There are some standard questions that authors who write M/M romance and who haven’t chose pen name which are either ambiguous in gender or suggest they are male, are asked over and over. They’re things like “How did you get into writing M/M” and “How do you do it when you’re not male?” Or, as a friend so tactfully put it when I told her about having sold this novel “But you’ve never done it with a guy! How can you possible write a sex scene between two guys?” (Yes, just for the record, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman. One of these days I’m going to write a F/F romance too – I just haven’t found good characters for it yet.)
The answer to how I write sex from a man’s point of view is exactly the same as how I write anything I’m not – elves, soldiers, journalists, lawyers, etc. – research.
When I decided it would be a good idea to try writing some stories about Danny O’Riordan’s romantic explorations, I knew I need to do some research. So the first thing I did was buy a second hand copy of “The Joy of Gay Sex” and read it cover to cover. It’s an excellent research source because it’s aimed at young men who may be exploring sex with another man for the first time. It covers everything. Although there are some very nice picture books out there too…
It’s also phenomenally helpful to have a couple of guys who will read your sex scenes and are comfortable enough with themselves and you to point out places where you got certain aspects of the physiology wrong, or missed important stages. I’m lucky enough to have two such gentlemen in my local face-to-face critique group.
Of course you do need an exceptionally mature and open-minded critique group to avoid having it dissolve in red faces and giggles when you start having discussions about who is where, and whether his arm would really reach there while his tongue is over there, and isn’t being tied up that way going to cause circulation problems after more than about five minutes?
Yes, these really are the kind of conversations you have when you get two or three people who write erotic romance or erotica together. We talk about plot and characterization too, of course, but those are far less entertaining to talk about.
That addresses the physical aspects of writing M/M sex scenes. In many ways the emotional and intellectual aspects are more of a mine field to negotiate. There are lots of people who have very strong opinions about how “real men” would act. I’m probably going to lose some potential readers by saying this, but when it comes to writing about what the guys are thinking and feeling, I’m not writing men. Or women, for that matter. I’m writing people.
My experience of real people, as opposed to the characters I’m inventing for my stories, is that they come in a broad range. I know a guy who is so alpha he’s practically a testosterone superfund site, who also sews and had opinions on the fabric that his fiancé should choose for her wedding dress. (And that got a very entertaining double take from the store owner, who was not expecting the bearded redneck to care if the brocade was polyester or silk.) I know another who has been blogging in detail about his grieving process after his wife of many years passed away from cancer.
Contrary to the standard romance tropes, real guys have feelings, and are allowed to express them. Not all of them will of course – there’s a lot of cultural conditioning in the way in many areas – but it frustrates me when I hear someone say a male character isn’t “realistic” because he has some of the softer emotions and admits to them. Real men come in all kinds of flavors and attitudes, and there should be room for that in fiction too.