Riding on the heels of Aleks Voinov's post criticizing M/M genre "purity" and the misogyny, transphobia, and biphobia it represents, I'd like to make a quick public service announcement and offer a bit of feminine and feminist perspective on the issue. Do hop by Aleks' blog as well, though, for an examination of how this issue impacts transgender authors, readers, and characters, as well as a very important point on self-censorship.
And now for the PSA:
My books have women in them. Capable women, smart women, lost women, emotional women, kind women, villainous women, mothers and wives and exes and sisters and cousins and girlfriends and great great great (great great great, etc.) grandmothers. Sometimes they have sex. Sometimes I even write in full glorious detail about their sex organs.
Look, I get it. Women grow up in a world that teaches us to revile our own vaginas. We're taught our sexuality, our sexual urges and feelings, are somehow dirty and grotesque, whereas male sexuality is celebrated. We all live and die with "Lie back and think of England" hanging over our heads. For people like me, that already confusing and damaging relationship is further complicated by our sexual history, namely the fact that I (among many many too many others) am a survivor of rape and childhood sexual abuse. Basically what I'm saying is... I've been there on the hating vaginas front. I was at one time the queen of hating my own vagina. I had enough issues to get myself a respectable place in JSTOR.
Thing is... I acknowledge that. I forgive myself for being a product of my society, but that doesn't mean I don't examine and try and heal these harmful attitudes when I recognize them in myself or when someone else points them out to me. Other feminists will argue I'll never make progress in that respect so long as I write M/M, a genre where I can safely avoid female sexuality for as long as I bloody well please. Maybe they're right and maybe they're wrong. I'll continue writing and reading subjects I enjoy, and continue working on my issues with my gender, and if there comes a time when I decide that I can't write M/M and call myself a feminist, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I'm not saying anyone else has these issues (or at least, I'm saying somebody else does, but not necessarily you). I'm not your therapist. I don't know why you read or write M/M. I don't know what you get out of it. Maybe you're perfectly comfortable with your body and your sexuality and the mere notion of what I'm saying is offensive to you. If you're feeling defensive right now, though, I'd ask you to give this some thought rather than rejecting it outright. A little bit of self-reflection is never a bad thing, even if you do it and say "Nope, I think I'm all clear on this front."
But whether or not this post speaks to you or enlightens you or makes you want to scream HOW FUCKING DARE YOU into my face, know this:
I will warn for themes of rape, abuse, and incest in my stories. I will warn for violence and violent and abusive language. I will not warn for female characters, and I will not warn for female characters getting it on. You have a right to have whatever relationship with vaginas you please, but I likewise have a right not to coddle your Issues by letting you know in advance about the presence of vaginas in my writing. I feel I owe my readers warnings about rape and abuse and incest and abusive language because I want them to feel safe reading my writing, so that people with issues with rape know that X story might upset, disturb, or trigger them, etc. I don't owe my readers safety from vaginas. If that means my stories don't conform to the "purity" standards of the M/M genre as it stands, well then I guess I'll have to put them in another niche of romance.
But having said all this, I have a feeling that this distate for vaginas among M/M readers is far less widespread than some people would have us believe.
I'm an M/M reader and writer who enjoys women characters and who recognizes that human sexuality and gender is a spectrum. As such I'm perfectly fine with M/F and M/M/F relationships appearing in my M/M stories. If you are too, speak up and be heard!
For further reading, I highly recommend this post that popped up overnight on Dear Author:
SEXUALITY AND SAME-SEX ROMANCE: PLACEHOLDERS, POWER DYNAMICS, AND THE P-WORD by Jill Sorenson.
A really excellent, in-depth examination of this issue that's a million times more thoughtful than my post here.