The fetishisation of MLM (men loving men) has long been an issue – particularly in fandoms – and there has been a lot of discourse around this and the inappropriate sexualisation of teenagers in the YA and bookish community recently. This is a huge topic, and way more than we could ever cover in one post, but it’s something that must continue to be discussed. Content warning: fetishisation, hypersexualisation, homophobia.
The issue has been discussed more in the last few days because Youtuber and author, Hannah Witton, uploaded a video named Books That Make Me Horny. This title is pretty standard content for her as she makes videos and writes books about relationships, sex positivity, and sex education. However, many books on the list were YA novels, in particular, coming of age YA novels depicting relationships between teenage boys. There are so many more issues with the video (such as sexualisation of abuse) and Hannah’s response however that’s a much bigger topic than we can discuss now. Her response is not an apology by any means. It was completely defensive, not reflective or apologetic of her behaviour.
It’s disappointing to say the least – I’ve been a fan of Hannah for a few years and have always appreciated her sex education videos and the fact that she seemed to value inclusivity and uplifted others to discuss issues and experiences she herself does not have personal experience of. This video and her response are way out of line with what she has put out before which I want to be clear is not me excusing her – I’m just bringing this up as this video is disappointing, upsetting, and deeply offensive.
The discourse around this topic and the video is obviously the sexualisation of minors. Hannah herself didn’t understand the issue with this, which is a whole other level of disappointment and ignorance, but it has brought some discussion forward of sexualisation of YA novels and teenagers. It is fine for YA novels to depict sexual relationships – it’s a very real part of life and growing up for many teenagers. What is not fine, is then fetishising this and reading it in the same way people read erotic adult fiction.
For a woman in her late 20s to be reading these books and being turned on by interactions between two 16 year olds is not okay – her video also completely delegitimises everything else in the books and boils down the whole story to being about sex. If you’ve read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, you’ll know that these are hardly books about sex. Men have spoken out about feeling uncomfortable about the way she discussed and described the books. Her response did not acknowledge the feelings of queer men, or anyone in the queer community for that matter.
Hannah commented on the sexualisation of gay relationships, and even made a distasteful joke in the video about needing more ‘lesbians in the pile of books’. As people in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially women in the LGBTQ+ community, we are personally aware that the sexualisation of WLW relationships is a big struggle for many. There are countless people, including ourselves, that have been at the end of assault (verbally or physically) due to the hypersexualisation and fetishisation of queer relationships. The LGBTQ+ community is not there to feed a straight fetish.
Most importantly, queer people and relationships are not here for anybody to fetishise. It sounds basic and obvious, but we are real people with real feelings. Our relationships are not there to be hypersexualised by others – especially not teenage relationships. Some have said that the books she discussed are fictional characters so it’s harmless but it is far from harmless. Fetishisation from straight people is something many in the LGBTQ+ community face often and it’s no less harmful when someone speaks about queer fictional characters that way.
2 thoughts on “The Issue of Fetishising Queer Characters in YA”
Thank you for discussing important issues. Great post.
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As someone who has been in fandom since before I was a teenager and was able to start thinking about my gender due to writing mlm fanfiction I’ve definitely seen a lot of the fetisization on that side and as I get older it definitely creeps me out a lot. I don’t get why adults are now talking about teenage characters that way. Like…why. This is why it can be hard to talk about sex realistically in YA fiction as you get creeps trying to make things that should be normal dirty =/.
But thank you for writing this post. Someone definitely had to.
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