It’s hard to believe but some lesbian women have yet to be introduced to the world of F/F fiction, aka lesfic, written by lesbians (and some straight men and women), for lesbians. There are women in the LGBT community who still believe that all lesbian fiction is erotica written for other lesbians or for a straight male audience (who, by and large, after the age of the pulps, quite buying F/F novel length erotic fiction and who rarely if ever bought any sort of other fiction depicting strong lesbian relationships and/or lesbian protagonists in non-sexual roles). What’s even stranger is that straight women love M/M romantic fiction and some M/M erotic fiction and they buy it at a rate that far, far exceeds the rate that gay men buy it but few of them buy lesbian-themed fiction, erotic, romantic or otherwise. Why not?
What’s wrong with lesbian fiction?
Women read romance (M/F and M/M) for a lot of reasons. Just to name a few:
- To escape
- For happy endings
- For strong heroes
Some straight women being surveyed about why they read romance say they identify with the heroines and/or admire the heroes. Why don’t women identify with strong heroines? Why is the love of the romance genre – in all it’s sub-genres – so one sided toward books that feature one strong male character or two but not two strong females?
Forget romance for a minute. Let’s focus on mystery (that may or may not have an element of romance). When Josh Lanyon releases a new installment in his Adrian English mystery series, it’s an instant best-seller among gay men and lesbian and straight women across the board. When Ellen Hart releases a new installment of her Jane Lawless series, her primary sales come from some lesbians and a few gay men with only a small smattering of a straight audience, though her books are written with mass market appeal. Sure, Jane has girlfriends from time to time but Ellen never has her get down and dirty with them.
Jane Lawless is really no different than Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone protagonist (that straight women love) or Janet Evanovich’s ever so slightly more down and dirty Stephanie Plum character (that straight women love). Where’s the mass market/straight woman love for Hart’s Jane Lawless?
Here’s a question;
Why do straight women sneer and snarl when the author of a lesbian themed work dares to list it as ‘Chick Lit’ or ‘Women’s Literature’, mixed genre labels for books of specific appeal to women?
Don’t those books feature primarily female protagonists or, at a minimum, strong female characters?
Perhaps the problem is still one of a perception of inferior quality in lesbian works. Well-known lesbian romance (primarily) author Karin Kallmaker said – in January of 2012, admittedly:
“…perhaps out of misguided political correctness, potential reviewers have refused lesbian books saying they’re poorly written rather than admit they’re simply not interested in the theme. As a writer, I’d rather know that the genre isn’t someone’s cup of tea and leave it at that than be told the books aren’t worth reviewing! I just don’t buy the “all lesbian books aren’t worth reviewing” feedback.”
and, in the same article:
“…Bloggers who focus regularly on lesbian fiction report comparable levels of traffic between genres they cover after they’ve built up a body of reference.”
Both quotes by Karin Kallmaker in a January 5th, 2012 comment (http://kbgbabbles.com/2011/12/lesbian-fictionromance-does-sell-well-and-heres-how-i-know.html)
That’s quite true. For three years, ending in early 2013 when major life changes and a focus on my own writing forced me to quit, I was an LGBT book review blogger. When I gave it up, I had hundreds of readers that would visit each post to read my latest review. The lesfic posts were always among the most popular. I did no SEO or advertising or anything of the sort back then. I just read and wrote about what I read. Readers found me.
What could some lesbians and most straight women learn from reading more (some) lesbian fiction?
When lesbians are shown honestly, good and bad, warts and wounds, soul and spirit in good stories, other lesbians and, in reality, all women stand to gain. The work, regardless of the fact that it’s fiction, can be life-changing. How?
Women can see that:
- They have worth far beyond the practices of a male-centric culture
- Women can be strong
- They can do anything they set their minds too
- We can have a happy ending no matter what
- Sexual bias against women is purely misogynistic in nature but it doesn’t have to be the way it is in life in our books too
Read some lesfic; change your world view.