Straight Girls Reading Gay Romance

9 04 2014 - 1

Today’s topic comes from QSFer Beth Brock: “Why do straight girls like gay romance?”

Let me preface this by saying I’m talking about readers here, not the thornier topic of women writing MM romance or erotica.

I’ve often wondered what it is about MM romance that interests heterosexual female readers – although, to be fair, straight guys seem, well, let’s just say “interested” in FF erotica and porn.

So my question today – what is it about MM romance that draws straight female readers (whether it’s fantasy, sci fi, paranormal or other)?

Keep it friendly, people. 🙂

11 thoughts on “Straight Girls Reading Gay Romance”

  1. Taking off my authorial hat to put on a reader one, I’d have to say that growing up, it was painfully obvious to me that men got all the best roles in movies and television. They got the best lines, they had the most adventures. I never wanted to be the “Jane” in any scenario. I wanted to be “Tarzan.” I wanted to fight the bad guys, and roar like a lion. I wanted to swing via vines through the jungle and have a chimpanzee as my buddy.

    As I got older and began reading romances, invariably I was disappointed by the roles of women in these stories. Captives, taken against their will. Repressed, only allowed to come into their full sexual being at the touch of an all-too-often arrogant and detestable man. I couldn’t read them. I went back to my favorites: mysteries and sci-fi. At least, on occasion, the women got to have more exciting roles in these stories. But if nothing else, the genre fiction I adored usually had some great bromances. I didn’t know what the term was, but I could really appreciate the ‘buddy’ feel to these stories.

    Then one day, while reading fanfic about my favorite television show, I stumbled upon some slash. FINALLY, it felt as though I’d found adult romance for the first time. Characters that met as equals on the playing field, that both were fully invested in the adventure, that took turns saving each other and both had the great lines. And the sex scenes! No purple prose or eye-rolling euphemisms! For the first time, I was reading sex scenes that felt real and *hot*. It didn’t feel as though I was reading a romance as much as reading the ongoing adventures of favorite characters who just also happened to have scorchingly hot sex with each other. I was hooked.

    I read everything I could get my hands on. Seriously, I read one fanfiction archive in alphabetical order. Tentatively, I began writing my own stories. It was like a dam bursting. The next thing I knew, I was writing the equivalent of a novella a month and I *still* could not get enough. I began writing my own original stories with original characters, and the rest, as they say, is all she wrote.

    I know a lot of people have some strong opinions about women who read and write such fiction. But most women I know are intimately acquainted with feeling marginalized, and this genre is extremely liberating for us. It isn’t just about ‘one guy is hot, two are hotter’, though to a certain extent, that is true for many readers and writers. For me, it’s having characters that interact without one clear ‘weaker’ or ‘stronger’ one. It’s about characters that give back as hard as they can take. It’s about the story and the adventure and the dynamics of the relationship.

    Now, one could argue if I wanted stronger women roles in romances, I should just write my own. Believe me, that is something I am seriously considering. But the couple of times I’ve put words onto paper, I’ve had to struggle NOT to introduce the tired old tropes I grew up reading (and persist today). I don’t have to overcome that conditioning when reading and writing about two men. Then, there is the fact that women come under a HUGE amount of negative scrutiny no matter what they do or say–this applies to fictional heroines, too. The things I can have a male character do are often given a free pass whereas a female character would be eviscerated and vilified for doing the same. So it is refreshing to read stories where the heroes don’t have to be perfect, just likeable. 🙂

    I do feel that I owe my sex the right to heroines that aren’t a Mary Sue, or a Barbie, or have lavender-colored eyes, and can eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce, have simultaneous orgasms with their lover from vaginal penetration alone, and have NO idea that they are drop-dead gorgeous. Frankly, I don’t know many women like that. I find writing and reading about such a creature incredibly boring. Which is probably why I still prefer gay romance over the traditional man/woman pairing. I’ve been doing a LOT of romance reading lately as part of research for creating my own heroine, and so far, I simply do not find myself having anything in common with any of the fictional heroines I’m meeting. And the sex scenes? Compared to the ones in gay romances, they seem insipid and uninteresting. 😉

  2. Sarah Madison pegged most of the reasons I’ve become a voracious reader of m/m romance. I think mostly I just got bored with the female protagonists I was reading. The plots started to feel too predictable and the sex scenes full of ridiculous purple prose. I stumbled across m/m romance almost accidentally when my favorite writer of sci fi erotic romance started branching out and I’ve never looked back.

    My grown daughter and I have talked about this a lot, since we now write m/m as well as read it. She says I judge fictional women too harshly and get annoyed by what I see as weakness. Apparently I’m prepared to cut male characters some slack that I won’t give to females. I don’t know if that’s true but I just tell her that I judge all those fainting, whining, skinny “heroines” by her, and most of them just don’t measure up.

  3. I attempted to answer this question in Geoffrey Knight’s “Why Straight Women Love Gay Romance,” but since then I’ve put the question behind me. It was never a question I asked myself, so the puzzlement came from others. Reading it felt perfectly natural to me, as I could never get into those M/F romances. I read one 43-book series in my teenhood (but it was paranormal and the romance was free of fluff) and then gave up on another series that was just too whiny. I don’t know, I don’t like candyfloss in my mouth or in my books, which is why fluff rarely finds its way into my books. I like the straight-forwardness (no pun intended!) in gay romances – the non-flowery writing and the strength of the characters. Naturally, not all books are like that, but most of the ones I’ve read are.

  4. I agree with what Sarah Madison and Erica Pike have said. But I’ll extend it…

    I (like Erica) were part of the interview for Geoff Knight’s book. I remember thinking… women… yes technically I am a female…
    I believe there many readers (& writers) of MM romance that are gender queer. We don’t relate to the women in MF romance because that’s not who we are able to identity with… our gender identity is more male than female. (I present female but I’m quite male)

    And since I always bring up sex… in Western (& most Asian) society’s women’s sexuality has been stripped away. We’re told not to experience it except in relation to a male. Female sexual expression isn’t ‘approved’ of… which is why some of us seek it elsewhere. I don’t want to have to wait until page 68 to get to the first kiss. I want to have the words “Suck me now” on page 4 and not have people go off on me. (I believe in swallowing) In the last MF romance I read little to no oral sex and certainly no swallowing, rape appeared to be just fine as a punishment & the woman just made choices I would NEVER make. MM romance gives me characters I understand and identity with…

    And for the record there’s nothing thorny about women writing/reading anything they want nor is it a problem for men to write anything they want. Love is love & writing is writing… unless you’re writing in the snow you don’t need a dick to do it. To think there’s a problem with it is smacks of prejudice… and no one I know is prejudice.

    Hugs, Z.

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