Two Kinds of M/M Love: Buyer Beware! William Maltese Tells Us Why

William Maltese has posted an opinion piece about writing M/M romance for different audiences – male and female. In my opinion some M/M books that are written by women and those written by men are different, with female writers including more emotional content in their books. However, I have read books by female M/M writers who got down and dirty and took me through backrooms, public restrooms, and parks in their one hand reads®  which are no different to similar stories written by male writers for a mostly male audience. William does have a point about the majority of  M/M books being tailored to meet the expectations of female readers, after all, they represent the main target group of publishers and writers of these books.  Here’s William’s take on the whole writing for women and writing for men business.

I have been noticing something, over the last few years, which causes me, at this time, to make comment upon an aberration of gay fiction which has occurred since Iwilliam photo first began writing it. (See Drewey Wayne Gunn’s THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAY FICTION
http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=GOLDAGE1

or my web-site at
http://www.williammaltese.com
for insight into my literary beginnings).

Namely, many new writers and readers of the genre — namely of the female persuasion — seem to have entered the market place with the preconceived notion, incorrect, that real m/m love and romance and real m/f love and romance proceed basically along the same lines, and that any m/m book that portrays otherwise is somehow lacking, off the mark, and has an author who has somehow gotten “it” all wrong — when, actually, quite the opposite is probably closer to the truth.

A quick aside here by way of assurance that this isn’t a tirade delivered by me to bemoan the entry of women into the m/m marketplace, as readers, as writers, and as reviewers. I have many close friends in the m/m publishing business who are women and whom I love dearly and who I’ve come to appreciate as being stellar contributors to the genre. I’m of the belief that anything that expands a genre’s popularity and its fan base is a good thing, not a bad, for all involved; and, I’ve always been a true believer that, if only given the chance, and/or if only giving themselves the chance, women would be just as turned on by man-on-man sex as men have for so long been turned on by gals going at it.

BeachboyWhat I merely want to point out, here, is that women writing m/m for the enjoyment of women readers … in fact, men writing m/m for the enjoyment of women readers … will likely be required to write differently than those same authors would write m/m for the enjoyment of male readers. This is not a bad thing, any more than it’s necessarily a good thing; it just is what it is. The truth of the matter is that the female libido is wired differently than that of the male; what turns a woman on, by way of love and romance, isn’t necessarily the equivalent of what does it for a man. We would all, writers and readers and reviewers, alike, be far more content,  happy, and understanding if we recognized that fact from the get-go and didn’t try to pretend, wish, or actually believe that it’s otherwise.

Frankly, I’m getting rather weary of just how many women reviewers (and there does seem to be a plethora of them popping up, these days), are criticizing and bemoaning some male authors of m/m books for not providing them with “m/m romances” but, rather with just “plain old fashioned m/m sex-for-sex’s sake” — as if many a male reader’s ideal of m/m romance and love isn’t sex-for-sex’s sake rather than the romance and love loaded down with all of the accumulated emotional baggage that women are more apt to attach to it.

Ladies, most guys, although there are exceptions to any rule, do not need a long lead-in, let alone emotional attachment, to think themselves in love, or believe themselves actually romantically involved, especially if it’s just for a brief moment in the back room of some bar, or hurried sex with some stranger in a dark park. All of the early m/m books, written entirely for an initially total male audience, were wham-bam-thank-you-man dissertations, and not long-and-lengthy courtships a la Harlequin that only saw sexual consummation realized at book’s end. So, the next time you find yourself with a book in hand that takes that seemingly sex- for-sex’s sake viewpoint, as regards m/m love and romance, do, please, try to remember that while it might not be playing to your specific interpretation of m/m love and romance, it is likely playing to the interpretation of some guy. So rather than you moaning and groaning and complaining that the author, rather than you, doesn’t know about what he’s talking, you should really just move on to a book more geared to your own way of thinking — of which there are more and more out there — and quit trying to label only your interpretation of m/m romance and love as the only interpretation of m/m love and romance.

I mean, if my book CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS is sub-titled, “A One-Hand Read®”, what is there about one-hand read® that would have some reader convinced that Iconspiracy of ravens should be providing her with something other than the male-desired short-on-emotional-involvement m/m love and romance that I’ve blatantly advertised?

I’m thoroughly convinced that more readers and reviewers would be satisfied with what they’ve read if there wasn’t a tendency in the market place for women writers of m/m love and romance books to have pseudonyms that are masculine in nature and, thereby, confuse the reader; guys who think they’re getting a wham-bam-thank-you-man book, written by a real man, for a man, end up with an m/m Harlequin-type romance written by a woman; women readers, who would best appreciate an m/m Harlequin-type romance, pick up a book by a real man, for a man, and find themselves dragged through back rooms, parks, truck stops, and funky alleys, for seemingly quick and meaningless sex which is actually sufficiently loving and meaningful mainly only for the men for whom the book was really intended.

I could understand this penchant for female authors assuming male pseudonyms, if this was a time wherein women were seeking to enter a genre entirely dominated by male readers and, thereby risked being shunned by readers for not being male-specific.  Willingly, I was  published as Anna Lambert and Willa Lambert in my halcyon days of writing m/f romances for the likes of Harlequin, because, it was genuinely believed, even advertised, that such books were for women written by women. Even today, most m/f romance readers being women, a man might feel himself at a disadvantage in trying to write a book appealing to that audience. But in m/m love and romance fiction, wherein the majority of readers have become women, not gay men, not being gender-specific, by way of authorship of a book, is downright confusing to the reader, and actually often disallows readers the ability to find the kind of novel that best appeals to his or her interpretation of m/m love and romance. As a man, I would likely be more drawn to LOVING BROTHERS written by Chad Stuart than to LOVING STUDS written by Suzy Cue, if what I wanted was just to read a quick sexual romp. Likewise, a woman reader,  less appreciative of random sex, would likely be more drawn to the latter. However, if Suzy Cue is writing LOVING BROTHERS as Chad 6a00d83451cc7469e2011168ce1935970c-500wiStuart, I’d possibly be as disappointed, in my reading of that book, as any woman reader wanting a Harlequin-type m/m romance would find herself if she ended up reading a book written by a real man for a man.

So, in summation … if you are a man or a woman and want to read a plot-lead m/m novel, wherein emotional interaction takes precedence … if you are a man or a woman and want to read a sex-lead m/m novel, wherein emotional interaction is at a minimum … do a little research on whom (man or woman) wrote the book you’re tempted to buy and what the available blurbs have to say about the book in question. You might still end up disappointed, on occasion, but I guarantee you’ll be less so, as an informed reader, than you’ll ever be if you pay less attention.

Aleksandr Voinov
6 years 4 months ago
I disagree, William, on many levels. “Male” and “female” approaches are stances we take while writing. These are almost like genres, rather than biological necessity or even destiny. Literary fiction, horror, porn, it’s all genre. Many readers enjoy both – sex for sex’s sake, or long courtships with lots of unresolved sexual tension. You mention Harlequin as the blueprint for female-centred erotica/romance – but even they range from sweet to sexy, and there are so many women writing PWP, and so many male readers enjoying plot with their sex, that I don’t feel the stereoptype holds up. I would assume… Read more »
Angelia Sparrow
6 years 4 months ago
You’ve put into words why I don’t knowingly buy erotica written by men. (Sometimes, as in anthologies, it’s unavoidable.) It is not my style. Of course, half the time the stuff I read by women isn’t to my taste either. * I want a story. The sex should be there but it should be entirely in service to the plot. If I’m reading 25 pages of you, I want plot, not just an extended sex scene. Ditto 250 pages. The sex can be raunchy or brutal, but there must be a story. * Let’s be honest, I’m much more likely… Read more »
Lee Rowan
6 years 4 months ago

You might try Mark Probst’s “The Filly” (which is actually young adult) or Donald Hardy’s upcoming “Lovers Knot.” (Yeah, I’m plugging my Tangled Web’s m/m companion release, but Don’s one of those gents who favors the fade-to-black, and he’s written a good ghostly historical.)

Teddypig
6 years 4 months ago

I definitely got that book was Erotica (One Hand Read sorta says it all.) Victor so maybe that was the problem the reviewer wanted a Romance which could have caused a misunderstanding.

I know women have been writing some dang steamy “no holds barred” Raunchy Erotica too for a while now so maybe I don’t understand what the exact issue is.

Erastes
6 years 4 months ago
I couldn’t agree less. I will agree that this is your experience, William. But not all men are like you – just as not all women are the same and like me. You can’t say that all men like this and that women like THIS or THAT. That we all like pink. That we all like shopping. Or phones. Or like loads of foreplay or cuddles afterwards. It’s nonsense generalisation. Similarly with gay men. I know many gay men who (whilst they still have one night stands (as do women!)) who want, need, and HAVE loving, long-courtship, relationships. They want… Read more »
Lee Rowan
6 years 4 months ago

LOL! I should’ve read all the earlier comments before posting my 2p. Same here. After all, didn’t Scott & Scott start the Romentics imprint *because* they were writing gay romance and couldn’t find anyone to publish it? And I do believe that’s an m/m partnership, though I don’t do zipper checks.

Sean Kennedy
6 years 4 months ago
*shrugs* I respectfully disagree, seeing we all seem to be speaking in generalisations – although m/m romance does have a large female audience, there are still many men who are reading them as well. And they obviously turn to them because they want something more than ‘stroke fiction’. And I can only speak for myself, but when I write I am not writing for a male or female audience, but really to tell the story I want to tell (and that makes me sound like such a wanker). I think changes in audience will become more apparent due to this… Read more »
sagewhistler
6 years 4 months ago

Just wanted to add: I don’t want to be using generalizations as Sean said. Of course, not ALL men want ‘stroke books’. Certainly us female authors have a healthy dose of male readers and male authors have a healthy dose of female readers, and I have read books from male authors that were saccharine sweet with the romance I almost got a toothache. I do think that more male readers than female readers would enjoy grittier writing, minus the romantic elements.

sagewhistler
6 years 4 months ago
Oh, I totally agree, William. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus–so to speak–when it comes to what we want in romance and even erotica. Even as a female writer of gay fiction, trying to weave a romantic story about two men, I find that my female readers are usually the ones to want more details, more conversation, more history. I’m trying to break my habit of a long lead-in to sex, but a female reader might actually think it was too rushed and unromantic whereas a male reader would probably take it for what it was and… Read more »
William Maltese
6 years 4 months ago
SAGE: Thanks for the check-in, especially since you and I tend to be on the same page. I’ve always found male readers more turned on by the down-and-dirty, let’s-get-to it; the sanitation issue, as expressed by women readers, seems right on the mark and doesn’t surprise me. While I have no difficulty writing and enjoying romantic plot-lead novels, having written three Harlequin SuperRomances (to international acclaim), and having just had released my mainstream Aussie romantic/adventure DARE TO LOVE IN OZ from Savant Press ( http: https://www.createspace.com/3407866 ) I just wish women would realize that men writing for men don’t necessarily… Read more »
Ally Blue
6 years 4 months ago
The thing is, ROMANCE, by any definition you care to use, contains more than sex for sex’s sake. It contains development of a love relationship, and (in most definitions) a happy ending — either “happy for now” or “happy ever after.” Sex for its own sake is either porn or erotica, and I’m not splitting that particular hair right here. The point is, there IS a difference. If a reader/reviewer picks up a book labeled as a romance and finds NO development of a love relationship, nothing but pure sex for its own sake, he or she is right to… Read more »
William Maltese
6 years 4 months ago

I’m sorry, but I can’t help thinking that different people have different ideas of what “romance” is, and just because one person might think something is erotica or porn, I’m thinking someone else might find it romantic. Can’t someone really love someone for just an evening … or does it really require a long lead-in and a life-time commitment thereafter?

gaycrow
gaycrow
6 years 4 months ago

Interesting question (and I’m replying before reading further down the page (78 comments so far!).

*

I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer as I have no experience in this area, but I think someone can be in “lust” with someone for one evening, but maybe “love” takes/lasts a little longer … not necessarily a life-long commitment, but a little bit of commitment none-the-less.

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