Saturday, September 4, 2010

Smut and Controversy - Two Things that Go Together Well

By D. L. King (Guest Blogger)

I’m a smut peddler. I write erotica, edit erotica, read erotica and publish and edit a review site for erotic literature. I think Lisabet wants to shake things up. She knows I don’t write erotic romance, but she invited me to be a guest on her blog, nevertheless, and with that in mind, I want to run something by you.

I primarily write femdom erotica, most often with male submissives. That’s not to say I don’t write other things, as well. I’ve written some male dom with female submissives—usually for specific books, as it’s not really my thing. (That doesn’t mean I can’t write it, [See Yes, Sir, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel] after all, I’m a writer…) I also write and edit lesbian erotica.

My best friend is a gay man. We’ve been best friends for more than twenty years. I go to gay bars with him, I host barbecues attended solely by gay men, we scope out guys together. One night, after a few drinks, I showed one of the guys a Cheeto shaped like a tiny cock and balls I’d picked out of the snack bowl on the bar, I was declared an honorary gay man.

So where is this leading? Well, one day my friend asked me why I’d never written any gay erotica?

Because,” I said, “honorary gay man, or not, I’m not actually a guy.”

He said he was pretty sure I could write it and I said I’d think about it, but I didn’t give it a try until last year, when I was invited to be one of the authors in Broadly Bound, a GLBT BDSM project from Beth Wylde for Phaze. My story, “Family” is about a polyamorous “family” composed of three women and one gay man who misses the company of other man. That story included my first gay scenes and I think they worked out quite well. (You can be the judge; an excerpt follows.) While the lesbian relationship in the story may work as erotic romance, (or what passes for it in my hardcore world) the gay sex isn’t the least bit romantic, but it is very hot and a great time is had by all.

The gay scenes are all very testosterone-driven, hardcore, BDSM sex. There’s nothing sweet, loving or pretty about them. But they’re designed to drive gay men who are into Daddy/boy BDSM, wild.

Romance is a different animal. I’ve read some M/M erotic romance written by women and I’ve enjoyed it. But I’m not sure I could say it resembles what I know about real men in loving partnerships. It often, not always, seems to have a somewhat feminine feel, rather than a true masculine ring. But that’s because I think that men, while also very romantic creatures, act on and feel that romance differently than women do and I think that not all women can channel realistic masculine energy. After all, we all know that men aren’t women with cocks. There’s a big difference between estrogen and testosterone.

That said, I have a very close female friend who writes gay male erotica and erotic romance and she has quite a big gay male following. She channels masculine energy really well.

And the reason I bring all this up is because there seems to be a bit of a backlash from some members of the gay community right now about gay erotica written by straight women. Recently, the editor of a gay erotic anthology requested a review (not from my site) and asked that the reviewer not be female. I just saw a call for submissions for another gay erotic anthology that stated that the editor would only entertain submissions from gay men, in other words, “Women need not apply.” Out Magazine recently made the trek from New York to England to interview two prominent female authors of gay erotic romance and wanted to know what the whole “straight women writing gay erotic romance for straight women” was all about.

So I wanted to get your take on the present controversy. What do you think? Do you like gay erotica? Why do you read M/M erotic romance? Do you think it accurately represents real gay relationships? Or, do you think, like traditional romance, it represents a fantasy that feeds your own romantic fantasy?

Before I go, I thought I’d leave you with an excerpt from one of the gay scenes in “Family.” This is Matt’s first meeting and exposure to Travis, who’s been invited over for Christmas dinner as kind of a Christmas gift for Matt. If you’re interested, please check it out at Phaze.com.

We’re going to play a game, boy. You’re gonna suck off my squeak toy here, until he comes.” As he told Matt the rules of the game, he played with Squeak’s balls until he was nice and hard before rolling a condom over his shaft. He continued to massage Squeak as he explained the rest of the game to Matt.

I’m gonna cane your pretty ass until Squeak comes so, for your sake, I hope you’re good at giving head, boy. You understand?”

Yes, Sir.”

Good, now why don’t you work up some spit and get a taste for my toy’s cock while I finish getting you two ready.” Travis walked Squeak up to Matt and made sure his cock fit all the way into Matt’s mouth, leaving some room between Matt’s head and his sub's belly before tying Squeak in place, making sure he couldn’t back himself all the way out of Matt’s mouth. While they were getting to know each other, Travis fastened a weighted parachute around Matt’s balls. Though he only used a couple of pounds, he got a nice moan from Matt’s filled mouth when he started the weights swinging. He took one of my thicker canes from the wall, said, “Here we go,” and gave Matt a swing with the cane.

Travis built up a rhythm, starting with light strokes that got progressively stronger until Matt grunted each time the cane connected with his backside or the backs of his thighs. Rather than welted stripes, Travis was building up an overall red color with the thuddy instrument as the blowjob continued.

From what I could tell, it looked like neither Squeak nor Matt was in any hurry to finish. They seemed to have reached their stride. Both boys had their eyes closed and Squeak looked like he was in another world. I think Travis must have sensed their plateau. He switched to a slightly thinner cane. This time, the stroke produced a response, causing Matt to jump a little and Squeak to actually squeak. It looked like there was a frenzy of renewed sucking from Matt as Travis began to use the cane in earnest.

The next time Travis switched canes, he took my thinnest, most ‘whippy’ cane and laid a stripe across the middle of Matt’s ass. Matt screamed around Squeak’s cock and opened his eyes. I could see that they were tear-filled and I watched them overflow as the strikes rained down on my boy. Squeak had been holding onto the armrest up to this point, but suddenly he flung his head back and grabbed Matt’s head. He used what little leverage he had to actively fuck Matt’s mouth. I watched things build to a crescendo as stripes appeared up and down the backs of my boy’s thighs and with a final strike to Matt’s sweet spot, Squeak came. Travis hung up the last cane and gently stroked Matt’s butt and legs before walking round front to untie Squeak.

As the cock was withdrawn from Matt’s mouth, he moved his jaw back and forth to get it uncramped. The first words out of his mouth were, “Thank you, Sir.”

D. L. King is a smut writing—and editing New Yorker who lives somewhere between the Wonder Wheel and the Chrysler Building. She is the editor of three anthologies: The Sweetest Kiss: Ravishing Vampire Erotica and Where the Girls Are: Urban Lesbian Erotica, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, both from Cleis Press and Spank!, her latest, from Logical Lust Publications. She is also the publisher and editor of the book review site, Erotica Revealed. Her short stories can be found in anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Fast Girls, Sex in the City: New York, Please Ma’am, Sweet Love, Girl Crazy, Broadly Bound and Frenzy, among others. She is the author of two novels of female domination and male submission, The Melinoe Project and The Art of Melinoe. Find out more at http://dlkingerotica.blogspot.com and http://www.dlkingerotica.com.

15 comments:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, D.L.,

Welcome to Beyond Romance! You're not the first erotica author to guest here, but we haven't had a raw excerpt like yours in a while!

I hadn't really noticed that you don't write much M/M. Certainly, this snippet suggests that you're equally talented in this genre as in the others you attack more frequently.

Hugs,
Lisabet

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hi, D.L., nice to see you here!

Brenna Lyons said...

You touched on a lot of issues. I'll hit them as I remember them, and it's early for me. Grinning...

Is there something wrong with requesting a male reviewer. Not inherently. If their target audience is gay/bi males, they may feel safer with a male reviewer than a female. Simply put, they may be unsure of the appeal of an edgy gay erotic book on a female audience. It's not their core demographic. And they may have been burned on it before. It happens.

Is there something wrong with a male-only anthology? No more wrong than the female-only ones I've seen calls for. If you want to be controversial, there's a subject. Why IS it okay to have calls for only women and not for only men? IMO, you should have both or neither.

Personally, I don't see a problem with either, since sometimes it works to highlight a certain subset of writers. Since women are so marginalized in SF/F/H markets, I can see the point to the female-only markets I've submitted to. The only difference is that females are ALSO somewhat marginalized in the gay erotic markets. But making qualifiers on this sort of thing works against us other places.

I DO write M/M erotic romance...and my men are not women with cocks. They are men. A couple of gay friends (two of them in a loving and long term relationship of their own) have told me that I got it right, from their POV. That was heartening.

At the same time, I DON'T think men and women are inherently different creatures. How they will act and react has more to do with the balance of estrogen and testosterone in the system (and both sexes have both). That's why I do know some very masculine lesbians and some very effeminate gay men.

It doesn't just have to do with the amount of sex hormones in the body. It also has to do with environment, psychology, laws, worldbuilding (if you're not doing contemp or historical), likes/dislikes, personal history, phobias, physiology... You build as complete a person, male or female, as possible, and then you let that person react.

I have many male qualities about me, but I am a straight woman. Maybe that's why I can "write the male POV." But my personal feeling is that the "male POV" is a pipe dream, and what you are really dealing with is the POV of an individual with a certain mix of male and female qualities about him or her...always. Sometimes, it's hard to find anything of the opposite sex in there. Sometimes it's not.

What is with women writing gay men? To be perfectly blunt -- and when am I not? -- my husband likens it to the male fantasy of two women together. If you like one hot guy, why not two? My husband once joked with a lesbian friend that he completely understood why lesbians like other women. It made sense to him. So, why wouldn't it make sense to me why gay men like other men?

Brenna

Brenna Lyons said...

Take two, and I'm growling at the blog this morning. You touched on a lot of issues, and I'll hit them as they occur to me.

Is there anything wrong with requesting a male reviewer? Not inherently. If their target audience is gay males, they may simply feel more comfortable with a reviewer from that audience. In fact, they may have been burned by a female reviewer on similar projects in the past and simply want to avoid a repeat.

Is there anything wrong with male-only anthologies? No more wrong than calls for female-only ones. If you want to get controversial... Why IS it okay to have female-only calls but not okay to have male-only? IMO, it should be okay to have both or neither. I opt for both, since I am not a fan of reverse bigotry any more than I’m a fan of bigotry.

Why? Because it sometimes makes sense to highlight a certain subset of authors. I belong to BroadUniverse, which exists because of the bias against female SF/F/H writers. I've submitted to female-only anthologies posted on their lists. Women are marginalized in SF/F/H markets, so people think it makes sense to have female-only anthologies in response, but since female writers are also somewhat marginalized in gay erotic markets, they find it offensive to have male-only anthologies where women are marginalized. In short, this is one of those...you're only really free if everyone has the rights to be biased situations. A little political, but there you go. If a certain market gets a name for being biased, they get a “bad” name for it, and people talk.

I DO write M/M erotic romance, and I'm not writing women with dicks. A handful of my gay friends (two of them in their own long-term romantic relationship) told me I got it right, from their POV. That was heartening.

At the same time, I think the whole idea that men and women are inherently different or that there is a "male POV" is a pipe dream. Male or female has a lot more to it than the amount of estrogen or testosterone in the system, and remember that both sexes have some of each in their systems.

I have met some really masculine lesbians in my life...and some very girly ones. I've met some very effeminate gay men in my life and some very masculine ones. And no, they don't always pair up masculine and feminine. Just as some men like women that are models and others like women that are tomboy outdoorswomen, same sex pairings do not always have a clear M/F component to them. Why should they?

Back to the subject... Sex hormones aside, every person has a certain amount of male and female about their personalities. Sometimes it's harder to pick out, but it's there. To build a proper "person"/character, you are taking personality, environment, laws, worldbuilding (if it's not contemp/historical), physiology, career, likes/dislikes, personal history, phobias and so many other things into account. You are building -- as best you can -- a complete human being and then letting that human react as he/she will. Doing anything less means stereotyping.

What is with women writing M/M? My husband likens it to men’s fantasies about lesbians. He once joked with a lesbian coworker that he understood precisely why she liked other women. It made sense to him. Who wouldn’t love women? Grinning... Yes, a rather simplistic look at it, but it has some merit along the way. I love men. If I love the idea of one man, why wouldn’t I love the idea of two of them? Why wouldn’t I understand what is appealing about them?

Brenna

BrennaLyons said...

Take two, and I'm growling at the blog this morning. You touched on a lot of issues, and I'll hit them as they occur to me.

Is there anything wrong with requesting a male reviewer? Not inherently. If their target audience is gay males, they may simply feel more comfortable with a reviewer from that audience. In fact, they may have been burned by a female reviewer on similar projects in the past and simply want to avoid a repeat.

Is there anything wrong with male-only anthologies? No more wrong than calls for female-only ones. If you want to get controversial... Why IS it okay to have female-only calls but not okay to have male-only? IMO, it should be okay to have both or neither. I opt for both, since I am not a fan of reverse bigotry any more than I’m a fan of bigotry.

Why? Because it sometimes makes sense to highlight a certain subset of authors. I belong to BroadUniverse, which exists because of the bias against female SF/F/H writers. I've submitted to female-only anthologies posted on their lists. Women are marginalized in SF/F/H markets, so people think it makes sense to have female-only anthologies in response, but since female writers are also somewhat marginalized in gay erotic markets, they find it offensive to have male-only anthologies where women are marginalized. In short, this is one of those...you're only really free if everyone has the rights to be biased situations. A little political, but there you go. If a certain market gets a name for being biased, they get a “bad” name for it, and people talk.

I DO write M/M erotic romance, and I'm not writing women with dicks. A handful of my gay friends (two of them in their own long-term romantic relationship) told me I got it right, from their POV. That was heartening.

At the same time, I think the whole idea that men and women are inherently different or that there is a "male POV" is a pipe dream. Male or female has a lot more to it than the amount of estrogen or testosterone in the system, and remember that both sexes have some of each in their systems.

I have met some really masculine lesbians in my life...and some very girly ones. I've met some very effeminate gay men in my life and some very masculine ones. And no, they don't always pair up masculine and feminine. Just as some men like women that are models and others like women that are tomboy outdoorswomen, same sex pairings do not always have a clear M/F component to them. Why should they?

Back to the subject... Sex hormones aside, every person has a certain amount of male and female about their personalities. Sometimes it's harder to pick out, but it's there. To build a proper "person"/character, you are taking personality, environment, laws, worldbuilding (if it's not contemp/historical), physiology, career, likes/dislikes, personal history, phobias and so many other things into account. You are building -- as best you can -- a complete human being and then letting that human react as he/she will. Doing anything less means stereotyping.

What is with women writing M/M? My husband likens it to men’s fantasies about lesbians. He once joked with a lesbian coworker that he understood precisely why she liked other women. It made sense to him. Who wouldn’t love women? Grinning... Yes, a rather simplistic look at it, but it has some merit along the way. I love men. If I love the idea of one man, why wouldn’t I love the idea of two of them? Why wouldn’t I understand what is appealing about them?

Brenna

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, D.L., but someone prob. should post a link to the article in Out Magazine for those who haven't seen it & would like to get some sense of the genre. (I had that link somewhere - will look for it.)
- Jean Roberta (who finds it easier to post on blogs like this as "Anonymous" for some reason)

Kathleen Bradean said...

I can see both sides of the argument, but what I also see is a lot of exaggeration, misinformation, opinion stated as fact, hypocrisy, and righteous indignation (the last bastion of the unrighteous) from BOTH sides. Everyone is right, on some points. And everyone is wrong, theoretically speaking. But if someone is going to burn a book (and the author in effigy), I wish they'd have the decency to read it first.

Anonymous said...

Too true - some wise person (can't remember who) said that the first casualty in a war is truth. :) The article in OUT mag (W4M4M? by Cintra Wilson) is more objective than some, IMO. Here is the link:

http://www.out.com/detail.asp?id=27242

(This worked for me a minute ago.)

D. L. King said...

Glad I could stimulate some conversation (waving at Dayle). By the way, thanks, Anonymous, for the Out Magazine link.

Fiona said...

I just read a comment somewhere else that someone felt sorry for MM authors because their stuff is being stolen by pirates the most. I said that I wonder if it is because much of the world is so homophobic that men who are even the slightest bit curious (and porn is always more exciting when it's something you fantasize about but wouldn't necessarily ever actually act on) are too afraid to buy it and have records anywhere that link them to it. So pirating allows them to get their rocks off safely. The biggest irony to me is that so much of it is written by women, who are imagining what gay men do with each other, which is not the same as what they may actually do! My gay male cousin tells me that any sex in books is hot as long as it is a well-written scene. But much of it is still not realistic. As you say, not all women can "channel" male-ness. And just because they chase men, gay men are not going to act like women who chase men. As for the gay "couples" who routinely in books pursue a woman to add to their home? My cousin chuckles warmly and says, "After all, it IS fiction, and everyone knows that, right?"

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, everyone,

Thanks for the great discussion.

Fiona, your comments about the reason M/M is so often pirated are very interesting. However, I should mention that my books (including my M/F books) show up on pirate sites pretty much as soon as they're released...!

All the best,
Lisabet

D. L. King said...

Hi Fiona,

I'm not sure about the pirating bit either. Ever since my stuff became available in electronic versions, people have been pirating it. I recently had a conversation with my friend, Kathleen Bradean, about pirating and she believes that they are simply thieves and most likely don't even read what they steal--they just steal it because they can. I think she may have a point. Although there are possibly people who download pirated work because either they can't get it, otherwise, or they are too embarrassed to pay for it--you never know.

I agree wholeheartedly with the rest. Thanks for commenting!

Kathleen Bradean said...

D.L. - I think an important part of the conversation was our observation that I'm huge, HUGE! in the Czech Republic. I have daily hits on my blog from there, India, Saudi Arabia, Romania, and Russia, and those people return to my site, so they aren't random hits. How do these readers know about my books? I assume that they download pirated files because how does someone from the Czech Republic buy my book? It hasn't been translated. It seems as if buying an e-book or print version from a US publishers would be a convoluted process for people without ready access to US $. For that reader from Saudi Arabia, it might be a matter of life and death that there's no financial trail. So I have mixed feelings about those pirates. All I ask is that if they see me walking down the street in Prague, they discreetly say hello so I don't get mobbed :)

Michelle Houston said...

I'm a bisexual woman, and I love reading (and writing) M/M erotica and erotic romance. There is just something so attractive to me about reading about two men together.

I know that there has been various different publishers, etc, that have said _____ need not submit, be it men writing for women, straight women writing for gay men, non-insert ethnic group here writing for insert-ethnic group, etc. To me, if you can write it well enough that I can get lost in the story, I don't care if you have pink and purple striped hair, a million piercings, or are a most prudish person in the world in your real life. I care about the story.

As a reader, it aggrevates me when a section of writers are immediatly disqualified basied on _____ criteria. I honestly could care less if a straight man is writing my lesbian romance, or a straight women writing my gay romance, or a gay man writing my heterosexual romance, or ... you get the idea. I care about the story.

As a writer, I can understand the marketing strategy and all, but I also think that I should be judged based on my storytelling ability, not what doesn't dangle between my legs.

Probably more than you were wanting, but that's my two cents.

Michelle

Michelle Houston said...

As for the pirates, I have noticed that I am finding more of my M/M stories on pirate sites, than my F/M or F/F stories.

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