MM and MMF – Let’s Try Again. Why Do Women Like Men Who Like Men?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that some readers struggle with the idea of male-on-male (MM) romance or male-male-female (MMF) action inside their erotic romance novels.
I got this note from Christine on Facebook, and she graciously allowed me to quote her:
“Hi, Tracy, Wow, I thought Only gay people liked to read MM, I just read Hot in the City 2 where there was MFM, MFF and a tiny bit of MMF and I wish it would have been left out. Alpha men don’t want to lick another guy’s dick, Not any hero I know or want to see anyway. He should just LOVE women. Women really find this apealing? Men with other men, while with them? Now, Spectrum is written from gay men, though, right? Thought you’d be the perfect person to ask since you wrote the article and all. Let me know what you think when you have time. Take care, Christine.”
The article Christine is referring to is my post from August last year, “The MMF Thing…How to Get It” If all the acronyms you’ve read so far are making your eyes cross, then you might want to read the article just to get a handle on the terminology.
Since I wrote the article, I’ve written a hell of a lot more MMF scenes and done a lot more exploring into the MM side of sensuality and sex. So I thought I’d try and clarify even further today on why MM and MMF works for me, and possibly the thousands of other readers that snap up these books the minute they hit the shelves, and at the same time, answer Christine’s questions.
Spectrum is a category of fiction available on Ellora’s Cave, just like Twilight (Paranormal) and Breathless (Romantic Suspense). The tag for Spectrum is gay/lesbian, but that doesn’t mean it’s purely for gay or lesbian readers. I asked Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher at Ellora’s Cave, for a definition of the Spectrum line, and here is her answer:
Spectrum is for same-gender erotic romances. A book can have only one Line, so the author and editor must determine what is the most likely audience for a book, what is the primary “element” of the story and romance. For example, if it is a vampire MM story, should it go in Twilight or Spectrum? If it was placed in a different line, book would also have the appropriate icon (MM or FF) to let potential readers know it contains same-gender sex.
Therefore, there are titles in the Spectrum line that vampire lovers, for example, might find just as intriguing as gay readers, or romantic suspense readers. You can’t afford to dismiss Spectrum out of hand as simply for gay readers. It’s a bit more complex than that.
MMF stories are all about the emotion
I can only write this with any authority if I use my own perspective. Other authors and readers may have other opinions, and I really (really!!!) would love to hear those opinions. However, for me, one of the strongest attractions to MMF stories is not the Tab A and Tab B into Slot(s) C aspect, but the emotions. With three people in the mix, you have so much more emotional territory to explore, beyond the basics of a man/woman relationship.
I’m writing this post just having finished writing a book-length MMF paranormal (Beauty’s Beasts) that was complex, intertwined and fascinating to write. It wasn’t just the sex, which was hot and plenty. It was the emotional intensity, which was off the charts. When you have three people playing off each other, all sorts of possibilities come into play. When two of those people are alpha males (and these two are so alpha it made your teeth ache – one of them had lived for well over two thousand years and survival was built into every cell), then emotions become supercharged because they have that whole macho can’t-deal-with-emotions thing going on.
Think of your favourite romance. Think of the high emotion point in that romance, when the hero shows his true feelings and reveals he’s vulnerable. That’s the scene that always makes your heart do a little flip and your chest squeeze, right?
Think of two men doing that in a novel. Twice the amount of over the top emotional intensity for the price of one.
And then it gets even better…
In the MM side of MMF romances, the emotional side of their relationship is just as powerful and does just the same sort of flippy-dippy stuff to your insides when you read it (if the author knows her stuff). How can it not? Two sexy, hunky, gorgeous heroes, brought down by love? For two people? It doesn’t get much better than that, especially if the menage itself isn’t a given, if they’re left hanging for a while, wondering if they have to chose between her and him.
And the heroine also has to wonder if she has to chose, too.
All that angst and emotion! You just can’t get that in a straight male/female romance. It’s not possible.
MMF Stories are about the Passion
I’m making the distinction here between passion and sex. Or, put another way: Sexual tension versus sex itself. If you carefully analyse a lot of MMF and MM stories, there’s a huge amount of wordage given over to foreplay, build-up, suggestion, imagery, and heat. Tension. Getting the characters, and you, the reader, hot and bothered.
There may not be too many in-your-face explicit MM scenes, and what there are may focus more on the sensuality rather than the physical steps of who did what to whom. It’ll be all about how they made each other feel. This is a huge difference to what men expect from their gay porn, which is entirely focused upon the slot and tab mechanics, with nary an emotion in sight.
MM Sex Is not About the Mechanics…but it is.
Christine is having her virgin bride eeewwww reaction to the mechanics of men having sex. It seems foreign and disgusting to her because she’s never really thought about it before.
Know what? Heterosexual sex acts seem foreign and perverted to us when we first learn about them. Grab a copy of Dracula and watch the scene when Minna and Lucy are pouring over the sex illustrations in Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights. They’re disgusted and horrified, too.
But they soon get used to the idea. And very soon after that enjoy the idea very much indeed.
If you browse through some of the better gay photography sites on-line (and I’m making the distinction here between artistic photography and flat out pornography), you’ll be educating yourself into the more erotic side of male bonding, and it can be highly arousing. You won’t get porn. You’ll get erotica. No slots and tabs. You’ll begin to understand passion between men, and it’s really not all that much different than passion between males and females. It can break hearts and move mountains.
And it can be just as lusty and earthy as hetero sex, too, don’t get me wrong. Ultimately, in order to write MMF sex, the actual mechanics of what men do to each other must be described in an erotic romance novel. So there will be tabs inserted into slots. There will be cocks inserted into male anuses, men sucking cocks, and they will like it.
Depending on which author you read, there will be sex toys involved, too. If the author is any good, the use of the toys will make the sex scene that much more effective and arousing. It shouldn’t be a turn off. It should make it more fun for you as a reader. It should make you want to rush out and buy those toys yourself and grab your nearest and dearest and try them out.
Bring them altogether and it’s all just sensuality, in the end.
Whether the men in that story only chose to have sex with the other male of the menage and are straight at all other times, or are bisexual generally is a story decision authors will make. If the author doesn’t make a distinction in the story, you can chose for yourself as a reader depending on your comfort level.
But here’s a way you might want to look at the whole gay/bi/hetero thing in general: why stick a label on it at all? Throughout most of history, people didn’t make the distinction. The Spartans, still considered the toughest foot soldiers in history, were freely bisexual, taking male lovers and females as they were inclined. They didn’t have terms like bisexuality at all. It was just a part of the way they lived and sensuality was the key.
The Romans were just as free with their bed partners. Marc Antony, considered one of the greatest lovers in history, and who suicided with Cleopatra, also had male lovers when he was fighting war campaigns for Julius Caesar (and running up personal debts that amounted to the equivalent of six million dollars in today’s money, but I digress…)
It was only much later in modern history that the gender of your lover became a sin in the eyes of society.
There’s two points to an erotic romance novel. The first is to entertain via the romance story and the second is to arouse and titillate via the erotic storyline. An author will use any sensual device to achieve that end. And romance readers have demonstrated via sales and feedback that they love and adore and respond to with lusty cries of joy the MMF story-lines (me too!). As three people in a romance triangle provide such fertile opportunities for emotional entanglements, I think it’ll be a while before authors run out of MMF storyline possibilities and start to go stale on them. Mix MMF up with paranormal and the opportunities are literally endless.
It’s worth easing yourself into MMF if you’re not used to it.
If reading through this is making you cringe just a little bit, then you might find it worth while easing yourself into MMF (as opposed to MFM) and trying one or two, to see if you like it. Here’s a tip: When you get to the bits that make you go eeewwww, skip over them. Don’t toss the book as a dead loss straight away. You’re trying to acclimatize yourself to a new culture, so give yourself time. It’s like trying to ease into a too-hot bath. You need to take it a bit at a time, and not give up straight away, because the soak is soooo worth it, in the end.
In the meantime, try cruising around a few gay photography sites. Check out the photographs of men together. (Personally, I like the well-muscled, tanned guys better than the string-beans. But I’m married to a professional wrestler, so I’m biased). Try Bentboy’s Place as a starting point (careful, it’s addictive, and warning: nude men abound!). This is aversion therapy at its happy best. If you can handle this, you’d probably enjoy MMF.
First appeared as a blog post in 2009.
Other MMF Romance articles, posts and resources:
Ease Yourself Into MMF Romances (Article Series)