Faithful LDS women and m/m romance consumption
Over at A Motley Vision after the review of my novel, I was on the defensive for a while. My concern had been that I had been positioned as an “other,” although I was assured that I’m merely “on the fringe.” Obviously, any storytelling about homosexuality in the Church assumes a position in the sense of: “Is this a ‘faithful’ story?” If the characters “act on their attractions,” the answer tends to be “no,” unless the characters repent and return to being chaste — and even then, the very depiction of not being chaste can send the story to the “unfaithful” pile. In my story, not only do the characters act on their attractions, but the review criticized the faithful position in my novel to be “on the fringe.”
So, the conversation continued, and I stated:
The demographic of “faithful Mormons who dont mind seeing two guys who are intimate” exists. They are people who disagree with the Church on the topic of homosexuality, but are otherwise faithful. They include members of divided families; women who are interested in same-sex romance as a genre (a rather popular genre these days, actually); converts to the Church, etc. There is a lot of diversity in this regard that falls “under the radar.”
[…]There are of course faithful gay people in the Church who might be interested in my book, not because theyre biting their fingernails about whether they should enter a same-sex relationship (i.e, theyre “on their way out”), but simply because theyre gay and the book features Mormons.
All of a sudden, the conversation flipped and people sided with me. At least, this is how I felt. One commenter posted:
I know quite a few female m/m authors. Theyre raking in the dough, lemme tell ya. From everything I can gather, m/m romance outsells m/f and menage (in any combination) about 5:1.
I wouldnt be surprised if a portion of that customer base is LDS.
Now, I follow the M/M romance and yaoi communities (my own desires as a gay male have been heavily influenced by the imaginations of Japanese female mangaka) and any next novel I write would be geared toward this market. I assumed Mormonism and M/M romance overlap, simply because of the sheer size of the M/M romance market. The question is, how much do they overlap? Who are the faithful LDS women consuming this stuff? How do they think about their consumption as faithful LDS women?
An LDS woman emailed me some time ago who is herself an M/M romance writer. An excerpt from her emails [with her permission to tell her story] is as follows:
Since I’m both a homoerotic romance writer and Mormon mother of four I find it a tremendously difficult and strange thing to walk in both worlds. But I have the sense that there’s something wrong, that we throw away the brilliance of creation when we don’t embrace the diversity of it. And plus, I was a convert, so no one really expected me to tow the party line faithfully, or if they did, they weren’t listening to me when they invited me in. 😉
[…]My work comes up at church only because after California Prop #8 I stopped going to the temple and declined to be interviewed further. I stopped attending church during the worst of that for several months, and then when my children asked me to return, I spoke with the Bishop and informed him that I write same-sex romance novels, that I don’t agree with the policy of the church, that I think that the position they take now is both spiritually and morally incorrect, and that it reflects a gaping hole in the doctrine and needs to be fixed.
[…]I asked them if they had a problem with me attending church because I wasn’t likely to change my mind, and my Bishop, who is really a pretty interesting guy said, “Well. We can agree that the savior made the atonement for you right? That you believe in that, and you’re grateful?” And I said yes. And he said, “Then come to church for the savior, and to honor him and be with your family and we’ll agree to disagree on the rest.” I don’t know if I’d attend if they refused me the sacrament or something. I’ve never taken the sacrament, say, when I’m in a Catholic church where I know it would be a misuse of their sacred beliefs because I don’t share them.
(I’m going to invite this particular M/M romance writer to MSP. =) )
I’m no longer a faithful LDS woman, but I was one when I became a fan of m/m romance. I knew it was sort of weird that I really liked gay male love stories, but I found it fascinating to learn about a world that wasn’t like my own. I was 15 when I first started serious paying attention to the contributions of gay men to society, and when I looked at all they did, especially in art, homophobia seemed even weirder than my interest in gay men.
I write about m/m romance movies here:
Note: This Ensign article indicates that Racy Romance Novels = Pornography = Addiction = Sin, so I realize that racy M/M romance would probably go further in the direction of “Satan,” officially speaking. However, M/M romance can potentially be far less racy than the average M/F romance. When Mormon women read these stories, can they even be said to be “unfaithful?”
Oh, yeah. Hey, how are you. Lovely to hear from you. Oddly enough, your book has been on my hall table since then, just sitting there, accusing me, daring to write something more substantial. My visiting teacher, who is an aspiring writer of Inspirational fiction about LDS men and women who are straight but don’t fit in the box (she is divorced and tells me that she really thought following the rules would give her an immunity to things like that) knows what I write and doesn’t shun me for it.
I wonder if it will make me a less credible source if I say that I joined because the Articles Of Faith made perfect sense and dovetailed with my Christian upbringing? I really thought that I was simply joining a Christian church that asked a lot of its members. I was ready to be part of a community and give service and tithe and put more of myself into religion than just Sunday mornings and a little gnosh after at coffee with the church ladies.
It wasn’t until afterwards I realized I would expected to swallow a whole lot more than the bread and water of sacrament and some of those things made little sense to me at all or just plain rubbed me the wrong way. Starting and ending with using the pulpit to forward a political agenda.
Am I still a faithful Latter Day Saint if I rebel against attitudes that — at one time — I didn’t think would bother me, but have gone against my basic long-held beliefs? Am I still a faithful Latter Day Saint when my personal prayers are answered with the same burning endorsement that the church told me to expect from Heavenly Father and it differs so wildly from the word handed down from Salt Lake City?
Sadly, I’ve actually even gone so far with my “might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb attitude” that I’ve added tea back into my life, heaven help us all. So I don’t know how “faithful” I am.
I began reading manga because of my kids. I began reading Yaoi manga because I found it a thrilling change from the unimaginable number of romance novels I’d read. Here were couples I could really get behind and cheer because it seemed to me their happy endings were being purchased at great cost. And lest we think that it’s only the men, I’ve been reading and watching films with Lesbian romance for years, as far back as early on in high school. It’s not just that I’m interested in the boys and in the very beginning, I thought I would write f/f romance in my emo twenties, I wanted to write the definitive lesbian historical romance novels the bodice on bodice ripper as it were, but then life got in the way and I didn’t start writing until much later.
I believe I’m a romantic, and I started writing m/m because I enjoy reading it. But I always write from the perspective of an LDS mother, who loves her children, and wants them all to have a happy ending gay or straight.
Five to one? That seems a little outrageous. I’m not saying it’s necessarily false, but I’d like to see the research that’s based on.
Alan — Thanks for contacting her — I’d love to hear more from her. If she’s interested in posting, please email me so I can make her an author account.
It’s interesting to hear the perspective of faithful Mormons who categorically disagree with the CoJCoL-dS on gay rights. (Not that all faithful LDS are in the CoJCoL-dS. There are plenty who support gay rights in the CoC, and apparently Alice Cooper was born a Bickertonite — who knew???)
Hi, ZA! Thanks for that. If you’re asking whether being a convert makes you a less credible source, I don’t think so, because I still think you are a “faithful Mormon woman.” What you’ve said does make me wonder, though, about LDS women interested in M/M and/or F/F — how these desires would be filtered through a church upbringing, those who aren’t converts. Obviously, “being Mormon,” doesn’t stop people from being “same-gender attracted,” so I assume it wouldn’t stop women fundamentally interested in queer sexuality from being interested in queer sexuality. Some women who don’t like M/M say they don’t because “I just don’t find that appealing,” so I assume it’s not an upbringing thing.
Yes, I don’t know. I like love stories. So I think I’m attracted to the ideal of romantic love. Once you boil a great many things down, the ideal of romantic love, the courtly, chivalric love that informs most Western literary romance novels, is simply a tale of longing and perseverance and finally, a requited love.
I’m not exactly a PHD in this or anything but it seems to me, that the journey toward finding love, finding the true and worthy companion, is the aim of most romantic books, and I don’t differentiate — when I’m reading — between so-called sanctioned or unsanctioned coupleships. Most people don’t, if they look at it without bias. People love vampires, and that very famous LDS writer who writes them, and yet, as I pointed out in my most recent novel, I don’t think anyone condones mixed viability marriages. It’s not addressed in the apocrypha. (Where is that much-needed St. Paul’s letter to the undead?)
There is a reason that we love Beauty and the Beast so much. It tells a tale of love that goes beyond the transient physical and enters the realm of the spiritual. The beast is a beast. He’s not even human to all outward appearances, yet we love his story, we love that Belle sees beyond his physical appearance to the person that he is. I think it’s that thinking, the genuine desire to believe that love is limitless, borderless, genderless, blind, and without boundaries that makes people who enjoy romance literature willing to take a chance on the idea of a couple that is not strictly speaking, one man and one woman even if they are fundamentally conservative people.
I wonder if the people who say they don’t find m/m appealing say that because in many cases, my own included, it’s frankly and graphically erotic in nature. That’s a choice I made when I established my “brand” or whatever, that my mother was terribly unhahppy with. (She was a saint, a temple-working and faithful LDS woman convert until she died.)
Of course, I only mean to discuss my reading habits here, divorced from politics. I read books about slavery without condoning it. I read murder mysteries all the time. Police procedurals. I make no comparisons between GLBTQ persons and vampires or beasts, simply that the stories I read are about characters that interest me and in the case of romantic literature the goal is always a happily ever after.
Hehe…I can imagine Mormon leaders saying: “Stephanie Meyer is an apostate. Marriage is between one man and one woman…who…must also die someday!”
About M/M as usually erotic, I think this is true historically. Except nowadays, there are “queer young adult” books and a lot of yaoi is tame, focusing on emotions/romantic tension. It either implies sex or is book after book of emotional giddiness, as much of the genre targets 12-16 year old girls. In America, I think there’s an assumption that gay is automatically “rated-R,” and for a long time it has been treated this way, but increasingly less so.
Provided people believe in limitless love and they begin to associate homosexuality with “love,” rather than some addictive/afflictive tendency toward inappropriate eroticism (e.g., “natural man”), then cultural patterns might change. I think LDS women will be the bearers of this torch in Mormonism, perhaps more so than “gay activism” in the Church that is still very male-centric (I hear very little in the way of lesbian voices).
Good point. I think perhaps smaller presses that offer M/M see something like this ratio in comparison to their M/F titles, and enough small presses are offering M/M that it’s not considered a niche, anymore. Overall within the romance market, I’m sure M/F still wins because that’s all I see in public.
lol, good point! There are so many other weird, controversial points about Meyer’s work — I’d never even thought of that one.
BTW, do any of your novels deal with Mormonism or have Mormon characters? If so, can I get a review copy?
She’s told there’s one she’s currently working on, but also said “soap-opera”-ish stories are not her “cup of tea.” But…she’s contracted.
Alan — Sounds interesting. I look forward to hearing more about her work.