I am a straight[ish] married chick, and I write m/m romance. I recently asked for blog post topic suggestions on Twitter, and I had someone suggest/ask “Why m/m romance?”
This is a question I’ve seen thrown at other m/m romance authors, and it’s a question I’ve wondered about myself on a few occasions. Why are all my characters gay? Why am I, a straight-ish female, constantly writing about two men doin’ it? Why can’t I just write some nice straight m/f romance that my mother wouldn’t be shocked by?
To be honest, I can’t really answer the “why” of this. Why do all my characters end up gay? I don’t know, why do your characters end up straight? I don’t make an active choice for them to be gay, they just pop into my head and say, “Hey, lady, I like dick.” and I go, “Okay, let me create a handsome dick-bearing love interest for you, dear.”
I can tell you why I read m/m romance, and I suppose the “why” of writing it is the same, or at least partially so. I like to read m/m romance because 1) it’s hot, and 2) I enjoy the power dynamics in a m/m couple more than a m/f couple. M/M romance allows/forces men to be portrayed outside their “typical” gender roles, and I find that intriguing.
Let me start out with why I don’t read m/f romance. I hardly ever read fiction featuring a female protagonist in general. I have realized this about myself and am actively working to read more female-led fiction. As someone who calls herself a feminist, avoiding female protagonists is a huge character flaw of mine. I will probably never read m/f romance, but I want to read more female-led fantasy, scifi, urban fantasy, etc. “Why,” you may ask, “do you, as a woman, pointedly avoid female protagonists?”
Well, I’m trying not to anymore, like I said. But it’s hard. I have issues with female-led fiction. So often in writing, women fall into some kind of pigeonhole where no matter how tough they are, they need to be saved by a man. Or the second a man shows up, they’re overwhelmed with attraction to him and are suddenly not so tough anymore or are terribly misguided because of their feelings.
It’s bullshit. Maybe some women are that way. Maybe some women see a hot guy and suddenly can’t think of anything but boning him. I, personally, couldn’t care less about boning hot guys, and if I was a tough female protagonist, I would have better shit to do than swoon because a handsome muscular man swaggered into my life. Perhaps my strong aversion to female swooning is because I’m ace and don’t identify with the need/desire for sex. Perhaps what I need is asexual female protagonists. (know of any? throw me some recs in the comments. please.)
Oddly enough, I can handle this kind of behavior from a man… because this is not a male pigeonhole. Needing to be saved, being distraught with emotion, etc, are not typical male roles, and you don’t typically see them portrayed in straight male characters. Guys feel the need to act tough. Society drills that bullshit into their heads from a young age (“boys don’t cry,” “man up,” “be a tough guy”) Women are allowed/expected to be emotional and sensitive. When the couple does not involve a woman, there isn’t an “easy out” for emotional events to occur–in m/f couples, women are clearly the more emotional, so they clearly are the ones to start all the fights, cry over dumb shit, and force conversations to occur around tough topics. In m/m couples, these guys have to navigate the emotional waters of a relationship without the aid of an always-more-emotionally-aware woman.
This also leads to interesting power dynamics. In m/f couples, if the woman holds the power in a relationship, the guy is often seen as “whipped” or somehow weak for letting a woman have control over him. In m/m relationships, there’s no gender-related socially-imposed “power.” They’re both men, so they’re on equal footing in the eyes of society. I like that in m/m romance, men often struggle with figuring out the emotional aspects of relationships and that in order to be a healthy couple (which is the goal in romance, after all), they have to kick through that socially-imposed idea that men can’t be soft, can’t be emotional, can’t be “weak.”
So that’s my answer for why I write m/m romance, I suppose. Or at least, that’s my answer for why I read it. And I guess the fact that I read it is why I write it. I used to try to fight my characters, to make them straight. I did it for classes in high school and college. I still recall my high school creative writing teacher suggesting to me that I include more female characters in my writing… so I gave my MC a female love interest. And yet, every time I wrote a scene between the MC and the male antagonist, the damn antagonist flirted. Mercilessly. I kept writing what I call “character exploration” scenes (scenes that don’t make it into the novel, but are just hypothetical situations to see what shakes loose if I put the MC in this position) and no matter what happened, the antagonist and MC ended up hate-fucking and/or eventually falling into grudging love with each other. No matter what I did, they ended up a couple. I never did finish that novel. I have another novel I tried to write in college, a scifi story, and it contained a female love interest, and… I never finished it, either. I tried to do NaNoWriMo back in 2013 with a no-romance fantasy story, and I bet you can guess what happened with that one.
So I gave up. I write m/m romance, and that’s just all there is to it. My muse demands the dicks, and so my muse gets the dicks. You cannot deny the muse.
What do you guys write? Does it call to you with an irresistible urge and no matter what else you try to write, it just doesn’t work?