Kirsten Saell Guest Post – "Writing F/F(/M) for the Female Gaze"

Please welcome my guest, Kirsten Saell.

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Writing F/F(/M) for the Female Gaze

I adore men. I love their hard bodies and their strong chins and the frankness of their bodies. I love the sound of a deep voice growling something naughty in my ear, accompanied by the rasp of poky, prickly whiskers against my skin. I love the feel of muscled arms holding me so tight I almost can’t break free. And as long as we’re being honest, I love their…ahem…equipment, both for its form and its functionality.

I also adore women. I love their softness and their curves and their “f*ck me” eyelashes. I love the feel of a quiet, feminine whisper fanning almost noiselessly against my lips. I love the languid grace of a female body, still flushed and glowing with exertion, sprawled on tousled sheets. And I love absolutely everything about the way their bodies express arousal.

For me, f/f/m is the ultimate fantasy—-if you want to get specific, my ultimate fantasy is me, sandwiched between Clive Owen and Angelina Jolie (hey, we are talking fantasy here). As a bi woman, an f/f/m happily ever after is like having my cake and eating it too, and then having another cake and eating that. And then having twice the help with the dishes.

While I would assume most romance readers are straight women, cross-preference eroticism provides frequent fodder for sexual fantasy for women of all sexual orientations. Many lesbians fantasize about men (sometimes more than one at a time, heh), and lots of straight women enjoy fantasies of women being sexual with each other.

Which has made me wonder why f/f and f/f/m erotic content has been less than enthusiastically embraced by romance readers.

Now I’m not talking about the admittedly small, niche subgenre of lesbian romance, because the vast majority of romance readers are not lesbians. I’m talking about books that explore female-female sensuality from a mostly heterosexual or bisexual female perspective.

And I’m not talking about the small minority of readers who find the mere notion of f/f content so objectionable it would make them stop reading an otherwise great book. I’m talking about those straight (or predominantly straight) women who didn’t abandon Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Willow crossed to the dark side of the Kinsey Scale, who may occasionally fantasize about women together, who might have even experimented with same-sex sensuality in college or their wild party days.

What’s stopping these women from picking up a scorching hot f/f(/m) erotic romance? I got three words for ya: The male gaze.

Dudes, f/f sex is everywhere. From late night phone-chat ads to Nascar races, from fashion magazines to beer commercials, from music videos to Spike TV, girl-on-girl action abounds in the mainstream media. It seems like every time we turn around we’re bombarded by images of women together the way men want to see them.

It can’t be stressed enough that what appeals to a man will not necessarily appeal to a woman. In fact, the way women are eroticized in order to arouse men is often actively off-putting to women. To quote fellow author Mima, f/f love is “not two women in bikinis hugging each other at a car race.” It’s not exhibitionism on a dance floor while a crowd of appreciative studs look on. It isn’t two women giggling and groping each other in a corner booth while sending flirty glances in the direction of the cute guy at the bar. And it certainly isn’t that twinkle in the eye of the guy who seemed soooo nice, right up until he asked if you’d have a threesome with him and your BFF.

When I wrote Healer’s Touch, I knew I was up against some pretty pervasive resentment over the exploitation of f/f sensuality for the titillation of straight men. Considering the tropes the story had in common with the typical male version of the girl/girl fantasy, I even wondered if I should write it at all. But I’ve never been one to not do a thing just because it might be hard to do well. And though the book hasn’t scored as consistently high with readers as my others have, I’m enormously proud of the fact that I could write two women being sexual together in the service of the hero’s voyeurism in a way that didn’t result in a flurry of hate-email from outraged readers.

So how do you write f/f(/m) for the female gaze?

1) Write women—-not moving, talking blow-up dolls. Women fantasize about emotional connections, being desired, and being the focus of pleasure. It’s not about the act, it’s about desire and the fulfilment of desire. Putting two women with no emotional connection and no real desire to be sexual with each other in bed together might turn on a male reader, but it does absolutely nothing for most women. And even if the second woman is not going to be a permanent fixture in the romance, she needs to be a real person, with real, healthy reasons for what she does.

2) Let the woman lead. No woman wants to read about a threesome that’s only there to satisfy the hero’s hankering for some Doublemint sex—-even if the heroine is game. There are enough men out there who’ve tried cajoling an unwilling girlfriend/wife into a threesome for such a scenario to seem squicky, even to women who have never been put in that position. If it’s going to work for a female reader, the heroine almost always has to be the one to initiate the scenario.

3) Don’t bash men. F/F sensuality written for straight and bi women needs to consider its readership. No straight woman wants to be told she’s a chump for being straight, because no man will ever be able to pleasure her or understand her or treat her or love her as well as a woman could. Yes, sex between two women is different than sex between a woman and a man. Yes, love between two women is different than love between a woman and a man. But different is not necessarily better. It’s just different.

4) Don’t make it all about men, either. In Healer’s Touch, the f/f sex was primarily there to indulge the hero’s voyeurism—-to break down his resistance so he would admit his love for the heroine. But half of the f/f scenes did not include him at all. Those scenes were 100% about the two women, about their growing emotional and physical connection, and their willingness to explore their own desire for each other. Though the heroine’s primary motive for initiating the sexual arrangement was to get her man, the secondary heroine agreed to the plan for deeply personal reasons. She did it to help a friend, certainly, but she also did it for herself.

5) Lesbo porn—-ur doin’ it rong. Please, please, please do not use commercial f/f porn as an instructional guide to writing good f/f(/m) sex. Visual porn is all about the camera. Most of the things that feel best to a woman do not translate through a lens. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, just ask yourself when the last time was that you kissed anyone with your tongue all the way outside your mouth. “Lesbian” porn produced for men is…unrealistic in so many ways, and somehow even when there’s no man involved, it’s still frequently all about the penis. If you’re going to watch porn to get your ideas, watch the amateur stuff. Production values aren’t as good, but at least you can tell the women are enjoying themselves.

I do find it an absolute shame that so many women aren’t ready to take a chance on an f/f(/m) romance. It’s a shame that it’s so hard to get past the discomfort that can accompany any hint of girl/girl sex—negative associations that coat what could be a sexy, romantic read with the skeezy residue of Girls Gone Wild.

But for women who are open-minded, who are willing to take the chance, there are a few stories out there by talented authors who write f/f(/m) from a female perspective—-with female characters who are more than blow-up dolls, male characters who aren’t condescending or smarmy about f/f sex, and happily ever afters that will make you feel like you just curled up in a snuggie still warm from the dryer. Go pick one up. What’s stopping you?

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Thanks, Kirsten! Stop by tomorrow for another Snippet Saturday – the theme is Humor.

Related Posts:

Erotica as a Feminist Act.

Erotic Journeys and Bodice Rippers.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

24 replies on “Kirsten Saell Guest Post – "Writing F/F(/M) for the Female Gaze"”

  1. You've taken an interesting take on this issue that I've never thought about. Very well said!

    I think good F/F is hard to write for the reasons you've mentioned here about the complex emotional issues. When done well, it can be a wonderful fantasy for mainstream readers.

  2. Hmmm… I never really thought about women being together sexually outside of a lesbian relationship until I started reading erotica and per chanced upon some f/f.

    Although I've watched my share of teh pr0n, I also never really thought about women being together as a turn-on for men only until I started reading non-lesbian f/f in which two women just explore with each other and are turned on BY each other. It's so normal to see that, that I never thought consciously about how stupid it is or that it might be affecting some outlook I had on women being together romantically/sexually outside of a lesbian relationship. It's all fake pretend, right???

    But I do think that you are correct in that we are bombarded with girl on girl as a titillation for men only and I can see why the vast majority of straight women would look a that and feel disgusted by it, turning them off from looking for it in a romance novel.

    I think if I hadn't come across f/f in erotica in which two woman have an emotional connection, but outside of the "lesbian" scene/world and not for the guy only, I would have never known that it's an actual turn on for me to read that.

  3. How ironic timing for this. I recently finished a book that has a f/f scene in it with the hero sitting back and letting his girlfriend and her friend explore and enjoy themselves. I think (I hope) I wrote it more from her perspective and that it was about the two women and not just the man's fantasy. Waiting to get some beta reads for feedback.
    (note- I don't have a URL to add with this, so I'll just use my pen name0 R.B. Michaels

  4. I personally like reading f/f(m), m/m(f), m/m f/f and/or any of that combination. I think there should more f/f reads out for readers like me who enjoy reading it. I'm also a reviewer & beta reader and I try to grab those reads to review.

  5. Hey, Jeannie! Yes, writing good f/f is HARD. Especially, I think, the kind I wrote in HT, where the women don't go into it looking for a long-term thing. Including a man in the mix is even harder. You skate a fine line between titillation and offense. Take a peek at this video to see what I mean.

    Most women don't necessarily want to read about staunch lesbians–but they don't want to read about "lez-pretend", either. The first is kind of discomfitting, and the second is just exploitative.

    I think you're probably a pretty open-minded chick, Leah. I like those kind of "two straight women suddenly discover an attraction" stories, too, but because of that f/f-straight guy thing, it so often can come off as insincere.

    And I'll admit, I don't much dig the lesbian romance, because lesbian romance is often feminist romance. I've done a lot of reading on bisexuality in women and discovered that a lot of "lesbians" are actually bi, but choose to be lesbian for "political reasons". So you have a lot of bisexual women suppressing their attractions to men–why? Patriarchy, feminism and the co-opting of f/f sex for straight men. And I'd guess you have a lot of bisexual (by the loosest definition of bi) women suppressing their interest in women for practical/cultural reasons. And a lot of them aren't interested in reading about a woman who has one experience with a woman and then goes full-on lesbian. I think for a lot of women, that whole concept is pretty scary.

    It's a conundrum, that's for sure, and I wonder how many women just get a skeezy feeling reading f/f in romance–like if their husband finds out he'll get all condescending and smarmy and start angling for a threesome. Or *gasp* it might mean they aren't as straight as they thought they were–which is BS, really.

    Hi, Anon. Now don't get me wrong. There's something incredibly hot about voyeurism and f/f. But because it's employed so much in the mainstream (watch that vid I linked to, if you're wondering what I'm talking about), it's a problematic theme. When it's done well, hot holy damn. When it's even a little careless in its approach, it can put a lot of readers off.

    Good luck with your betas! I hope they like it and it finds a home, because there just ain't enough of this stuff out there, IMO.

  6. Hi, Tonni! I like just about any configuration, too–although I'm most likely to enjoy something if there's a woman in there somewhere. My latest is a m/m/f, and it was huge fun to write, but my first love will always be f/f/m. It's that whole cake thing again–three layers, please, two pink, one blue. With LOTS of icing. :D

  7. I've often wondered why f/f iterations are missing in erotic romance when almost every other sexual combination, both real and fantastical, is on the menu.

    There is also no love of the dominant female in erotic romance. With the exception of a few groundbreaking books, the dominant woman is relegated to villain status.

    I hook these two exclusions together. Sex scenes are interesting because of power-play. It need not be overt, but even the most vanilla sex scene is a negotiation of power.

    The dominant hero is the bread and butter of romance, and most often he runs the show in bed. Without him, and with the dominant female excluded, that leaves readers with the impression that f/f must be very boring. Because what would it be about? Two women passively fondling each other. Because they've not been shown it, they can't imagine that a tense, yummy power dynamic might actually work between women as well as it works between men and women.

    I don't know if I'm making myself clear. This is how I see it. There are a very limited number of preconceived ideas out there in the popular imagination regarding what f/f sex might look like. Two, actually:

    1) The male fantasy. Two pretty girls fondling each other–a static, boring scenario. In erotic romance, they might do so to ease themselves while waiting for a man, or do it for a man's pleasure, or as part of three-way sex. It's boring because of its role as a place-holder, it's not very emotionally charged.

    2) The classic fem dom scenario which is not well loved in this genre: A wicked older woman having her way with a younger female submissive.

    That's all we got, really. Can anybody think of anything else?

    Of course there's real lesbian sex in all its diversity, but it is private and domestic, just like ordinary het sex, and distinguished here from f/f fantasies.

    I guess my point is that for reasons that could be discussed here, women, or perhaps the culture at large, are not seeing the female gender as erotically self-sufficient.

    The male with his magical phallus must be present to provide a scene with an erotic kick-start, because without him we're either too soft (girl on girl) or too hard (fem dom). There's no in-between.

    And of course there are, actually, a billion sexy, wonderful in-betweens out there, but we're not seeing them written or played out on screen, so our imaginations are starved of ideas, and denied a rich source of erotic possibility.

  8. 1) The male fantasy. Two pretty girls fondling each other–a static, boring scenario. In erotic romance, they might do so to ease themselves while waiting for a man, or do it for a man's pleasure, or as part of three-way sex. It's boring because of its role as a place-holder, it's not very emotionally charged.

    Bingo.

    2) The classic fem dom scenario which is not well loved in this genre: A wicked older woman having her way with a younger female submissive.

    Also bingo.

    Although you're missing a third: Two women who've abandoned the peen and are now in an egalitarian relationship where they take equal turns pleasuring each other and do alternate nights on dish duty. Which I, and most non-lesbians–just don't really want to read. There's nothing sexy to me about egalitarianism.

    I guess my point is that for reasons that could be discussed here, women, or perhaps the culture at large, are not seeing the female gender as erotically self-sufficient.

    Oh yes. It's the common trope in m/f romance–that the heroine can't have "good sex" with anyone but the hero. And I'll tell you, for years I thought there was something wrong with me for not being able to come from penetration, because that's what happens in romance novels, sometimes within moments of the H popping the h's cherry. I lost my virginity young, but my only regret really is that I gave men access to my body before I'd figured out how to please it myself. I think the prevailing wisdom among most cultures is that a woman is not complete without a man.

    I recall reading an erotic novel recently about two swapping couples where one woman is bi and the other mostly straight. They have an encounter they both enjoy, but the second woman can't get off even when the bi character uses a strap-on–she needs one of the men to step in and finish her off. I was pissed. I mean, WTF? I hate seeing a female author perpetuating this kind of stupid thinking. But it's just so pervasive.

    But yes, straight and mostly straight women long for that subtle D/s power dynamic, and yes, it's hard to write a woman as the D without making her over-the-top butch or domineering, because women lack the physical default markers of penetration. They are, at their essence, the penetratees. The receivers, not the givers. So a lot of writers overcompensate and end up turning readers off.

    When I wrote Bound by Steel, I envisioned Lianon as a kind of "bisexual switch". When she's with a man, she's the bottom (it's subtle, but there), and when she's with a woman, she's the top (and it's also subtle, because it has to be to work). The dynamics really jived in the threesome because Lianon is largely calling the shots–the hero subjugates his position as top and lets her take the lead with the second heroine. And because Lianon's the one who initiates the menage, I think it works.

    It is kind of sad that women are kind of closing themselves off to a whole world of eroticism–I mean, the term f/f on the back of the book is enough to make some readers opt not to buy. I'd hope that that will change as more stuff is written with women in mind.

  9. Great post! It kills me that it's still so hard to sell f/f/m (or any kind of f/f) to the mainstream print erotic romance market. I would love to see that change, but unfortunately I think I'm in the minority as a reader who likes everything–m/f, m/m, f/f, and all kinds of threesomes–as long as it's done well.

  10. Sex scenes are interesting because of power-play. It need not be overt, but even the most vanilla sex scene is a negotiation of power.

    I'm currently reading a story, actually my favorite kind of f/f that turns me on the most, about a straight woman who finds herself suddenly attracted sexually and romantically to a woman.

    I think there is still a power play in this sexual scenario that is outside of the extreme D/s, cute girls doing it for men and the ever boring egalitarian scenario, that can be a real turn on or written very hotly.

    Let's face it, in most romance books we are only getting the lead up into a long term relationship and the falling in love part. The beginning before things settle in and things get a bit boring. So anyway, we are talking about the excitement of the exploration of a new person sexually.

    In this scenario, an inexperienced person is discovering something that's a bit taboo about themselves or new to them. It's not only the excitment of discovering a new person that the character has feelings for, it's also about the character discovering something new about herself and how to navigate in a world they're not familiar with.

    In this case they are getting with a more experienced, but not the traditional older/younger DOM/s thing, and having all those fears and curiousities about how it all works and allowing a more experienced person to lead them, while at the same time, stepping out of their own comfort zone.

    I find this type of scenario to be very hot and it's the kind of f/f that I think many straight women could read and not get squicked or turned off by.

  11. @KB:

    That sounds very hot to me, too. And I agree it works for all the reasons you've outlined. That's the kind of alternative I'd like to see on the menu. The sad thing is that you don't see that kind of story in more mainstream venues–you'd have to find by going to GLBT publishers, right?

    What I wish was that it could just be up there with all the other usual stuff–the werewolf sex, the greek billionaire sex, the ghost sex, the time-travel sex… That way readers might discover something they like by accident.

  12. Leah, that's the kind of f/f scenario I used in The Duchess, Her Maid, etc.. I intentionally had the pov character, the Duchess, be new to sex with a woman and still thinking it through – she enjoys the encounter, but it's clear (I think) that she's not actually bisexual.

  13. The sad thing is that you don't see that kind of story in more mainstream venues–you'd have to find by going to GLBT publishers, right?

    And so often, GLBT publishers are only interested in presenting such stories as full conversion scenarios. You know, straight gal gets a taste of the f/f and she swears off men forever. I've had aficionados of lesbian romance tell me that bisexuality of any kind is pretty rare in the f/f put out by gay/lesbian pubs.

    I think lesbians have a much harder time tolerating bisexuality in women than gay men do in men–bisexuality in men is sometimes seen as fence-sitting, but rarely a delusional willingness to perpetuate the subjugation of men, or just a ploy to get straight women interested. Because, gay or not, men come at homosexuality and bisexuality from a position of male privilege. It isn't wrapped up in a history of oppression of men by women, or burdened by hundreds of years of women ogling pictures of gay dudes making out.

    So really, if you want to read f/f romance that isn't about lesbians, you can't rely on GLBT pubs. They'll put out bi-female erotica, because they might think it's hot, but they don't seem to want it anywhere near their loving relationship stories.

    Victoria, I do appreciate scenarios where women just try out new things and discover they like them, but it doesn't necessarily change who they are or how they identify. It's amazing how few women actually realize that you can identify as straight and still have all kinds of bisexual tendencies–fantasies, behaviors, curiosities, etc. Won't change the fact that you prefer men. But I can appreciate how lesbians might get annoyed with all the Katy Perry's out there who kiss a girl to get the men hot and bothered, and then run giggling back to Boyville.

    It just shows that f/f is complicated in ways that m/m really is not. Even look at the reasons why so many lesbians read and/or write m/m, rather than f/f or even m/f. They may not be interested in reading love stories that are weighed down in feminist/lesbian dogma, but at the same time, some of them are put off by the D/s dynamics of a m/f romance–just another example of a woman on the bottom…

    Maybe in a thousand years none of these things will complicate f/f, but for now…sigh.

  14. Leah, that's the kind of f/f scenario I used in The Duchess, Her Maid, etc.. I intentionally had the pov character, the Duchess, be new to sex with a woman and still thinking it through – she enjoys the encounter, but it's clear (I think) that she's not actually bisexual.

    I must read this book!

    I felt that in the only other story I read of yours in Lipstick On Her Collar. It totally had the feel of two women who might be gay/bi or not or straight or not, we don't know, who have a moment together without bringing in all the what are we labeling stuff. I love those sexually ambiguous kinds of stories.

    The sad thing is that you don't see that kind of story in more mainstream venues–you'd have to find by going to GLBT publishers, right?

    And so often, GLBT publishers are only interested in presenting such stories as full conversion scenarios. You know, straight gal gets a taste of the f/f and she swears off men forever.

    Yes, my experience is both unfortunately. I actually seek it out and go to GLBT sites to find f/f but most times it's straight up lesbian or like Kirsten says, conversion stories. Or, the f/f is in there for the guy without the women really developing a relationship with each other.

    There are stories out there, but I think due to lack of demand they are hard to come by and even if there, harder to find due to miss-labeling.

  15. Great post, Kirsten. And thanks for turning me on to Ms. Janssen's blog : )

    You'd think that with all the readers out there–many of whom are fine with m/m or m/m/f or other varieties–saying they love romances for the emotional satisfaction f/f stories would get more attention. Generally speaking, women tend to be the ones concerned with the development of the relationship, so wouldn't TWO women in a relationship yield TWICE the emotional satisfaction?

    As an unpubbed writer with a science fiction romance featuring two women who fall for each other (there is a sex scene–ok, a sex chapter, but it's not explicit) I have hit the trifecta of probably not seeing my story published any time soon. It frustrates the living daylights out of me, but I don't see how to "fix" it. Not necessarily the story, but the marketability of a genre I love.

    How do we do our own "conversions"? : ) How do we get readers and publishers to take notice of all the wonderful, emotionally satisfying as well as sensual stories that are being missed?

  16. Generally speaking, women tend to be the ones concerned with the development of the relationship, so wouldn't TWO women in a relationship yield TWICE the emotional satisfaction?

    Then again, a lot of that emo stuff drives me nuts. I like a little wangsting now and then, but I've read a few lesbian romances that were, as Leah put it once, estrogen overload.

    And really, I think women give a lot of lipservice to the whole "Love is beautiful and interesting, no matter who it is," thing, because if the majority of women just wanted to read about two people falling in love, sales would be split fairly evenly between all subgenres. What they want to see is two people falling in love in a way that's familiar to them, or that doesn't make them uncomfortable.

    And I kind of thrive on that discomfort–it's why taboo subject matter is titillating for a lot of people. But some taboo subjects hit really close to home for some people. I think a lot of "squick factor" in regard to f/f comes from women being uncomfortable with the idea that they may not be as straight as they thought they were. I mean, women can enjoy f/f and be as straight as a spirit level, but I do think it leaves some women shaken.

    I've heard lesbian and bi-woman authors say they prefer m/m to f/f because there's no gender politics and it's not as…personal or intimate to write. And I can respect that, especially since f/f has been exploited so heavily in the service of the male version of the fantasy. For a lesbian, writing the kind of bi-oriented, non-feminist f/f that would have a broader appeal might feel like standing naked in a room with a two-way mirror, and not knowing who's on the other side looking in or what they're getting out of it.

    I don't know if we can convert anyone, Cathy. But hey, even EC is opening up to the genre and several of their editors are fans, so it's not like we're alone out there. I think the best thing is to try to let readers know there is a middle ground between "lesbo porn" and lesbian romance, and there are wonderful stories there waiting to be found.

    Thanks everyone for your comments, and thanks again, Victoria, for posting my article. Hugs and big, wet, sloppy girl-girl kisses for you! :)

  17. Wow! Great post, and I've really enjoyed reading all the responses.

    I had no idea there were all these issues surrounding f/f when I wrote the first book in my series, Gifts of Desire. I just wrote the book that was in me calling to come out, and fortunately found a publisher who was willing to publish it.

    My story is the type that Leah described recently reading, "about a straight woman who finds herself suddenly attracted sexually and romantically to a woman."

    My heroine has been married for eight years, loves her husband, but is bored with their lovemaking routine. While on vacation to celebrate her birthday, they meet another married couple and a connection is made between the four of them.

    I envisioned it just like Leah said, "an inexperienced person is discovering something that's a bit taboo about themselves or new to them. It's not only the excitement of discovering a new person that the character has feelings for, it's also about the character discovering something new about herself and how to navigate in a world they're not familiar with."

    If you are interested, I hope you will check out The Birthday Present at total-e-bound.com. The second book about the continuing relationship between these four friends is coming soon, called The Christmas Present.

    Thanks for a great discussion!

    Suzanne Graham

  18. Then again, a lot of that emo stuff drives me nuts.

    Me too, Kirsten. There's a line between emotional satisfaction and "emo" in my mind. I don't particularly care for any characters to cross it. But by the end of the story, I want the MCs to be happy with their partners and the prospect of a future together. That's the kind of emotional satisfaction I mean.

    I saw that EC is giving f/f stories a shot. And that's great. Unfortunately I don't write hot enough for most of the places that pub it : P

  19. Wonderful post! I've toyed with writing F/F/M and F/f stories more than once, and suspect that one day I will. It is a trade-off though, of writing something for personal gain(i.e, craft growth or exploration of human sexuality and fantasy) versus writing something for financial gain.

    Cathy in AK is correct, at the moment EC is accepting F/F stories. As a rule they don't because they have found in the past that their readership won't buy them.

  20. If you are interested, I hope you will check out The Birthday Present at total-e-bound.com. The second book about the continuing relationship between these four friends is coming soon, called The Christmas Present.

    Hey, Suzanne, I will definitely be checking that out. I've read a few Total-e-bound books (I mean, Portia da Costa writes for them, and I love her like a fat Danish kid loves wienerbrod), and I really like how varied their selection is. And I do like stories that center around open relationships and swapping. The dynamics can be verrrrry interesting, lol.

    I honestly had no idea f/f was so sneered at, too, when I wrote my first book. It has two f/f scenes in it, and I'm just really lucky it found the right editor at the right house. It is frustrating knowing that some readers will decline to try it–even on a recommend from a friend–because those two little letters are in the product warning. Sigh.

    Cathy, EC requires the hotness, but Cerridwen doesn't–I'm not sure if they're looking for f/f at all, but you could try them. And Samhain specializes in SFF romance or SFF with romatic elements, and they run the gamut from sweet to scorching. And I read recently that even one of their most prolific m/m editors was hankering for an f/f romance, so you could certainly give them a go.

    As a rule they don't because they have found in the past that their readership won't buy them.

    It's a shame, really, that even a m/f romance will drive away many readers if f/f or f/f/m appears in the content warning. I think the prevailing feeling among women is that as a rule, f/f will be porny and stupid, because that's what they've had shoved in their faces for so long. I'd hope the huge popularity of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books has done a bit to dispel the idea that f/f=lame, porny, insincere crap, or lesbian/feminist lit.

    I think you should write an f/f, Jory, or better yet (IMO), an f/f/m poly. I can promise you'd have at least one reader willing to buy it. :) I feel like the more notable writers with sizable fanbases who produce the odd f/f work, the greater the chance readers will give one a go.

    But yes, I've succumbed to the lure of the dollar myself. My latest (The Chancellor's Bride) was m/m/f, and in ten days earned almost as much as my first book (Crossing Swords) has in 16 months. And to be honest, I think Crossing Swords, an m/f with two f/f scenes, was the better book. I just hope as more women come to realize that enjoying f/f content doesn't mean you aren't straight, and that f/f can be meaningful, emotional and non-exploitative, the subgenre will make some inroads.

  21. Re: selling f/f/m to mainstream market, there is someone who does – Lacey Alexander has several books with Heat where heterosexual female heroine explores female/female sensuality. Yes, sometimes the thrill is heightened by the man watching/participating but it's always done in a way where she enjoys the pleasure and sensuality of another woman's body and touch.

  22. I soo want to read a ff from Jory Strong!!

    I can understand epubs thinking it won't sell to their readership, but realistically they bury it. I go looking for it at the main pubs, and can't get past the million and one m/ms to find the one or two f/f.

  23. I go looking for it at the main pubs, and can't get past the million and one m/ms to find the one or two f/f.

    Oh hell yeah. A search for f/f typically leads one through a morass of guy-guy stuff, and sometimes doesn't even spit out one f/f title.

    And they're often mislabeled, too. Despite what SOME people think, there's a difference between lesbian romance and f/f. Lesbian romance is burdened with feminist and political baggage in a way that gay romance is not, so though there may be lots of cross-readership appeal between m/m and gay, there really isn't between f/f and lesbian.

    Yet last month I searched one publisher's site for a m/f/f book I'd heard rumor of. Using their search engine, I tried f/f, f/f/m, m/f/f, bisexual, f/f/m menage, etc, etc. The only reason I didn't give up is that I knew it was there. So I finally typed in "lesbian" and lo and behold, there it is! I was pissed. Neither female character is a lesbian–one is basically straight, the other bi. This is not a lesbian romance, it's a f/f/m polyamorous menage romance. When I'm looking for menage, the only reason I'd search "lesbian" is if I'm looking for f/f/f menage.

    And lesbians looking for a good lesbian romance aren't thinking of m/f/f, either! In fact, labeling such a book "lesbian" is liable to piss a lot of lesbians off. Way to fail both the book and the readership.

    And there's a lot of ambiguity with labeling, too. If I'm buying a book on two couples swapping, and all the content warning tells me is "homoerotic sexual situations", well, there are two men and two women. I want to know if those two women are going to get together or not! Sure, I like a little of the guy-on-guy, but when I'm looking for f/f, I want to know it's there before I spend my money.

  24. I can understand epubs thinking it won't sell to their readership, but realistically they bury it. I go looking for it at the main pubs, and can't get past the million and one m/ms to find the one or two f/f.

    Yes, finding it. That's a huge problem. Of course epubs will say no one is buying it, when in fact it's mislabeled or it's lumped in with the ocean of gay (m/m) and who wants to wade through that to find the one or maybe none f/f in that.

    I think this is one of the biggest problems myself because as I go searching for f/f, I do find it, but it's hard work. I'm willing to do it because it's really what I want to read, but I think the average person who is only curious might not be bothered to deal with it.

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