This morning I got thinking about where M/M is headed. What does the future hold for the genre that I describe as M/M?
Oh, don’t think I have a crystal ball or anything. If I had a magic ball (or a Magic 8 Ball for You Are the Reason fans), would I be here giving you my thoughts? No. I would either be frantically digging myself some sort of underground containment room where I could live with my nearest and dearest for the next 50 years, or I would be sipping juice on a tropical island after winning at Lotto. Four times in a row.
But why was I thinking about the future of M/M – well it comes about in a roundabout way. Otherwise known as “an author’s mind” that seems to make connections where only the vaguest of connections exist.
You see, during the week I was reading this article that studies the children of people who appear on the queer scale (or spectrum, not sure what is the politically correct term) – lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender. They were looking to see if there was a disadvantage to children raised by these people. The study drew together a myriad of other studies done over the past 40 years and broke it down into children raised by couples, single parents, divorced parents, etc. It studied children born in heterosexual relationship, then raised in a same-sex situation. It studied children who were being raised by more than just two parents. Let’s just say that it was very indepth.
One very interesting statistic sprung out at me from all these lines, and came from a UK study of children raised in a lesbian relationship. A number of studies have confirmed that these children actually do better than like-children raised in heterosexual relationships, but also indicate that lesbian couples making the conscious decision to have children are usually better educated and have a higher income than the average heterosexual couples. But this one particular study focussed on the “child’s worth” as part of the investigation.
To be completely racist and generalise widely, there are cultures in our world where the boys born in a family are more important than the girls. Other cultures favour the girls, but for most, it is the male domination and male importance that is the big influence. In modern first world countries, this gap is closed, but is still there. In modern-day America, Europe and Australia, on a national average, families still put more importance on having boys than girls.
(Not saying it’s right or wrong – just stating the facts).
However, this study found TWO very interesting facts about a child’s worth if they were raised in a lesbian couple relationship:
1. Boys’ worth in these relationships was equal to national averages, however, the girls were more valued than the national norm.
2. Girls raised in lesbian relationships were less likely to go against “gender stereotypes,” tended to be less masculine in their hobbies and personality, and less likely pursue a career in a male-dominated field.
I find this fascinating.
I know that unaware people (I want to say uneducated, but this isn’t true) often think that a lesbian is a butch woman with her hair cut short, no makeup or heels, who likes to drink with the boys. This can be true, but is certainly not “norm.” They therefore think that girls raised in lesbian relationships are going to be unduly influenced to turn lesbian and/or butch themselves. It seems the opposite is true. Girls raised in lesbian relationships turn out to be more girly.
Is it because they get a double-dose of environmental femininity from their parents instead of it being equalled out with a father figure?
(Note: the studies also found that most lesbian couples were aware of the need for a male role model in their childrens’ lives and strongly encouraged relationships with male figures for their kids.)
Are girls more “girly” because they don’t have a male role model at home?
This is the bit where I get to give my opinion with no science whatsoever behind it, only my observations and own experiences.
I think that the reason the girls are less masculine when raised by lesbians ties into the first part I listed. Girls’ worth was raised. They felt more secure about being girls. They were happier to be born female than the national average girl. They had nothing to prove.
I draw on my own feelings in this case. Without getting all woe-is-me, my father wanted me to be a boy. I wasn’t. It was common knowledge in the family that he wanted me (the last child) to be a boy, and it was also common knowledge that my father thought that raising girls was a mother’s job. As a result, I admit did feel a need to be more masculine in my activities in order to make my father proud.
So, perhaps these girls raised in lesbian relationships don’t feel the need to become a truckie or play football to please their families? (Huge generalisation, I know. But that’s why I’m the author, and these other people are the social scientists.)
Now, how does this relate to where M/M is heading? It has to do with social growth of the world. (Okay – shit, Renae. You’re going to have to explain that one.)
Consider Jane Austen’s books. What did the women do in those books? Embroider? Gossip? Dream about the man that will take them away from all the drudgery of all the embroidery and gossip?
Now consider a Mills & Boon book from the 1960’s – I actually have a number of them on my bookshelf. The decently written ones (and no, that’s not an oxymoron). I’ve kept them for reference, but basically, the ideal fantasy of a woman was to work (usually as a nurse or in an office) until her dream man came along. **cue the romantic music**
Fast-forward to 2010’s – have we advanced much? Yes… and no. There has been a shift in the female perception, but it still hasn’t come to rest. It’s still shifting and moving. And this is where another huge generalisation steps in.
One question that pops up in M/M every couple of months, is the question about why women read and write M/M. There is not a one-answer-for-all on this, and I adore reading and listening to other women who try to explain their reasons. (Please note, there is no right or wrong reason – just the crossing of paths on an individual’s journey.) One answer that is frequently cited to varying degrees, is the one where women claim they can’t stand the weak, vapid, insipid women in typical (ie heterosexual) romance.
Why is “modern” woman starting to reject the idea of the tame, ineffectual female character?
Is it because they think more of themselves than generations past? Is it because women’s “self-worth” has risen? Is it because the opportunities given in this modern world has seen a rise in more women pursuing masculine identities? Is a woman in the modern age participating in traditionally male pursuits because she is now “allowed” to, or because she feels she “must” in order to be treated equally?
In Australia, and especially in my home state of Western Australia, there is a huge gender-pay-gap where men in the same role earn more than women. What does this tell women? It tells us that we are unimportant. Still.
So what bearing will this have on the genre of M/M? I see M/M growing. Already in the past five years it has exploded in popularity. There are more readers and more writers than ever before. In fact, I think we are at the cusp of having to redefine what is M/M and come up with some more accurate descriptions. I love the variety of the stories coming out, but as a reader I find it hard to discover the stuff that interests me. Part of it is mislabelling from self-published authors (that story I read the other day was not a romance by any stretch of the imagination) but part of it is this one huge umbrella that is called M/M. I want M/M, but I want romance. I want a HEA. I don’t want dragons. I like sex, but not too much. Orgies aren’t my thing. You pull out a flogger and I stop reading. Give me lightness and sparkles. Give me realistic storylines that move me. Don’t have a cliffhanger… See? Already you can see a bunch of categories are needed under the umbrella of “M/M.”
M/M is going to grow also because people no longer hide themselves away. There are more people admitting to being on the queer scale, and more people searching out literature that reflects themselves. There is also the Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-phenomena of people searching out books they can take a walk on the wild side with, and they don’t give a fig who sees they’re reading that stuff.
But will we reach a point where those who came to M/M to get away from the insipid XX chromosome find that well rounded female characters are being written in such a way that they encourage them? I hope so. There will always be a place for M/M and with luck there will always be the written word. When I look back at the literature from two hundred years ago, and see where we are now, we really haven’t developed that far.
Let us hope that the social growth of the world – the acceptance of love in different forms other than a single man and single woman, the knowledge that not everyone wants that, and the reality of love blossoming where equality is planted – catches us up in its literary imagination and helps us fly.
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