Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Writes More Convincing M/M Romance--Men or Women?

I’ve heard of editors betting whether an M/M story was written by a man or a woman.

Now, depending on the degree of honesty in the proceedings, some editors reportedly have a knack for knowing, others not so much. I’ve heard arguments on both sides. Witness the debate…

“If M/M is written primarily by straight women for straight women, that means a straight woman knows best what another straight woman wants in an M/M story.”

Mmm…no. What readers want is a good story with well-drawn characters they can invest in. The author’s ability in this department is what readers want. The book can be written by an asexual purple polka-dotted Martian with numerous organs and orifices—as long as the characters are well executed.

“A straight woman can’t possibly have a clue what it’s like to be a gay man, let alone conjure one for fiction.”

Geez. For decades, M/F interactions typified romance. Women wrote the vast majority of this, including the male character. This “have a clue” business about male characters didn’t get the press then that it does now (if it ever did get press then). The gay character is still a character. Maybe he’s an accountant, likes golf, favors pepperoni on his pizza, is gay, likes T-shirts versus button-downs, worries about the mortgage, and loves red. See? He’s not defined by his preference. He’s a guy, first and foremost.

“Straight women can’t write believable intimate gay encounters (read: they have no reference for man-on-man sex).”

Well, folks, have to disagree. Sure, there’s the mechanics, but that’s pretty standard, isn’t it? Ninety percent of a good sex scene is in the mind of the character(s). The emotional investment, the chance to reveal the naked core of the character(s). The human sexual experience is emotional, regardless of the gender of the participants. Men who write M/M romance are not uniformly sputtering ‘that would never happen!’ with any more frequency than their female counterparts when they read these scenes.

“Gay men favor the work of gay writers, while straight women favor books written by straight females.”

My thought—no. Being human, gay male readers of M/M like what they like because of content, not because they know the sex/orientation of the writer. The same is true of straight women.
My favorite M/M writers are split evenly between men and women. Mostly gay men and straight women. There are a couple of ringers in there, though—transgendered writers. Notice they haven’t been accorded a spot in the above debate, which likely makes them giddy with happiness.

Sooo…coming back to the initial dilemma of our blindfolded editors, betting over the slush pile whether the author is male or female, my money’s on the horse called “You Can’t Tell.”