Men are not equals

Sometimes I see people say that they like M/M fiction because they’re tired of the clichés of M/F fiction and the unequal relationship between the hero and heroine. They say they prefer the equality of the relationship between two men.

Hang on a second…

Higher Ground cover art by Valerie TibbsOkay, the dynamic is definitely different. But are they really equal? I think that’s a bit of a crock. They can be equal of course, if that’s the dynamic the writer wants to write. In Higher Ground I deliberately made Adam and Zach equals in most things. That was part of the story, that they became a team rather than a leader and a follower. But the assumption that because the characters are both men they are automatically equals doesn’t make sense to me.  

Two men can still have many power inequalities to negotiate. They could be down to class, social position, money, education, race, rank, intelligence, physical strength or age. The complex interplay of all these factors is what makes the relationship between two characters interesting for me to read or write. How they work around them, how they bypass them sometimes.  

Stowaway Cover - art by Anne CainLike in Stowaway, Raine is very much the authority figure over Kit, and he’s older. But Kit is more confident in many ways, and doesn’t let Raine boss him around. Sean and Alex in Ganymede Tilt are equals in ambition, in intelligence and drive. But Alex is from a wealthy background, is more highly educated. Unlike Adam and Zach whose equality makes them form a team, Alex and Sean have a power struggle instead, trying to negotiate their way around the similarities and differences between them.  

Ganymede Tilt CoverSo I say don’t expect all inequalities between male characters to be erased just because the opposite sex dynamic isn’t present. People and society are just too complicated for that.

8 thoughts on “Men are not equals

  1. I can sort of see why people would think this, but it’s slightly worrying that people would think inequality between men and women in a relationship is BECAUSE they’re a man and woman.

    All of our friendships and other relationships are unequal at times – maybe because one earns more, or because another is more skillful at a game or sport – large or small, it’s part of human interaction.

    1. Can’t agree there. There are qualitatively different power imbalances between men and women than between two people of the same sex. Lots of other factors come into play too of course, as they do between any two people as you say. But I think it’s wrong to assume that in the world we currently live in that sex is not a factor.

      1. Oh, I’m not saying gender isn’t a factor. I just mean that it’s one of many factors – I’m not sure I’d class it as the main one, and I’m confused why people would see it as the only form of imbalance.

  2. I don’t think there’s any such thing as an equal relationship, no matter who the couple is. It doesn’t have to be male/female, rich/poor, educated/uneducated, etc – we’re talking about two human beings who have lived through various and most likely different experiences with family, friends, jobs – at any given time, one is going to be ‘in power’ or ‘have more power’ simply because that situation, those words, that action is more familiar or more comfortable for them, all because of what they’ve experienced in their life. I do think that at some point in a relationship, it will reach an overall balance, but only because they each learn to be comfortable and flexible with the ‘power points’.

  3. Being cynical, I do wonder why the readers who like m/m because of the ‘equality’ in the relationship aren’t also buying vast quantities of f/f. In fact, one could theorise that f/f is even more ‘equal’ than m/m because women are equally downtrodden by the patriachal society.

    On a serious note, I agree that no relationship is equal and that’s what I like to see explored, and exploring in my own writing: how do different couples negotiate the various factors skewing the power balance in their relationship — internal and external?

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