Praxis

Writing the pregnant man

Mary Ingram-Waters

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States

[0.1] Abstract—This article explores how an online community of female fans of Harry Potter creates and maintains scientific and medical knowledge of a novel reproductive technology, male pregnancy. In an effort to illuminate the mechanisms of fandom, I show how fandom participants collectively work to ensure the maintenance of standards for fan products and in doing so also selectively reinforce particular tropes about how male pregnancy is portrayed. Fans' validation of some male pregnancy variations over others results in a fascinating yet recognizable set of fictional reproductive technologies that both queer and accommodate normative gender and sexuality roles.

[0.2] Keywords—Fandom; Male pregnancy; Masculinity; Online community; Sexuality

Ingram-Waters, Mary. 2015. "Writing the Pregnant Man." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0651.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Only in the realm of fiction is pregnancy possible for human cisgender men. This statement is not meant to diminish either the status of fiction as an important cultural arena for meaning making (Haraway 1989; Ingram-Waters 2006, 2009; Penley 1997; Squier 1994, 2004) or the thought experiment of male pregnancy as a novum (Steinmuller 2003) through which one can explore meaning-making processes. Rather, this initial statement serves as a marker for the transgressive potential of male pregnancy fiction, or mpreg, as it is commonly known in the context of fan works. As a fan fiction genre, mpreg occupies a relatively small yet highly visible and sometimes stigmatized, position (Ingram-Waters 2010). The goal of this article is to consider mpreg as a thought experiment about gender, sexuality, and the male body, as well as to demonstrate the mechanisms by which a small fandom community negotiates this thought experiment.

[1.2] As an initial way into this discussion, I ask what is and is not male pregnancy by looking at the most visible case of male pregnancy in modern history, that of Thomas Beatie (Halberstam 2010; Shapiro 2010). Though I started this essay with a declarative statement that male pregnancy is impossible, that is not true unless we insist on the word cisgender. Men have given birth and continue to give birth to babies. I define men here to include people who identify or are identified by others as men but who also have the reproductive organs necessary to carry a fetus to term. In other words, the term men indicates gender and not sex. In this sense, which follows contemporary gender theory, men, or people who identify and can be identified by others as masculine to the point of passing as men, can have babies. For example, Thomas Beatie often identifies himself as a man and not necessarily as a transgender man. In Landau's study, Beatie, even while pregnant, passed as a man (Landau 2012). Transmen have babies, as do butch women, as do cisgender women, and as do persons who identify or are identified as genderqueer. Men who have the reproductive organs necessary to gestate a fetus do not necessarily identify as transmen. Transmen may or may not identify themselves and may or may not be identified by others as trans. Though transmen and queer-identified people who have use of their female reproductive organs have successfully carried babies to term, prior to Thomas Beatie's first pregnancy in 2007 the reality of male pregnancy was rendered invisible. Though Beatie publicly insisted on his masculinity as well as his ability to be pregnant, public reactions to Beatie as a pregnant man largely reflected transphobic discourses that reduced him to his former gender identity (Ingram-Waters, forthcoming; Shapiro 2010). Thus, for many, once Beatie was pregnant, he was "exposed" as illegitimately male, and therefore his pregnancy was not genuinely problematic; it did not queer the gendered boundaries of pregnancy (Cruz 2011; Ingram-Waters, forthcoming). That is not to say that Beatie was not criticized for his choices. While many people congratulated him, many others used the opportunity to sensationalize his pregnancy, along with his sexuality and identity, as deviant (Halberstam 2010).

[1.3] To identify the discursive claims associated with gender, sexuality, and bodies that shape male pregnancy conceptually, we could look beyond Beatie's pregnancy to a small number of cultural artifacts that feature male pregnancy: works of science fiction, the 1994 comedy film Junior, and a genre of fan fiction known as mpreg and the online communities that produce it (Cruz 2011; Ingram-Waters 2010, forthcoming; Landau 2012; Shapiro 2010; Velasco 2006). In each of these cultural arenas, we can map a range of competing discourses of male pregnancy. But we can look at mpreg as a space in which to not only diagram the meanings of male pregnancy but also elucidate the meaning-making processes.

[1.4] Though mpreg fan fiction is much older than the Internet (Bacon-Smith 1992; Penley 1997), Internet-based fan fiction communities organized around the genre of mpreg emerged contemporaneously with, though not as a result of, Beatie's pregnancy and the public reactions to it. While I am not arguing that the two phenomena are related, I do think that mpreg communities have a highly sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of male pregnancy that queers both pregnancy and masculinity in ways that are predictive of but also more far-reaching than the discursive possibilities of Beatie's male pregnancy. Whereas the broader culture often concluded that Beatie was not really male and thus not really a pregnant male, mpreg fan fiction communities seem to offer a relatively unified position on the acceptable interplay of gender, sexuality, and bodies during male pregnancy. In other words, reactions to Beatie's pregnancy demonstrate the breaches of values arising from male pregnancy (Cruz 2011; Halberstam 2010; Ingram-Waters, forthcoming; Landau 2012; Shapiro 2010), while the mpreg fan fiction community studied in this article shows the cohesion of values around mpreg.

[1.5] With this article, I argue that online mpreg fan fiction communities consciously and actively negotiate the concept of male pregnancy in ways that reveal the precise intersection of cultural values of gender, sexuality, and bodies. Furthermore, I argue that the structure of fan communities, particularly during the highly interactive blogging phase of fandom (when it was centered on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth), lends itself to making the network of constructive interactions visible in ways that demonstrate how these negotiations play out. To ground this argument, I will discuss three areas of research: feminist studies of science fiction, fan fiction studies, and studies of mpreg.

2. Science fiction and fan fiction

[2.1] Feminist science studies scholars have long argued that science fiction and science fiction–like engagements with science and technologies can allow for transgressive and nonnormative readings of gender and sexuality (Haraway 1989; Ingram-Waters 2006; Penley 1997; Squier 1994, 2004). Squier (2004) refers to this movement between science and science fiction as liminality. In similar conceptual moves, Kies (2011) and Tosenberger (2008) suggest that some fan fiction tropes, especially those featuring nonnormative relationships such as threesomes and incest, reflect fans' queer readings of source material.

[2.2] For Constance Penley, women's fan fiction for popular science fiction properties, such as Star Trek (1966—69), is a space to critique and reshape the gendered politics of mainstream science fiction and science (1997). Though her remarks about mpreg fan fiction are brief, Penley states that it is "the most extreme retooling of the male body" and that, as a genre, it is largely rejected by most female fans precisely because it too extreme (1997, 131). Though fan fiction is not often thought of as science fiction, it is useful to follow Penley's work and thus situate mpreg fics as science fiction for this analysis. For Steinmuller (2003), the hallmark of science fiction is the "what if?" question that surrounds the novum, a particular science or technology. The genre of mpreg is organized around the novum of male pregnancy. Mpreg fics ask, "What if the male characters got pregnant?" Thus, mpreg fan fiction communities offer an opportunity to see liminality in practice.

[2.3] Fan fiction studies, an interdisciplinary subfield of fan studies, has primarily been concerned with investigating fans' creative works, the processes by which fans create, and the communities that support fans' creativity. Building on Henry Jenkins's influential 1992 book, Textual Poachers, fan fiction studies scholars interpret fans' creative activities as the collective behavior of groups of fans who reclaim the meanings of source texts. Generally, fans participate at a range of levels in fandoms. Different fans might write fan fiction, meta, or reviews, create art or vids, provide editorial and technical support for other fans' projects, engage in both on- and off-topic dialogues with other fans, or curate, circulate, or promote other fans' works (Bacon-Smith 1992; Harrington and Bielby 1995; Busse and Hellekson 2006; Jenkins 1992). All of these activities are robustly visible in online environments (Baym 2000; Bury 2005; Busse and Hellekson 2006; Hills 2002; Jenkins 2006). As fans participate in these activities, they reaffirm the network that ties them together in fandom communities (Hellekson 2009; Scott 2009). Within large umbrella-like fandom communities exist smaller, often overlapping, communities that are organized around genres or character pairings (Busse and Hellekson 2006). These communities can continue for years or only a short while, like challenges or holiday exchanges. For example, on LiveJournal, "HP_mpreg" is a Harry Potter–based fan community devoted to slash pairings of male characters in which one character is pregnant. It has been active since 2003, though activity has been relatively slow since 2011. At present, its membership is about 600, while other communities with broader interests, such as "HP_fanfiction," boast four and a half times as many members.

[2.4] While there is a robust scholarship on fan fiction, including slash, there are only a handful of works devoted to mpreg fan fiction and the communities that produce it. As mentioned earlier, Penley sees mpreg as so extreme in its deviance that it is rejected by most fandom participants (1997, 131). I have similarly argued that mpreg authors are keenly aware of the stigma that their genre carries and therefore take measures to write mpreg convincingly and "accurately" to establish or reaffirm their legitimacy within their genre communities (Ingram-Waters 2010). Stein's 2006 analysis of one Internet-based mpreg role-playing game (RPG) demonstrates how technological interfaces can influence storytelling practices and also shows that mpreg, a fantastical and highly unrealistic phenomenon, can be serialized and combined with domestic and even mundane events to create a compelling and relatable story. (The authors of the RPG she studied are among my informants here.) In her 2010 study of a sample of mpreg Supernatural (2005–) fics, Åström finds that authors' inclusion of unconventional reproductive technologies, such as mpreg, does not fully challenge hegemonic discourse on gender, sexuality, and the body. Thus, when the brothers Sam and Dean are portrayed as lovers or as childbearing fathers, they are often shown behaving in ways that are stereotypically associated with heterosexual relationships and female pregnancy. She concludes that mpreg has more in common with traditional romance genres and their concomitant heterosexual gender scripts than with transgressive science fiction genres. Following Åström, Hunting's (2012) analysis of Queer as Folk (2000–2005) fan works, which includes a section on the ways in which mpreg is constructed, demonstrates how what seems like a transgressive trope actually works as a normative agent in the stories, subverting the queer politics of the source text, especially in relation to monogamy and the inevitability of marriage and family. Thus, while a male couple becoming pregnant, or even adopting a child together, is, on the surface, quite progressive, it is not progressive at all in comparison to the politics of the show Queer as Folk. In the show, participants in progressive same-sex relationships practiced nonmonogamy and eschewed such heteronormative outcomes as marriage and family. With this work, I hope to contribute further research to this contested genre and its constitutive communities.

[2.5] In the last 10 years, online fandom has changed form several times. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, online fandom spaces could be found and studied on interactive message boards, newsgroups, and fan Web sites, and in e-mail chains (Baym 2000; Bury 2005; Costello and Moore 2007; Hills 2002; Jenkins 2006; Pugh 2005). By about 2005, online fandom had moved to networked blogging sites such as LiveJournal and Dreamwidth (Busse and Hellekson 2006). While fandom communities are still active on both message boards and blogging sites, they are now common on curatorial sites like Tumblr and Pinterest (Jenkins, Ford, and Green 2013; Thomas 2013; Turk and Johnson 2012). Though community interactions are not as robustly visible on curatorial sites as they are in the more interactive spaces, online fandom communities also leave their legacies in archives, from small fandom-specific Web sites to massive multifandom ones like FanFiction.net and the Archive of Our Own. Rebecca Black has described these archives as more "affinity spaces" than communities, arguing that technical aspects of the space itself structure the ways that participants can interact (2008). Further, both Hills (2002) and Pearson (2010) remind us that technological platforms, while largely invisible, strongly influence the ways that fandom communities manifest. Thus, mpreg communities on LiveJournal and Tumblr look very different from each other and from the mpreg affinity spaces that are defined largely through tags at archives such as the Archive of Our Own.

[2.6] Fan fiction is the product of a dynamic and collaborative process, and Pugh (2005) calls it a genre in and of itself. Individual fan creators interact with source texts, fandom conventions, other fans, and social norms and values, some of which could be described as global movements of culture (Lashley 2012; Turk and Johnson 2012). While much work on fan fiction looks at how fan works relate to source texts, fan fiction is increasingly often seen as a site for other kinds of cultural analyses (Black 2008; Turk and Johnson 2012). Thus, by understanding how one fandom community negotiates mpreg, we stand to learn a lot about gender, sexuality, and male bodies, as well as the range of cultural responses to publicized pregnant men, such as Thomas Beatie. It is as part of this trend that I situate this research. Online mpreg communities and affinity spaces structure interactions among fans in ways that define the boundaries of male pregnancy, especially with regard to gender, sexuality, and bodies. Not only do fans' interactions with each other shape the genre of mpreg, much as any other fan fiction genre is shaped (Baym 2000; Bury 2005; Pugh 2005), but these interactions also queer the liminal discursive possibilities of the novum of male pregnancy. Following the work of Foucault (1982) and Barthes (2002), we might consider fan fiction as a genre, mpreg fan fiction as a genre, and the concept of mpreg as a genre. Fan fiction, mpreg fan fiction, and mpreg are thus the discursive products of a sustained, slowly changing series of interactions among fans and of the larger cultural values in which those interactions are embedded.

3. Methods

[3.1] In looking at male pregnancy through the genre of mpreg fan fiction, I have used mixed qualitative methods to measure a community whose performative base of operations is LiveJournal. By mixed qualitative methods, I mean that I used interviews with mpreg authors and content analysis of their fics to generate data about mpreg. I identified a relatively contained mpreg fandom community on LiveJournal and interviewed 13 active members of it. If the interviewees referenced particular mpreg works they had written, then I included those works in my analysis. My research protocols were vetted and approved by a public university's human subjects review board. While these qualitative methods will not yield a statistically significant analysis of the genre or of fandom participants, they do produce data that showcase meaning-making processes and the meanings that are made within this community. As my goal is to discuss how fans' interactions define both male pregnancy as a genre and the genre's parameters, using qualitative methods is highly appropriate.

[3.2] I began this study by identifying mpreg communities in Harry Potter fandom on LiveJournal, which I did by searching the site for "Harry Potter" and "male pregnancy." (I was already familiar with the Harry Potter texts.) I selected the HP_mpreg community because it was active; participants were posting to the community, and commenting on posts, nearly every day. In a quick perusal of the posts and comments, I identified CJ as an mpreg BNF, or big-name fan (Busse and Hellekson 2006), because of the frequency and substantive nature of her posts and the comments that those posts generated. CJ's personal LiveJournal, subtitled "a mecca for male preg," became my point of entry into the subcommunity of Harry/Draco mpreg. Using CJ's active blog, which had many subscribers, I identified dozens of mpreg authors, artists, and fans. It was from that pool that, through an open call, I recruited the 13 mpreg authors whom I interviewed, either in person at Lumos, a Harry Potter fan convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2006, or online shortly after the conference. Both online and in person, I presented myself as an acafan, an academic who studies fandom while simultaneously identifying as a fan (Ingram-Waters 2010).

[3.3] All 13 interviewees identified as cisgender women. There were 10 Americans, one German, and one Canadian. Twelve identified as white and one identified as Southeast Asian. Four identified as queer, while the others said they were heterosexual. Their ages ranged from 21 to early 40s. All of them said that they had been active in multiple fandoms for more than 1 year. All interviewees are referred to with pseudonyms. Where I have used their online pseudonyms and the titles of their works, I have their explicit permission to do so. I have assigned pseudonyms to those interviewees who did not want me to use their online pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.

4. Discussion

[4.1] All 13 interviewees identified themselves as authors, readers, and reviewers of mpreg fan fiction. All of them had authored Harry/Draco mpreg, and three of them had written slash mpreg for other Harry Potter characters as well as characters from other fandoms, including Lord of the Rings and real person slash (RPS). To organize the interview data, I have developed categories that follow from the ways in which most interviewees discussed mpreg. Most interviewees indicated that they and other fans expect "accurate" portrayals of gender, sexuality, and bodies, especially those of pregnant male characters. These three overlapping categories showed up in their discussions of conception, gestation, birth, and sexual relations, and generally manifested in their interactions with their betas (editors of fan works), reviews, comments from readers, and general discussions with other community members. Thus, after a brief discussion of the source text for this particular mpreg community, I will discuss how interviewees perceive their community to work, and how their expectations of mpreg showcase the intersection of gender, sexuality, and the male body.

[4.2] J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, the source text for this mpreg fandom community, is set in a magical universe. There are no instances of male pregnancy in any of her books, but the interviewees find it easy to adapt Rowling's universe to include the possibility. One interviewee, Amy, a BNF in Harry Potter fandom as a whole, not just the mpreg community, said that "mpreg in a magical universe is just preg." For Snottygrrl, "male preg in Harry Potter makes a lot of sense—there's more logic to it, to me, because you have magic…There'd be more work to do if you were going to do it in a normal setting." Similarly, Elle, who reads mpreg in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Lord of the Rings RPS fandom, agreed that mpreg is most easily explained in Harry Potter. In RPS, authors have to be "significantly more inventive" to write good mpreg. For instance, she described how the author of a Lord of the Rings RPS mpreg story has to create magic: Orlando Bloom innocently buys an old necklace from a "wizened crone," unaware that the necklace carries the "power of fertility." Once he wears the necklace, he can get pregnant through a sexual act with another man.

[4.3] These fans consider male pregnancy in a magical universe feasible and therefore much easier to create than in a nonmagical one. As we shall see, though, even in magical universes men are pregnant only under certain circumstances. Those male characters are cisgender, meaning that they identify as and are seen as having a normative masculine gender identity that also matches their physical sex. None of them are transgender or genderqueer; they are male, think of themselves as male, and are perceived to be male. As we take a closer look at fans' interactions with male pregnancy, this cisgender nature of mpreg becomes more clearly bounded.

[4.4] The interviewees spoke of their mpreg community as being created through a set of ties, all of which were formed online. They did not know each other prior to their fandom interactions, and they do not live near each other. In an illustration of Black's (2008) concept of online fandom platforms as affinity spaces, their interactions began online as they discovered their mutual interest in mpreg. Their shared appreciation for mpreg was only one part of what tied the community together, though. Interviewees also spoke of each other as allies in a fandom world that abhorred mpreg on general principle. Ociwen, author of Things That Change (which all of the other 12 interviewees called an mpreg classic), said, "If word gets out that you write mpreg, my god, the looks or comments you get!" Interviewees sought to distinguish their mpreg from badfic or plebfic by imposing particular norms on it. Wook said, "I think there are some very influential people with mpreg. And their opinions carry a lot of weight in fandom…And I know I should be, like, no one person should have that kind of power, but at the same time, they do. Since I agree, I like the 'no ass babies' thing…It seems like everybody seems to try to respect the boundaries and respect the characters." Thus the interviewees saw the mpreg community as a place to love mpreg together in safety while also protecting what they mutually agreed was good mpreg.

[4.5] Well aware of the stigma associated with writing mpreg, Ociwen said, "People automatically assume that all mpreg is badfic, so therefore if you write it, you are a bad author and cannot write anything worth reading." Thus, when she wrote Things That Change, Ociwen posted it under a new pseudonym and only at one mpreg-friendly fandom site, even though she was already a BNF with a well-regarded repertoire of fan fiction. CJ read Things That Change and immediately reviewed it and recommended it on her blog, effectively bringing Ociwen into the mpreg community. In the process, Ociwen's identity as a BNF was revealed, which then prompted those who knew her nonmpreg fan fiction to try Things That Change. CJ was pleased by this: "It always makes me happy if a well-written mpreg gets lots of reviews and recs because the genre is so misunderstood and underestimated."

[4.6] When talking about writing her first mpreg story, CJ juxtaposed her hesitancy to write in a stigmatized genre against the support of the mpreg community. Like many fan fiction authors, CJ wrote her story as a serial, and readers, including recognizable members of the mpreg community studied here, commented on each chapter both publicly and privately. CJ said, "It's really important to me that that people say here, oh, this is fantastic and I love it…It definitely helped to get many encouraging reviews because I'd been hesitant to even write the story due to the bad reputation that mpreg has." Because she wrote that mpreg story and reviewed others, including Ociwen's Things That Change, CJ's blog was mentioned by all 13 interviewees as a primary site of their mpreg community. Akahannah, author of Genesis (2005), which was labeled an "mpreg classic" by five of the other twelve interviewees, said, "Everyone I knew in fandom mocked mpreg. But I began to comment at CJ's LJ and I got into the community there."

[4.7] The interviewees mentioned that they often read and then reviewed or recommended each other's mpreg stories, and they defined good mpreg in terms of shared expectations. When asked directly about their shared expectations, nearly every interviewee talked about comments, reviews, and online interactions with other mpreg community members while writing their own fan fiction or discussing the works of others. However, only one could give a specific example: a time when her beta tried to convince her to leave out a breast-feeding scene. Akahannah described the community's expectations thus: "My writing of mpreg has changed a bit. It's more mainstream, more of what people expect…It keeps people happy." Snottygrrl said, "When I think about doing mpreg, I do think about the readers, because there are many people who don't read it." Ociwen said that she was inspired by another author's mpreg story but that her own story Things That Change had "many elements" that "were…corrections to what" the other author had devised.

[4.8] For all of the interviewees, good mpreg begins with an understanding of the relationship between sex, conception, and bodies. Unless the fic takes place in a universe that already has established male pregnancy, mpreg authors face the dilemma of explaining how it is possible. CJ said, "As for conception, I've seen a number of explanations—spells, potions, general ability to carry children, or no explanation at all." In a story in her fic series, Precipice, she explains conception in the following way:

[4.9] "How?" Remus' eyes darted back and forth between Harry and Draco.

[4.10] "I walked in on Granger's group experimenting with restorative spells, and got hit by a stray one…Clearly, the side effects hadn't been too well-researched." Draco's words were laced with sarcasm. (CJ, In Those Days)

[4.11] Thus, Draco acquires the potential to become pregnant by magical accident. CJ implies that, once the potential exists, Draco gets pregnant in an act of anal intercourse.

[4.12] Like CJ, Amy told me that she has seen conception made possible by a range of different technologies, including accidents, spells, and potions, and in a variety of circumstances, such as by prophesies and as a result of rape. "I fear I am very boring," she said, because in her fics she usually invokes a "simple spell or potion" to explain conception. Unlike CJ's, Amy's potions and spells give male characters functioning female reproductive organs. But, like CJ, she uses anal intercourse to catalyze pregnancy.

[4.13] In Ociwen's novel-length fic, Things That Change, Draco takes a potion that gives him some female reproductive organs. Unlike most of the mpreg authors I interviewed, Ociwen writes about the resulting physiological changes in great detail. Although every interviewee named Things That Change as an mpreg classic, several gave caveats in addition to their praise. Akahannah said she is "comfortable with Draco's hermaphroditic condition" because it is so well explained. But Tara, who plays Harry in a long-running Harry/Draco mpreg RPG, responded to Akahannah's comment with, "I could have done without the menstruation." They both strongly agreed that Ociwen's conception technologies and her conceptualizations of gestation and birthing were very well developed. But Psychobarfly, who plays Draco in the RPG, disagreed with them, saying, "People say they want more detail but I say, look at this fic, it's too much." Later, when I asked Ociwen about her mpreg technologies, she said, "I think that if an author wants to do a half-decent job with an mpreg fic, she needs to think about these things and decide just what biological bits the 'mother' would have—ie, Would they be hermaphroditic or not? How would a magical spell alter their body, etc?" Thus, for these interviewees, pregnancy is a possible result of sexual intercourse for the male characters because of the ways their bodies have been altered.

[4.14] To decide which character in a slash relationship should become pregnant, these interviewees predominantly follow the heterosexual model of pregnancy: the person who receives sperm during an act of sexual intercourse is the one who will carry the pregnancy. Ociwen stated, "The uke/bottom always carries the child." All interviewees echoed her assessment. CJ explained this further:

[4.15] Another thing I've noticed is that a lot of people who have preferences for who tops and who bottoms in the relationship also have preferences as to who carries the children, and I feel that carries an implicit comment on gender roles, as the bottom is often imagined to be the more feminine partner and thus should carry the children.

[4.16] However, if both characters bottom at different times, who might get pregnant is less clear. In Tara and Psychobarfly's RPG, both Harry and Draco bottom; however, only Draco is at risk of getting pregnant, because only he possesses female reproductive organs. Thus, when either male may bottom, the one who gets pregnant may do so for any number of reasons.

[4.17] Despite being fully aware of readers' expectations that the character who bottoms should carry the pregnancy, both Tara and Psychobarfly push what they see as the boundaries of gender and sexuality for male pregnancy:

[4.18] Psychobarfly: In our RPG, Draco is all about being as manly as he can be, given that he's going through this girly thing.

[4.19] Tara: Harry bottoms more when Draco is pregnant. Draco is more dominant when he's pregnant.

[4.20] Psychobarfly: That might be because of all those extra hormones. He's always up for it!

[4.21] They have accommodated the local knowledge that dictates that a male who bottoms should then carry a pregnancy, but they have resisted the gender norms that dictate that the pregnant man should be somewhat feminized by their somewhat transgressive decision to portray Draco as a sexual aggressor. Thus, Draco is feminine because he can be pregnant but even more masculine than usual because he tops.

[4.22] The process of gestation features less prominently in fics than the acts of conception or birth. It is often described concurrently with the development of the relationship between the parents to be. Thus authors tend to spend little time articulating specific details. CJ explained, "As for the pregnancy, it's no different than a female pregnancy would be." What she meant is that authors will often describe gestation in terms similar to what one might expect if reading about a pregnant female body, offering details such as swollen ankles, chronic heartburn, and overwhelming exhaustion. Jada described gestation in more physiological terms: "For the pregnancy itself, the carrying partner will either have female anatomy courtesy of spells/potions, or will be magically carrying the child in the peritoneal cavity."

[4.23] Both Tara and Psychobarfly said that they are careful not to let the overall story become too boring, especially during the long process of gestation in their RPG. They use a number of tactics to do so, some of which take advantage of the novelty of male pregnancy. Psychobarfly described how her Draco character experienced a difficult, and thus highly interesting, pregnancy with his first child. Similarly, CJ recalled an mpreg fic, Under Fingertips, "that really goes into the difficulty of having a male body undergo pregnancy, something it wasn't built for." These kinds of stories reflect the dangers that might be inherent in such complicated and unusual pregnancies. For these interviewees, gestation requires a pregnant male body to go through a recognizably female-bodied process. However, even under the duress of a pregnancy, these cisgender male characters remain masculine.

[4.24] Even a small and random sample of mpreg fics quickly reveals the preponderance among them of delivery by cesarean section. Jada explained, "For the birth, the most used is the cesarean section, although you see some fics where the sub partner has grown female anatomy solely for the purpose of birthing the child." Amy spoke of "pseudo-uteri," and in Tara and Psychobarfly's RPG, Draco takes a potion that gives him what CJ called a "manly uterus." Despite this, however, the RPG Draco gives birth through cesarean section. In Genesis, Akahannah describes a surgical birth, although she does not use the term "cesarean section." Though both CJ and Wook said that they have read cesarean section births most often, they have also seen other birthing technologies used, including "apparation," a form of magical travel in the Harry Potter universe; the baby is essentially teleported out of the father's body.

[4.25] Although they have repeatedly used cesarean sections in their RPG, both Tara and Psychobarfly recognize its limits. Psychobarfly said, "Cesareans do seem a little foreign for the [magical] world." But Tara countered, "Too much is unknown about the medical world in the Harry Potter universe. We don't know if Molly gave birth, if it was normal." Amy said that the prevalence of cesarean sections signals a line that authors cannot cross "without stretching their own credibility." For her, authors' choices of mpreg technology demonstrate their commitment to a particular imagined world. Akahannah's explanation for using a surgical means of delivery reflects her personal tastes: "I find the idea of a pregnant male growing a vagina and then delivering a baby to be more traumatizing than a c-section."

[4.26] One birthing technique that readers are highly unlikely to run across is anal delivery of what is notoriously called an "ass baby." CJ said she has never read a story involving "the famous ass baby" and argued, "It can't be as prevalent as people think because I've read a lot." Amy said that any author trying to take herself and her writing seriously would not use anal delivery because "the rectum is inherently funny—it wouldn't work for mpreg that wants to be anything other than crack fic" (i.e., a deliberate farce). Only two interviewees, Wook and WG, had read an ass-baby fic. Wook called the one she read a "train wreck," while WG remembered only that "it seriously put me off."

[4.27] Birth is a clear line of demarcation for masculinity and bodies. For the interviewees, male characters can conceive and gestate a fetus within their bodies in ways that do not compromise their masculinity. But if those characters birthed their babies through anything resembling a vagina, their masculinity would be threatened in a way that most of the fans I interviewed dislike.

[4.28] When asked about how gender roles might change during a male's experience of pregnancy, nearly every interviewee responded that balancing masculinity and femininity during male pregnancy was a crucial part of getting mpreg "right." Jada began her answer, "In a lot of ways, mpreg stories force the partners more into traditional het roles by causing one of the males to assume motherly traits." She sees countering such "traditional het roles" as one of the challenges of writing mpreg. Ociwen was even more adamant:

[4.29] This is one of my personal biggest beefs about the mpreg genre. Usually the bottom/uke is the male in the relationship who carries the baby and takes on, essentially, the role of the mother. Often writers seem to "feminize" this character and take away his masculinity because, I suppose, they can only see the relationship working if there is a man/father figure, or top, and a female/mother figure, or bottom. That defeats the whole purpose of mpreg, in my opinion, because the whole idea is a male being pregnant, not a feminized male, but a real, boyish/manly guy. I think that's one of the parts I enjoyed best about writing mpreg, trying to imagine what it might be like if a male were to be pregnant, how he would feel, mentally and physically, how he would look, etc. I can't imagine that most normal men would be very comfortable with being pregnant and I ran with that concept [in Things That Change].

[4.30] Ociwen "ran with that concept" in an unusual way; she is one of the very few authors who include breast-feeding in their mpreg fics. Breast-feeding and pregnancy-enlarged breasts are almost taboo in mpreg, and most of the interviewees rejected them. Snottygrrl expounded on this:

[4.31] Breastfeeding? No, no. For some reason, my brain just can't leap that far. I have no desire to turn the male characters into females. It's a squick [i.e., a turn-off] for most people. And it's a trend in mpreg—no breastfeeding. They [male characters] don't have functional mammary glands. I don't want them to be there. I don't want to see them.

[4.32] Snottygrrl also talked about a time that she beta'd for CJ. CJ had written an mpreg fic in which Draco, having given birth, breastfed his baby. Snottygrrl said that she implored CJ to reconsider breast-feeding because it was such "a squick." Ultimately, CJ did not heed Snottygrrl's suggestion.

[4.33] For these interviewees, mpreg mirrors real-life pregnancy. For instance, conception happens within the body of the recipient of sperm during an act of sexual intercourse. Authors differ widely in their methods of making male bodies able to carry a pregnancy, but the actual conception remains similar to a normal one. Gestations of male and female pregnancies are also fairly similar. If there are problems in a pregnancy, spells and potions take the place of medical interventions to preserve the fetus. Birthing is both similar and different. Cesarean section is relatively common among actual women (about 25 percent of all births in the United States are by cesarean section), but it is still more common among fictional pregnant men, who overwhelmingly deliver their babies in this way. Less common birthing technologies include the acquisition of a birth canal and nonphysical means such as apparation. Vaginal delivery and breast-feeding are transgressive, and few interviewees choose them. Taken as whole, mpreg as a genre has specific rules about the intersection of pregnancy, masculinity, and sexuality: the pregnancy must be plausible, and it must not compromise the character's masculinity or cisgender male status.

5. Conclusion: Queering masculinity and pregnancy

[5.1] Åström's (2010) primary conclusion about the mpreg fics that she studied is that while they are transgressive in conceptualizing male bodies as pregnant, they are not transgressive in their underlying themes of the embodiment of gender and sexuality. For Åström, pregnant men are still men. Her finding is tied to her claim that the pregnancy itself is not the focus of the fics; rather, it is the relationships engendered by the pregnancy that confirm the range of possibility for masculinities. Hunting's (2012) analysis of mpreg echoes this conclusion but adds that tropes like mpreg reflect heterosexual relationship norms that diminish the transgressive politics of queer-friendly source texts, such as Queer as Folk. My findings here resonate with those of both Åström and Hunting. Interviewees, as representatives of their mpreg community, demand cisgender masculinity from their male characters, even when those characters are pregnant. This demand may seem like a refusal of queerness; but consider how their version of mpreg redefines cisgender masculinity. This community queers both pregnancy and masculinity because their boundaries have been stretched, broken, and realigned. Thus, my findings also resonate with Landau's (2012) study of cisgender women's experiences of pictures of a pregnant Thomas Beatie. Landau finds that women generally saw Beatie as a pregnant man in ways that both reaffirmed traditional masculinity and transgressed it so that it now included pregnancy. As I indicated in my introduction, one of the ways in which Beatie's pregnancy was rendered illegitimately male was by emphasizing his transgender identity (Cruz 2011; Halberstam 2010; Ingram-Waters, forthcoming; Shapiro 2010). Beatie wanted to be known as a pregnant man, not a pregnant transman. The mpreg fans I studied consider mpreg legitimate when it is convincingly tied to cisgender male bodies and traditional displays of masculinity. While the mpreg community's insistence on cisgender masculinity may not seem queer enough or even queer at all, a closer look at their redefinition of cisgender masculinity shows that it includes bodies that are technologically altered in ways that can be recognized as transgendered. The community's boundaries around the concept of male pregnancy could include Beatie's pregnancy, but at the price of erasing his transgender identity and recognizing his technologically changed body as masculine. Notably, this is how Beatie presented himself: as a pregnant man.

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