Welcome to one of my rambles…this time I’m going to babble (at some length) about the trend toward M/M (male/male) sexual pairing in women’s erotica.
As strange as it sounds, the history of M/M romance isn’t terrifyingly sordid. As one might imagine, it’s been a niche market. The first I encountered of M/M was in Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy. In the first novel, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the M/M interactions were all of power—unsurprisingly. It is, after all, a BDSM fantasy. But, in Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release there were several M/M relationships that transcended the Dom/sub. Tristan and the Queen’s historian, Nicolas, maintained a public power relationship with a clandestine partnership—wherein each man alternated in the dominant role. Beefy Laurent also experienced tender love with his sub, his master, and the fellow ‘ponies’ when he was a stabled slave.
Over the years we have seen an upsurge in ménage scenes—usually favoring the M/F/M dynamic. This caters to female readers; those who are aroused by the idea of being the filling in a mansandwich, in any case. But, of late, this dynamic is shifting again to allow for M/M/F—or the full-out bisexuality of the males in a ménage.
I had to wonder: Why?
Is it not enough to have a woman be pleasured by two gorgeous (because it’s romance they are always gorgeous) men?
And then I remembered what I will call The Brokeback Factor.
See, 2005’s Brokeback Mountain really opened eyes. It wasn’t the first acclaimed homosexual movie. In fact, Hilary Swank had won a Best Actress Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry in 2000. But, as beautiful as Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny may be, they are no Heath Ledger/Jake Gyllenhall. The romance between these men—and the obstacles they faced in their “normal” relationships—that made for excellent cinema. It touched viewers in a way that was sexual, not seedy. And received three Academy Awards in the process.
Suddenly, sex between men didn’t seem so…IDK, icky? That’s probably how many (straight, female) readers would have considered male/male before The Brokeback Factor.
What it boils down to in romance is this: straight female readers crave beautiful, dominant male leads with a sensitive side. The rise of M/M romance is a natural extension of this fascination. If one strong sexy man is excellent, then two is divine. The close POV often employed in these novels (alternating first-person present tense) allows for an intimate peek into the psyche of both male lovers—as they struggle to find an acceptable partner, and seek the pleasure of him. It’s the ultimate in erotic fantasy, IMHO.
Who read the 50 Shades trilogy and didn’t delight in the last scenes written in Christian Grey’s POV?
Now, imagine that single-minded sexual focus from two men. From readers of ménage and M/M erotica, the response is overwhelmingly positive. Based on the, albeit informal, 2013 Smut Book Awards hosted by The Smut Book Club, two of the top five “Favorite Sex Scenes You had to Read One Handed” were M/M. And, two of the top four (also taking the top spot here) of “Leading Couple You’d Want a Threesome With” were gay/bisexual men.
Notable entries in the M/M romance sub-genre:
Mainstream erotic writers have released their own M/M work—JM Ward released LOVER AT LAST in March of 2013. This story features the coupling of Qhuinn and Blaylock, both vampires, both enormous, masculine, Alpha-type leads. It has been a building story in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series for several books now. Blaylock has loved Qhuinn forever. Qhuinn rejected that love because, though he’s bisexual, he just couldn’t ‘come out’. Now that Blay is with Qhuinn’s cousin, Saxton, however, Qhuinn is more than jealous—and this installment of the BDB is panty-incinerating fantastic.
Olivia Cunning—my Queen of E-Rock-tica—finally has given her readers Trey’s story. Trey is the bisexual rhythm guitarist in her Sinners On Tour series, who happens to be in love with Brian “Master” Sinclair—lead guitarist and his best friend. With Brian happily married and a new father, Trey is distraught—thinking he’ll never find a soul-satisfying love. DOUBLE TIME allowed us access to his hypersexual mind—and his successful quest to assuage both aspects of his sexuality. While this is a ménage novel, Trey is constantly struggling with his homosexual desires. We get a front-row seat to his battle, and ultimately, plenty of juicy M/M only scenes.
Nicole Edwards, an indie author who mainly centers on the ménage dynamic, has really fleshed out some fantastic M/M in her M/M/F—Temptation, Devotion, and Travis, in particular. But ETHAN, which came out in early January 2014 is smoking hot and totally sensual. Knowing that it is M/M, it still ranked high on the list of: Most Anticipated Reads of 2014 at Smutbookclub.com.
Ella Frank, another indie, has had great success with Blind Obsession and her Exquisite Series—straight erotica I highly recommend—but branched into M/M this past November with TRY. Logan Mitchell—bisexual player has his sights set on a forever kind of target: Tate, a straight man. In this dynamic we have not only the pursuit, but the conflict—how does a previously straight man develop an attraction (and a love) for another man. Being inside Tate’s head as he mulls through the quandary is a complete turn on. TRY’s a definite fave, and the beginning of a SERIES of M/M. TAKE will be out later in 2014 and continues the Logan/Tate saga—I cannot wait.
Riley Hart’s COLLIDE marks another new M/M series. This Boys Only standalone recounts the reunion between two childhood friends, Noah, an openly gay man, and Cooper, a straight player. Cooper welcomes Noah into his home, and soon the attraction begins to simmer. Much like TRY, Collide features an alternating POV, and we can feel not only Cooper’s conflict over his new homosexual desires, but also his fear of revealing this relationship to his adoptive parents—because they despised Noah all those years ago. Their history causes some very poignant exchanges—particularly when Cooper is hospitalized and Noah is banned from his bedside—something that occurs every day in real America. Though the books suffers some editing issues, I loved the story and look forward to the next book featuring a different M/M couple set up by Noah and Cooper. Bound to be great.
For the non-believer–WHY is M/M hot?
I’m not here to convert anyone, truly. I’m just relating my own opinions, and those I’ve gotten through friends and fellow erotica readers. For me, sometimes straight romance lacks a bit of…heart. The cookie-cutter approach of single, overlooked female plus brawny, bazillionaire, broken male can feel a bit stale. Many times an author will throw in some sloppy sex to spice it up, but those begin to read flat after a while. It is the fresh and new and forbidden that draws interest. Still, it’s a true art to convince a straight woman to purchase gay romance, and takes more than a come-hither. The backstory for these characters is complex and well-considered. Often these aren’t virgin-orphans. Their families are involved—and supportive or absolutely appalled. It makes for a more rounded story.
What I find most interesting in M/M romance isn’t the hot sex—though that is a bonus—but that intimate choice to be vulnerable to another man—even with the complications it poses to all one’s other relationships. Romance readers desire characters who will risk it all to find true love—what is more risky than potentially upsetting one’s whole family by being gay?
Additionally, I find most readers like their sex with a hefty dose of passion. For better or worse, passion is often accorded as force—while not violent, per se. Who doesn’t think having one’s panties torn off in the heat of the (consensual) moment is arousing? Or, how about being turned over one’s desk/kitchen table for a still-clothed, skirt-up quickie? Yeah, me too.
When it comes to M/M sex, the coupling can be brutal in its passion. These aren’t tentative lovers; they are fully-beefed, determined leads. Ward’s Blaylock and Qhuinn—again they are vampires—bite each other repeatedly in the act of sex. Frank’s Logan and Tate swap from oral to oro-anal to anal in a scene. It’s sweaty and sticky and the muscles bulge and strain—times two. The sheer maleness of M/M sex allows a distance for the female reader to enjoy fierce masculine passion—without fearing for the heroine—alongside swoony-gentle love-making that is overwhelmingly tender. The chasm between the rawness of their sex and the depth of their emotional vulnerability is Grand Canyon in scope. In my own thoughts, this amplifies the heat between the characters ten-fold.
Again, to each their own, but I’m a fan of M/M romance and interested to see where this trend goes.
If you’ve got any thoughts—please comment. I’d love to hear your take on this ramble, or any of the books I’ve mentioned. Oh, and if you have recommendations—lay them on me!
And, as always, keep reading my friends.