“Alfie raked fingernails gently across one of his nipples, his other hand pushing aside John’s neckcloth so that he could pepper John’s throat with little bites. ‘Nnh!’ John managed. His trapped cock hurt, bent and straining against the heavy, harsh fabric of his breeches…”
Or so starts a sex scene from Alex Beecroft’s romance novel, False Colors. Ladies, there’s a new eroticism on the block. And it’s definitely not straight.
M/M erotica is one of the fastest growing markets geared towards getting women off. Running Press is putting out gay historical fiction with a romantic bent. Harlequin just launched an imprint, Carina, that focuses in on an audience hungering after hard bodies pressed together.
And so the big question is: why? Says 24 year old Californian grad student, Jane Wolfe, “Because if one man looks good, then two men together look great.” Which is a great start, but only part of the story. Women have been wanting equality in their porn since time began, and so far, it seems like two men are the only place to get it.
To start, where’s it coming from?
Beyond the obvious (in our brains), the man-on-man-for-woman craze seems to have been started by slash fan fiction writers. There’s nothing wrong with a little Kirk-on-Spock (the progenitor of the genre), some Han Solo-on-Luke Skywalker, Edward Cullen-Jacob Black. They call it “yaoi” in Japan – literally meaning “boy love.” Comics revolve around the concept of two pretty comic book boys getting it on.
There have actually been studies looking into the psychology of the average slash reader. In 2004, a psychologist and an anthropologist determined that “The typical slash fan may be a woman who is psychosexually unexceptional but who, for whatever reason, prefers the fantasy of being a co-warrior to the fantasy of being Mrs. Warrior.”
Maybe all of this would’ve stayed on the Internet. Maybe. If it wasn’t for Brokeback Mountain. It’s doubtful that Annie Proulx intended it when she wrote the original short story, but no form of media brought women’s fetish for gay men more to the forefront than the release of a movie about two handsome cowboys being manly in Montana, having kids with women, and Same-Time-Next-Year’ing in a tent out where no one but the audience could see them.
That’s when things changed.
That was when the ball really got rolling. Media caught up, and realized that there were entire untouched markets for the taking. Gay romance marketed by and for suburban housewives is an entire burgeoning imprint, at Harlequin and elsewhere. As it turns out, the writers most likely to be behind gay erotica are college-educated, middle-class women. How did this all come about?
We’re going to go with: porn.
It starts with the aesthetics. There’s an inauthentic feeling inherent in straight porn. Straight porn and romance operates on straight porn standards. Fantasies of cheerleaders, nurses, and the babysitter. Power structures set in place by men and enacted by women whose hips are turned sideways and legs are twisted to give the camera a better view of the penis and the moment of penetration. The lights are harsh; the women are heavily made up and breast-implanted. On the other hand, most men are not so well-tended.
There’s a reason why we’re more likely to know the names of female performers than male – Alexis Texas, Tori Black, Jenna Haze, Sasha Grey, and so forth. Really, the only men in porn who’ve made the transition to household names are Ron Jeremy and James Deen, and only one of them for good reason.
So the average straight porno features impossible women having fake sex with men who have large penises, but not much else. Gay porn works on an entirely different playing field. The visual aesthetics are important; the settings look natural, the men are more attractive, and everything is soft-lit. There’s a sense of connection you don’t get in the stereotypically non-kissing straight porn.
And the wider context?
But, of course, the appeal of man-on-man sex goes beyond just the aesthetics of the sex. Straight porn has been widely criticized for putting the pleasure of the woman second, if at all. Porn in the mainstream is all about the man’s sexual response: erection, penetration, ejaculation. Because there’s no objectively verifiable proof of female orgasm in most porn, it’s more or less safe to say that it mostly just doesn’t happen.
Gay men on the other hand, have authentic responses to their partners. There is an erection and an erection. Gay men are also more likely to reciprocate in porn than are their straight porn counterparts. Sex is built on a continuum. Because there are two needs to tend to, there’s an egalitarian sense of sexuality, in which both men’s sexual urges are satisfied. The power structures are less set in stone. Sex itself is the point, not just the cumshot. “And frankly, their porn just looks like more fun than ours,” says gay porn aficionado and 35 year old midwestern lab technician, Hannah Louis.
So what’s the takeaway here?
How can we adopt techniques from gay sex and introduce them into our bedrooms? Luckily, we haven’t been left on our own here. Along with man on man erotica for women, gay men are bringing tips to the field in books like Sex Tips for Straight Women From A Gay Man by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman, or any of the numerous youtubers intent on sharing their, ahem, expertise on the subject.
But let’s face it. You’re all just going to go watch porn now anyways. Enjoy it!