The MMF Thing…How to Get It


Regina Carlyle, over at Three Wicked Writers today is scratching her head over the MM phenomenon in “Trying to Get This”.

I can understand her pain, and while I’m not a sadist I’d like to dig around in there in a minute, but first a digression.

3D Beth's Acceptance largeIf the first paragraph of the post was just a lot of wide letters for you, let me back up and do some simple acronym definitions for you. Believe me, this stuff doesn’t really get explained anywhere…most of the time you have to get it explained for you, while you blush furiously, feeling like a total ignoramous.

MM = Male + Male erotic fiction written for a primarily female romance-reading audience. Don’t knee-jerk it and call it gay, because it’s not. More on this in a minute.

MFM = Male + Female + Male erotic fiction… your classic menagé à trois, where the two males focus the action on the female for ultimate hetero bliss. If you look at the arrangement of the letters in the acronym, you’ll see that the Ms are actually nicely separated by the F. A neat little mnemonic, if you like things like that.

MMF + Male + Male + Female. If my mnemonic didn’t already give the game away, then I need to explain that a) this is the erotic fiction where the two men in the menagé also get to enjoy each others’ company, as well as the lady’s, and that b) this is the hottest of the erotic romance fiction walking off the shelves these days.

3D MiaRegina Carlyle was asking a legitimate question today when she scratched her head and wondered why MM is so damned popular. Actually it’s not quite as popular as MMF, which is currently eclipsing it in the charts. I can’t answer the MM question, but I can take a stab at it in the context of MMF, because that’s what I write. I believe the two are closely linked.

But first, let me clear up a pesky wart and get it out of the way.

MM is not gay porn, or gay erotica. Not even close.

I’ve heard that gay men have read MM erotic fiction written for female erotic romance readers…(I wish I could dig up this reference, but for the life of me I can’t find it now I need it. If anyone reading this remembers the source, please let me know.) Anyway, gay men who have read MM erotic fiction for women have found it not to their taste, because it wasn’t written for men. It was written for hetero women. Different focus, different functions. Different approach to fiction, perspectives…basically, gay literature and MM erotic fiction are two different species.

So why is MM and MMF so wildly popular with women who are healthy and happy heterosexuals?

3D Bannockburn largeI believe I have the answer…I found it when I began writing MMF myself, and found that I just loved writing the stuff. The clue came for me out of the fact that the easiest way to make a reader love the hero is to show his vulnerability for the heroine; that he is this big, strong, alpha hero who can take absolutely anything the world could dish out, and more besides, but when it comes to the heroine, he’s toast. She can bring him to his knees with a pout.

That’s a flippant rendition, and is no doubt making you grimace, but this is absolutely the rock bottom core of a romance novel’s emotional intensity. It’s all in how you present it. Let me demonstrate.

Let’s say the hero is a Navy SEAL called…Jack. Jack’s a decorated veteran of six Afghan campaigns, he’s lived through a fair imitation of hell on a dozen occassions. He would calmly lay down his life for his country, without fanfare. It’s just who he is. He’s tough, strong, one of those quiet guys who steps into a room and sizes it up. The sort that can come into a bar, and make all the rowdy loud-mouths fall silent and drink up their beers and suddenly have somewhere better to be, just by ordering a drink. He’s got a way with the ladies, and no time to mess around with relationships. He can come to an understanding fast enough to get in and get out quickly, and dust off fast. No complications, no heartache. Jack’s dedicated to his career and has no intentions of anything upsetting his plans.

Time 3D SiteThen he meets our heroine, Amanda, and everything changes. For the first 85% of the book he manages to maintain the facade, but inside, Jack’s battling wholesale chaos. He plays it cool. But throughout the book there’s little hints that he’s starting to crumble, that Amanda is burrowing into his psyche in a seriously permanent way, until we reach a point where he’s scared he’s going to lose her and terrified of what life will be like if she does go. Jack’s a lost lad, and finally, the tough exterior slips and his true feelings show.

In otherwords, love. Romance. Vulnerability, and finally, commitment — in whatever form that commitment needs to take for that story’s setup (Harlequins demand a proprosal; fantasies often call for a making or a turning — depends on the story, if you see what I mean.)

3D-Beauty-868x1024And it’s this breakdown of the hero’s psyche to the ultimate vulnerability that has been delighting romance readers for decades.

In erotic romance, all this romance still takes place, but there’s a lot of fucking going on while it happens, and the relating is in a sensual context. That means that very intense romances can take place over very short periods of time. You can get to know someone very well when you’re locked together in coitus for a couple of days.

So if romance readers have been delighting in the fall of strong heroes to the ultimate weakness (love), what could be better than *two* hunky heroes battling their emotions…and having lots of sinful sex while they’re doing it?

In the context of MMF erotica, they’re having that sex with the heroine, too.

Now that puts the icing on the cake, doesn’t it?

3D Blood KNot largeHow hot does it sound to watch/read two basically straight, gorgeous heroes and a drop-dead beautiful heroine all having sex together because they simply can’t keep their hands off each other? Because they’re overwhelmed by their feelings for each other?

You see, you have to off-load in your mind any labels that say “gay”, “perverted”, “weird”, “porn” or anything else that floats up to the surface as you read along. Because it’s none of the above. It’s three people pushed to their sensual limits by their feelings for each other. And that’s all. And that can make for some rollercoaster story-telling.

Hop on and enjoy the ride.


This post first appeared on the Teal Ceagh website, before Teal Ceagh “came out”.

You might also be interested in the article MM and MMF – Let’s Try Again. Why Do Women Like Men Who Like Men?, which I wrote later.

Scroll to Top