First off, thanks so much to Lisa and The Novel Approach for giving me a bit of space today!
It’s no secret that I started out in fanfiction. I like to think of it as a place where I worked out a lot of the basic kinks (the bad kind 😉 ) of writing and learned a lot about the craft. I am, of course, still learning—we never stop—but it’s a good place to get your feet wet.
That is where I got interested in learning and writing about two men. Fandom is rife with people writing two male characters together. The original slash (for those that don’t know) started back in the 60’s with Kirk and Spock.
Since then, putting two male characters in a relationship is pretty much a foregone conclusion (whether they’re canon or not). But one of the things that also seems common in fandom is to further make every male character gay. The fandom I came from – Naruto – was particularly good for this. For one thing, there weren’t a lot of women in the series (some, but the men certainly outnumbered the women by a lot) and those that were often were more the butt of jokes than prospective partners for the men. On top of that the nature of the profession for most of the characters—ninja—put many of them in the prime position of being open to any gender. (The reasoning behind this would fill a whole other blog post!)
But yet, despite the idea that these characters could be open to any gender partner, many of those authors stick to m/m pairings. And women in these stories are relegated to background characters, at best. God help you if you put one of them in an actual sexual relationship with a male character. In fact, some websites dedicated to m/m fan art and fanfiction downright forbid women in sexual situations in their main gallery.
My husband—an amazingly patient and open man—has read pretty much everything I’ve written. He used to give me so much crap because when I started writing m/m, I fell into a similar situation. Most of my men were gay and involved with other men. The women were supporting characters and that was it. Eventually, I broke away from that and wrote more mixed couples, but I started out there.
Now, that’s not to say there should always be mixed couples. I still stand by what I told him back then. There is a certain amount of reality to stories about gay men involving mostly men. I know quite a few gay men and many of them choose to hang around other gay men. Oh, they have female friends, but the vast majority of their time is spent with other gay men. So, yeah, it makes sense if that’s most of what you see.
But they are, by far, not the only type of male in these stories. One of the main characters in my upcoming novel, No Sacrifice, is, in fact, bisexual. Not gay, not straight. He’s bi. He very firmly is attracted to both men and women. And, at the beginning of the book, is still married to a woman.
So when I sat down to write his story, one of the things I realized was that there was a very good possibility of… yes, you guessed it, on page het sex
Dun Dun DUN!
Right. There have been a couple of pretty major stinks over het sex in m/m fiction before. There are arguments that true m/m fiction doesn’t involve sex with women, or it’s not… m/m fiction. That seems a bit, well, confusing to me. Does a male having sex with a female mean he’s… no longer male? Why does a male (who either doesn’t recognize his homosexuality or is bi) having sex with a woman stop it from being a story about two men?
In No Sacrifice, Patrick’s relationship with his wife (and, later, ex-wife) is very important to his character development. The scene in question is a major scene for him in figuring out his relationship, where it stands and what it means for his future – and helps him confirm his bisexuality.
So, then the next thing I have read is the solution is simple: make it fade to black. But the fact is, Patrick figures these very important things out as it happens. When the realization hits, he’s mid-coitus with his wife. And the subsequent awkwardness is just as important for him.
What is frustrating about the insistence in not writing sex with women is that it also has a tendency to wash women mostly from the story. Now, I am aware that my m/m stories will never pass the Bechdel test. The women in my story are there because of how they relate to the male main characters. Honestly, if that’s not why they’re there then I firmly believe either 1) they’re superfluous or 2) should get their own story.
Everything about a story should be about how it relates to the main character (and, thus, plot). So no, it won’t pass the Bechdel Test. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there. I don’t know a single gay man who truly lives in a vacuum and never interacts with other women.
The bottom line to me is that washing them from it, sticking to men and refusing to show men who have sex with women in those situations… Well, I don’t think it does anyone any favors. Especially if you’re going for some measure of reality. Obviously, fantasy’s a different story and many of us read just to escape reality. But especially in a contemporary novel, I think it causes a lot more WTF moments if too much is glossed over or left out.
I think it also tends to eliminate (at least) one big letter of the GLBTQ acronym. Because a bi man isn’t gay. He’s bi. He likes both. And showing only part of that, I think, isn’t being true to the character.
Patrick would certainly agree.
You can read Patrick and Chance’s story in No Sacrifice. It’s available now for pre-order and will be out on June 23rd!
Blurb: Patrick has taken his acting talents from high school all the way to a role in a major television show. But as the show progresses, his life of absolute certainties crumbles when he finds himself reacting to the kisses of his male costar. He refuses to accept it, reminding himself he’s married and a father—and thus, straight.
One night he goes to drink his worries away, meets Chance Dillon, and can’t take his eyes off the man. After having a little too much alcohol, he spills his problem to Chance, who helps him realize there’s something other than gay and straight. Patrick’s new understanding of his bisexual identity helps him sleep better—until the next day, when he discovers Chance is a sound technician on the same set.
As their friendship grows and Patrick’s marriage ends, he recognizes a possibility for much more with Chance. But Patrick isn’t ready to be out the way Chance has been for so long, and when the matter is taken out of Patrick’s hands, he pushes Chance away to spare him the mess Patrick’s life has become. By the time he realizes his mistake, it may be too late.
Author’s Bio: Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age – many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children – both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.
A signed paperback copy of No Sacrifice
A seahorse pendant
A special collectible movie clapperboard with the details from No Sacrifice’s “Deception” TV Show
**Please Note: while the physical items are for US residents only, I am more than happy to send a signed, decorated bookmark, or the like, internationally. Feel free to contact me anywhere below.**
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