A few years back, during my well days, I wrote a guest series based on “life in the middle” as a MMF romance author. Continued bi-phobia and bi-erasure has left a void when it comes to sites dedicated to—or just inclusive of—bisexual content. Navigating the stereotypes of bisexuality also means taking great care to clearly show bisexuality on the page as a true identity, without taking from the fact that most bisexuals, like most of the Western world, tend to settle into monogamous coupledom. It’s difficult to do both, the bisexual past is often erased and the relationship is ultimately considered to be gay or straight, depending on the partner the protagonist ends up with in the end. To keep the bisexual experience on the page, as well as celebrate the overlooked and misunderstood road of non-monogamy, I chose to write polyamorous romances. In my work, polyamory is expressed as polyfidelity, a committed relationship of three or more people. Romance readers of course know these books better under the label menage.
Menage, for those of you unfamiliar, is the ever growing subgenre of romance, and a natural extension of the classic love triangle. You know the one I mean: Hero A has everything she ever wanted, Hero B is everything she thought she could never have, who will she choose?
As a pre-teen, I read those books and always wondered why she had to choose at all. Menage emerged to show that she didn’t, at least not entirely. I’ve come across more than a few in which, once the deed was done, the threesome invariably learn that it’s best for her to be with just one of the men, but it’s less of a choice between them and more a clarification of what she/they really want. I can accept that, it’s just not my gig. I prefer the increasing, dare I say pervasive,
When you open my books, they’re all poly, all the time, (and there was much rejoicing). There’s also male-male love in all my work, which is not the menage standard. I don’t mean the gay couple across the street, or the gay brother-in-law and his partner, (although I have nothing against shining a light into their love lives, if they leave their bedroom doors open), I mean two or more male leads that are in love with each other. Men who want to touch, taste and caress one another. Who watch one each other walk by with that hungry, all encompassing need to ravish the object of their affection. Men in awe and appreciation of the attributes of other men, and enthusiastically in awe and appreciation of the attributes of women. Yes, I firmly put the ‘B’ back in LGBTQ with my Bisexual Poly Romance—and most people don’t know what to do with me.
MFM, that lovely combination that’s all about a women getting everything she wants, is easily shelved with the rest of het-romance and promoted like its monogamous brethren. Change the letters to MMF to become about a man getting everything he wants and suddenly there’s a pause. When the time comes to let readers know your work is out there, some sites that cater to erotic romance readers start to get a little jumpy if you want to stand out on the bisexuality or sexual fluidity of your characters. It goes something like this:
I write erotic romance and here is my MMF book, your readers will like it. “Hmm, gay content.” They’re not gay, they’re bisexual. “Still, male-male content, I’m not entirely sure how to package that to our readers, if you want to emphasize it, have you tried the gay romance sites?” The characters aren’t gay. “But it’s male-male content and they know how to work with that.” Fine, that seems reasonable. The majority of MM readers are women and many of them were introduced by various menage stories that obviously worked for them. Some went on to launch male-centered romance/erotica sites and know what they’re looking for, great idea. Here you go, I write erotic romance, here’s my MMF book, your readers will enjoy it. “Hmm, straight content.” The characters aren’t straight, they’re bisexual. “Still, male-female content, I’m not entirely sure how to package that to our readers, have you tried the het-romance sites?”.
Before you get the wrong impression, no one is entirely throwing MMF writers to the wolves, there isn’t a mad hate-on for bisexual/fluid content, nor does the industry have a campaign of bi-erasure. It’s more a matter of neglect because of bi-erasure in society and lack of bi-visibility in entertainment media at large. We don’t see bisexuality with the frequency or positive commonality that gay male couples have achieved, so when you get to niche sites, they don’t know what to do with that representation and try to force it into one box or another—the experience of bisexuals in day to day life.
A great story will speak for itself, it just needs someone to listen. With so many books released every day, specialty sites pop up all the time to give readers a place to come and talk about favorite genres and find desired content. To make sure that their readers get exactly what they want, they narrow their focus as much as they can and those of us between boxes are forgotten. There are certainly readers who want everyone in the bed to be completely committed to the enjoyment of everyone else present, but where do they go?
LGBTQ sites offer the full spectrum, but often the implication is that the stories will be about the struggle of being LGBTQ, rather than about people falling in love and learning about each other. Sometimes it moves beyond implication to outright statements by such sites who are “Telling Queer Stories for Queer Audiences”. Well, as much as I embrace and celebrate my queerness, I don’t write queer stories, for queer audiences. I write poly love stories with sexually fluid characters, for anyone who wants to read outside the lines. Where’s my shelf?
In the end, enough writers of MMF, (and FFM, but let’s not even get into the red-headed stepchild treatment of FF content in non-lesbian romance, or of lesbian romance itself because that’s its own series of posts), or enough readers will get together and the necessary sites will emerge. In the meantime, keep lists, start group discussions and track down authors doing what you want and getting it right, then spread the word. It’s only when we see ourselves that we believe we have the right to be ourselves.
We’re out there, sexually fluid and bisexual identified authors showing what that kind of love looks like in our unique voices. Find us. We’ll be here writing and waiting for the time, when being stuck in the middle, becomes conquering from the middle out.
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Writing from the Middle Ramble ~ Done
For more links in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia
Xakara is an openly bisexual, poly author. Her works include ITS SWEETEST FORM (A Therian World Novella) out with Musa Publishing. SHIFTING PASSONS ( A Therian World Novella), out with Samhain Publishing. A WAY TO A DRAGON’S HEART (A Therian World Novel) out with Liquid Silver Books. GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST (PsiCorps Book 1) and DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT (PsiCorps Book 2) also out with Liquid Silver Books.