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By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Man Oh Man On Man!
Gendy Alimurung’s cover story last week (“Man on Man: The new gay romance, written by and for straight women,” Dec. 18) is generating a lot of heat, and not all of it sexual. But first the sexual, er, romantic, and let us note at the outset: Gay romance is very popular in the hinterlands, from Australia to Arkansas.
Jessica Freely writes from Detroit: “Thank you for a thorough, open-minded and informative article. M/M is getting bigger and better every day, and support from mainstream media outlets like yours is part of that process. Hugs!”
Mainstream? Hugs? We don’t think so, Jessica, thanks just the same. BTW, are you any relation to I.P.?
More hugs from Silver Pixies, who apparently is a person rather than a holiday elf shop, in Clayton, North Carolina: “Everything you said about M/M romance and women is true, and you talked to wonderful writers. All of them I covet and love.”
Love2read doesn’t provide a hometown. Read on to find out why: “As a woman who enjoys reading a variety of genres, M/M is fast becoming one of my favorites, be it paranormal, urban fantasy or suspense. My family doesn’t know what I read, yet I know if they find out, I would be teased and snickered at since it is something they and many others have issues with. To me, M/M has everything I enjoy: HEA or HERN, a committed relationship and hot yummy bits. To me this makes a good story, not the fact that it is two guys (or more than two, as the case may be). but two (or more) people falling in love and overcoming obstacles to get their HEA.”
HEA? HERN? HUH?
“I think for many women, gay erotic romance is a guilty pleasure,” says Carol Lynne from Kansas City. “They can put the kids to bed, curl up in a chair, download an e-book and escape into an entirely different world. Quite often their husbands don’t even know what genre they’re reading. Many of them join online chat groups to discuss their love of gay romances because they can’t openly discuss them with the people who surround them in their everyday lives. I find it sad that some women can’t openly express this side of themselves without being thought of as naughty, but then women have always been taught to downplay their sexuality.”
Men too, Carol Lynne, men too. Here’s one calling himself Nigel Puerasch, who writes from Melbourne: “I am a writer of original ‘slash,’ with several published short stories. I am a mostly gay man. I often prefer the writing by women because it has emotional depth and power. Sometimes, it’s true, slash can be thinly disguised women, unconvincing portrayals of men. But much more often, some of the most moving and most powerful (and therefore most erotic) stories and romances between men are written by women. And this is not new. Think of Mary Renault’s novels.
“I’m glad to write stories that involve love ending in ‘happy ever after,’ which doesn’t always happen in real life, especially to gay men. Life can be a bit bleak. Why not hope that you will find Mr. Right, and that he will love you not just because of your nice butt and great pecs, but because he sees the inner you?”
Oh, come, Nigel, what planet are you living on? Australia?
More Men Who Like Women Who Write About Men, and One Who Really Doesn’t
One such man is Alex Beecroft from Sutton in Cambridgeshire, U.K., an M/M writer mentioned in Alimurung’s piece as the author of False Colors. “An awful lot of gay men also read M/M romance and find it close enough to their own experience to function as entertainment and wish fulfillment for them, too. So either the heroes of M/M romance are recognizable as men to men, or the wish for love is universal no matter what your gender.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a genre, M/M romance appeals to and is written by women of all sorts, not just heterosexual, and gay men too, and the people who enjoy reading it are drawn from pretty much the entire spectrum of the human race with the possible exception of straight men.”
David Ehrenstein of Los Angeles, a frequent contributor to the Weekly, isn’t a fan of straight women writing M/M. He says he’s surprised that “Laura Albert (aka JT LeRoy) wasn’t mentioned. She’s the reducto ad absurdum of all this psychosexual poaching.”
Alex Albert from Toronto begs to differ. “It’s not fair to compare female authors using male or gender-neutral pseudonyms to JT LeRoy, who invented an entire sobbing life story and used it to slither into people’s confidence,” says Alex. “None of the people in the article are doing anything of the kind. Pseudonyms are nothing new. Men write heterosexual romances under female pseudonyms as well. If you want to blame anyone, blame a society that stereotypes human beings because it can’t handle fluidity of gender, sex, sexual orientation, you name it; blame a society that’s sex-negative while abusing sex every second of every day to buy us.
“Some M/M is hideous trash fabricated by people who write cardboard cutouts of gay men, and I am sure with the growing popularity of the genre there will be more of that. But it’s not as if gay fiction written by gay men for gay men is free of hideous trash — much gay pulp represents me about as well as swooning heroine-with-a-dick M/M.”
But Ehrenstein is having none of it: “Your writers are pretending to be gay men — which they are not. These frauds are poaching on the exceedingly hard-won territory of gay literature. As a result, a lot of serious writing by gay men is being swept to one side while this psychosexual hen party has its way with my life and the lives of those I’ve loved. I have nothing but contempt for this.”
Gentlemen, gentlemen, can’t we all get along? To see how this plays out, you’ll have to go online.
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