Male pregnancy—"mpreg," for short—is an internet subculture that's growing bigger, no pun intended, every day. Reviled as "disturbing" by many and explored more fully by few, mpreg enthusiasts have remained mostly silent about who they are and what they're about. Until now.

If you're not familiar with mpreg, the conceit is fairly simple: It's an online fantasy world of images and stories exploring male pregnancy. And it's all about men getting impregnated by other men, sometimes by other species and, sometimes—if one is very lucky and also has done something very good in his lifetime—by Harry Styles, or the cast of Teen Wolf, or Dr. Who and Benedict Cumberbatch at the same time. While mpreg itself is not explicitly sexual (and may not be sexual at all for some), descriptions of sex comprise a major part of the art and writing that comes from the mpreg community. And for yet others, the interest lies not in sex but in the process of pregnancy and the act of giving birth.

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The last time Jezebel covered mpreg was in connection to knotting, a subset of fiction and images devoted to males having passionate (and sometimes very violent) sex like canines, often resulting in the impregnation of the submissive male. I wrote that post, in the wake of Dash Con, in a slack-jawed, nonplussed sort of way. I wanted to return to this topic because, while it's easy to write off fiction about Harry Styles anally giving birth as twisted and perverse, to those in mpreg's growing community, the idea is something special and beautiful.

And after corresponding with Lyric, the administrator of Mpreg Central (the internet's largest mpreg community), it's hard to say exactly why mpreg should be considered disgusting or offensive aside from the fact that babies often come out the butt. (Or the penis. That's quite popular, too). And it's even harder to call the people who are into it gross, or disturbing, or even "off."

Lyric is 24 years old and currently pursuing a degree in creative writing. He's got several dogs that he loves and is obsessed with Orphan Black. He also happens to moderate a community of over 5,500 mpreg enthusiasts and to create mpreg art—digitally manipulating photos of men to make it appear that they are visibly with child. He agreed to communicate with me in order to give mpreg more of a "legitimate spotlight" and, in the best case scenario, to give the subculture (it would be wrong to view mpreg as only sexual) some attention that isn't overwhelmingly negative.

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Lyric, like many who are members of the mpreg community, doesn't speak about his interests outside of the internet. In an email about why he chooses to keep his interest secret, Lyric wrote this:

A big part of what keeps me from sharing my interests with everyone else is the [discomfort] I believe it would create. A lot of people reading this and discovering for the first time that 'mpreg' is actually thing might be really weirded out right now—or, then again, maybe not. I feel like it's a gamble sharing it with people because I only know the response on the internet has been largely negative.

The response that Lyric mentions can be largely seen in two posts written on BuzzFeed. While the posts themselves are cheery and informative (if, like mine, a little bemused), the response of the commenters is overwhelmingly one of reproach and condemnation, with a few requests to burn the entire internet to the ground and explode the whole world. With that kind of reaction (maybe you need to go outside and breathe for a couple of minutes after imagining a baby coming out of a penis, but I certainly don't think we need to bring about the end of humanity because some people are into that sort of thing), it's no wonder that members of the mpreg community are reticent to share outside of their own group, nor is it a surprise that I had to knock on many virtual doors before Lyric agreed to this interview.

Lyric and I communicated via email for several days last week. He was enthusiastic to discuss the ins and outs of the mpreg community and share some of his art, which can be seen below and also on his Tumblr (which is not safe for work).

If you had to explain what mpreg is to someone unfamiliar to the subculture, how would you do it? (For instance, a grandmother who has never heard of it.)

Mpreg is like a culture within a culture. Have you ever thought about what it would be like if men could get pregnant, same as women? Well, there is a culture of people out there who are drawn to that idea, men and women who, on some level, wish men could really become pregnant just like women. Some women like the idea of having their man carry and birth their kids, while some gay men wish they could have kids together with their own bodies. That's all it really is—a desire for something different. *waits for Grandma to hit me upside the head with her shoe*

Mpreg is really having a moment in the media now [in the wake of DashCon]. BuzzFeed recently did a piece on it and I'm noticing that more and more people are discussing it. Why do you think that is and how do you feel about it?

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BuzzFeed has recently done two pieces on mpreg, one last year (2013) and another this year, each by the writer Katie Notopoulos. You can go to either of those articles and see widely negative discussions about mpreg in the comment section. Most people have never heard of it, and most everyone will think it's weird. It is weird. It's unnatural. Men can't have babies—that's something only women can do! But our community is full of likeminded people who wish otherwise.

I am a huge follower of BuzzFeed. I appreciate their zeal for consumer culture and was completely surprised to wake up one morning to find an article featuring art from our community with little Mpreg Central hyperlinks beneath them. I couldn't believe it. I'm proud that we were recognized, even if the article was written in a "look at this weird subculture" kind of way. There are many people out there who don't realize their attraction to mpreg until they witness it. You can't love what you don't know. Most of the comments in those articles are something like "Oh, I'm in the weird part of the internet again!" but to others it may have been a beacon that helped them discover something new about themselves. Anyone out there who is curious is welcome amongst us. There is no judgment here.

Do you think the fact that there's more interest in mpreg is lessening or increasing stigma associated with the mpreg community?

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It's increasing it, no doubt, but not dramatically. It's a give and take situation. There's a positive correlation between the increasing stigma and our increasing members. The more people learn about us, the more the stigma increases—people who are like "WTF?" But at the same time, our membership has never been higher, which means there's a growing interest.

One of the reasons mpreg seems to be getting so much attention (outside of DashCon) is the fact that more and more fiction is being written about celebrities, especially One Direction. How do you feel about this? Do many members of the community subscribe to a particular fandom or are there some fiction purists who insist on creating their own characters? Is there a rule about this?

There is no rule about it on our forums. Members can write or draw whatever fandoms they like, although I'd say original fiction is our most common genre. We take pride in the originality of our users who come up with awesome worlds and scenarios featuring characters they pull out of their heads. Sometimes you'll see fandom themes pop up in the gallery or archive, but for the most part, the creative minds behind Mpreg Central are homegrown producers of originality, baby!

When did you become interested in mpreg and what drew you to it?

It's hard to credit what drew me to it. I suppose that mpreg started for me very young, perhaps eight or nine, when I had fascination for stomachs and bellybuttons. I can't explain it—I loved the aesthetics of the abdomen. It was soon thereafter that I was drawn to the mystery of pregnancy. Tiny humans inside of a person? As a child, that was such a cool and strange concept. There was an episode of Ren and Stimpy where one of them disappears into their bellybutton. It was ridiculous, but somehow it struck an interest.

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Do you discuss mpreg with others in your life outside of the community, or is it private?

I've only discussed mpreg with one friend I met online who happened to live close to me. He understood the appeal but it wasn't his thing. I won't tell anyone in my immediate circle of friends. It's my thing, my niche, and I'm cool with that. I don't feel the need to share it with anyone else. That's what Mpreg Central is for—so that I can share this bond with people whom I know are comfortable with the concept.

What are the demographics like? Are more males or females active in the community?

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I can't say with certainty what Mpreg Central's demographics are like. I don't have the tools available to me to check into it. From the forums, however, I can say that there's a fair share of active men and women interested in the culture. Most of my team that helps me run the website are women.

It seems that the mpreg community engages with each other mostly online. How common is it for people to meet and discuss their interest in the real world?

To be honest, I'm not sure. I think a few of our members have met up in real life, but I'm not privy to all of that. I think it would be awesome if more members decided to band together outside of the website.

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Do you think it would be preferable for people to be more open about the subculture and their interest in it outside of the community? Why?

That's up to the individual. I'm not open about it for my own reasons, but maybe other community members are. That's great for them that they feel comfortable enough to share their interest in mpreg with others. In a perfect world, male pregnancy would be possible and it would be a thing of normalcy that men and women would be able to share anecdotes about. But for now, the stigma is real—as with anything that ventures beyond what society deems "normal."

On the FAQ page of your site, you mention that mpreg is not explicitly sexual and that some don't view it as a fetish but as a subculture. How do you see this play out, especially considering that much of the fiction one finds on mpreg is both sexual and explicit?

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There is certainly a divide there. I ran a poll on what kind of fiction the community prefers to read and 57% preferred fiction including or featuring sex while 43% preferred sex to be secondary or there to be no sex at all. For me, my interest in mpreg lies in both the subculture and fetish aspects. But Mpregry to be everything for everyone. We even have a section for those of us who are interested in female pregnancy as well.

What is the biggest misconception about mpreg?

This answer may differ between mpreg-lovers, but for me, the biggest misconception is that mpreg is "disturbing." It's weird, yeah, but disturbing? No. Women get to have a life experience that men do not: they can carry a child within them that they will eventually birth. They get to bond with their unborn child and form attachments far earlier than men do with their children. Jealousy is not the emotion here; it's envy. Pregnancy is pure magic to me, and I envy women who get the chance to bond so intimately with their unborn children while men like me are sidelined.

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There's an interesting juxtaposition here. Women can say, "Look what I can do!" While men can say, "Look what I DON'T have to do!" But we have women in our community who like the idea of giving the role of 'carrier' over to men, as exemplified in some of our discussions and fictional prose. And on the other spectrum we have men who are all on board with the idea.

It's not disturbing to want to experience a different side of life.

Some may view mpreg as an expression of male privilege, that fantasizing about taking on a role that is only afforded to women is an extension of the privilege that men already enjoy in society. What do you think about this?

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It's an interesting point. Most cultures are male dominant, where men are expected by society to be providers and women are expected to be nurturers. We're seeing more and more how these roles are swapping, giving rise to stay-at-home dads who are married to women providers. Sociology and culture work under the surface so that often we don't realize that the viewpoints and opinions we've formed are actually products of our environment.

So is mpreg an expression of male privilege? I can't say for certain. The women in our community who want men to become pregnant might argue something different. I like to think that there's an element of desired equality underneath mpreg interest—for a sharing of the pregnancy experience between genders that has nothing to do with male privilege.

What do you think about women who don't want to be pregnant or give up their chance to carry a child, considering that so many men would be interested and are unable?

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You could even take men out of the question. It's the same as the many women who would be interested and are unable to become pregnant, and watch as youths squander early pregnancies. Like them, we men never had the chance.

If given the chance, would you be interested in becoming pregnant or impregnating someone outside of the realm of fiction? Do you think other community members would?

Yes and yes. I would gladly become pregnant if I could and many members would as well. We call it being a "carrier" or a "seeder." Some people only want to be one or the other, while others want to be both.

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How much of the appeal of mpreg is about the actual birth? Does the interest go past birth?

There is a huge portion of the community interested in birth. It is, after all, one of the draws and inevitabilities of pregnancy, and part of the experience that men are barred from. The focal point of most of the authors who contribute fiction to Mpreg Central is the pregnancy itself. Not a lot of stories go past the birth.

Do you see more interest in the birth and delivery aspect or the process of being pregnant? Are both the positive and negative aspects of birth as revered? Morning sickness and back pain, for instance?

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Some of our writers focus solely on the birth while others only gloss over it. Some people love it, some people hate it—much like mpreg itself. The positive and negative aspects of pregnancy are usually always included, and many of our artists are sure to include them in their pieces. Pregnancy is made up of so many emotions, symptoms, and milestones. These are part of the visceral experience pregnancy offers, and our members love talking/drawing/writing about it. You'll find many of Mpreg Central's creative minds including these important details in their work.

In terms of delivery methods, I've noticed that the two most popular are c-section and through the anal canal? Is this controversial? Is there agreement on the two? How does the biology differ? Is biology a concern?

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There's also a third delivery method: through the penis. Ouch. Everyone who likes mpreg has some preference about birth. Some want scientific explanations about how a man can become pregnant in the first place and just how exactly they give birth. Others, like myself, don't really care about the science behind it and suspend our disbelief for the enjoyment of the genre. Some people take biology into consideration but others give up the technicalities over to 'magic' or alternative universes where men could always get pregnant. I typically choose the latter. I like to imagine what kind of world that would be where men and women have always been able to become pregnant and give birth. Would things be different? Equal? Would patriarchies continue to dominate the world? I dunno about biology, but damn that's interesting thought.

How is abortion handled in the mpreg universe? Is it something that is discussed?

Abortion is not commonly talked about in the mpreg-verse—at least not on our forums. I think we are so caught up with the magic of male pregnancy that we don't really want to think about abortion.

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What do you think are some barriers to having mpreg recognized as a legitimate subculture as opposed to an oddity by the mainstream?

It could happen. Advances in science in medicine are leaping forward. We've seen precursors of what this would be like with Thomas Beatie, a trans man who made world news as the first "pregnant man." Though not born a man, Thomas endured the ridicule (and support) of people who reacted to the idea of a living, breathing pregnant man. There were death threats and religious upheavals about it. Discussions sparked opinions all across the world. Some barriers include the religious zealots with their pitchforks and stones, the macho dudes who literally are offended (scared?) by the thought. There's also women who might feel protective of their ability to birth children, feeling that it was always a woman's job—not a man's.

YouTube comedian Callux did a couple of videos where he dressed up as a pregnant man and went out into the public. Some of the reactions were hilarious, but some of them were far less friendly. One guy even cursed him out.

What I gathered from it? The world isn't ready.

When science gets there, the rest of the world will be late to the party. It'll take time. I'm hoping one day mpreg will be just a normal thing much like pregnancy is today. At that point, Mpreg Central will be a commerce of real pregnant men sharing their stories with each other instead of dreamers like me who can only imagine what that's like. That'll be a happy day for me. I hope it's in my lifetime.

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Is there anything you would say to someone who is interested in Mpreg but afraid to explore that part of themselves?

You really have to do what you're comfortable with. Even I'm not entirely comfortable with this interest, but I work my way around it and find a middle ground because I love it so much. I enjoy mpreg in private and I'm cool with that. Others may be more open about it and that's fantastic. It's not the end of the world if you like mpreg, and there are niches out there that are far weirder.

Lyric will try his best to stop by the comments to answer any questions you may have.

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Image by Tara Jacoby, Photo from Shutterstock. mpreg diagram via lovleyday. mpreg photoshops via Lyric