An Open Letter To Men Writing Erotic Romance

Content Warning: The following post deals with topics of Internet sexual harassment, including unsolicited images of male genitalia and similar activities. Please read at your own discretion and risk.

Okay, kiddies, gather ’round. Uncle J.S. has a bone to pick with y’all.

Yesterday, I read a Tweet which simply defied belief. Not because it was unbelievable; sadly, this was the furthest thing from unbelievable. Rather, it was so brazen and so flagrant it short-circuited my higher thought processes and reduced me to incoherent mental screaming, like Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula when he saw the eponymous Count feeding the baby to his concubines.

Here’s what happened:

I stumbled across a retweet of a post by @GeriReads on Twitter, which read:

PSA to male authors who write romance: If you want bloggers to review your book, please do away with your innuendos. Just because we read romance books with sex in them doesn’t mean we’re open to being flirted with. Don’t be gross. 

In a follow-up comment, she said:

This isn’t the first time it happened to me and other bloggers. I know one popular-ish male author who sent dick pics to other romance authors and bloggers in the past.

This actually made me physically sick to my stomach. In my head, my entire thought process derailed to leave me with Christopher Titus going, “Oh! Uh…uh..urgh…awwwwwwRRRRR!” in righteous indignation.

There’s a similar problem with “Twitter Doms” sliding into women’s DMs with cutesy lines like, “Daddy’s home. Knees. Now.” (Yes, I actually saw this Tweet with my own eyes.) And they both come from the same place.

So, guys, I’m going to help you out here by explaining why these things are not good ideas and how you’re hurting yourself and every guy in the space with you.

It’s bad for business.

There are a LOT of women in the romance world who won’t read romance written by men, because there is a perception we don’t know HOW. We only know how to write erotica, because men are bad to moderately decent at sex, but suck dishwater when it comes to understanding romance. We’re losing female reviewers EVERY DAY because too many men don’t seem to know how to act when someone compliments their writing and decides, “If she likes my writing, she’ll LOVE my dick!” Since women represent nearly 80% of the romance-reading community, and more like 90% of writers, this is the kind of breathtaking stupidity those of us who treat romance as an actual job cannot afford, because it alienates the very people who drive this industry!

Your dick ain’t all that.

I don’t care if you’re a writer or a Dominant (or a “dominant”) or whatever. Your dick isn’t anything special, I promise you. A cock is a cock is a cock is a cock is a cock. If you’re a guy who writes romance, chances are you probably have one. Unless you don’t, and that’s fine too…and this probably isn’t aimed at you in that case anyway. If a woman wants to see your penis, odds are, she’ll ask.

If she doesn’t ask you first, don’t send it!

Is this really THAT fucking difficult to comprehend?

It’s sexual harassment.

“But I just thought–”

No. No, Mr. Swaggery Writer, you fucking well DID NOT THINK. These are people doing us a solid. Some of them do it for pay. Some of them do it for the love of the written word and the joy of telling others about a good story. All of them are professionals of one stripe or another, and they deserve to be treated as such. A simple “Thank you for the review” is really all that need be said, and many authors, agents, editors and publishers recommend against even that much contact with a reviewer. I personally like to respond to reviews in a positive manner; a dick pic is not only not positive, it’s unprofessional and it forces unwanted intimate contact with you. Google “consent + kink + Lord Unicron” for some of my previous writing on this.

For Twitter doms, you’re not only forcing your dick in where it wasn’t asked for, but if the sub you’re sending it to has a Dominant as diligent about safeguarding what belongs to them as I am, you’re just begging for a very nasty confrontation and probably some unintended consequences, such as having your name out there for all to see. Don’t believe me? Try sending one of those to one of my girls.

After they get done with you, they’ll feed what’s left to me.

Sexual harassment harms all of us. It harms the people who have to deal with it, and it harms the people who didn’t have a thing to do with it. Just…don’t.

You’re hurting all of us.

By “all of us,” I don’t just mean men, although of course that’s the main takeaway here. You’re also hurting readers and reviewers. You’re hurting yourself. You’re creating a situation where readers and reviewers, especially women, are less likely to want to read man-penned romance, because they understandably don’t want a repeat of your bad behavior.

And Twitter doms, this means you too. You’re making all male Dominants suspect at best and guilty by mere association at worst. Even though you’re in the minority, the sheer volume of your idiocy makes those of us who take consent, negotiation and the value of getting to know a person seriously risky to engage with for those who don’t want to be bothered with bad behavior. It doesn’t matter a damn that I wouldn’t do these things if ten other guys did it yesterday; why would they want to open a DM or email knowing there was only a ten percent chance I wouldn’t?

You’re a professional. Act like one.

Even at my saltiest and sweariest, I stay on-brand as a writer and a Dominant. That means I take consent and negotiation seriously. It means I appreciate and love my readers, and I have no interest in making them uncomfortable. I’m open about my kink and about sex in general, but on Twitter, I’m usually speaking of it academically or from personal experience by way of education or personal commentary. I don’t go on detailed lectures about how I tied up So-and-so and caned her for four hours before I stuck my cock down her throat. I don’t do this because, first, it’s something intimate and private which isn’t solely mine to share. Second, not everyone shares my particular tastes and I’m well aware of this. Third, it’s just kinda tacky.

Therefore, I try to be discerning about what I post and where, because I know my audience and they know me.

Dick pics and flirting are not professional. Generally speaking, even most porn actors don’t think dick pics are professional unless they’re being used to promote a movie or someone’s live stream. In these cases, this makes sense. But…you’re almost certainly not. If you’re promoting your books, or you want to be taken seriously as a Dominant in a space where too many D-types are treating it like their own personal happy hunting ground, a dick pic is about the surest way I know to condemn yourself to the round file tout de suite.

Oh. And before I forget, the Internet is forever. Remember how people are getting dragged for things they said years ago which were in poor taste? You’ve now set yourself up for the same treatment at some point in the future. Your star may rise, but when those pics surface, we’ll all be able to light cigarettes and cigars off the trash fire of your career. Even if you don’t make it to a level to have to worry about that, do you dare take the chance your employers, present and future, won’t find out about what you do in your off hours? Do you think you have enough money in the bank to weather that shitstorm if it comes to light?

You’re interacting with professionals. Be professional or, if you can’t do that, be gone so you don’t damage those of us who can.

It’s just not a good look.

Like it or not, men are a definite minority in the romance world. We don’t have near the numbers, the buying power or the general control women do. This is not a good thing, nor is it a bad thing; it is simply reality.

Because we are a minority, we need to be aware of how our behavior is assessed. When a man does something stupid in the romance world, like literally showing his dick to reviewers, ALL THE MEN IN THE FIELD get to pay for it. We pay in reduced sales, reduced visibility, reduced willingness for women to give us and our work a chance. And as I asked earlier, why the fuck would they? There’s little upside for them, and plenty of downside when men in general have established a pattern of behaving badly. It’s not enough to say, “Well…not ALL men do XYZ.” Until it’s “NO men do XYZ,” you’re making all the rest of us look bad.

So what’s the solution?

I don’t like to bring up problems without being prepared to advance some form of a solution. And I feel, in this case, there is a solution. But, as most comprehensive solutions are, it’s not going to be simple or easy.

1. Guys: DON’T SEND UNSOLICITED FUCKING DICK PICS OR BEHAVE LIKE NEANDERTHALS! This isn’t a difficult concept.

2, Name and shame. If someone behaves unprofessionally, there’s no point in sub-posting about it. We need a writing world #MeToo, to call out bad actors. This means men and women, black and white, gay and straight, cis and trans. Doesn’t matter; bad actors need to see visible consequences or their behavior is unlikely to change. Get the word out, and see who your allies are. We’re probably more numerous than you think, if we’re given the chance to be.

3. Report and block bad actors immediately. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE HARASSED FOR DOING THEIR JOB OR WHAT THEY LOVE. If you’re worried your behavior pegs you as a bad actor, you’d better be prepared to do some serious work to show you’re committed to doing better in future.

Also, guys, understand if you’re the kind of creep who would do this sort of thing, I’m watching. I’m listening. And I WILL see you dragged across the entire Internet personally if someone else doesn’t get there first.

Most men who write in the romance genre, especially erotic romance, respect the genre and the people who continue to make it great. But if we’re going to continue to be a viable force within romance, we need to start culling the herd of those who give us all a black eye. It’s not our job or our place to apologize for someone else’s bad behavior, but it damned sure IS our job and place to ensure the harm they do is limited. We can do this by believing those who deal with their bad behavior and making it clear we have no desire to associate with bad actors in any way, shape or form.

Then, and only then, will romance truly be safe for everyone.

As it should be.

If you know of someone who has done the things described in this post, and you feel safe to do so, I encourage you to email or DM me on Twitter. If not, please tell SOMEONE. Silence only aids the enemy; the cure for that is to be LOUD.

 

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