When we first started Writer’s in Training, we were amused at how the majority of us were writing main characters of the opposite gender. Having a coed writing group has really been helpful for making sure that we are staying in line with the gender of our main characters.
A couple weeks ago, we read one member’s story that involved a couple of toileting scenes from a male perspective. I had read some things on male bathroom etiquette before on the Internet, such as descriptions with diagrams of which was the appropriate urinal to take if one was already occupied. There were many details in his scene as well as the discussion, however, which I never would have thought about as a woman. Both of the women in the group felt enlightened.
Recently, it came up again in a couple of ways. First was women’s concerns about some attitudes of a highly moral male main character that were highly offensive when it came to his beliefs about sexual consent. It was not something the author was aware of, and he hadn’t meant to write the character as being supportive of rape culture. There are some things women notice about sex scenes, and it can be as tiny word choices as saying a woman has “excuses” for not having sex instead of having “reasons.” There are many subtle things (and not-so-subtle things!) regarding male sense of entitlement towards sex that women have to deal with on a regular basis and that men aren’t always aware of.
We have had a discussion about what sex feels like from a female perspective. We also had Jon correcting me on the physical sensations of having facial hair because I’d gotten it wrong in my writing. I think it helps a lot to have members of the writer’s group who can be open to talking about anything, and be blunt when needed.
Gender has come up quite a lot in our group, and even as we have members come and go, we try to maintain some kind of balance between genders and have mostly succeeded. I like to think all our writing has benefited greatly because of it.