Exploring male agency
Reading and writing male/male romance gives women a chance to explore romantic agency often denied them, says author and publisher Doreen DeSalvo.
Why is male/male romance so popular?
We actually were the first publisher of male/male romance, as far as I’m aware. Our authors began writing it—I think it grew out of fanfiction, and out of, you know, what they call “slash fiction.” When I was a teenager, I was reading Kirk and Spock fanfiction, where they hooked up. And I think that writers weren’t seeing this in the publishing community, so suddenly we had these submissions. And my business partner, who’s our editor-in-chief, said “call me crazy, I think this is hot.” And we took a chance on it, and a whole lot of people wanted it [. . .]
[. . .] I think that male/male gives women access to the type of sexual agency that men have always taken for granted. And, as women, I think we want to experience it in a way that’s safe. If you had female characters doing what male/male characters do, women could not relate to them—they would be sluts and tramps. But men really can still go out, see what they want, take it. No repercussions to them as a society, from society, or personally, or anything. And women just don’t have that still in our lives. So, my personal feeling is that that’s what a lot of it is about, and there are other people with different theories.
I know people want to see men feel very deeply and emotionally, and it’s interesting to me to see male/male grow to the degree where there’s so many subgenres within male/male. There’s the gay-for-you subgenre, where this man has always perceived himself as straight, but there’s one very special man that he falls in love with. So that’s what I call “gay for you.”
And then there’s the one where, you know, has always been gay but never fallen in love, so in a way he’s almost an emotional virgin. And there’s the subgenre that I find very interesting, where they are an established male couple, and they have a very close female friend, and the only woman they want to have sex with is their best female friend. So in a sense, I think the reader’s fantasy might be, “I will complete the two of them.” And of course the traditional romance fantasy is the woman will complete the man.