Disclaimer: This post frankly discusses some aspects of sex and sexuality that some might find triggering including sexual kinks, fetishes and paraphilias. Please do not read further if you find any of these subjects triggering.
If you’ve been around romance writing for long you’ve undoubtedly ran across a number of characters with kinks and fetishes or even paraphilias (and no I will not discuss a certain well known book that shall remain nameless).
But what do these have to do with gender identity and sexual orientations?
Let’s take a look.
What’s Your Fetish?
To explain a complex set of terms very simply: your sexual orientation is who you find sexually* appealing, your kink is how you like to have sex and a fetish is something a person might need present in order to find pleasure.
Urban Dictionary defines kink as: sexual tastes for a person. Usually a kink is an unusual taste in sexual behaviour.
A kink and a fetish while similar on the surface can be drastically different. A person with a kink might enjoy sex involving that particular behavior but don’t necessarily need it to find gratification. Someone with a fetish must have their desired object present in some form. A fetish is more involved than a kink and sometimes sexual arousal and/or release is dependant on the fetishized object. Some fetishes fall into the realm of paraphilias.
A fetish is defined as: an object or bodily part whose real or fantasised presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression (“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.)
Psychology Today definies paraphilia as a condition in which a person’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme.
These are the basic definitions of kinks, fetishes and paraphilias. Next we’ll look at why sexual orientations do not fit these definitions and how orientations themselves can be fetishized.
Orientations ≠ Kinks
When talking about sexual orientations it’s important to remember that not every orientation involves actual sex and that every relationship is different. For instance one couple might be fine with light bondage or role play, while another engage in so-called normal sexual activities, while yet another might find full satisfaction from hugging and kissing yet refrain from anything involving the genitals. Not every homosexual couple has anal sex and not every lesbian couple practices oral stimulation. Couple’s relationships are as diverse as the individuals who make them up.
As stated above, someone’s orientation is not a fetish or a kink. How someone has sex or what they find arousing is different from who they find sexually attractive. For example, a gay man might find other men attractive and want to be in relationships with them but not want to engage in penetrative sex. How he chooses to engage in sex does not affect his actual orientation.
However it is entirely possible for straight people to fetishize other orientations.
Not My Fetish
The overwhelming majority of M/M romance writers are straight white women who write for straight white women. Seems a bit nonsensical doesn’t it? Not really when you consider that most lesbian porn is marketed to straight white men. This does not mean that SWW cannot write M/M romance but it does mean that they need to be careful about not fetishizing gay men or perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
A case in point would be the recent scandal involving major plagiarism in the romance industry where an author took popular straight romances, changed names, pronouns and other small details then sold them as M/M romance.
This is incredibly disrespectful (not even counting the criminal lack of ethics) of the MOGAI community for several reasons; one being that it assumed that all gay relationships have a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ dynamic (aka ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ or seme and uke) and that effeminate gay men are just women with different pronouns. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fetishizes homosexual relationships.
Take the above image and insert genre for porn and you’re looking at the writing industry. Treating someone’s sexuality as a selling point for your writing isn’t romance or even erotica, it’s fetishization and this is further proved by who buys these books.
Straight, married women are among the genre’s top fans. That may be because the authors, such as Iowa’s Heidi Cullinan, a 37-year-old suburban mother of two, are frequently heterosexual females, too. (What women want: Gay male romance novels. Elio Iannacci. The Globe and Mail. Published Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 5:01PM EST)
This does not mean that SWW cannot write gay men or enjoy reading about them, it just means they need to be smart and sensitive about it and do their research. We ALL need to do our research. This is also why it is very important to support MOGAI authors, give us a chance to tell our stories too.
Orientations are not kinks or fetishes and there is nothing wrong with writing characters with kinks or fetishes. Just keep in mind the difference as you write.
The number one thing to remember throughout this series:
You are writing people.
People. Not orientations. Not genders.
*For this post other types of attraction won’t be specifically discussed since kinks, fetishes and paraphilias typically involve sex acts. As always there are exceptions.
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