I've been writing for Total-E-Bound ever since the site launched. Normally my royalties are fairly stable from month to month. In December 2008, though, I was shocked and delighted to find that my royalty total was 200% higher than usual. During December, TEB released my first M/M erotic romance, Tomorrow's Gifts. That one title sold more copies than my other books in the previous six months combined. Now, I was pretty proud of that book, but not necessarily more so than my other releases. I started to wonder whether the readers were sending me a message.
It is common knowledge that M/M romance sells well with female readers, but I was astonished to see the effects in person. To try and understand the appeal, I ran a “M/M romance” contest. I asked participants to email me, telling me whether they enjoyed homorerotic romance, and if so, why. I gave away a book to a randomly selected entrant.
The responses that I received were enlightening. One person said that she'd never read an M/M romance, though she was open to doing so. Every single other message offered enthusiastic approval for the sub-genre.
One reader wrote:
I love m/m romance. I think it's the thrill of the unknown for one thing, and the fun of exploring men's feelings and thoughts. Of course it doesn't hurt that I have a great appreciation of the male body--LOL.
I think it's really sexy to "see" two men in sexual acts. The sex is usually more intense and raw. It has a vaguely voyeuristic quality which is quite exciting. In heterosexual romances, which I also enjoy, the story is usually told from the woman's perspective, with the man's feelings/thoughts coming in second. In contrast, MM romances give a unique perspective to how men are in relationships.
A third person commented:
I have to say that I do enjoy reading m/m romances, probably because I think that the self actualization & realization of their sexuality is a journey worth witnessing. I appreciate the way passion and love is written from a male perspective, where it is both soft and tough at the same time. I love the aggression and the gentleness, the contrasts constantly present; I hope that makes sense to you.
Then there was this endorsement:
I love M/M romance. I started reading it about 3 years ago and have been hooked every since. It has added new insight to my sex life!
So a major draw in M/M romance seems to be the transgressive nature of M/M love. Women enjoy imagining scenes that they might not be likely to see in real life, namely two men in a sexual situation. I find it fascinating that romance readers seem to be so visually oriented. This seems to violate the common wisdom that men are aroused by things they see, women by what they feel.
On the other hand, feelings are also tremendously important to these readers. Many participants commented that they enjoyed both M/F and M/M romances because love is fundamentally the same regardless of gender.
One person said:
It is also nice in m/m books, that you get to see the softer side of men in love.
And another mused:
I find the m/m romances are beautiful, they are a love between two that they could have been m/f or f/f, it totally doesn't matter. I read one recently and cried, it was just so emotional a read as well as sizzling.
My informants made it clear that they were not interested merely in M/M sex, but in how the protagonists in a M/M story relate to one another, and to society.
The irony is that most M/M romance is actually written by women. It's not clear that the vision of homoerotic love or male emotion that they portray is particularly accurate. They offer a woman's perspective on gay love – a perspective that appears to be very popular with other women.
I have read a certain amount of gay male erotica. Although you do find romantic, emotionally-charged stories, many tales in this genre focus largely on the physical, celebrate anonymous sex for its own sake, and depict M/M relationships as rough, even cruel.
What is the truth? I don't think that's a meaningful question. In fiction, the author articulates his or her vision of the characters and their journey. One author's perspective is neither more nor less valid than another's.
Women romance readers clearly enjoy reading about sensual, caring relationships between two men. I doubt that it really matters whether these stories are “realistic”, as long as they are believable. And from my experience, emotional authenticity is a more important determinant of what a reader will believe than objective fact.
If I were concerned only with my royalties, I'd probably stop writing anything except M/M work. I really try and resist the temptation to write what's popular at the moment. When I do, I risk strangling my muse. However, I recently had a M/M plot and characters pop into my mind, almost fully formed. I'm now trying to clear my desk of other commitments so that I can sit down and write Kyle's and Rob's story.
Meanwhile, I'll leave you with an excerpt from Tomorrow's Gifts, which I hope will illustrate the mixture of gentleness and toughness that my respondents seem to like.
Neil gave my rigid cock a firm squeeze. “What a good boy,” he murmured. “You still haven’t come.” Intent on his pleasure, I’d almost forgotten about my own release. He stroked me gently, reawakening awareness of my painful desire.
“I haven’t given you permission yet,” he crooned. “So you must hold on.” He tickled the underside of my rod with one hand, cupping my balls with the other. “Let me see what an obedient slave you can be.” Pre-cum leaked helplessly from my slit. He smeared the liquid over the bulb, making me gasp. I was determined not to disappoint him.
He played with me cruelly, deliciously. I thought about the crop, remembering the pain, trying to blunt the pleasure. I recalled his fierce yell as he exploded inside me. That was what I wanted, what I needed. To serve him.
Finally, he removed his hands. The sudden lack of stimulation was nearly as bad as the previous sensory overload. He waited three breaths. “Well done, boy,” he said finally. “Come now.”
Blind and grateful, I let go. Orgasm ripped through my body. My limbs jerked helplessly. Endless surges of cum flung themselves from my shuddering penis into the dark. I felt Neil, close to me, heard him panting with excitement. I imagined my white essence clinging to the black hair on his belly, and convulsed again.
After the storm, I stood quietly, waiting for my next instructions. Neil untied the blindfold. “Relax, boy,” he said. “That’s enough for tonight.”
The next thing I knew, he had me in a bear hug and was nibbling at my neck. Not exactly what I’d expect from a stern and implacable master. But it was what I needed.