Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Do Women Read So Much M/M Erotica?

For those who haven't been following my publishing history too closely, I started publishing romance and erotica as a way to build up my resume and to make more contacts in the industry. While I was stroking the Red Press I worked with companies like Storm Moon Press, which specializes in non-maistream erotica. That can mean everything from homosexual couples and bi-sexual love triangles to aliens and orgies (seriously, if you want something they probably have it. Also check out Big Damn Heroines for my story "Terror on Saturn VI"). It's a weird world for someone who hadn't written for those niches before, but the longer I was part of that community the more I noticed something.

Male on male erotica wasn't being written for men. It was being written for women.

What kind of sense does that even make?
Thanks for the easy assist stock-photo guy whose sexuality I am not speculating on. It didn't make sense to me, but I figured as an author I should attempt to understand this odd quirk of audience. What I found is interesting, and it shines a light on topics most of us don't think about when we sit down to put a little extra steam in our books.

It Really Is All Men's Fault

The first person I asked about this was someone who was gay, male, and enjoyed books. His response was simple, and more than a little obvious once I thought about it. "It's because lesbians are the straightest porn there is."

It sounds un-intuitive at first, but it isn't an inaccurate statement. As Slate has pointed out in the past, most video pornography that claims to have "lesbians" in it is actually directed at men. The actresses are groomed to appeal to the male gaze (lesbian watchers typically roll their eyes as they point out the long nails actresses sport in these scenes that are a big no-no for most genuinely gay women), and that if you're not hyped up on the chemically-driven needs of a raging hard-on it's easy to notice a lot of the actresses are just moaning for a paycheck.

Porn has told us bigger lies in the past, though.
The result is that when you introduce "lesbians," they're more often keyed to titillate men than they are women. So, since men decided to steal that away from female readers (which still confuses me, since there's no place for men in lesbian sex, but I digress) those same female readers latched onto male on male erotica.

Women Like Gay Men For The Same Reasons Men Like Lesbians

As I hinted at earlier, this statement confuses me. So I did a little additional research, and there seems to be a correlation between the things female readers like about erotica featuring two men and the things male consumers like about erotica involving two women.

According to the blog on Heroes and Heartbreakers some of the answers are that the different perspective (seeing sex through the eyes of a man) is unique enough to be erotic all on its own. There's the taboo factor, which is particularly vital with M/M erotica because gay men are still not really portrayed often and positively in the mainstream media. There's the attraction of two fantasy men without a woman getting in the way (similar to how men might point out that lesbian pornography doesn't have any extraneous penises for viewers to deal with).

Art being what it is, after all.
There was another thing that lots of readers pointed out though; M/M erotica often focuses on the emotions of the participants and the passion of the act. Whether it's two men coming to terms with their feelings, or just a bout of hard, rough sex, these stories focus more on perceptions and emotions, about what's going on inside the players instead of just a pure, raunchy description of whose body parts are interacting with whose.

Is It The New Romance?

Once I got to the discussion being had at on the subject I was back on familiar ground again. Whether it's slash fic (a form of fan fiction wherein male characters who are not portrayed as gay in the source material are placed in situations or relationships where they are gay), or homespun erotica all of the selling points made sense; characters with genuine story and passion, good writing, and erotica that contributes to the story instead of just being one big body fluid puddle.

In short what draws women to M/M erotica seems to be all of the qualities that people largely accuse mainstream romance novels of lacking. You combine that with the absence of chauvinistic problems found in typical romance fiction (such as the man needing to fix a woman because of her dark past, which usually involves a history of abuse of some kind), and it makes a lot more sense why women are drawn to this particular sub-genre.

There's no one talking down to them, there's more focus on the characters and their stories, and generally speaking the stories simply have more appeal. These are all points to take note of if you're thinking about trying to get into this market, especially given how damnably crowded it is for one that a lot of readers don't even think about.

Seriously, go to Amazon and do a search. Don't say I didn't warn you, though.

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