By Morticia Knight
Wow. There have already been some great posts on taboo this month, so I’m not sure how I can top it *wink*. The timing is ironic, since this month also included an Author Behaving Badly saga where an author kink-shamed someone publicly. On Twitter. With screenshots from a private group. I’m not going to name and shame this author, but rather discuss the fallout from this person’s actions and how others—both readers and authors—responded to them. I’ll give you enough of an outline of events so that if you weren’t a witness to it in social media, you can understand what went down.
It all began when said author took offense to someone asking for some erotic romance books that included incest. The reader’s request was in a closed group on Facebook specifically meant for people to share recommendations of M/M books. The reader became curious about this kink after watching Game of Thrones. Since this rec group has always been a safe space, the reader felt comfortable posting that question, and indeed, many people jumped in with books they thought she might like (I myself have read a few of them!). But this author took a screenshot of the post and shared it on Twitter with commentary that amounted to how awful this person was and that kink is. The reader was justifiably upset, since if her identity were to somehow be discovered, it could hurt her professionally or personally. There are plenty of us who don’t share the type of books we enjoy with our boss or grandmothers!
The outcry against the author was immediate, and she eventually had the good sense to take down the tweet and acknowledge it was ‘a shitty thing to do’. But she continued to double-down on Facebook and defend her position—explaining that it made her embarrassed to be associated with the M/M genre and thought we should all be taking the higher road and not fetishizing gay men by writing about such disgusting taboo subjects. Several gay men chimed in at this point and reminded her that they enjoy writing/reading about several of the subjects she decried, and that even if they didn’t, the gay men of the world had never appointed her their champion. Others commented that it seemed as if she was internalizing a bit of homophobia based on her claim of being embarrassed that gay romance wasn’t more like het romance. Hmm...
I could go on for quite a while citing all the reasons why readers and authors were upset by her actions and words. But did she have a point? Is writing/reading about taboo subjects something we should be concerned about, something we should stop? Where would we draw the line?
In my opinion, we draw the line at pedophilia if we’re talking romance or erotica. Anything involving a child is a hard no. It’s illegal for a reason. But then, so is incest, right? Yeah, it is. And it’s super triggery for some and can destroy people’s lives. At the same time, it was also a big plot point in a bestselling, classic YA novel. I’m of course referring to Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews. Mainstream fiction, people. Pubbed in the seventies with several movie adaptations to follow—including on television—and the incest aspect was never glossed over. I read it when I was twelve, as did many of my friends. I’ll also add at this point that I know people who have been in incestuous relationships and that there are countries where marrying first cousins or an aunt or uncle is legal. But right now, what I’m really discussing is fictional taboos.
We all have our own personal boundaries when it comes to taboo subjects. Rape is very controversial as well, and CNC (consensual non-consent) in the BDSM community can sometimes divide kinksters. I wrote a CNC scene in my book Role Play (Play Series 1) and had some pushback from a few readers who weren’t expecting it and the scene upset them. Then there were readers who didn’t think the scene was all that taboo or extreme. In erotic romance, there will always be those who will point the finger at a kink and say, ‘for shame!’. We can’t squash our creativity to try and please everyone. As an author, I write what I want to read. I figure, hey, if I want to read it, then there are probably plenty of others out there who do too!