Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why are m/m stories so delicious?

In the world of heterosexual erotic romance, the hero, who in many cases is a strong alpha male type, finds lust and love with an equally strong heroine, while the reader keeps a glass of ice water on hand (or perhaps a willing partner) to cool down her own fire, which the author hopes has been ignited due to petting, foreplay, and sex between the hero and heroine.

Sound familiar?

I read tons of erotica--and I'm not using that word lightly, I mean tons. Not only do I write it, I truly enjoy reading it. I'd venture to say I gobble up an average of four or five erotica shorts/novellas/novels every week. Sometimes more. And I read widely, across all the sub-genres. The scenario I described above is the norm for probably 80% of the erotic romance on the market. (That's a guesstimate on my part, which I'm freely admitting, so don't yell at me if you know specific facts and figures.) Now, the heat and sensuality level varies widely. On one end of the spectrum we have erotica that's very similar to steamy "regular" romance. On the other end, we have erotica that pushes the envelope and contains extremely explicit language and situations that would probably make dear old Mom pass out in a dead faint. And then there's every heat level in between. But I think it's good that the sensuality levels cover a wide range of material. They should. Not every reader is the same, and it's important to have diverse material that appeals to a diverse audience.

So what's up with the other guesstimated 20% of the erotica? What I see making up that other 20% are stories that most publishers label as menage and same sex. It's this 20% that I've been thinking about lately.

My Amber Heat colleague, Adrianna Dane, posed a question on the Amber Heat Readers list last week, asking if readers like menage and m/m stories. The response was an overwhelming YES!! It seems these two sub-genres of erotica (menage and same sex) are building a huge following and are the newest "hot" trend for readers. These sub-genres have been around forever, and have always had devotees, but in the past year or so, they seem to have taken off like crazy, no longer appealing just to the niche readers, but to average erotic romance readers as well. The average erotic romance readers, mind you, are heterosexual women.

Okay, so hetero women like to read about strong, hunky men having fabulous sweaty sex with the woman they're going to fall in love with. This makes complete sense since finding the perfect sexual and life partner is many hetero women's fantasy. And...it then follows that hetero women might also be turned on by reading about a m/f/m menage. I mean, two hunks to pleasure her? Yeah, baby! Again, another fabulous fantasy. Women like to imagine themselves in these positions--either with the studly one man or with several studly men.

So then, what about m/m stories and m/m/f menages? And yes, there is a difference between m/f/m and m/m/f groups. In m/f/m menage, two men do the bumpy with the woman, but don't necessarily engage in intimate touching with each other. It's hetero sex all the way. In m/m/f, not only do the two men have an intimate relationship with the woman, but they also are intimate with one another. (The same follows for f/m/f and f/f/m menages, but since that's not quite as common in the erotic romance market, I'm not addressing them in this post). Okay, for a woman reader, it's easy to project herself into the menage story and become the heroine. But for the m/m action, the female reader becomes the observer rather than the participant. When two men are engaging in intimate play with one another, all the woman can do is look on. She's not involved.

So my question is...what's the appeal? Reading about m/m intimacy is a passive act for the female reader. She can "watch" the action, but can't insert herself into the play like she can in a m/f story or a menage. Why then is reading (or watching) m/m so arousing? Why did women across the US (the world?) flock to see Brokeback Mountain? Yeah, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are hotties, no doubt, but why did they seem even hotter when they were portraying gay lovers? Why did the love scenes, which certainly weren't explicit, make women squirm in their panties?

A male writer friend of my mine mentioned recently, in relation to this erotica trend where hetero women are enjoying reading about two men getting in on, that with all the buzz about how "hot" these m/m couplings are, women darn well better not give men any more shit about liking to watch women. And it's the truth. One of the most common hetero male fantasies has always been watching women get it on together. There's no big secret about it, it's a fact. And if you ask a man why they like the idea of watching women touch each other, you'll usually get a simple response such as, "It's hot!" Yes, but why's it hot? "It just is!"

So have women always been secretly turned on at the thought of seeing or reading about men touching each other? Or is this is a fairly new thing? In either case, clearly today's modern woman is realizing what men have known for years: watching members of the opposite sex pleasure each other is a turn-on.

Is there a specific reason? Is this new trend perhaps based on the fact that with m/f erotic stories becoming more mainstream and more easily accessible--with a few clicks of the mouse online, a reader can buy enough erotica to keep her busy for a year--women are starting to get a little bored with the usual pairings and situations and they're looking outward, searching for something different to titillate them? Something...more? This could also explain why certain other trends have been hot in the past--vampires, for example, a sub-genre that added a dark and dangerous twist to the erotic stories.

Or is it as simple as what men have been saying for years? "It's just hot."

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so post a comment here or drop me an email if you'd rather at ml@mlrhodeswriting.com

ML :)

M.L. Rhodes
Hot Night. Hot Heroes. Hot Reads.


Ghost in the Mist said...

Hi, I'm over 50 years old and I've always loved m/m and m/f/m stories. I think the m/f/m thing is something that's just in me since I've had an attraction to it since I first became sexually aware. I know a lot of slashers and many say the same thing. When it's m/f/m, the female isn't just an observer. The idea is to share a male lover with another male lover. The possible combinations are limited only to the imagination. And I have a huge imagination! I'm currently working on just such a story as an original work of fiction, and hope I can find a publisher.

M.L. Rhodes said...

Hi ghost! Good luck in your own writing! I think it's awesome that you enjoy reading and writing m/m and menage stories! Thanks for taking the time to post here on my blog! There's been a lot of discussion recently in different forums about why m/m is so hot for female readers. I think it's completely delicious and I love, love, love reading it and writing it! :)