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.
Love this article. I adore the rise of fanfiction and fandom – it gives passive consumers a way of being less passive & a sense of ownership that is both creatively and emotionally valuable. But yes, the amount of scary tropes in FF that go unchallenged are worrisome at best and… I don’t even want to think about what they are at worst. I really like how you included sexism in your argument. Too many people simply flat out refuse to accept that a story about male characters and relationships can have an effect on women too, especially in fandom-centric places like Tumblr.
I agree! I love fanfiction, I really do, which is why I care enough to critique fanfic tropes that are really troubling, because I don’t want the fanfic community to support things that are harmful to people.
Sexism is definitely in fanfic and other forms of media that doesn’t include women. Even in regular slash fanfiction, which I love, I have come across too many stories where the female characters from the fandom are demeaned and made into “bitches.” Slash fanfic authors also have the same problem that the main stream media has in that it is largely written by straight people so the relationships don’t reflect the reality of gay couples, which leads to stereotypical heterosexual gender roles being forced on to the characters, like I mentioned in this article.
I’m glad you liked the article! It was a headache to write and research so I’m glad it’s appreciated.
I really loved it. Thanks for writing it, I can’t wait to read some more in future!
This is going to be a quick comment. Firstly to this paragraph:
“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.”
Homestuck offers two notable and often replicated exceptions to this rule (and it is a rule). Firstly we have Dave/Terezi fics (Terezi is an alien with undefined biology in canon) wherein Dave is often made pregnant by Terezi. This is often not played “straight” and is usually used as an ironic joke. I’ve not seen the type of extreme feminization and masculinzation you mentioned in the article in these fics, I’d say probably because Homestuck characters are so well-defined that doing so would seem forced. Not my favorite type of fic, and like I said its usually not played “straight”, and when it is, its almost always used as more of a romance thing than something focusing on the biological aspects of the pregnancy (Partially because, Aliens !!! and also partially because transformation of one’s body is a major theme of Homestuck anyway). So I think it overcomes atleast some of your normal objections. (Fetishization of the body probably being the biggest concern)
Rose/Kanaya (RoseMary) pregnancy fics exist for similar reasons. These tend to be more graphic, are almost always played straight, and probably would be criticized by you for the reasons you listed above. I mention only because the fandom has given the world some lesbian pregnancy fics. (The over masculinzation and feminization is not a problem in rose/kanaya fics, atleast not the ones that are well written and in the majority, these are just lovely ladies)
So my question to you is this. Can a Male Pregnancy fic be made that is okay by your standards? Reading the article I saw more criticism at specific iterations of the fic type (and I mean most fics follow discernible patterns for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could like create a really interesting meta-analysis out of them), then just the fic type itself. So would a male preg fic that stays close to its characters, focuses on them as people, and be more than “single issue” work? Is it possible?
I lied, this is not a short comment.
First, I should say that I know nothing about Homestuck. I want to get into Homestuck, but I have no idea how to go about doing that. I especially want to be apart of the Homestuck fandom, because almost every time I talk about theme in fandom its seems like Homestuck is the one that breaks those trends. So I’m incredibly interested, but have no idea where to start with Homestuck.
I’m so glad that you pointed out fics in the Homestuck fandom that don’t follow these tropes. It gives me hope.
I think it is very possible that there could be a male pregnancy fic that I would like. I found at least two, that don’t do everything right, but for the most part are really good. I think authors need to stop following into the usual tropes I mentioned above and start being more creative. I think there are probably a couple different things authors could do that could potentially make male pregnancy interesting and complex, but as of right now most fics aren’t doing that.
The Homestuck fandom is this varied beast where it creates some of the best things I’ve ever experienced and also contains some of the meanest people I wish I didn’t know. Its also the only fandom I know with a “days since last fandom accident” page. Also the only fandom I know that is as open to social justice issues as it is (a lot of the “meanest people” comment concerns those who take it way too far).
As for starting on Homestuck. If you want to go spoiler free, I’d recommend reading the comic, and searching any concepts you don’t know in the wiki. If you stick away from searching characters you should be fine. The companion comic to Homestuck is Sweet Bro & Hella Jeff. But I’d recommend not reading that until its introduced in the comic. Not especially helpful advice I know. But its hard to give a primer when you’re talking about a 6000+ page comic.
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Or, you know, we could all just read and write what we like and worry about our own business 🙂
PREACH IT! Even though i like yaoi and mpreg and sht, i jist hate it when they COMPLETELY change the character and I’m just like…. Wtf… Cant a story be good and not sexist?? I probably read 3 good heart loving ones from Naruto, Bleach, and Justice League(one of each) fanfiction. But i really enjoyed this blog though!
I completely agree with everything you wrote. I’m in the process of writing an mpreg story without these these noxious themes you’ve described, and explores an alternate world of gender roles.
I’m genuinely intrigued and amazed.
How is taking a trait – that is conventionally only available to those born with a womb – and near worshipping it, somehow abusive, sexist and degrading towards women? It’s highly possible I missed your point about that somewhere though, possibly inside the entire “I guess you need a penis not a womb to make babies” redundancy where you completely ignore how the addition of a womb through magic or science is paramount to actual MPREG.
Besides that, I feel as if you also cleverly avoid the themes wherein one of the parties is a transgender female, and I guess that’s because it doesn’t fit with your perceived views of this fetish/kink. Same goes with bigender; it simply doesn’t fit well with your view that this is just another way for men to oppress, so you avoid it altogether, which is tasteless and a tad transphobic. And so, the complete disregard of bi- and pansexuality is equally disappointing, yet sadly not surprising. Just because a fanfic doesn’t scream “HE’S PAN” in bold arial doesn’t mean it isn’t strongly implied.
I’m terribly sorry that you want to deny the wish to feel with another man what one could otherwise only feel with another woman, aka the joint, consensual joy of conception.
But if those are your narrow views, then so be it; it’s just that attempting to kinkshame from said viewpoint isn’t something I’d recommend.
It’s actually not that uncommon for gay sex to include references to breeding, carry my babies, etc. And in that context, impregnation definitely has a dom/sub flavor. Some people find that really exciting. The focus is generally on ejaculation inside and having an effect on some one kinda like a colonization, rather than an actual baby or birth fantasy.
I actually rather like mpreg, but I
tend to be picky, but I also have written a creature fix (actually am), sometimes someone will be weaker I tag S&M theme, or BDSM then, so someone like yourself can avoid it.
Other times it is a wanted thing, or nature for the creature. I like fics with trans* characters myself, and find this a way for mpreg to be a good theme, though rarely done (part of dysporia can be lack of ability to get pregnant with MtF).
Or a horrible accident with a FtM, this would not be everyones cup of tea.
I like other themes, sometimes though that you hate because in some cases women do go through that. In the case of one I am reading now, https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11171612/24/Ressentiment. Not everyone is going to like it, but I do.