If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women, Part II
Wow. A lot of great comments and other responses to yesterday’s blog post that genderswapped scenes from Heinlein, Asimov, and Anthony.
Some preliminary thoughts:
- My goal was not to say or suggest these three authors were HORRIBLE HUMAN BEINGS and if you ever liked anything they wrote then YOU’RE A HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING TOO! Pretty much everything we love is problematic in at least some respect. (But please don’t take this to mean we should ignore or excuse sexism, etc. either.)
- Yep, I started with older, classic/popular works. It would indeed be interesting to see how more recent and current bestsellers looked when put through the same genderswapping process. I’m hoping to get to that.
- “What is seen cannot be unseen.” I hope so. One of the most powerful aspects of this kind of exercise, in my opinion, is that it helps us to see things we’ve gotten so used to we might not even notice it. Hopefully, that awareness continues beyond the immediate examples.
In a way, yesterday’s exercise grew out of an experience I had writing — and then rewriting — my story “Spell of the Sparrow,” which eventually appeared in Sword & Sorceress XXI. I’d originally drafted the story, a sequel to “Blade of the Bunny,” from the male character’s point of view. Then I saw the call for S&S, and I thought this story might be a good fit. But S&S stories have to be from female characters’ PoVs. So I rewrote it.
It was eye-opening. Sentences and phrases and individual words that had seemed completely neutral suddenly reared up like speed bumps, tripping me up as I read. It highlighted my own gender-based assumptions and threw them back in my face.
That’s a good thing.
I don’t think writing should ignore the realities and complexities of gender. I do think it’s good for us as writers — and as human beings — to be more aware of our own baggage and assumptions.
We’ve all got some. We live in a world that’s far from equal, and we’re immersed in stories and portrayals that perpetuate and normalize those inequalities. That doesn’t make us horrible, awful, evil people. It makes us human. What’s more important, I believe, is what you choose to do with that baggage. Do you double down and attack anyone who dares to suggest you’re anything but perfect? Or do you work to do better?
Here’s a genderswapped excerpt from Libriomancer, where I introduce Lena Greenwood for the first time.
When I saw who was standing there, my body went limp with relief. Lenny Greenwood was the least imposing hero you’d ever see. His appearance supposedly changed over time, but for as long as I’d known him, he’d been a twenty-four year old Indian man. He looked about as intimidating as a teddy bear. A damned sexy teddy bear, but not someone you’d expect to go toe-to-toe with your average monster.
Wisps of loose black hair framed dark eyes, a slender nose, and a cheerful smile, as if he had walked in on a surprise party. He wore a brown bomber jacket with a Snoopy patch on the right sleeve, and carried a pair of three foot long fighting sticks made of unstained oak.
I definitely don’t think that’s on the same level as yesterday’s excerpts, but even so, there are a few bits of description that feel more jarring. For a stronger example, let’s take a look at a bit from a little later in the book.
The sky outside was dark, and the clock said it was just past five in the morning. The red glow of the clock was just enough to make out Lenny sitting on the edge of my bed. I heard Smudge stirring in her tank. At night she slept in a twenty-gallon aquarium, lined with obsidian gravel and soil. A single cricket chirped. That was a mistake. A scurry of feet and a faint spark followed, and that was the end of the cricket.
“Mm.” Lenny studied me in the faint light. “Has anyone ever considered doing a topless librarian calendar?”
I grabbed a flannel bathrobe from the floor and pulled it on. “Hauling books is good exercise.”
“Very.” He stood and stepped toward the door, his fighting sticks in one hand. “I think I need to start spending more time in libraries.”
Okay, that scene just got creepy as hell, reminiscent of Twilight.
Now, it’s true that Lena’s character is problematic in a number of ways. That’s intentional. But the dynamics of this scene feel very different, and much more disturbing than before.
Ultimately, I think this sort of thing can be a really useful exercise for most of us, both to better see the sexism and imbalances in the stories and books we read and the world around us, and to better see it in our own writing. In our own minds and assumptions.
I’ll end this with a quick genderswapped scene from one of this year’s Hugo-nominated books, Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. Again, I think this comes out worlds ahead of yesterday’s examples…but the results are still fascinating and even powerful, at least to me.
I’ll be curious to hear other folks’ thoughts!
[The ISS] was then in earth’s shadow, on the night side of the planet, and so all was dark otherwise, except for white light spilling out from the little quartz window beside Dan’s workstation. This was barely large enough to frame his head. He had straw- colored hair cut short. He had never been especially appearance conscious; back at the minehead his sisters had mocked him to shame whenever he had experimented with clothes or cosmetics. When he’d been described as girlish in a school yearbook he had interpreted it as a sort of warning shot and had gone into a somewhat more manly phase that had run its course during his late teens and early twenties and ended when he had started to worry about being taken seriously in engineering meetings. Being on Izzy meant being on the Internet, doing everything from painstakingly scripted NASA Pr interviews to candid Facebook shots posted by fellow astronauts. He had grown tired of the pouffy floating hair of zero gravity and, after a few weeks of clamping it down with baseball caps, had figured out how to make this shorter cut work for him. The haircut had spawned terabytes of Internet commentary from women, and a few men, who apparently had nothing else to do with their time.
June 23, 2016 @ 11:41 am
That last example was interesting and it made me realize that I don’t think I’ve ever spent page time in any of my books having my characters (regardless of gender) thinking about their physical appearance.
The closest I get it with Ro Maldonado. She has longish blonde hair and she’s often tying it back with wire ties or anything else she can scavenge from her work.
June 23, 2016 @ 11:43 am
Great followup, Jim. I think it’s fascinating when one looks at one’s own writing in this way.
June 23, 2016 @ 11:55 am
Thanks for these, they’ve been very interesting.
June 23, 2016 @ 12:28 pm
I’ve never read Stephenson, but have read books by female astronauts, and it does seem on track with the wringer the media puts them through. Of course, it would be interesting to compare the intros of the other characters, to see if they’re as appearance focused. Or if we find out a much about her past her relationship with her looks (while media attention must be irritating, the reason she’s up there is SCIENCE.
June 23, 2016 @ 12:30 pm
Really interesting thanks for posting!
It seems like Mr. Douglas in the first example should be Mrs.? Mistress? It is interesting in of itself that we have no honorifics for women that don’t have an implication or her marital status.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2016 @ 12:35 pm
That’s from the Heinlein scene from yesterday, yes?
The original scene refers to Mrs. Douglas talking at length about a subject she knew little about, so that got flipped to Mr. Douglas for my version.
June 23, 2016 @ 12:38 pm
Ha, my wife was reading that excerpt and didn’t realise it was an actual thing, not one you made up, and felt that that line was a little too on the nose. Then sighed in exasperation finding out it was in a real book.
June 23, 2016 @ 12:45 pm
This is absolutely fascinating to me! Especially the bit from Seveneves, which I’m partway through reading. I’m excited and scared to focus this lens on my own work. I think you could get some pretty amusing results if you did this with the romance genre, but my mind is twisty like that. I wish I had thought of this before I did my workshop on Writing Strong Female Characters! Keep ’em coming!
June 23, 2016 @ 12:49 pm
This was my experience as well. I thought each PARAGRAPH was its own individual “OMG look at this” joke/example, and didn’t realize it was all one single genderswapped excerpt until I got to the attribution and headdesked.
June 23, 2016 @ 1:04 pm
Ha. My wife thought the pool boy bit was kinda sexy, though probably not something you’d want in non-erotica SF, rather than say Space Raptor Butt Invasion (reminds me, must get to the Hugo package).
June 23, 2016 @ 1:21 pm
I just love this whole conversation. Very thinky as well as entertaining.
June 23, 2016 @ 1:56 pm
If your tolerance for Stephanie Myers is high enough, I really recommend picking up the Twilight/Life and Death double-header. In response to criticism of the way she represents gender in her books, Myers re-wrote Twilight with all the genders swapped (except Bella’s parents because she couldn’t imagine a father with Renee’s character traits being given sole custody). I don’t think that Myers manages to prove what she intended to prove, but I think that it’s admirable that she saw the criticism as worth addressing. And I think it’s fascinating 1) the things that do get changed, and 2) the difference in how it reads.
For example, in the original book, Bella is walking alone at night in “the city” when some dudes start following her. I’m pretty sure that their menace actually starts before they follow her– just the existence of “dudes in a dark street” is enough to conjure a sense of danger, which is confirmed by Edward’s mind-reading, that they intended her harm. In the swapped book, Myers adds an entire extra scene involving Beau possible witnessing a crime, being mistaken for a cop, and someone actually pointing a gun and threatening to shoot.
First off, we have the difference that “danger” can be evoked with just the presence of men near Bella, while to threaten Beau she has to up the violence a LOT. Also the men are given an
June 23, 2016 @ 1:56 pm
Re: Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein
I remember reading this as a kid, when it was new. I don’t remember noticing the gender behaviors. A few years ago I re-read it and I was embarrassed by it, especially the piece you cite and a few where ‘our hero’ and the gals who surround him act way too much like sheik and harem. Times change.
June 23, 2016 @ 1:57 pm
…Also the men are given an explicit motive to threaten Beau, while Myers doesn’t need to give us a motive with Bella. “Men harassing women on the street” is too common to need an explanation.
June 23, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
June 23, 2016 @ 3:06 pm
That “Seveneves” excerpt was very interesting, because yeah – I’m so used to having female characters described in terms of appearance, and having even their internal monologue focus on appearance, and having other characters relate to them with reference to appearance, that seeing it applied to a male is twisty.
If I were an astronaut I’d just shave my head. What a PITA hair would be in that situation.
Re: the Libriomancer swap, it’s amazing how we can put sexual references in as a sort of character shorthand, or to add levity, or to create/defuse other kinds of tension. I frankly thought the original version was a little odd, because “topless” is generally used *only* to refer to females – with men, it’s generally “shirtless”; but more so because I didn’t think that Lena was a person who thought in terms of workplace-inappropriate fundraising calendars. 🙂
June 23, 2016 @ 3:24 pm
People who read M/M romance often express dismay and disappointment when one of the characters is written “like a girl” and they claim they can always tell when a M/M romance author has previously written M/F romance.
The “like a girl” male characters are described as weak, whiny, petulant, childish, dumb, bitchy, naive, helpless, indecisive, materialistic, vain… There is nothing inherently female about any of these traits. Funny how they’re perceived as feminine even when it’s a male character.
June 23, 2016 @ 3:43 pm
I’ve found it usually indicates that the author has come from a background writing yoai, which has a lot of butch/femme tropes.
Left Hand of Darkness is good for this, for the straight dude protag trying to map his gender norms onto a genderless people.
June 23, 2016 @ 3:59 pm
On a somewhat tangential note (please delete if off-topic), Alexandra Erin has issued a de-gendering challenge, of writing stories without any gender identifiers at all. https://www.patreon.com/posts/de-gendering-5742228
I mostly write twitter and very short flash fiction, and in many cases such a story can be genderless, since there’s not much scope for character-painting.
June 23, 2016 @ 4:27 pm
I think I’ll repeat this, since I came in late on the previous thread: Consider the possibilities of Valentina Michelle Smith. I have some notes on this on file, with deliberate gender changes for the characters in Stranger, but the reality is that I don’t think you could tell Heinlein’s story at all, even granting a revival of the cultural context of that novel. For one thing, I suspect that early on someone would have attempted to rape Mickey and ended up disappeared for their troubles. You might end up with a sex-positive feminist messianic novel, something like Charnas Holdfast stories, but with powerful magic, or something even Stranger.
BTW, Graydon Sanders Commonweal series are hard-hitting sword-and-sorcery tales of an egalitarian nation in a fantasy world with really nasty magic. The stories are told entirely in gender-neutral language, and you should read them. 🙂 Available on Google Play, Kobo, and other fine ebook stores near you. (But not Amazon. Graydon writes: “No, I won’t be publishing on Amazon. Amazon’s thing-like-a-contract continues to be deeply alarming, while their payment mechanisms continue troubling.”)
June 23, 2016 @ 4:34 pm
Exactly Lisa – why would you even write like that? I don’t either.
Mason T. Matchak
June 23, 2016 @ 8:35 pm
This is definitely interesting. The first swap from Libriomancer makes Lenny sound like an okay dude, maybe someone you could count on when you’re in trouble. The second one makes him sound like a serious creeper. O_o One of the things I really like about the series is how Lena deals with being how she is because that’s how she was written and the steps she takes to change it, and I can’t help but wonder how that would have worked out if she’d been written as Lenny. I think she would have come off as a hell of a lot less sympathetic. Yeesh.
This topic is also interesting to me because, in the book I’m working on, gender-swapping two of the main characters was what got the whole story to finally work. They kept the everything else the same (save for one character’s sexuality because I couldn’t see a third character as gender-swapped), and it’s been a fascinating process. I do my best to not write gender stereotypes, or any other stereotypes, and it seems like I’m doing that right. Hopefully my eventual readers will think so as well.
D. D. Webb
June 24, 2016 @ 10:27 am
I found some of the comments on the previous post nearly as enlightening as the post itself. For example, it started me thinking about Piers Anthony and realizing (very belatedly) just how creepy his works are. A Spell for Chameleon was one of my favorite books as a teenager; it takes hindsight and the benefit of a lot of education to realize just how awful that book is in many respects.
Another commenter suggested the works of Patrick Rothfuss to gender-swap, which got me thinking. It’s one thing to see this done with older works I haven’t read and don’t particularly care about (as all the examples so far have been), but applied to a series I’ve read and enjoyed, quite recently, the experiment takes on a whole different flavor. If anything, I think a female Kvothe would be an even more interesting character, though her obsession with a shifty bad boy who comes in and out of her life becomes, amusingly, a YA fiction cliche (which also serves to highlight the toxicity of that relationship in its original form). But the Feurian sequence becomes absolutely nightmarish with the characters’ sexes reversed. And that made me realize that it was nightmarish in the first place: it’s a character being, in essence, sexually enslaved under mind-altering magic by a powerful, otherworldly creature. Yet Kvothe never acts as if or seems to think he had been abused, which is explicitly what happened. The readers apparently aren’t meant to think so, either–I didn’t. And I have to say, having done this thought exercise, a lot of that is because he was male and Felurian female.
Someone needs to gender-swap the entirety of the Wheel of Time. I have a feeling that train wreck would be more entertaining than the original.
June 24, 2016 @ 11:36 am
One interesting work to do this on would be Ethan of Athos by Lois Bujold, since it’s a at some level a classic three-sided romance, with the normal heroine and the roguish hero roles gender-swapped.
June 24, 2016 @ 4:52 pm
Smudge remains Smudge, however. 🙂
June 24, 2016 @ 7:26 pm
I think it’s interesting to see what changes and what stays the same in genderswap, and to think about how this reflects actual reality.
Because sometimes genderswap might highlight what is simply bad, or lazy writing, relying on clichees, in the first place.
Other times it highlights how different gender norms actually exist in reality. For example women are judged so much for their appearance in real life, that they are much more aware of it than (most) men, and in different ways that even the men who put a lot into externals. So it makes sense for women’s appearance to be described more, because it’s something the character herself is more likely to be concious of and/or actually be thinking about. Of course it can also be interesting to break with that to see where it takes the writing.
The version of the scene with Lena in the original is a lot less creepy, because men are much less objectified in real life, but genderswapping it (and other stories) can and should highlight, that sexual violence against men is a possibility that does exist and should not be forgotten.
I mean, general standards of human existance have to be agreed upon to make a story legible (which is why I find the: You can accept dragons, but not xyz-people, arguement, silly, because dragons are a well established fantasy concept for that the reader is familiar with, and the version the story uses is usually well explained if it differs from the genre standard, and while the cause is privilege that should definitely be examined and not be cartered to, xyz-people/thing might be something that does actually exist, but that people are not familiar with) the things that the writing examines more closely are what is maked as important and what the writing is telling us something about.
June 24, 2016 @ 7:45 pm
So, basically: Is the writing correctly portraying a sexist world, or is it just relying on (unexamined) sexist clishees that stem from the writer living in a sexist world. (And if it’s the first, is that the story that should be told?)
June 25, 2016 @ 6:04 am
The last scene, to me, didn’t show that the woman was written unfairly, but that women are treated unfairly. Female politicians are graded on their hair and outfits. (When’s the last time anyone noticed who makes Obama’s suits, or how much they cost?) Actresses are judged on their ability to look stunning, even if they are between movies and just popping out to get breakfast with the toddler. Of COURSE an astronaut who happened to be female would be judged on her looks rather than her achievements.
I didn’t particularly like Seveneves, but that part of it was written spot on.
June 25, 2016 @ 7:52 am
So, the gender flip exercise has taken place, the unconscious gender stereotypings in a piece of writing have been identified, what happens next?
I’m not sure that I want all the characters in the books that I read to be gender neutral, if, indeed, that is what authors are trying to achieve with the exercise. I want a variety of strong, capable, well-rounded characters with personalities and quirks. I’m quite happy for some of them to portray gender norms as long as they are valued and allowed to develop within the story. What I don’t want is a thin veneer of ‘correctness’ trying to inadequately conceal a cliched character.
A strong, maternal woman, using her nuturing instincts and skills to save an alien race, may be of more interest than a kick ass female who only really wants to meet a man, be mastered and settle down.
Eleanor C Ray
June 25, 2016 @ 10:09 am
I don’t think the point here is is that authors feel they ought to suddenly start writing gender-neutral characters, it is rather to point out the shorthand approach many people take to writing characters. That often results in looks being mentioned in the thoughts and descriptions of women when it is not for men, and in women being portrayed in obedient, sexy, subservient roles when men are not.
How and where are men portrayed in gender-specific ways that make you uncomfortable, Jim? One thing I have learned about gender issues is that *both* genders get brainwashed into upholding certain expectations that are societally predetermined by their sex.
Men often come out on top (implication entirely intended) of this predetermination, but they must feel at least some unpleasant constraints laid upon them by the same expectations of the dominant paradigm that can oppress women? I am not talking MRA stuff, here, I mean ways in which men get uncomfortably forced into oppressing women despite their best efforts, where their ability to stand up for equality is quashed or belittled.
I am concerned to see men freed from their pedestals as well as women freed from their kitchens. It must get lonely on a pedestal, and one would be liable to fall, just as women go from virgin to whore when they fall off the ones built for them.
Beth Hudson Wheeler
June 25, 2016 @ 11:07 am
I think there’s a lot of room between having everything completely gender neutral and upholding the values of a sexist society. A lot of wonderful books have been written from the perspectives of people challenging their social norms. Not only women challenging patriarchal societies, but older people challenging ageist societies, people of color challenging racist societies, disabled people challenging ableist societies. Of course, one has to be careful not to unintentionally uphold the norms that one is putatively challenging, but the self-perception of the characters as seen in the narrative is something an author can carefully work into their story. In which case, a character considering whether or not her hairdo is appropriate vs. practical may strengthen rather than weaken the main point.
June 25, 2016 @ 11:43 am
June 25, 2016 @ 11:49 am
Not to be ornery, but ‘bitchy’ does have an inherent female bias…
That said, point well taken.
As a person who is, well, stature-challenged, I have also noticed ‘feisty’, for one example, is generally reserved not just for females, but also for ‘petite’ ones.
Jim C. Hines
June 25, 2016 @ 3:02 pm
For me, I’m hoping to become, and to help others become more *aware* of our assumptions about gender, to write deliberately and consciously. Reducing the amount of sexist crap we wade through every day would be pretty awesome too.
Jim C. Hines
June 25, 2016 @ 3:09 pm
Masculinity can be toxic as hell. We could do whole books about the physical and emotional rigidity, the brutal punishment for men who stray too far from the narrowly-defined idea of what a man “should” be, the obsession with power and control and the damage that does to men and the people around them, and so much more.
Getting rid of sexism and creating a more aware and accepting culture when it comes to gender would benefit everyone involved, not just women.
Related thought: I loved some of the things the Lord of the Rings movies did when it came to showing a range of male relationships and emotions and interactions. The movie and books are far from perfect, but things like Sam and Frodo, Legolas and Gimli, those relationships made me happy.
News & Notes – 6/25/16 | The Bookwyrm’s Hoard
June 25, 2016 @ 7:01 pm
[…] We Wrote Men Like We Write Women, Part I and Part 2. In Part 1, fantasy author Jim C. Hines genderswaps scenes from two classic SF novels and kind-of […]
June 25, 2016 @ 7:19 pm
I agree. This whole exercise is quite fascinating, and indeed helpful to understand our own “baggage.” However, the wrong reaction is to rush to equalize everything. There are actual differences (cultural, interpersonal, and biological) between men and woman, and we do a disservice to reality if we pretend they do not exist for the sake of political correctness. I think the better reaction is to study where these differences exist and evaluate them case-by-case without assuming each to be a mark of poor taste or unintentional sexism. Some will indeed fail that test, and others will not.
A gender-swapped example | S. K. Dunstall
June 25, 2016 @ 11:18 pm
[…] been reading if We Wrote Men Like We Write Women and If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women Part II over at Jim C. Hines’ […]
June 27, 2016 @ 5:04 am
When I was a kid I used to do this to SF books in my head so I could read about female protagonists. I still think my gender-swapped “The Demolished Man” is better than the original.
Pixel Scroll 6/26/16 You Oughtta Be In Pixels | File 770
June 27, 2016 @ 4:47 pm
[…] with gender-swapping sf/f clichés in “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part I)” and “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part II)”. The posts, says Rose Embolism, “take a look at the gendered, and quite frankly creepy way women […]
June 30, 2016 @ 9:28 am
Lenny, as introduced, sounds simply refreshingly distinct from the average male love interest in a paranormal romance, who is usually tall, white, and muscular. There aren’t nearly enough slight sexy South Asian men running around the genre, IMO.
Reading those excerpts as a man who has delved into the romance genre (and some of the related subgenres) from time to time, none of those excerpts gave me a visceral reaction. It doesn’t seem so strange to me to see men written about in a sexualized fashion, because I’m used to seeing it.
There were a few jarring bits that stuck out (the extremely rare word “brunet,” the use of “pleasantly plump” instead of, say, muscular, and “worry about being taken seriously in engineering meetings,” which is a very atypical worry for a man going through a “manly” phase in a near-modern setting) and some of the lines will be taken to mean something different about the character (“topless calendar” from a woman to a man is taken very differently than vice versa).
It’s not unusual for me to find similar small jarring bits in the portrayal of men in romance novels – such as a man using the word “top” to refer to his shirt – and sometimes, you have male characters in the genre who simply don’t make any sense if you try to take their perspective…
July 10, 2016 @ 8:38 pm
Even before I started my gender transition I found “dudes in a dark street” to be pretty terrifying.
Now that I’m increasingly not male, it’s becoming more terrifying. Life is scary sometimes.
July 16, 2016 @ 12:30 am
Belated question: Do y’all know about the “Regender” tool? In case not: http://regender.com/
(Sorry if someone already mentioned this in comments–I did a quick search for it, but haven’t yet read all of the comments on these two entries.)
Jim C. Hines
July 17, 2016 @ 1:17 pm
Hadn’t heard of that before, Jed. Thanks!
There’s never a shortage of material when I write about sexism. | Fraser Sherman's Blog
July 28, 2016 @ 3:49 am
[…] Hines looks at how we’d write about men if we wrote about them like […]
August 5, 2016 @ 1:08 am
So the video for J Lo’s song “I Luh Ya Papi” is explicitly a genderswap of a lot of rap video tropes. (She wakes up in a mansion surrounded by half naked men, there’s sensual car washing, a garden of shirtless dudes just standing around, and a scene where she pours champagne over a man in a tight swimsuit while on a yacht.) I personally found it fun, but it was interesting to see how deeply uncomfortable it made a lot of my male friends. That and your post really make me think about how appearance focused depictions of women are really so normalized we don’t even really notice them. And I enjoy romance novels too, so descriptions of male beauty aren’t really jarring to me, but I think in the case of the excerpts you pulled from, it’s more about the imbalance between how men and women are described than anything else.
For comparison, the J Lo video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4oiEhf9M04&ab_channel=JenniferLopezVEVO) and here’s a similar-ish French Montana video I dug up to show how the J Lo vid is meant to be tongue in cheek but it’s not even really over the top in comparion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVd3–VlHNU&ab_channel=FrenchMontanaVEVO)
August 23, 2016 @ 1:04 pm
Not life. Patriarchy. Life doesn’t have to be this way.
August 23, 2016 @ 1:39 pm
To me, the Felurian scene more read like a fratboy’s wet dream come true. Maybe I remember wrong, but I am rather sure a genderswapped version of this would not come off as “Wow, rapey male, terrible!” to a male reader, but more like “Ewww, all those descriptions of male anatomy make me feel gay”.
I mean, of course there’s some added nightmare fuel, because men raping women to death is very different from men dying from exhaustion after just not wanting to stop fucking, and unwanted pregnancy by a supernatural being is a problem that’s just not there with a male protagonist.
But I think a sex-swapped Felurian scene would be very similar to Twilight and more explicite “Rape, but not really rape because she likes it” supernatural romances. Especially because the former victims of Felurian aren’t much dwelt on, and Kvothe isn’t mind-controlled at all, because he is just that awesome.
I also don’t think that the girl Kvothe has a crush on is the equivalent of a bad boy. She’s a prostitute. I have not heard of many YA fictions where the male love interest is a callboy.