Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Women as Bitches in Gay Romance

By Cassandra Gold (Guest Blogger)

When Lisabet Sarai informed me what the topic at Oh Get a Grip was going to be, I knew right away what I wanted to write about. 
 
As an author (and reader) of gay erotic romances, I don’t read about a lot of heroines. Most of the heroes I read and write about are looking for their Prince Charming rather than their Princess. Sometimes, that leads to a drought of female characters. Some books I’ve read don’t have a single female character in them, woman or child. That can be a little strange, but overall I don’t mind it.

What I do mind is when every female character is a negative stereotype.

After reading hundreds of gay romances, and writing a couple dozen of my own, it’s not difficult to divide many of the female characters into one of a few categories.
  1. The psycho ex-wife / girlfriend. This character’s sole reason for existing is to make one of the MCs miserable. She either wants him back or hates him for being gay, which comes out in virulently homophobic actions. This might come in the form of denying the hero access to a child, or trying to ruin his life in some major way, all in the name of revenge or moral outrage. Often, their behavior descends into caricature and melodrama. These women are the most common negative female character I see in gay romance, and honestly, I’m getting tired of them.
  1. The borderline stalker. This character can’t get it through her thick skull that the hero is gay, preferring to believe she and she alone could convert him, if only given a chance. (I’m somewhat guilty of this one, sadly. In one of my earlier books, I wrote a ditsy woman who didn’t realize her potential Mr. Right was gay until near the end of the book. She was pushy and silly, but she wasn’t malicious. Still, ugh.)
  1. The evil mother / stepmother / mother-in-law. This older woman refuses to accept the hero’s gayness. She may disown him and kick him out of the house, or try to get him to change. Usually this is because of religious beliefs, but sometimes it’s not clear why the mother rejects her son. Sometimes she pretends acceptance, only to try to drive away the hero’s love interest at every turn. I know women like this really do exist, but it’s disheartening to see them so often in romances. There are understanding, caring moms out there too. I’d love to see them represented more often.
  1. The (seemingly) faithful hag. This character may seem positive at first glance (and in some stories, actually is a positive character), but I’ve seen a lot of stories in which the supposedly loyal friend actually tries to sabotage the hero, either out of fear he will forget about her once he’s in a relationship or because she has secret feelings for the hero.
  1. The homophobic church lady / neighbor / whatever. This character is self-explanatory, and often seems to be written as even more unpleasant than homophobic male characters.
As a woman, it’s disappointing to me to see so many of my fellow female authors of gay romance relying on villainous women to provide conflict in their stories. There are so many other people and situations that could provide good conflicts for stories, it’s hard for me to understand why the clichéd evil woman plays such a prominent role in the genre. What is it about gay romance that makes authors want to not only exclude women, but make them the bad guys? Are women so threatened by men who aren’t attracted to them that they have to react in such negative ways? I’d like to think, in this day and age, most of us aren’t. Even being gay doesn’t have to be the main conflict. There are enough accepting people out there that I think we can find a wider variety of conflicts for our characters to encounter. That’s why I’m so tired of seeing the device used in gay fiction. 
 
In the past month I’ve read a couple of books in which ex-wives were trying to understand their former husbands’ gayness, and working together to parent children or keep a friendship going. While the female characters in these stories weren’t perfect, they tried to understand their ex-husbands and support them, and that was refreshing to read. I admired the authors of those books for showing that conflict can come from something other than an evil, irrational bitch.

In my own stories, I’m trying to steer clear of clichés as well. The women I’ve written into my more recent books are sometimes allies or friends of the main characters, but they’re not fag hags. They’re not evil exes, either. They’re ordinary (or extraordinary, in the case of my paranormal series) women who don’t have to hate others to validate themselves. Right or wrong, the choices they make are about them rather than about what the hero is doing.

I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks. Are women cast as villains too often in gay fiction? Does it bother you, or are you okay with it because it’s just a story?

Cassandra Gold


About Me: I’m a middle school teacher, an avid reader, a procrastinator extraordinaire, and, occasionally, a writer. My first published story was a gay erotic romance nearly six years ago, and I’ve been writing in the genre ever since. My not-so-secret vices are cupcakes, cheesy pop music, fruity frozen cocktails, horror stories, and colored pens (must be the teacher in me). Come and visit me at www.cassandragold.com, or at my facebook page  http://www.facebook.com/cassandra.gold.author.


My latest release: Sex and the Single Zombie
Caring, professional SWGZ seeks open-minded SGM for dating and possible LTR...
Since his death two years ago, zombie Peter Reese's love life has been nonexistent. His attempts to meet a regular "live" guy through a blind dating website—without revealing an important detail about himself—have all blown up in his face. Now, his current blind date with "Shane1990" seems destined to end the same way, until the handsome guy inexplicably decides to give Peter another chance.
Can Peter prove that nice zombies don't always finish last?

 

5 comments:

  1. Cassandra - welcome to the Grip! I see exactly what you're talking about when I read slash. Gay erotica, thankfully, is kinder to women (if it includes them at all.) You're doing your part to create better characters, and I appreciate that.

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  2. Kathleen: Thanks for commenting. :)

    I didn't think too much of the negative female characters in gay romance at first, but lately it's been bugging me (maybe I'm maturing as a reader, lol). I can't say I'm perfect regarding my female characters, but I try to keep them realistic and not caricatures.

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  3. Hi, Cassandra,

    Welcome to the Grip!

    I find the dearth of female characters in M/M erotic romance somewhat disturbing. Some books make you feel as though there are no women in the universe at all!

    I haven't read too many M/M books with bitchy females, however. The stories that come to mind did have females in love with one of the heroes, but that just made them helpful and supportive (while adding a bit of angst).

    I love the title of your book "Sex and the Single Zombie". But I still fail to understand how animated dead flesh can be sexy. Maybe I need to read your take on it!

    Thanks for being our guest!

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  4. I agree with Lisabet. It's not that I've seen many evil female characters--it's more that there are so few female characters! Is part of the reason the way both authors and readers perceive the genre? Are we afraid that straight women (the majority readers) are there for the guys?

    I suspect, though, that readers will respond well to any well-drawn character, male or female.

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  5. Lisabet: My zombies are a bit different from the norm, but I can see how you'd still be a bit squicked. If you do end up reading the book, I'll be interested to hear your take on it. :)

    Miri: You might be right re. the way people perceive the genre. Sometimes people mention "girl cooties" in the story. That's often referring to a threesome with a female character, but some people seem to feel women shouldn't be involved in gay romances at all. That's not realistic, of course, but that's the way some authors and readers like it.

    I guess I'd rather have no women at all than ridiculous caricatures, lol. But that's just me.

    ReplyDelete