Today I was pondering, as I often do, about what I read in romance/ erotica and how different gay fiction is from heterosexual. Regardless of intention, I see a heavy prevalence of a standard that is acceptable for men and yet never really tapped into with women.In some instances I wonder why its okay for these things to take place, and why we so readily accept them without a second thought.
For instance, one of my favorite stories feature two men who are really set on an emotional roller coaster throughout the entire story. During one incident the MC gets so upset that he starts punching the other man out of sheer frustration. Now, as I was reading this my eyebrow went up. I was like hold up. That isn’t the way to solve a problem, and it really wasn’t the other guys fault that this guy was frustrated. And later after I finished the book I thought about all the letters of outrage that would flood the author’s inbox if the male that had been punched was a woman. I’ve never asked that particular author if any upset fans had sent her mail, and if I had to guess I’d say probably no one sent in that kind of email. I myself sent her an email expressing how much I enjoyed the book. Though later, I thought again on the subject of violence. The MC wasn’t a violent character and this was the one and only time he hit the other man, but why was it ‘okay’. The man never even apologized to the other guy for his behavior. It was like some sort of ‘masculine right’, as if saying ‘well, this is what men do sometimes.’
Another double standard I see often in romance/erotica is prostitution. Honestly, you don’t see it in heterosexual romances, but I find it increasingly more popular in gay fiction. I won’t read it in either(knowing it before I go into the story), but to each his own. I’m sure a lot of people could say the same for my twincest novels. I wonder is it the novelty of the idea that makes this theme attractive. Or is it the sympathy this character engenders from the reading audience after he ‘overcomes’ the hardships in his life. If so, why aren’t the same techniques used so readily in het fiction. It seems as if a lot of writers are playing topsy turvy with the genders, writing what would have never been acceptable thirty years ago. Women in early romance, especially historical, were often written to be weak, the victims of bodice rippers, arranged marriages, and unwanted pregnancies. Now, women are written as fierce warriors, the head of a harem of men, lithe shapeshifters with deadly promise, and the stuffing in a manwich. Men on the other hand are portrayed as much weaker, more submissive, more helpless, and emotional. Where only a few years back you probably couldn’t crack open a romance where men shed a tear.
Some more double standards I see in writing.
Men can smoke cigars or cigarettes but women 99.9% don’t, despite the fact that the gap between men and women who smoke is steadily decreasing. To be fair, not many men smoke in these stories either. A reflection of what women and men find sexy, methinks.
Men drink a lot more than women, sometimes it’s so prevalent in a ‘short story’ I begin to worry about their liver. Often men douse their anger or sorrow in heavy drinking. Drunkenness also seems to be the rule of thumb for gay admissions or compromising situations. I’ve read plenty of drunk men. I’ve written some myself, but honestly, off the top of my head, I can’t remember reading about a drunk woman.
Well, these are all the DS I can think of right now. I’m sure there are more. This isn’t an attempt to garner feminist support, its simply my shared thoughts in the hopes that some folks will start thinking too, or perhaps share their take on this. I really would like to know if any of these thoughts have run through someone’s head other than mine. I think that writing gender differences are influenced by what society has decreed is a gender norm. Men can be more violent, more crude, more vulgar than women and no one bats an eyelash. I think of all the men who are being abused out there who don’t speak up because it isn’t ‘manly’ to cry about a few ‘licks’? And will those men ever have the support groups or awareness ads that women do? Or will this type of thing continue to be accepted by society because its the norm?