What brings me to the title of this post--Heroes vs. Stigma? In all honesty, it's a thought that I had while writing, and it simultaneously made me stop to examine my own thoughts and feelings while wondering about the thoughts and feelings of readers.
So what was the thought I had while writing? Is my hero--a dashing, handsome international spy--bottoming too much? Some of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering why that question deserves a blog post. Others are probably already well ahead of that. In the gay community there are tops, bottoms, and versatiles. Feel free to Google those terms if you don't know what they mean. In case you don't know, there is a stigma--including in the gay community--against being a bottom.
The primary reason there's a stigma against bottoms is how society has viewed relationships between two men. That age-old question, "Who's the man in the relationship?" has set a precedent that equates gay male relationships with heterosexual relationships. There's the assumption that one must be a man and one must be a woman. Obviously, the bottom falls into the category of being the woman. Why? Because women are the ones who are penetrated.
The logical answer to the question "Who's the man in the relationship?" is "Both of us are." Unless it's a lesbian relationship, but that's a different blog post. Society, for as far as it has come, still needs to place people into roles that it understands. Therefore, if you're not the one doing the penetrating, you're the woman. And if you're the woman, then you're automatically less in the eyes of society. Less what? Pretty much less everything.
Bottom is a term that is used as a derogatory term. As a bottom myself, I've had that term used to demean me. It's used to make people feel bad for the form of enjoyment they derive from the act of sex. It fails to take into consideration that all people are different, or that it's no one's business but mine and my partner's how I find sexual pleasure.
And that is the most distressing part of the question that I--a bottom--had for myself and my writing. Is my character bottoming too much? It honestly made me stop and ask myself why I thought that, with the obvious answer being the concern that the reader wouldn't find a bottom identifiable or worth reading about. The hero is supposed to be manly, masculine, take charge. So, how is it possible to do that if you're being penetrated? How messed up is it that I even thought these things?
This is the true evil of prejudice and homophobia. It makes those who have been victimized rethink their motives and motivations and what it is they derive pleasure from. While there is absolutely no shame in being a bottom, society makes us feel shame by its skewed perceptions and fears of what we, as bottoms, are. Society equates us with women, and if society has taught us anything it's that women shouldn't have any sexual desires or control over fulfilling those desires. (In case you're wondering, yes, that was sarcasm.) Therefore, we are less than men, and how we derive pleasure makes us women. Therefore, we are worthy of ridicule and shame.
The other thing about this that makes me feel badly about the thought is knowing that my critique group, which is made up of gay, bi, and straight men and women, never once asked me why the character bottoms more than he tops. It has been a topic of conversation exactly zero times! (This makes me so proud to be a part of a group of people who don't think these thoughts.) I simply brought my own fears and experiences into the equation. I made it an issue when it wasn't one.
At Inkubus Publishing, we're interested in reading and sharing the scintillating sexual exploits of all gay characters--whether they're top, bottom, or versatile. So, with that in mind, write the character the way you see fit. Let him find pleasure in being true to himself, and in the process be true to yourself. It doesn't matter if you're a male or female author/reader. We all deserve to find pleasure in our own way. Society will just have to accept that.