Okay, so for the most part Sexualized Saturdays has been pretty tame. We have mostly talked about sexuality and the portrayal of relationships, with a couple notable exceptions, but now I am about to take you deep into the world of fanfiction and fetishes. Be warned, adult content ahead.
Let’s talk about one theme that shows up a lot in fanfiction: male pregnancy.
Male pregnancy is probably one of the most well-known themes in fanfiction after slash fanfiction; this makes sense as the two have often gone hand in hand. Male pregnancy, or mpreg as it’s called in fanfiction, is when two male characters have intercourse and produce a child.
Now for those of you that don’t read fanfiction, and know basic biology, you are probably wondering how the authors manage this. Well… magic, “advanced science,” alien/human or supernatural creature/human relationships where normal biology doesn’t apply. There are numerous ways, and fanfiction authors have thought of them all.
Now, despite me talking about fetishes or kinks at the beginning of this post, I would hesitate to say that mpreg fanfiction is a kink or fetish, at least not all the time. This is because usually mpreg is not employed to seemingly fulfill any sexual fantasies, but rather it is an attempt to show two characters in a more domestic setting. If in a fanfic Batman and Superman have a baby together, the authors have the opportunity to explore pretty much all the same things they would if it was Batgirl and Superman (or something). Does the baby have powers? How do they raise it? What are Batman and Superman like as fathers? What would they do if the bad guys kidnapped their baby? In some sense mpreg does what shows like Modern Family do. They attempt to show how a seemingly nontraditional family is actually pretty normal, though fanfiction (and scifi/fantasy fiction in general) has the added quirky elements to make things interesting, like for example: “my dads are superheroes.”
Now this raises an interesting point, why don’t fanfic authors have gay characters adopt children? It has been done. There are many adoption fics out there. Some of the best right now have been collectively titled, “Super Family.” “Super Family” is when Iron Man and Captain America are in a relationship and adopt a baby Spider-Man after his parents die and raise him together. People love these fics. It has adorable baby Spider-Man, the Avengers as aunts and uncles, all alongside an action-packed storyline involving Skrulls.
So if there are adoption fics, why would writers write mpreg? Well, for some reason mpreg fics make a big deal about biology. The writers tend to stress the fact that this child will have the traits of both characters. A baby with the wisdom of Batman and the strength of Superman, or something along those lines, that can sometimes play into the main story arc. For example: this child will be super powerful and go on to be some sort of chosen one.
Now before anyone gets all bent out of shape about these storylines, let me just say mainstream books, comics, television, and other forms of media do the same thing with straight couples. If Superman and Wonder Woman had a baby, many of these same storylines would come up. In Fantastic Four some of these storylines do come up after the Invisible Woman gives birth to Franklin Richards, her son with Mr. Fantastic. Franklin is this chosen one baby who literally has the powers of a god. Yeah, he’s kind of a badass.
Now, just because mpreg follows a lot of the same patterns as when straight characters have children doesn’t mean that it’s always the same. There are several issues that need to be addressed.
First, there is fetishism that happens in many mpreg stories. Now again, this isn’t all that much weirder than porn that shows pregnant women having sex, but that doesn’t make either of them okay. Both fetishize pregnancy, which can be rather demeaning, and mpreg has even fetishized conception. When doing research for this article I stumbled across a couple fics where characters were yelling things like, “breed me,” and “yeah baby, I’m going to fill you up with my kids” during sex. Yeah, I don’t think any real couples talk this way, but then I’m not trying to have a baby. I tend to think this comes off as usually some sort of power and submission play going on between the two characters, by showing one partner as being dominate or controlling of the other because they can impregnate them. That’s pretty terrifying and comes very close to sounding (if not actually being) abusive, which brings me to my next issue with mpreg.
Secondly, we have sexism. Now I know you are wondering how can it be sexist if it’s two men? It can be because the two male characters tend to fill extreme gender roles. I say extreme, because while a female character like Lisa, in Supernatural is more submissive and passive, she doesn’t just obey Dean’s every order. She argues with Dean, questions his motives, and tells him when he’s crossed the line. She still fulfills many typical gender roles as the wife and mother, but she isn’t completely submissive to Dean’s will. Often times in mpreg fics, the character that gets pregnant is deemed the more “womanly” one, usually because they aren’t physically as strong as the partner, who is deemed the “masculine” one. And these gender roles play out in many terrifying scenarios with the more “masculine” partner forcing his will on the more “feminine” partner, or involves sex scenes that are dubious consent at best. Now, not all mpreg fanfic are like this and I would actually say that as popularity for mpreg fanfics grew, these scenarios play out less often, but they still happen quite a bit. And for many women who have lived through those types of relationships or even women who know the history of how women have been treated, these fics can be pretty frightening and triggering.
That being said, these fics do usually warn for these types of things, but I have been surprised by how often many of them came up. I was further surprised and dismayed by how some authors tried to play these rather violent and sexist relationships off as something romantic and loving.
Thirdly, there is the biological issue. Usually the main reason that people say they don’t like mpreg is because the fics tend to describe, in detail, the pregnancy and the birth that these male characters go through—the birth especially. Sometimes, you have the males giving birth by having the baby cut out of their stomach, sometimes they magically grow a fully functioning womb and vagina, but most often they give birth through their anus. This is usually the reason people don’t like mpreg, because it grosses them out. Now, I’m not going to say something is wrong just because it seems gross to me, but I am going to ask this question. Can we qualify mpreg fanfics as part of the mystical pregnancy trope?
For those of you who don’t know, mystical pregnancy is when a female character is forcibly impregnated by aliens, or magic, or even conceived naturally, but the baby will be some evil monster from hell or something. Basically, it usually makes pregnancy seem scary and gross, the pregnancy is often forced or done for some nefarious purpose, and the pregnant character is reduced to their biological functions.
Does mpreg do this?
Well, there are many storylines where the male characters decide to have a child together and the child isn’t some evil demon spawn. Even the male pregnancy has, on occasion, been explained well. How, you ask? By making the pregnancy entirely different. This entails a supernatural creature or alien whose biology works completely differently from that of humans so that the reader views it not as some bastardization of human pregnancy, but as something entirely alien and different from a human form of pregnancy. That being said, these fics are rare. I have maybe read two where this was done. Often times, mpreg is done forcefully or is a surprise pregnancy. The actual pregnancy is portrayed in a way that is scary and unnatural (which is pretty much always with mpreg), and though this is usually not the case, there are many fics where the child is evil.
And of course there is one thing all mpreg fics have in common—the male characters are reduced to their biological functions. A biological function that in reality isn’t even theirs. They are magically or “scientifically” changed to be able to give birth and then the entire focus of the fic is on the fact that they are pregnant. Most mpreg fics make the entire focus of the fic on the pregnancy and rarely have any outside plot, putting the entire focus on this pregnancy and baby.
Furthermore, these fics often take away the male character’s very identity as a man, not just because he gets pregnant, but usually everything about the character is feminized in the most stereotypical and sexist way possible.
These fanfics can’t even be seen as a clever critique of the mystical pregnancy trope or as simply a way to explore a world were everything is reversed and it’s men who get pregnant. There has been speculative fiction that has attempted that, but these fanfics usually don’t do that.
Mpreg fics always happen with gay male characters, never straight characters, and lesbians characters are never shown as being able to get pregnant without a man. I guess you need a penis, but not a womb to make babies.
Basically, I feel that in many ways mpreg fics act exactly like the mystical pregnancy trope. The two male characters don’t even act like a gay couple, because one character is almost always regulated to the “female” position, essentially turning gay relationships into pseudo-straight ones.
I understand wanting to explore a gay couple having children and how that is normal and good, but mpreg fics are in no way helping that. If you want to read about a couple with babies, read the numerous baby fanfics where gay characters adopt, and stop this vicious biological terrorism that is affecting not just female characters anymore, but male characters as well.
It’s not helping anyone.