This question has been ruminating in my head for a bit now. I hope it’s obvious, but I’m an ally. I’m an advocate for equal rights, period. I read a lot of LGBTQIA fiction, in romance but also in the Young Adult section. Still, I’m a mostly hetero woman, middle age, married with a daughter, and not only have M/M romance novels become my favorite adult genre, but in a some cases I have found more of myself in them than I have in the hetero romance novels I read. (I hate the phrase ‘traditional romance’, because traditionally there has always been a wide range of sexual identities. I feel it implies prejudice.)
Maybe it’s that I get odd looks when someone asks what I’m reading, or it’s the eye rolls I get from my family members when I’m asked why I read M/M romance, but it’s made me wonder why more and more people seem drawn to this genre than ever before.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are 2 main reasons why I think that this romantic genre has been gaining ground, both for me personally and in general.
–Writing Women is Hard
This is clearly my own opinion. I haven’t done any research to back this up. I also don’t plan on it, so if you disagree I’d definitely love to discuss it in the comments.
I’ve read probably close to a thousand romance novels in my 37 years of life, and all those books have left me with a strong belief that, for an author, writing a sympathetic female character is just harder. Some of that is probably sexism. I do believe that there are behaviors and personalities that are easily accepted in a man, but the same behaviors and personalities on a woman are ridiculed. I was raised in the same society as everyone else, so I’m positive that I fall victim to this on occasion myself. While there have been female characters I’ve championed (Scarlett from Lunar Chronicles) I do tend to be harder on the women and more understanding of the men, particularly in a romance.
I also think sometimes it’s not the readers fault that the girls tend to get beat up on. I think that some authors struggle with how to show a woman’s strength without making her a bitch. There’s nothing I hate more in a romance than reading a bitchy main character.
–Change it Up
Like I said, I’ve read a LOT of romance. I’ve always gravitated toward stories of love. Even when I was young and reading Nancy Drew my favorite’s were the ones where Nancy was working with Ned Nickerson. My favorite Sweet Valley High‘s were the ones about Elizabeth and Todd, or Elizabeth and Jeffery. I went through a Historical Romance phase. I went through a western romance phase. A Native American phase… I simply love reading about love.
At the same time, all of it was starting to get so tired. The plots and tropes felt so overcooked they were crunchy. Nowadays I still find a really amazing romance and write a glowing review, –Storm and Silence– but most of the time hetero romance rarely gets above three stars. I’m burnt out.
Reading M/M has made everything feel new again. These books give you more than just a love story. They give you a battle. Not only do they have to overcome their inner emotions, they have to overcome society too. They fill me with so much emotion. They’re beautiful. It’s the biblio version of why the world fell in love with Kurt and Blaine.
What I really love are the stories that take place in a world where there isn’t a distinction between lifestyles. They make me long for the day that all have become so accepted they’re common.