Last year I self-published two gay erotic novels based on my life.
One is the first in a series, set in Australia, that follows my troubled character, Oscar, as he grows into a kind, loving man. The other is the first in a darker, more sexually explicit prequel series, explaining how he became so lost in the first place.
Since hitting the digital shelves last August, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive glowing reviews. The thing is, almost all of them are from women.
A disclaimer: as a white male born in the UK, I’m a member of the most privileged group on earth, so I understand I’m not exactly qualified to explain female behaviour. I identify as gay, write gay erotica, and while I was pretty much raised by my mother and often tell people that inside my 28-year-old body lies a middle-aged lady yearning to get back to her cross-stitch of an evening, I’ll never have the insight of experience.
That’s why, to write this article, I had no choice but to reach out to the important women in my life. Fortunately, we all seemed to be on the same page.
“For me it’s equality,” says my friend, Joanna, who studies English literature and creative writing at De Montford University.
Being born in the 80s, since we’ve been children, sex has been everywhere. Coming from this sexualised generation, growing up in a patriarchal society, means we’ve been subjected to endless sexual misrepresentation in books, TV, movies, magazines, social media and, of course, pornography.
For her, gay erotica challenges this heterosexual male-dominated distortion of sex. It gives her the chance to visualise men in situations usually reserved for women: flirty, scantily clad, seduced and even objectified, but, in a sex-positive manner. It’s this shame-free attitude to entirely natural behaviour that, ignoring the odd pronoun here and there, is so refreshing.
For my friend Charlotte, it’s the farfetched fantasy elements that put her off a lot of the heterosexual tales circulating, especially since Fifty Shades of Grey.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the impact Fifty Shades has had on society, allowing the general population to become more acquainted with ideas of sex and taboo, which can be nothing but healthy, happy news for sexual scientists across the country, but due to its success, so many stories are now so implausible they become more frustration than fantasy.
‘Yes, I want to fantasise, but that just wouldn’t happen,’ she says about the plot of a straight erotica book we pick at random from Amazon about a woman who happens to be in the same hotel as a single, young, multimillionaire rock star she’s always fancied.
Which is why my stories, at least, are firmly grounded in reality.
Sure, there’s plenty of escapism, but Oscar Down Under is what one reviewer calls ‘literary erotica’: literature with erotic elements. In my book I explore character growth and change, morality and self-development. Real people with real problems as opposed to so-called normal people dealing with fake problems in seriously unbelievable environments.
This, of course, isn’t solely limited to gay erotica: there’s plenty of heterosexual stuff out there that doesn’t rely on obscure plots or implausible adventures to hook a reader. But, perhaps, gay erotica offers a blend of these seemingly contradictory concepts: fantasy and relatability.
For a woman reading a tale from a gay man’s perspective, challenging so-called masculinity via male characters who are open and willing to explore their feelings, she can escape among the pages without being sent halfway across the galaxy.
My friend Sarah, who worked in the erotic publishing industry for almost five years, echoes these thoughts:
‘I think a lot of our readers loved the journey they’d see gay characters going through. It’s as much about the emotion as it is the hot erotic scenes.’
Which brings me nicely to my final point: we can’t forget the sex.
Women, like men, are sexual beings. Girls get just as horny as boys: my mum remembers fervently ripping out the staples from the Cosmo nude centrefold back when she was younger. But unlike most men (myself included), women have been socially engineered to be more emotionally intelligent. So, simply put, maybe gay erotica is a woman’s version of a man’s lesbian fantasy, without compromising integrity.
Unlike the stale, stereotypes that abound in so-called lesbian porn and erotica written from a male-perspective, gay erotica gives women the excitement of two (or more) men, but with the emotional connectivity and relatable escapism she may crave.
But, of course, while we’re all basically bags of muscle, skin, bones and hormones regardless of gender, we all have different opinions. Not all women are emotionally-enabled goddesses and not all men are sex-crazed, visually-stimulated machines. Maybe, even, there are straight men out there reading gay erotica too.
Only time will tell.