Guest Blogger: James Lear
Fag Hag: Kristina Lloyd
Filthy. Funny. Gay. Three words to make many women prick up their ears. (I said *ears*! Quit with the anagrams.) James Lear ranks highly on all these fronts (I said *ranks*) so we're thrilled to have him on Lust Bites. James's Back Passage (Cleis Press) is a brilliantly funny riot of shagging and sleuthing, and I have never read a book with so much come in it. Ahem. I mean, I can highly recommend it. It's topped the Lesbian and Gay Bestseller charts on both Amazon UK and Amazon US, and is also - woo hoo! - a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards. The results will be announced tomorrow at a super swish ceremony in New York so we've got our fingers and legs crossed on Lust Bites (okay, just our fingers) and we're all rooting for James's Back Passage.
James is here today to tell us more about his Back Passage, his latest release, Hot Valley, and to mull over a question that's been puzzling him: Why do women like my hot, cock-filled gay porn?
When I started writing gay erotic fiction, I assumed that the readers would be almost exclusively male, and that they’d be reading it for one reason only. Much to my surprise and delight, I’ve discovered that a very significant percentage of my readership is female, and that they’re far more forthright in their enjoyment of the books than men. The majority of the reviews on Amazon, both in the UK and the US, are written by women, and I’ve had no end of really great, positive feedback from female readers both in person and online.
Thinking about it, I suppose I should have known. I remember girl friends back in the day telling me that they enjoyed reading about sex, and that a good dirty story got them far more excited than looking at pictures of knobs. But I’d assumed that they would need some point of identification – that there would have to be a woman in there so that they could imagine it was “about me”. Nothing of the sort, as it turns out: my readers tell me that they enjoy reading about men in sexual situations for all sorts of reasons, that they enjoy the wider range of roles available in same-sex coupling (as opposed to the formulaic approach of so much hetero stuff) and that they can get into sex scenes whatever the genders.
And there’s another surprise: these readers are by no means all straight women. Many of them are lesbians, and they’re right in there with the rest of them getting off on descriptions of two men fucking.
So what exactly is drawing in this female readership – and why are they so much more articulate in their appreciation of erotic writing than men? I think men take a more functional approach to porn, both written and photographed: they choose what specifically turns them on, they consume it and they get off. That’s what I assumed when writing the four erotic novels I’ve done to date. The basic deal is that there are two good wanks per chapter (one for older readers), and, in the “down time”, enough plot and humour and good writing to keep you entertained.
Obviously the nuts and bolts aspect of the writing also works for women, who, I am reliably informed, “enjoy” erotic writing in exactly the same way as men. But it seems that female readers have less rigid ideas of what will work for them; they’re open to a wider range of stimuli. Some get off on the depiction of men as vulnerable, passive sex objects; others like the depiction of strong, rough, masculine figues (there are plenty of both). Some like the romance aspects, and the happy endings; others go for the historical or genre trappings. The Back Passage, my biggest seller and the first for US publisher Cleis, is a 1920s country house murder mystery – basically, it’s Agatha Christie and Gosford Park with yards of cock – and that, more than any other, has got female readers’ juices flowing.
But this isn’t just a question of sexually-open women enjoying male/male erotica as part of a smorgasbord of literary stimulation. There are several female readers, and indeed writers, who are choosing to specialise in m/m material. One reader told me how she actively seeks out m/m erotica, and scares male shoppers by hanging around the gay section in bookshops. Several female romance writers have found their way to m/m fiction and explore it with a completely new sensibility.
We’re used to the cliché of gay men finding points of identification in movies with strong female leads; I wonder if this move towards m/m erotica signals a similar quest among women who are dissatisfied with the traditional roles they’re given in m/f books and films and are looking for material that takes them on a wider imaginative journey. I well remember watching a Jeff Stryker gay porn movie with a butch lesbian friend of mine many years ago, and her stomping around going “I wish I had a dick as big as Jeff’s so I could fuck anyone I fancied!”. I’m certainly not suggesting that this is some form of literary penis envy, but I do think that gay porn has a liberating effect on women’s imaginations.
Gay male readers also enjoy the books, thank God, but are far less likely to engage in discussion of them than women. As for officially straight men – and I know that they’re out there reading these books, checking out gay websites, cruising the gay/bi chatrooms and the saunas – they probably wank themselves silly and then chuck the book in the bin. I would love to know what they think, but I resign myself to the fact that I will probably never find out. One female reader tells me that she likes to get all steamed up with a good bit of m/m erotica and then leap on her husband to try out lots of new ideas. Do us a favour and get him to read a bit too, and report back.
Perhaps the new one, Hot Valley – an American Civil War epic – will grab the men as well, as it’s got lots of fighting and shooting, as well as some extremely dirty bits involving officers and foot soldiers, life in army camps and prisons and a huge variety of uniforms for the characters to take off.
I started writing erotica at a time when I was stalled in my “legit” writing career (I write novels under my “real” name, Rupert Smith) and needed an outlet. Now I find myself in a situation where the porn is outselling the literary fiction. It’s also had a healthy effect on my other writing, getting me in touch with the very basic functions of fiction: to excite, entertain and delight, not to be clever-clever. James Lear has liberated Rupert Smith, and it’s a happy symbiosis.
Please note: the man in the suit is Rupert Smith. James, I'm told, is kept under lock and key at a home for elderly nymphomaniacs. One of these guys will be along later today. I don't know which. I am worried.
Check out Rupert's website for more on the proper books and visit James to explore the improper stuff.
FREE FILTH! Up for grabs: The Back Passage and Hot Valley. Add a comment and this double dose of depravity could be yours!