Why gay romance?

Do male/female romances inevitably struggle with uneven power dynamics? Author James Buchanan writes gay romance to sidestep this problem. Together, she says, two heroes can hold varying degrees of power and exhibit varying degrees of vulnerability as the story demands.

Transcript

What is the appeal of male/male romance?

Male/female romance, there is still this, the woman must be ultimate—the guy must always be elevated, must always be the stronger, the more powerful, the alpha guy, and she has to—even if she’s a military commander, and you don’t get to be a military commander by being a wallflower—she must turn into this just, I don’t even know how to describe it. [laughs] But she has to basically subvert all that to be his ultimate female, whereas in a gay romance, you’re dealing with two guys. It’s perfectly acceptable for them to be both very powerful, both equal in the relationship, share power in different ways, be vulnerable at one time, be very strong at another. That kind of, I think, power dynamic really appeals to women, because I think more and more younger women are reading it, and their lives are not “I’m going to give up everything for my guy. I’ve got a career. I’m going to keep my last name. I’m going to keep working. We’re going to figure this out. You do the dishes. I’ll clean the rooms.” [laughs] It’s not the traditional family, which a lot of romance still instills this traditional hierarchy [. . .]

[. . .] Because we’re all attracted to what we’re attracted to. And if you like women, two women’s going to be great. If you like men, two men’s going to be great. And there is an element of the forbidden, which is always a big element in erotica and porn. What is forbidden? What am I not supposed to like? And that titillates us. That makes us like it more [. . .]

[. . .] Most romance genres or all romance has certain tropes. There are the older and the younger, the money, the no money, all of those things. And those happen throughout gay romance, too, and I use gay romance, because to me it feels when you say male-male, I understand it comes from a publishing standpoint, where you just need a quick-and-dirty designation of what pairing is in this book: M/M or F/F or M/F for that, or sometimes M/M/M/M. Occasionally you get those books, but to me it takes—it’s still such a thing that taking the word “gay” out of it is almost a sanitization, which I don’t particularly appreciate. And so, for me, I refer to it as “gay romance” rather than male or male romance. Although I don’t necessarily do a lot of political stuff, but my characters encounter a lot of prejudice and stuff because it drives the story.

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