If I had to make a list of the differences between hetero (M/F) and gay (M/M) romance novels, I could probably come up with quite a number. I want to write about one difference that has stood out for me personally, though, and is part of what brought me to the genre.
It’s this: M/M romance (mostly) takes sexism out of the picture.
Full disclosure: I’m a feminist. Translation: I believe in the equality of all people.
When you read a hetero romance, you tend to see lots of evidence of sexism, whether subtle or obvious. It’s really no surprise, since you see sexism (if you are paying attention) in all parts of real life. There probably isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t see some evidence of sexism around me, whether it’s in my normal life or on the news. As in real life, when you read about relationships between men and women in fiction, you see evidence of that same sexism. Hetero romance can’t help but have it, since the main relationship is between a man and woman, two genders that are unfortunately operating on unequal playing fields in the real world.
After a good long time of reading hetero romance, I was starting to get sick of seeing some of the sexism that I saw around me in real life. For instance… The demands by the male character that the female call/text him whenever she goes somewhere so that he knows she’s safe. He doesn’t have to do the same, of course. The demands that the female character not do dangerous activities or jobs. He doesn’t have that same requirement, of course. The slut shaming. THE SLUT SHAMING.
Of course, not all hetero romance is filled with sexism. Sometimes it is really subtle. Sometimes the sexism is less subtle, but seems realistic when viewed from the lens of reality. And sometimes it seems like the author’s own internalized sexist messages have permeated a book. I still read hetero romance occasionally, so what I said above is not meant to be an indictment of all hetero romance. What I’m saying is that, if contemporary hetero romance is meant to at least somewhat represent actual life situations, it can’t help but contain some sexism. And for someone like me, who feels frustrated in real life by feminist issues, hetero romance often serves as a reminder of those frustrations.
And gosh, sometimes a girl just needs a break from the sexism!
One of the first things I noticed when I started reading gay romance is that it took the male-female differential out of the picture. Kind of obvious, right? LOL. On a base level, when you examine a relationship between two men, they are at a similar level when it comes to political, economic, social, and sexual rights. They are more evenly matched. I don’t mean that that aren’t issues of power and class and race and things like that going on in M/M romance. There are. It’s just that the common inequalities that exist between men and women are not at work here. And that is like a breath of fresh air for a girl like me.