too few.

So How Can You Tell If A Woman Is Fetishising Gay Men?

Okay, so let’s say that not all women are fetishising queer men, that queer women write from different viewpoints, that writing about queer men can be useful and fun. How do we tell when a woman is fetishising queer men? When should we be critiquing them? I don’t have all the answers to this, but I can tell you what I pick up on.

I will generally avoid women authors who only write about gay men. You might have seen them, the super prolific authors who have written about forty books, and they’re all about gay men. I don’t read them. I completely understand why women may want to write queer romance, but only writing queer romance has my alarm bells going off. Romance authors who write about a range of different relationships feel safer, and more worth supporting.

I know I’ve been describing these relationships as featuring ‘gay men’ when there’s a lot of Achillean men who don’t identify as gay, and there’s a reason for that. I side-eye authors who don’t acknowledge other representation under the LGBT+ umbrella. I’ve seen authors who love their gay romance, who simultaneously share biphobic, transphobic, etc. views. An author who has gay men in bundles, but the one lesbian or bisexual man is treated horribly? That’s a bit suspicious.

This should be obvious, but if the book’s homophobic, maybe don’t support it. There are tons of little homophobic things in gay romance. I dodge any book that seems to focus very heavily on how sinful and forbidden a romance is, especially if the only thing that makes it forbidden is they’re both men. I’d also say, pay attention to the women in the book, if there are any. Is she being weird to the couple? Pushing herself into their relationship? That’s a huge red flag for me.

Is the relationship purely sexual? Are the men well developed? These are all questions it’s worthwhile keeping in mind. Does the way the book is written give you the wrong vibes? Then hey, don’t read that book! If you’re unaware of homophobic tropes, I’d make have a look into it so you know when to spot something that doesn’t look right. As readers, we should be thinking about the content of these books. We especially need to be listening to OwnVoices reviewers that these books aim to represent.

Is fethishism the only thing we need to be aware of?

Gay romance has been, and continues to be, a genre of mostly women writing for women. That’s something that we should critique. Historically, gay romance was the only form of queer literature that women had access to; it’s where a lot of queer women began their journeys. I’m happy to say that sapphic literature is becoming a lot more common; gay romance isn’t the only LGBT+ representation out there anymore. We’re starting to see good rep in every genre, every age group, romance to non-romance, sexual to non-sexual. That’s so positive, and I’m hoping that’ll lead to the demographic for queer books lean more towards OwnVoices readers/writers.

Women who write gay men will often struggle to write their experiences authentically. It’s a problem with every book that highlights an identity that the author doesn’t share. If the author is writing for women, and women are reading the books, then how can it be an authentic, accurate representation?

The big thing we should take away from this is that we need to pay attention to queer men who review books, we need to pay attention to queer men who write books. We need to trust in their judgement of what is authentic, what’s problematic, and what’s good. We need to make sure their work is getting the credit it deserves and that they have the platforms they need.

You are 100% welcome to disagree on any of my thoughts here, and I’d love to hear what you think. It’s such a complicated situation with a lot of different factors that we need to think about.

There’s probably a lot I haven’t mentioned here, as usual I’m hesitant to make this post too long. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you disagree with me? Do you have any ideas on what we can do to support men in this industry? What fetishistic red flags have you noticed?

18 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Women Who Write About Gay Men // Discussion

  1. I can’t actually think of what to add other than that I 100% agree with everything you’ve written. I’ve read a lot of queer books written by women in the past, some of them have been absolutely amazing, and in fact some of my favourite queer books have been written by the same woman. I will say though that all the books by women that I’ve enjoyed, I did notice a lack of any sexualisation, I think maybe the characters kiss but that’s about it? I’m not sure if that makes me more comfortable reading about them.

    I definitely find it harder to find books written by gay men, though. I have recently bought a couple of T.J. Klune’s books but off the top of my head he’s one of only two male authors writing queer romance that I can think of! I’m not sure if it’s just because men don’t generally write about romance in the first place, or if there’s another reason, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for any books like that releasing in the future! I am absolutely loving the influx of sapphic books coming out this year though, it’s always lovely to see more diversity in romance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post! I feel the same, there are some really amazing books written by women out there, but I also really want to support queer men more! T.J. Klune is a great one, his books are amazing! I’m trying to keep an eye out for other queer men authors, maybe I can even write a post on it ๐Ÿค” I’m also loving all the sapphic books releasing atm, I think we’ve really done well as a community in showing there’s a market for them!! Thank you so much for commenting ๐Ÿ’–

      Liked by 1 person

    1. T.J. Klune is always a great choice, he’s probably also the most well known! David R Slayton is the author of White Trash Warlock which I’ve been told was really good. The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig is a YA with vampires if that’s your kinda thing. The Taking of Jake Livingston is coming out this year, A Necessary Chaos is a 2022 release that sounds amazing. Also Aiden Thomas, Adam Silvera, Phil Stamper… I’m sure there’s loads more! I might make a recommendation post about it soon!

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  2. Good point about not actually knowing if the writer is indeed a woman. Poppy Z. Brite comes to mind. He has some notoriety in gothic fiction and has many bisexual and gay characters in his fiction. In the beginning of his career he was assumed to be a female author but later came out as a trans man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah I’ve heard of him! It’s all very complicated when you consider how author identity might not be what it appears to be. Writing about queer men can definitely be an avenue for people to explore their gender identity. Thanks for the comment!

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