A personal essay about how I relate to Amanda, the lead female character in my femdom book, Mine.
Amanda is a much better climber than I am, just to put the most important point first.
Oh, and I don’t practice BDSM in my personal life, not that that’s anyone’s business, but saying it out loud might save me some emails.
Amanda isn’t me, to be clear, though like all of my characters she has pieces of me in her, but she’s a woman like me, a woman who isn’t very good at being a woman according to commonly-accepted definitions of what being a woman means.
My inability to relate to some of the traits that are assumed to be a default in women (e.g. a focus on family and home, having super-close friends, the desire to get married and have children, sentimentality in general, interest in appearance-based topics such as fashion and makeup, thinking that “shopping” is an actual hobby) is part of what drove me away from M/F romance.
I used to think I didn’t get along with other women very well, but I’ve learned through the years that I get along with other women like me very well. I also get along with men like me. And by ‘like me’ here, I mean that if there’s a spectrum that runs from feminine to masculine (and I wish there were non-gendered terms for those constellations of character traits), I would fall somewhere in the middle of it.
The thing is: I know I’m not alone. I know there are other women like me. I’ve been friends, climbing partners, co-workers with plenty of them. And I know there are men who prefer women like me. I’ve been dating them my whole life. But they don’t write romances about us.
Even when the female love interest is smart or strong or tall or powerful, the male love interest is always smarter, stronger, taller, more powerful, and the one who’ll solve whatever problem the female love interest is having. The message is always that you can be smart, strong, etc. and still be feminine. But what if I’m not feminine? What if I don’t want to be?
I know why they don’t write romances about me, of course. Because women like me aren’t likable to women not-like-me.
When I finished writing Mine, I felt great about it. I merrily sent it off to a handful of M/F beta readers expecting them to love it as much as I did. That wasn’t what happened. The overwhelming (though not entirely unanimous) response was: I don’t like Amanda; I don’t relate to Amanda; I don’t understand Amanda.
I don’t get that reaction to my male characters. Male characters are allowed to be selfish or angry. They’re allowed to care about things other than their boyfriends. They’re allowed to have messy relationships with their families. And readers of M/M want to read about characters like that, characters who have flaws and will experience growth over the course of the book. How much growth can a character experience if they’re required to start at perfect?
So I’m publishing Mine, despite knowing what kind of response I’m likely to get. I’m putting Amanda out there in all her sloppy, imperfect, non-standard womanhood.
I relate to Amanda. I understand Amanda. I like Amanda. Can you?