Welcome to a holiday edition at Tabooindeed. Not taking the day off though since this is Xakara's third Menage Monday post.
I hope you're enjoying them so far. I know I am. Let's give her the floor.
Writing From the Middle: Girls Who Like Guys Who Like Guys
There have been numerous, (although nowhere near enough), articles on the phenomena of women writing M/M romance. This isn’t another one...exactly. If writing gay romance brings curiosity, bisexual romance seems to outright boggle the mind of the uninitiated.
The divide between ménage that features two straight men focused on a straight woman and ménage that features a loving triad of bisexual men and a sexually open woman, all equally engaged, is much larger than you might imagine. Once the men become involved the questions seem to be aimed not only at the author, but also at the heroine. Why would a woman want to be with a man who also enjoys other men? And what kind of woman writes about it?
Both questions play into an assumption—that men and women are inherently different in what turns them on. Yes, men tend to be more visual while women are more relational, but that in no way means that neither is like the other. The largest growing segment of viewers, producers, directors and writers of pornography are women. In turn, men are reading more romance, buying more tickets to romantic comedies and filling out more dating profiles aimed at long term relationships. We may ultimately be flying different flags, but everyone on the gender spectrum is sailing the exact same waters towards their personal fulfillment.
Among male-identified viewers of pornography and readers of erotica who are sexually attracted to women, the fantasy of two women together still outstrips every other. The reasons are varied, but the highlight reel most often comes down to three things; mystery, ego and security.
The Mystery: seeing two, (or more), women together gives an insight that men may otherwise never be granted.
The Ego: the two women in question in the fantasy are always waiting for the male to join and fulfill them in every way.
The Security: two women allow for complete immersion in female pleasure without the need to feel in competition with, or to be compared to, the well endowed male that would otherwise grace the screen or page.
For female-identified readers and watchers interested in men, those same three things are fulfilled in MM romance, but the focus is slightly different.
The Mystery: How do men relate to each other sexually? Is there tenderness? Is it rough and tumble? Do they walk away without a second thought? Or are they able to let go in a way rarely seen? All of these questions come forward and if done right, are answered to a degree—at least in fantasy.
The Ego: Let’s face it, no matter how you identify, if sex interests you, the fantasy of two people turning their devotions upon you to service your every need, well, works with whatever gender expressions make you smile!
The Security: In visual medium as well as on the page, a perfect heroine can make a reader feel inadequate. Worse than inadequacy, a heroine that’s Too Stupid To Live can make a reader feel embarrassed for herself and everyone that shares her gender identity. One solution to avoid these pitfalls is to take the heroine out of the picture all together...and the focus on MM romance is born.
So what happens when the ego and security portions don’t apply? What’s going on when the female reader and writer want to focus on men together, but still have a heroine front and center, (or to either side, you know, whatever works), to the relationship? It’s one thing to have the heroine the only thing that matters to her two love-struck heroes, but what’s the appeal of those heroes being just as into each other? Why would a woman want to compete with one hero for the attention of the other and why would someone want to read it? In a word? Equality. But first, the misconception.
Bisexual ménages are not a competition by the virtue of being bisexual ménages. Neither the heroine nor either hero is in competition for the affections of others in the triad. They are coming together in a polyamorous sharing that puts the relationships on equal footing. The men and women depicted on the page are compared and contrasted in the context of the overall relationship, and at least in the case of my bisexual polyromances, this context both reveals the mystery of men together, and highlights a love of strength and competence exuded by the women in their lives.
When male characters are written as also loving men, those same male traits can be exhibited by female characters without being intimidating. In turn, feminine traits can be exhibited by male characters without invalidating masculinity or femininity as it is viewed by our third presence. The playground of sexual identity and gender expression opens wide once you are not constrained by the either/or of gay or straight romance. Strong, dominant, even aggressive women can stand tall beside men of the same alpha caliber and be loved because of those traits, rather than in spite of them. Or a heroine can submit and kneel beside a likewise submissive beta male, her surrender an act of love and inclination, rather than one of gender.
Because we read, write and live in a patriarchy, we move along the shores of assumptive hetero-normative and gender-normative privilege and persecutions. Although entirely separate from one another, sexual orientation and gender identity are coupled so closely that you cannot move through one without resonating within the other. In my belief, among the many reasons out there, more female readers and writers are turning to bisexual romance and bisexual fiction as a whole to escape normative constraints.
Once you free the hero from heteronormative assumption, you free the heroine from gender-normative assumption. When the narrowness of masculinity expands for the hero, femininity expands for the heroine, and both ends of the spectrum begin to merge, freeing the characters, the reader and the writer, to explore without the shackles of traditional definition. We cease to work within the tiny confines of the masculine or feminine shore and wade into the river of individual expression. In short, the medium allows us to see women more like ourselves or who we’d like to be.
Okay, Kittens, I used the word shackles above, it’s time to go before this becomes an exploration of how freeing masculinity is the new feminist frontier. Instead let me wrap by saying that most readers and writers of bisexual romance aren’t intentionally trying to be subversive. Fortunately, they benefit from the subversiveness of redefining masculinity in the gray area of bisexuality between the black and white of the gay-straight divide. In doing so, they make space to elevate femininity to reflect the real faces of women who neither swoon at the sight of a muscle-bound, bright-eyed poster boys for male virility, nor eschew all male company to prove their strength and independence. Women who are just women in a modern world who have been taught to shoulder as much or more than men, but who also have no qualms with a fifties femininity from time to time, along with everything in between.
If all of that is a little too deep this early on a Monday, here’s my other answer. Women like men who like men cuz it’s hot! There, better? *grin*
Girl-on-Guy-on-Guy Ramble ~ Done!
Tell me, Kittens, why do you read or write MMF? If it’s not your thing, why do you think others do? And if you’ve been following along with our Menage Monday’s and other Writing From the Middle segments, what else about writing Bi-Poly ficiton would you like to me to explore or to go back and touch on in more depth?