This guest post is from J.N. Gallagher, a Butch Wonders reader who talks about his experiences and internal struggles writing butch erotica. I hope you find this as interesting and thought-provoking as I did. --BW
When the call went out for guest posts to Butch Wonders, I was pleased to see that submissions from all genders and orientations would be considered. Whether my work is welcome is something I’ve struggled with… While I write fiction in a lot of different genres on a lot of different subjects, when I write erotica, I typically write about A) lesbians who are B) butch and C) have sex. I am also a heterosexual cis man.
Every editor I’ve corresponded with about my gender has insisted that the only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If they inquired further about my life situation, they’d find out that I was born male, identify as straight, and am married to a fabulous feminine woman. The other detail I don’t explain is that butch women get me all hot and bothered, always have and always will, and that’s why I enjoy writing about them so much.
(I guess the cat’s out of the bag on those details now.)
All of this, sadly, is part of a web of inner conflict that has challenged me since puberty. I’m heterosexual in that I am only attracted to women, but female masculinity makes my knees weak. It doesn't feel like being attracted to masculine and feminine women would make me bisexual, though "queer" doesn't seem like quite the right word, either—it encompasses too much, while "straight" doesn't cover enough.
I've longed to be around lesbians, but I don’t want to force myself into a community that isn’t looking to have me. I want to write about this delicious type of woman that excites me, but I don’t know if I have the right to do so.
I don’t believe an author needs to be a working rancher to write a great western novel, or a Jedi Knight to write stories set in the Star Wars universe. Familiarity and direct knowledge are always beneficial, but these qualities don’t sit down and write a book by themselves.
Still, the bottom line is that I’m writing about experiences outside of my own, and I feel a connection to the material that is difficult for many people to understand. After decades of reflection, I still don’t understand it myself. And, no matter how universal the themes of my fiction might be, I’m dipping my toes into unfamiliar (and potentially unwelcome) waters. Some people might yell, "Come in! The water’s great!" Others might say, "Get lost, creep," and I couldn’t really blame them. Our identities are incredibly personal to who we are.
My question to the readers of Butch Wonders is: Do you care about who an author is when reading fiction about butches? Does quality trump all, or would you like a piece less if you found out it was written by a heterosexual-identified, non-trans male?
If you’re wondering what my work is like, I had a story, "Officer Birch," published in Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations. This anthology was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, a fact I’m very proud of. The story is not about two butches, but it’s not really a butch/femme story, either. I guess it’s just a story about a couple of characters who discover things about love, sex, and each other. These are the themes I enjoy writing about the most. Erotic fiction about butches might be the smallest part of my writing output in terms of quantity, but it's definitely the most personal to me.
7/12/2012 06:50:06 am
So, I'm actually not a butch woman. But here is one thing I think you should think about.
7/12/2012 07:01:01 am
I think he may very well understand us better than most, Katherine. I think it's very possible he understands that discrimination at least somewhat. Imagine him telling other men that he was attracted to butch lesbians. That probably wouldn't go over too well with alot of other guys. Just like being bi-sexual, it's much easier for him to hide it if he wants, and he is already married to a feminine woman so he fits that standard "norm" society has laid out, but inside, he has this "different" thing he lives with, which would not be easy to lay out in front of everyone. He may very well understand us more than some, although without a butch woman on his arm he may not completely understand it like those who live it. But as someone who was in the closet for decades, sometimes living with keeping that fear a secret is worse than living it out loud.
7/12/2012 07:36:11 am
I didn't say that he didn't understand that discrimination.
7/12/2012 08:51:32 am
I am a butch woman and don't think he has some responsibility to use his money to fight discrimination or any such thing. He has the same responsibility as everyone else in this world: to try to be a decent person. If he writes something that earns him money, he is the one who has done the work, and it is his money. He does not owe it to anybody.
7/12/2012 08:54:02 am
Appy with this, and they take it out on other people.
You said it perfectly here. I don't believe he has any obligation to financially contribute to anyone. That would be like saying that because I do a blog or a vlog about something that is not directly part of my own life that I would be assumed to be supporting that cause financially or physically in some way...nope, sorry we are all struggling, and we can choose to write about whatever we wish in my opinion. I would read your stuff guy. I have not qualms with your gender or your sexuality, I seldom check those things when I pick up a book that interests me. Sure, I have bought books by Butches written more for Butches but that's just because it appealed to me at that moment. I say rock on, if you can write well, then do it. If you can write without slanting it towards hate or degradation then go for it! I hope to see for myself what kind of stuff you would come up with! Forward a link perhaps? ~Ang
7/19/2012 01:37:26 am
i agree. if he writes a good story and its coming from his head his desires and makes us enjoy it and possibly ourselves while reading it. who cares what he does with his earned money.
7/12/2012 06:50:48 am
Fascinating! Nothing like having an "odd" attraction to make you understand our lot in life a little better, huh? At least I hope you would. I also hope that you, just like us, in this little coming out of yours, would realize that we are all so different, and there are so many different attractions and none of them are bad unless they hurt someone. I for one am kind of flattered that you are attracted to butch women. Haven't heard that one before but it makes just as much sense as me (a butch woman) being attracted to other butch women or a masculine man being attracted to a feminine woman or two men attracted to each other. It is what it is, and in my opinion it's all divine (among consenting adults).
7/12/2012 06:53:51 am
I think its awesome! I love how in touch with yourself you are. I myself am attracted to butch women and over the years have had to battle the questions from ignorance, not only from friends and family, but even within myself. As a lesbian, they would say, you should be attracted to fem women. Why would you want a women who looks like a guy? they would ask. Why not just date guys? they would ask. these are not questions that come with simple answers. I really appreciate the "queer" aspect of who you are and what you are doing. I dig it and would love to read some of your stuff!
7/12/2012 09:04:38 am
Ronni I couldn't have said it better myself. Shame there are not more supportive guys like this as from personal experience there are many more who would rather assault us than love us. Nice work.
I don't have a problem with any writer expressing themselves. We are all entitled to our own thoughts, emotions and feelings. He is simply expressing his. I don't think he owes anything to the gay community, and as a writer in the same genre I can almost bet you that he isn't exactly getting rich. We write because we love it. If we make a few bucks then we are lucky enough to get to eat that month! I think expecting him to "do" something for us is unrealistic and unfair.
7/12/2012 09:54:34 am
I'd rather my money go to supporting women authors rather than straight (and I presume, white) cismales, but I got nothing against you as an erotica author so long as you deliver a good product.
7/12/2012 11:02:37 am
Hey do what you feel happiest doing. I see absolutely nothing weird or wrong with it whatsoever. You like what you like, you feel what you feel and the fact that you're so in touch with that is actually quite nice to hear. Especially from a straight cis male.
7/13/2012 12:14:14 am
there's a few things that really concern me about what you wrote, though I do appreciate your willingness to at least hear what bw readers have to say.
7/13/2012 09:45:39 am
I just wanted to reply to one or two of your comments, Jennifer. While I agree with your last line, that everybody has the right to think or feel what they want, I disagree with your exhortation for him to stop writing until he is totally educated about all different identities, gender issues, etc. I feel like this author means well and has a kind attitude, it seems. So personally, I'd be OK with him writing butch erotica. I think there are probably many lesbian and/or butch identified people who write stuff--stories, articles, erotica--who still may not be super educated about the nuances of gender and identity. So if they can continue writing, I think anybody can (you know, as long as they're not claiming to be the world's foremost expert or anything, which this guy isn't).
7/14/2012 12:44:15 pm
You're right--it does seem like he means well, which is great. But the problem is not intent, it's power and privilege. And so when a person who has privilege (in this case, the straight cis man) writes in the voice of or even just about a marginalized group, especially if he does so in ignorance of the issues that are pertinent to the voice he's trying to coopt, well there's just a really ugly power dynamic at play there, one that EY sums up really well in the various comments here.
7/13/2012 12:36:08 am
I am going to push back against some of what has been said here.
Really, I understand what you are saying, but I feel that the idea of privilege and how people act upon it can often be very misguided and counter-productive to it's original intentions.
If anything, I think the butch world could find a lot to be happy about that they have a straight, cis male admirer.
7/2/2013 11:33:15 am
As a cis-gender European-American male who has been attracted to butch women most of my life, I am pleased to see this discussion.
7/13/2012 12:39:36 am
As an addendum, I want to add my support for what Jennifer is saying in the post above mine. (I published my response before refreshing the page and seeing hers.)
7/13/2012 01:02:34 am
Thanks EY -- both for your support and also for your comment, which I loved.
7/13/2012 12:55:03 am
Honestly, I don't care about the gender/orientation etc. about the author of any erotica I read, as long as it is well written. The only time I check the name of an author after reading something is if it is either very good or very bad. If I read something and it sounds like no kind of sex I could imagine a butch girl like myself having...and I saw it was written by a man, then I would probably say, "Oh, that figures." But if I'm digging what I read, I don't care who wrote it. My concern would be the believably factor. As most straight guys I know seem to think that every kind of sex I have as a butch girl exactly mimics straight sex. So, as long as it is good, and not trying to turn the butch characters into an analogue for straight men...write on!
7/13/2012 03:27:19 pm
I'm butch and I've noticed male attraction (with a bit of confusion). And I work to be mature enough to just accept it. I can't stop you from fantasizing about people who aren't attracted to you as much as anyone can stop me.
7/13/2012 10:09:20 pm
As both reader and writer, I don't care who writes what when it comes to fiction...all that matters is did I enjoy the book or not? The experiences of characters should be a 'human' experience first and foremost, and the rest is why we have imagination. To enable us to put ourselves into the shoes of others. I don't imagine that Stephen King has ever made his own silver bullets and been werewolf-hunter. James Patterson is a middle-class white guy but writes the character Alex Cross who is African American. No one tells those writers that they shouldn't be writing those characters. If you tell a cis hetero male that he shouldn't write lesbian characters ( butch, femme, or whatever ) then presumably you would tell a butch lesbian that she shouldn't write hetero characters? Nonsense! It's fiction - it's for enjoyment, not dissection. As for the guy's personal feelings, well, human attraction is a fluid and often strange thing. So he finds female masculinity attractive - it's unlikely that he's the first cis hetero male to feel that way and he won't likely be the last either. There are cis hetero women out there who are masculine, after all. And males who are very feminine. And on and on and on. I don't see how anything is 'creepier' about it than a lesbian who finds hetero women attractive?
7/14/2012 06:55:54 am
On the issue of majority writers writing minority characters: two things. First, there are real life consequences to being imagined by others. Fiction is not necessarily harmless; pop culture and high art alike can play a part in making oppressive behaviors seem normal, inevitable, heroic, humorous—and this can happen entirely without any kind of malicious intent on the part of the writer.
7/23/2012 09:00:58 am
As a writer myself, I take no issue with your writing from different perspectives, butch lesbian, gay man, alien, whatever. It is ridiculous to expect a writer to only write about things they have experienced. Some of my writing is from a straight male, straight female, butch lesbian, and trans perspectives. I am none of those things. I do the best I can, I research about the types of people I'm writing about to make them as authentic as possible. And there are quite famous and amazing writers out there who do the same. One of my favourite authors is Anne Rice. Anyone who has read any of her books knows she has written from a male perspective quite often, and often from a gay/bi male perspective. Not to mention that some genres of writing would disappear completely if authors had to stick to writing about people like themselves.
8/10/2012 06:31:16 am
12/17/2012 04:45:31 am
"I've longed to be around lesbians, but I don’t want to force myself into a community that isn’t looking to have me. I want to write about this delicious type of woman that excites me, but I don’t know if I have the right to do so."
Lee Brooks Shull
9/16/2013 04:14:07 am
I'm a bisexual butch woman. From as far back as I can remember the men who have been attracted to me have had to put up with a lot of bullshit from their hetero-normative peers. When straight men are attracted to me they wonder if they are gay, when gay men are attracted to me they wonder if they *aren't* gay. Every man who has ever been with me has had to do a lot of internal work to figure out his head and heart and has had to have a lot of balls to stand up to society.
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