Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What are you whining about? There's TONS of f/f out there!

Warning: this is not a "sunshine and lollipops" post.

Biphobia and bisexual erasure are rampant in popular media. From Phoebe's "The Bisexual Song" on Friends--"Oh, sometimes men love women, and sometimes men love men. Then there are bisexuals, though some just say they're kidding themselves..."--to Willow's total conversion from straight to lesbian in one fell swoop on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to even supposedly LGBT-positive shows such as Queer as Folk suggesting that if you aren't totally straight or totally gay, there's something wrong with you--the implication is that bisexuals simply don't exist.

In my own personal experience since coming out, I've had people suggest that I'm only faking it to titillate straight men, or I'm deluded in my attraction to women, or it's "just a phase" that I'll eventually get over, or I'm really a closeted lesbian. The assumption is that I can't possibly be sexually and emotionally compatible with people of both sexes. And oddly, this assumption seems to me to be more prevalent in the LGBT community than anywhere else. It may be no more common there, but because that community is supposed to serve all the letters in the acronym, it is more...noticeable.

Well, I'm not particularly interested in what straight men think of my sexual orientation--other than to say how infuriating that straight-guy eyebrow waggle is. If I'm deluded, I've been deluded for my entire adult life (and my adolescence and much of my pre-adolescence) and by now, at age 38, I think I can safely say it's not a phase I'm going through. As for being a closeted lesbian? I just find men too damn hot to give any credence to that.

I'm bisexual. Get over it. And please, please, please stop telling me I don't exist!

So what does this have to do with f/f erotica and romance? It comes into play when making a distinction between f/f romance and lesbian romance. This is a distinction both lesbian and non-lesbian f/f authors have been known to make. Many lesbian romance authors shudder at the very thought of that slash-tag being associated with their work, and rightly so. Lesbian romance is a specific genre with specific tropes that are common to it.

According to Rory, a lesbian romance aficionada, bisexuality seems to be virtually non-existent in the f/f romance published by LGBT presses. Women who were once married tend to end up total converts to full-on lesbianism, often accompanied by references to how their ex-husbands were inattentive, inconsiderate lovers, or simply didn't know how to fulfill their needs. An egalitarian power dynamic is also common in lesbian romance, a dynamic that simply does not work for me as a reader. It's a rejection of the D/s power dynamic inherent in male/female relationships in favor of one where no woman has to be on the bottom.

Now don't get me wrong. Lesbian romance can be whatever it wants to be. I'm not going to tell authors what kind of stories to write, or what kind of tropes to include, or that they must give me what I want. And frankly, lesbians (and everyone else) can think what they want about my sexual orientation (and my opinions as I express them here. Feel free to strenuously disagree if you like--discussion is good).

But I do believe that lesbian fiction--as immersed (subtly or not so subtly) in gender politics, lesbian ideology, feminism and the casting off of patriarchy as it can be--is a very specific niche, and it's one that does not serve my needs as a reader. So whenever someone chimes in with a "What are you whining about? There's f/f romance all over the place!" I end up gritting my teeth until my jaw hurts.

I'm not particularly interested in reading romance fiction that supports a world view of either/or. I'm not interested in reading romance fiction that does not acknowledge I exist. I'm not interested in reading about how sex with a woman is always better than sex with a man, how a relationship with a woman will always be deeper and more loving and more fulfilling than one with a man, or that a man can never truly appreciate a woman.

I'm not interested in closing a door and leaving men on the other side of it. I'm about opting into the possibility of a same-sex relationship, not opting out of the possibility of an m/f one. I'm interested in sexual fluidity in all its forms (whether that's bi- or pansexuality, gender-bending, polyamory, whatever), and lesbian romance fiction doesn't seem to address this much or at all.

I decided to write this post after Teddypig did a blog post on Bold Strokes Books (and I should really give him kudos for posting about f/f considering it's certainly not his area of interest, lol), and the comments turned into a debate about whether there's a difference between f/f romance and lesbian romance. He holds that there is such an enormous overlap in readership between gay romance and m/m there's no distinction to make between the two, and that this holds true for f/f and lesbian.

I think he's mistaken.

Gay and m/m may be all but interchangeable because the readership does overlap. Women will happily read a gay romance, and gay men will happily read m/m.

This is not true of lesbian and f/f. Lesbian romance is often entrenched in a feminist ideology in a way gay romance (which still enjoys a degree of male privilege) is not. The issues in gay romance are gay issues. The issues in lesbian romance are not just lesbian issues but feminist issues.

Women will read gay romance because gay romance doesn't make them feel bad about themselves. Gay men will read m/m because m/m doesn't commonly contain tropes that subvert their ideology, their sense of self, and the long battle they've fought, and are still fighting, for acceptance.

The same can't be said about men and lesbian romance. Lesbian romance is often written from a perspective that makes the male reader feel like an interloper, or even an oppressor. What man wants to read fiction that often tells him he can never understand or please or sexually gratify a woman the way another woman can? What man wants to read fiction that makes him feel like he's only there to keep women down, thwart their success and happiness, or in the best case, help them achieve a happiness that can never include him? And I'm not saying lesbian romance should have to concern itself with making men feel okay about themselves, either. It shouldn't need to include men at all. But it isn't a genre targeted at men.

The same can't be said of straight women and lesbian romance--no woman wants to read a book that implies you're either/or (therefore, if she's getting turned on, she must conclude she's a closeted lesbian), or that she's a chump for being with a man. And judging by the het romance most popular today, straight women also tend to like the D/s dynamic (whether it's subtle or in your face), and complain there's no fire in a relationship without an alpha and a beta.

The same can't be said for lesbians and f/f. Bisexuality and sexual fluidity are not topics much explored in lesbian romance--for a reason. Whatever individual lesbians might feel, lesbians as a market aren't interested in reading about them--at least not in a romantic context.

Add to this the age-old co-opting of f/f sexuality for the titillation of straight men (and the resentment that must accompany that), and it's not surprising to see that female bisexuality is pretty much a no-show in lesbian romance. Lesbians (and most women) rightly protest the depiction of f/f sensuality as two women in bikinis rubbing against each other at a Nascar race. When such images are so pervasive in the media, it's only logical that many lesbians don't want men to own or have any part of their sexuality or the genre of fiction they've developed to serve it.

Female bisexuality invites men back in. Sexual fluidity invites men back in. Maybe not into the bedroom, but at least into the house. And that's what I like to read, and what I write. As a bisexual, I want to read characters who are like me, fiction that acknowledges f/f sex and f/f love are different from m/f, but not necessarily better. That I can be with a man and still be attracted to women, and it isn't a concession or a defeat or a compromise--it's just love. That I can be with a woman and still be attracted to men, and it's not the end-all and be-all or a rejection of maleness--it's just love.

After a certain amount of searching, Rory went on to recommend two romances to me where the characters are bisexual. I'm pretty stoked to find something to read that might satisfy my longing for girl-on-girl love while also accommodating my bisexuality--even if the m/f sex is minimal or non-existant. But the point is, if Rory hadn't recommended those books, I'd have never known they existed, because they're marketed as lesbian romance.

I don't read lesbian romance. I read f/f romance. The two are different. What say you all?

39 comments:

Jennifer Leeland said...

This is so interesting!!! I've just finished writing a Femme Dom book where the submissive is bisexual. She plays sexual submissive to a woman. Now, she ends up in a het relationship because she loves him, but she bends either way.
I'm not sure if you're right, but I know sexuality is the one thing that brings out a lot of defensiveness.

kirsten saell said...

Let me know when it comes out, Jennifer! I've posted here before about my appreciation for girl-on-girl bondage.

Sexuality does bring out a lot of defensiveness, and when feminism enters into it, it kind of exacerbates everything. Then you add in the whole bisexual erasure thing, and it means I don't find many characters I can relate to in the available pool of girl-on-girl romance fiction.

I wrote this because I'm so frustrated by people telling me there's plenty of f/f out there. Problem is, there isn't so much out there that I enjoy. It's like they figure as long as both protagonists have vaginas, that ought to be enough for me. But it isn't just about gender. It's about so much more...

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I am also surprised there aren't more bi-sexual romances. The only one I can think of that I have read is Deidre Knight's Butterfly Tattoo, but the hero was bisexual. And his reason for loving his male partner and then moving on to love a women was so beautiful and seemed so right.

Bryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kirsten saell said...

I agree, KB, that the only romances thought of as bi tend to be poly ones. But that kind of negates or ignores the fact that the majority of bisexual people aren't swingers or poly or sneaking around outside their marriages. They're as capable of lifelong or serial monogamy as anyone. If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to have any kind of normal life.

And there's a huge push in popular media to portray bisexuality as monosexuality based on the configuration of the current relationship. Take Seinfeld: George's fiance Susan was "straight", then she was a "lesbian", then she was "straight" again. Um, no. She was bisexual. Just because she wasn't going around sleeping with anyone of any gender, and chose to be in monogamous relationships doesn't mean she wasn't bisexual. But it's somehow easier for people to accept that she can change her sexual orientation like a pair of pants than that a bisexual person could be in a committed relationship with someone of either gender.

I would hold that lesbian romance is a romance between two women, at least one of whom is a lesbian, that has undertones of feminism and rejection of the male. That's been my experience with the few small press lesbian romances I've read, and the experience of some readers I've met who love that genre.

As far as categories go, I could call the f/f I'm working on a bi-female/quasi-het/quasi-trans/lesbian romance. But really, I'd rather just call it f/f. :)

kirsten saell said...

Maybe these themes will become a little less prevalent as society progresses toward total acceptance of gay relationships.

I think these aren't issues at all with m/m. For all that the characters are gay, they still enjoy male privilege, and they haven't had a thousand years of women waggling their eyebrows and getting them drunk and trying to convince them to kiss each other.

And the fact that the people treating f/f sensuality in such a condescending, exploitative way are men, and men have also been in charge of everything forever, it's like a double-whammy. Twice the reason lesbians might not want men anywhere near their business when it comes to the way they love. And I don't know if it will ever not be an issue--not so long as Girls Gone Wild exists...

And I have no problem with that reluctance to include men. It's just not what I want.

Bryn said...

Well, I probably should not have commented. I don't know enough about these things. Great post, though.

kirsten saell said...

Well, I probably should not have commented. I don't know enough about these things. Great post, though.

Piffle. You're a woman. You're entitled to comment--even if you don't know everything. At least I hope that's the case, cause if it isn't, I'm in big trouble... :)

MB (Leah) said...

I read a lot of "lesbian" romance as well as bi or sexually fluid oriented f/f romances.

I would say that maybe 1/3 of what I'd call "lesbian" romances don't emphasize the cultural/social/ political aspect of the lesbian lifestyle. They are basically stories in which two women who happen to be lesbian fall in love.

So there are many lesbian stories without the lifestyle being portrayed. However, there is a different feel to them compared to the bi/fluid oriented stories in which the emphasis is just on two women who fall in love who might also love men or who might be normally straight but end up in a gay for you situation.

For my taste, there is a big difference and I usually differentiate those in my reviews in the labeling.

It's also my experience that lesbian authors write romance between two lesbians a bit different than straight authors do.

Quite often there is also that egalitarian thing that Kirsten talks about that I think appeals very much to lesbians, but not to straight or bi women who like and are used to a difference in power dynamics.

Lesbian authors tend to include the lifestyle as part of the romance and there can be a subtle dismissal of men or a vilification of them as well.

Personally, as a straight woman who likes reading f/f and even pure lesbian, I much prefer to read stories in which there is no social agenda and a sexual fluidity in the characters.

kirsten saell said...

The egalitarian thing is a huge issue for me. I don't do egalitarian even in the m/m I read. It just doesn't float my boat. That doesn't mean one character has to be over-the-top dominant, but there has to be something, someone looking up, if you will, and someone looking down.

It's really easy to write that in m/f, because the default setting is that men are larger and stronger than women, higher on the ladder as far as socio-political stuff goes, and sexually they're the penetrators. It's a dynamic I love in m/f, and when it's not there in f/f, I miss it.

I know many lesbians really embrace that equality, and it's important to them. But again, it isn't what I want. LOL

MB (Leah) said...

I know many lesbians really embrace that equality, and it's important to them. But again, it isn't what I want. LOL

The thing is though, that there are many lesbian stories in which there is a differential in power dynamics and I'm not talking about Butch/femme.

For instance in Jove Belle's book, Edge of Darkness, the love story in that was very sweet, very real, but one woman was stronger in a an outward way, much like men are and the other women was very soft and strong in an inner/ passive way much like women with men. They were very complementary and it worked well for me. I particularly liked it because neither women were portrayed as being overly masculine, just both having different strengths.

It was the same for me with Rosalyn Wraight's Secrets and Sins. I loved the dynamics between the two women, who were very loving with each other but very different in how they approached things.

It does happen quite often that the relationship is too equal and you get this emo, feelings, nothing more than feelings oozing all over the place and that's too much for me.

What I do like sometimes with lesbian egalitarian stories is that the women can cross over certain emotional barriers that you dont' get with m/f and some bi/ gay for you stories.

It's a fine line though and depends quite often on how the author writes it.

Lolita Lopez said...

I think this is a fascinating topic. I've always wondered why the idea of bisexuality riles up some people. Why is it always either/or?

I'm happily married to my husband but I totally could have ended up with a female life partner and been just as content. I think that's why I enjoy romances where sexuality is more fluid and not so rigidly defined.

I'm also quite fond of f/f tales where one woman is venturing into a new territory and the other is more experienced. I have a hard time finding those stories though. The closest I've ever gotten to that particular setup almost always includes a penis (m/f/f,) lol.

kirsten saell said...

For instance in Jove Belle's book, Edge of Darkness, the love story in that was very sweet, very real, but one woman was stronger in a an outward way, much like men are and the other women was very soft and strong in an inner/ passive way much like women with men.

I've been meaning to read that. Stands to reason I'd probably like her work, since she's the author who emailed me to say how much she liked Crossing Swords, which would mean the D/s power dynamic and bisexuality aren't things she rejects.

I often wonder if she ever tried Healer's Touch, and if she did, did the f/f parts of it make her uncomfortable as a lesbian (if she is one, because I don't really know). I mean, it was an m/f romance, and a lot of the f/f was specifically to gratify the hero--shades of Girls Gone Wild, though I hope I handled it with enough sensitivity that it wouldn't piss anyone off...

MB (Leah) said...

I often wonder if she ever tried Healer's Touch, and if she did, did the f/f parts of it make her uncomfortable as a lesbian (if she is one, because I don't really know).

I've been on her web site and she's totally open and out there that she's a lesbian.

It's one reason I mentioned her and Rosalyn Wraight, because both are lesbian author's of lesbian fiction.

After Bound by Steel comes out in PB, I'm going send your books to my sister and see what she feels about it. I'm very curious what she would say.

kirsten saell said...

I'm also quite fond of f/f tales where one woman is venturing into a new territory and the other is more experienced. I have a hard time finding those stories though. The closest I've ever gotten to that particular setup almost always includes a penis (m/f/f,) lol.

I'm not gonna knock the penis. I mean, my fave stories tend to be the two scabbards, one sword variety. But yes, as soon as you get a two-person same-sex relationship, it--and the people involved--are almost always defined as homosexual. And I think a lot of straight and bi women would be more open to trying a true f/f romance (i.e, totally vagitarian) if it didn't involve a subtle rejection of the male. I mean, you can give up meat because it makes you feel good, but that doesn't mean you won't still crave sausage now and then. (I promise, that's the last of the bad sex puns).

I like those stories, too, where a woman just finds herself feeling things for another woman she never expected to and just goes with it. I'm writing one now (or should be, heh). It's a heroine in drag story, and the other heroine falls in love with "him" and when she discovers "he"'s a she, those feelings just don't go away. One heroine is bi, the other is ostensibly straight, the dynamic is m/f--it's complicated. And hopefully half decent. But I don't think lesbian romance even comes close to defining it...:)

kirsten saell said...

After Bound by Steel comes out in PB, I'm going send your books to my sister and see what she feels about it. I'm very curious what she would say.

*gulp*

I'm curious, too. Terrified, but curious...

MB (Leah) said...

I'm also quite fond of f/f tales where one woman is venturing into a new territory and the other is more experienced.

Those are my favorite as well. Being a straight woman, I relate to those the most. I can read lesbian or even les with bi stories, but I really love those in which one woman has had no experience and she finds herself attracted to a particular woman. Or one in which one or both women have been married for years and the men are out of their lives due to divorce or death and they find themselves attracted to each other.

Also love the stories of straight women who just have one experience or experiment once or twice, like in Love Me

MB (Leah) said...

I have a hard time finding those stories though.

That's the big problem. And I think that's what we got a little bit uptight about over at Teddy Pig's blog because it is often thrown at us that there's tons of lesbian romance/fiction out there so why do you people complain?

Well, there really isn't that much out there that does cater to the bi women or the bi curious woman. We've seen over time that there are a lot of us out there that do want this kind of material. And it is different than lesbian fiction quite often, although lesbian fiction can include bi, or curious scenarios. It's just not that common though.

While I don't mind reading lesbian, I don't identify with it much. I identify much more with the bi or curious f/f that is written.

I loved that Treva Harte came over there because there is a huge ignorance about f/f and what is out there and how to classify it so that readers can find what is appealing to them.

Many see "lesbian" and just assume it's going to include the lifestyle which many bi and curious women don't relate to. So readers will just assume that what they want isn't out there and give up.

We would like more discussion about it so that what we like to read is written and then easily found.

kirsten saell said...

One thing I've noticed lately is a bit of an outcry among some gays over women writing m/m. There are some who feel that's a form of appropriation--not only are many of the the writers not gay, they're not men.

So though I feel there's a huge overlap in the market for gay and m/m, that may not always be the case. I don't know how gay men feel about women getting off on their sexuality, and I suppose because women prefer stories about humans with personalities and feelings to the kinds of portrayals of f/f you often find written by and for men, perhaps the backlash will remain small and isolated.

But as m/m grows in popularity, there may well be an increasing resentment similar to lesbians' resentment of male appropriation of their sexuality, and a push to distance gay romance from m/m.

And that may well include anti-female tropes becoming common to the genre...

Never mind me. Random thoughts.

M. A. said...

I've done more reading than posting on this subject. I think, after careful consideration of the different comments contributed by other posters, none of my same sex romance writing qualifies as "real" gay or "real" lesbian romance. I write my GLBT romance the same as I write my het romance. They're stories about people discovering love, and the politics aren't that important.

MB (Leah) said...

But as m/m grows in popularity, there may well be an increasing resentment similar to lesbians' resentment of male appropriation of their sexuality, and a push to distance gay romance from m/m.

I'm not sure that that would ever become a major issue with m/m and straight women getting off on it.

It's much different than straight men getting of on f/f.

For one, even in m/m they are still men and the general entitlement given to men over women in society is still given by women in this case.

I don't think it threatens their lifestyle and really, it only supports them and who they are.

Even in society, gay men and women have been friends for years and it's generally accepted as a natural alliance. Unlike the straight male/lesbian friction.

But you know, I'm not a gay male so I don't really know how gay men feel about it.

MB (Leah) said...

I think, after careful consideration of the different comments contributed by other posters, none of my same sex romance writing qualifies as "real" gay or "real" lesbian romance.

No, your book The Garden House was about two women of no specific orientation, which I really liked. It totally had the feel of just two women who were attracted and went with it. It also had some nice power shifts that made it very dynamic.

But you see that's the thing, how to label that? Technically it's a relationship between two women having sex. Over at Amber Quill it's labeled Lesbian. But in fact, it's not really. That's a problem maybe for lesbians who are expecting a full lesbian story and it's a problem for those who are looking for a bi/ fluid feel to it to find it.

M. A. said...

But you see that's the thing, how to label that? Technically it's a relationship between two women having sex. Over at Amber Quill it's labeled Lesbian. But in fact, it's not really. That's a problem maybe for lesbians who are expecting a full lesbian story and it's a problem for those who are looking for a bi/ fluid feel to it to find it.


*scratches head and frowns a bit* I find myself more and more confused by labels in the epublishing industry. When I wrote "The Garden House," I definitely viewed the main characters as bisexual. Both have romantic histories with men. I suppose it gets labelled "lesbian" because the actual love story involving two women.

After reading Kirsten's remarks, though, I am convinced f/f probably ought to be designated as a separate genre or sub-genre from "lesbian" fiction. The love story itself is more bisexual in nature, I guess.

MB (Leah) said...

I find myself more and more confused by labels in the epublishing industry.

Yes, and it's not even uniform amongst epubs even.

Most epubs just label any f/f as lesbian.

Phaze does label things bisexual. F/F bisexual. M/M bisexual. So they are pretty good about labeling stories very clearly, which I like.

But then you see, Treva Harte who commented on Teddy's blog about it and who runs Loose-Id, didn't really understand that there is a distinction to begin with. I think this is the case all over.

I think that f/f is so ghettoized that no one has really thought about it too much at all.

This is why I guess it's all coming up now. I think until ebooks came along and some authors started writing f/f of a bi and fluid nature, it wasn't an issue because there wasn't any real bi/curious material to define really. It was either lesbian or straight romance.

I hope someday that epubs will at the very least, come to label things more clearly.

kirsten saell said...

I think of it as kind of the difference between say, hard and soft sci-fi. They're both sci-fi, they both might involve spaceships and aliens and photon torpedos and what have you, but they're different. Even if they share the same basic plot, a soft version will be very different from a hard one. The focus, themes and tropes will be different--and readers have a fair idea of what version is going to appeal to them.

Some like the hard stuff, others like the soft.

Right now, the only way for anyone to really tell if a book is going to be the more traditional lesbian romance or a more sexually fluid one is if it's got "m/f/f" in the content warning. And not every f/f is going to involve a threesome. I suppose with epubs, if the author includes keywords like "bisexual" or "sexually fluid" or something for the search engine, but often that kind of thing gets forgotten.

M. A. said...

*sighs* My poor little "Garden House" really is a "bastard stepchild."

JenB said...

YEEESSSSS!!! You nailed it, Kirsten. Every bit of it. You said everything I could never put into words. :)

kirsten saell said...

*sighs* My poor little "Garden House" really is a "bastard stepchild."

My books, too. Between the sexual fluidity, the gory, graphic violence and the cross-dressing heroine, I think a lot of readers are leery of purchasing. And yet, the ones who do all seem to tell me the sexual fluidity, the kick-ass fighting and the cross-dressing heroine are what they like about it, lol.

kirsten saell said...

YEEESSSSS!!! You nailed it, Kirsten. Every bit of it. You said everything I could never put into words. :)

I am so hot for you right now, Jen, LOL.

Lillian Feisty said...

I've actually pondered this thought myself. I'm Bi. And I'd like to blow the whole married fallacy out of the water. I had amazing sex with my ex husband, but toward the end of our marriage we had an agreement that I could mess around with women because he knew that was a part of me. Our sex life, ultimately, had nothing to do with our parting. But, as a woman who was married thirteen years and now considers herself a bi woman, I certainly haven't thrown men out the window, so to speak. :) I think the problem is people feel such a need to label everyone. I like girls, I like boys. I'm pretty open about it. I also love writing hetero romance stories. Generally, I just don't fit into a box. But, when it comes to writing, there doesn't seem to be a market for either f/f or bi-women stories to be bought. Not to say there isn't a market--I think there is. However, I speak from experience when I say that I've had stories rejected due to the f/f element. Basically, when it comes to more mainstream romance (aka money), mainstream readers, supposedly, want a man to "complete" the relationship.

Having said that, one of my favorite reader emails from Bound to Please was from a fan who really wanted to see a story develop from one of my definitely lesbian characters. I want to write that story so badly--I did from the minute she popped into my head.

Anyway, I think the first step is to start dispensing with the whole label thing. But that's just me, and I'm sure it's based on the fact that I never have fit into any boxes. :)

Kissa Starling said...

I wrote a similar blog to this one a few months ago. You are so right about the attitude of the lesbian community and bisexuals. I have lesbian characters in my books and I have bisexual characters in my books. There is a huge difference. In my Lifestyle Series at Red Rose Publishing I include bisexual characters who do not have to be involved in a threesome, although one of them is. Great blog!

Kissa
www.kissastarling.com

kirsten saell said...

Hey, Feisty!

I agree, it's frustrating to have to apply labels to people. I mean, I say I'm bi for the sake of clarity and brevity, but I don't really think of myself that way. I just think I'm me, and that I'm more hot for either men or women depending on how I'm feeling about myself and my life. It's more complex than simply saying I'm bisexual, but it feels simpler because it's me, you know? It makes perfect sense, as long as I don't have to explain it, lol.

When things are going well in my relationships, I don't even feel the smallest urge to stray. I'm a serial monogamist--when I'm committed, I'm committed. Although that certainly doesn't preclude the possibility of a long-term f/f/m poly relationship, which is definitely what I'd love to have at this point in my life.

I think that the market for f/f content within romance will open up as attitudes become more progressive--that is, once people stop insisting on this whole concept of monosexuality (totally straight or totally gay). I think that attitude is stopping a lot of straight and mostly straight women from allowing themselves to enjoy f/f--it must be uncomfortable to read it if you've always assumed that enjoying it must mean you're a closeted lesbian.

And as more research is done on female arousal mechanisms and how they differ from men's, women will probably embrace it more. I mean, we've always just bought into this idea that women are like men--that what turns them on to read or look at is tied to their sexual orientation--and researchers are only now starting to discover women just don't work that way.

Women can be turned on by anything overtly sexual--even freaking bonobo chimpanzees mating, ffs (and I'm sorry, you can't tell me half the female population secretly wants to get it on with monkeys). In one study, straight women got hotter watching a woman doing yoga than watching a man with a flaccid penis walking down the beach. Women can think anything sensual is hot. Women are very very lucky, lol.

And you can see proof of that in all the lesbians who gobble up (or write) m/m. Obviously what they like to read isn't remotely related to the way they identify sexually. But as long as people believe it is, and as long as they believe you have to be either/or with no wiggle room at all in between, a lot of straight women will actively avoid any hint of f/f.

Even if these attitudes change, though, pure f/f may never enjoy huge popularity. Straight and bi women tend to like a D/s dynamic, and that's...very hard to write with two women.

But I'm gonna keep writing my f/f/m menage and poly, and with EC now open to those genres, who knows?

kirsten saell said...

Thanks, Kissa!

I don't begrudge lesbians having their own genre that they want to write their own way. I don't begrudge them not wanting men all up in their business (or anywhere near it, frankly). Between entrenched patriarchy and the co-opting of f/f sensuality by straight men, I think they're entitled to what they consider a safe place to write books that cater only to them.

But yes, it does leave us non-lesbians who love women kind of twisting in the wind, because the genre as a whole doesn't serve us at all. Which is why I think we need the distinction between f/f and lesbian romance. I don't want even my pure f/f books to be judged by the standards of lesbian romance because they're not. I don't want the readers I'm courting to not bother considering them because they think they'll be getting lesbian romance.

And it's not just lesbians who do the whole bisexual erasure thing. It's everyone. It's like the only way anyone will allow you to be bisexual is if you either swing, or sleep around, or are poly. What about all the monogamous bisexuals? Just because they're in a het relationship, that doesn't mean they're no longer bi. Just because they're in a same-sex relationship, that doesn't mean they're no longer bi.

It's disheartening and frustrating and very very maddening.

Jill Sorenson said...

Interesting discussion, here and over at TP's. I don't see TONS of f/f stuff that appeals to me, at least not compared to the flood of m/m. And I also get frustrated with the rejection of f/f by straight women, even those who readily accept m/m.

I think my appreciation of the female body makes me a better m/f writer. I love to write sex scenes from the hero's POV because damn! women are hot.

Some of my books have had a mild f/f element, just kissing or touching, but I haven't had any luck with those scenes/projects. I'd like to sneak it in someday. Be the f/f version of Suzanne Brockmann. : )

kirsten saell said...

Some of my books have had a mild f/f element, just kissing or touching, but I haven't had any luck with those scenes/projects. I'd like to sneak it in someday. Be the f/f version of Suzanne Brockmann. : )

I really lucked out finding the right editor at Samhain. She's so open to f/f (she prefers it to m/m, actually), and has never said anything that makes me think my f/f content won't be welcome there.

And with EC, Kelli Collins told me that a few of their editors are fans of f/f (content, if not straight-up f/f romance), and now that they're open to considering it again, I'm writing something aimed at them. But yes, I think epubs really need to put out f/f that will appeal to a broader readership, because lesbians will never be a big market on their own, and they aren't much of one at all in ebooks. And they need to differentiate between lesbian romance with lesbian tropes, and a brand of f/f that is more open-minded and welcoming of men (even if they aren't part of the story).

And I'm not going to get into the whole straight woman aversion to the slightest hint of f/f--my feelings about that have been expressed ad nauseum in this thread and elsewhere.

JenB said...

At first I said something like "OH BABY! This is the sexiest post I've ever read!" but I erased it b/c I thought it would be tacky! LOLOL

Seriously...I don't why people think f/f should follow the same rules as m/m romance AND lesbian fiction. The three really have very little in common. :(

I'm hot for you too. Mee-owwww! ;)

M. A. said...

I don't why people think f/f should follow the same rules as m/m romance AND lesbian fiction. The three really have very little in common. :(


Hi Jen.

I admit, whether I write a traditional (het) couple or I write same sex pairing or menage fiction, I'm not worried about incorporating "rules" relevant to the "gay community" or the "straight community" or the "poly community" or whatever other community. I write about people experiencing attraction and developing feelings for each other.

The GBLT community abounds with stereotypes of "what gay people are really like." I live in a town with a very active gay community and I recognize that, while stereotypes do exist, a person's romantic preferences don't make their basic wants and needs (for love, acceptance, romance, etc.) any different.

Cathy in AK said...

Late to the comment party, as usual, but a great post. As a newbie to f/f writing, I wondered where my work fell in the scheme of things. I feel comfortable calling it f/f--none of the tropes you described that tend to come up in lesbian romances. Just a couple of girls, one of whom was previously married to a man, falling for each other. Now if I can just get someone to pub it : )

Angelia Sparrow said...

Very late to the party.

I write f/f. I don't write lesbian lit. My ladies are almost always some degree of bisexual and the relationships aren't always that egalitarian.

You might try TOYBOX SAPPHO'S CHEST from Torquere Press. Three different f/f stories. (the trucker one is mine)