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A Bit of a Ranting, I Admit

September 3, 2014

Recently, we sent out a book review request to a bunch of sites… like we do. Most people either don’t respond or they politely accept/decline. I’ve no problem with that. We don’t even ask why a site might decline our review request. It’s just the way things roll.

However, one site did respond with more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and the way this site owner—who is male—responded really rubbed at me wrong. There are three areas he touched on with his response that I wanted to address just in general. As a female author and publisher of erotica and erotic romance.

One of the things that really bothered me was the dismissal of erotica by this site owner. Erotica, as he defined it, was plotless sex. The vibe there was they only read real books, not just sex crap. Which, whether they realize it or not, speaks down at those who do read and enjoy erotica. Erotica is a legitimate form of fiction, and it is no less than any other form of fiction simply because its focus is sex. As if sex is shameful. It’s not, and writing about it… reading about it… loving it… it isn’t shameful, either. Erotica does have plot, but it’s a sex-driven plot, and there is nothing wrong with that. Dismissing it as less does the genre and its authors a disservice, and it makes you look elitist.

The second accusation was that erotica written by women about gay or bisexual men was flat-out fetishization. Wow, really? Simply writing about a marginalized group, according to this site owner, when you are not part of that marginalized group is fetishization. Oh, but only if it’s erotica. Otherwise, I guess it’s not? (Let’s leave aside for the moment the breathtakingly naive assumption that every woman who writes about gay and bisexual men is necessarily straight. There are staggering numbers of authors in this genre who identify all along the sexuality and sexual identity scales, who are dealing with marginalizations of their own.)

‘Fetishization’ is a word men who don’t like women playing in their fiction sandbox like to throw around. Let’s just take a look at that word, because I don’t think it means what you think it means.

A fetish is a very specific thing. As defined by Mirriam-Webster, a fetish is ‘a strong and unusual need or desire for something; a need or desire for an object, body part, or activity for sexual excitement’. By saying women who dare to write men in sexual situations with other men (the ONLY time that the word is pulled out in this genre) are doing it solely and completely due to a strong and unusual need that is necessary to become aroused is ludicrous. It is arousing? For many people, yes. But by calling it fetishization, you’re making the statement that we are incapable of becoming aroused any other way. The same accusation is rarely, if ever, leveled at straight men who enjoy lesbian erotica or pornography, though it is functionally identical.

The word these people are reaching for is, perhaps, ‘exploitation’, but even that is an unfair accusation. By writing about marginalized groups they aren’t members of, these detractors say, women authors are profiting off of the life experiences of gay and bisexual men, and somehow, to them, that’s not right. Never mind all of the men in gay pornography who actually identify as straight when the cameras are off. For some reason, even the fact that the practice is called Gay-For-Pay doesn’t seem to trigger the same ire despite the fact that straight men are even less marginalized than women, and in even more of a position to make a profit from their work. No, these slurs are only ever aimed at women, which makes the whole thing feel less like an actual concern over a possible loss of identity and more like indignation over having the Boys Only clubhouse overrun by stinky girls with their cooties and yucky emotions.

This site owner’s email boiled down to one requirement: for them to review gay or bisexual male fiction, the authors of those stories had to be gay or bisexual men. Which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. The sexism that runs rampant is stunning sometimes. Men can write lesbian fiction, but women can’t write gay fiction. There is only one way to write a marginalized people, and that is by being a part of that marginalized people. Let’s not forget, though, that we’re discussing fiction. You know, stories that aren’t real? Fiction. Made up worlds with made up people doing made up things. And everyone has the right to tell the stories they want to tell, and everyone has the right to read the stories they want to read.

And that includes this site. I just think they stepped in a big pile of shit when they tried to gives reasons for rejecting our book for review. Nowhere in their policy do they state this. Nowhere on their site do they give this impression.

Then, to top of their email, the site owner informed us that there is absolutely no reason to be given that would make non-con/dub-con acceptable. Ever. So, if you have rape fantasies—like a lot of people—you should be ashamed. Ashamed!

Needless to say, we have removed that site from our review roster. I don’t like giving people free books when all they do is sneer down their noses at the contents from their moral high horse (though, the site does review Laurell K. Hamilton’s stuff, so I don’t think that high horse is as high as they think it is).

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