Why Straight Women Love Gay Romance
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by Geoffrey Knight
Category: General Nonfiction/Mainstream
Description: One of the world's biggest secrets is coming out...Why do straight women love gay romance? What is it that attracts straight women to the idea of two men falling in love? Is it the muscles? The mystery of the male mind? The idea of true love overcoming all odds? How has it changed who these women are and how they see the world? And how powerful is this once-silent army of readers in the fight for equality? Readers, authors, publishers, editors, reviewers and cover artists share their opinions and tell some very personal stories that will make you laugh, cry and ultimately inspire, as 32 women across 9 countries and 4 continents--including New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann, Amelia from the Huffington Post, bestselling gay romance author Carol Lynne and award-winning publisher and author Laura Baumbach--finally reveal...
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: October 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [264 KB]
Reading time: 168-236 min.
Who? What? Why?
Here's how it all started. I was having a few drinks with friends and when one of them asked how my writing was going, I mentioned that I'd just finished a new manuscript and had sent it off to my friend Helen to read. The conversation went something like this--
Friend at the pub: "Helen? A woman reads your books?"
Geoff: "Yeah, lots of women read my books. In fact, the majority of my readers are female."
Friend at pub (curious): "But I thought you only wrote gay porn?"
Geoff: "Well, it's a bit more than just porn. But it's erotica and romance, and yes, it's gay."
Friend at pub (perplexed): "What are lesbians doing reading about gay men?"
Geoff: "I don't think there are that many lesbians who read my books, maybe a few, who knows."
Friend at pub (getting really confused now): "But you said women read your books."
Geoff: "Yeah, mostly straight women."
Friend at pub (downright baffled): "But... why?"
Geoff (searching but not coming up with much): "I don't know."
That was the first, but by no means the last time I've ever had that discussion. In fact, it's a conversation that's come up at readings and book club appearances and writer's forums that I've attended in both Australia and the United States. And every single time, the discussion plays out exactly the same way, with the exception of the last chat I had on the subject which ended with--
Geoff (searching but not coming up with much): "I don't know. But you know what? I'm gonna find out!"
And so it began.
I started thinking about how to get to the bottom of this, who to go to for answers, and whether people were ready to know about something that was, in my opinion, one of the world's best kept secrets--Why do straight women love gay romance?
I had met a great number of wonderful women at the inaugural GayRomLit retreat in New Orleans in October 2011 (and yes, the overwhelming majority of attendees were straight women), so I knew I could comfortably ask several friends I'd made at GRL if they'd like to help out. There were also a great number of women on Facebook and several Yahoo Groups dedicated to gay romance who I thought might be interested. I started contemplating the kind of questions I wanted to ask--
How did you discover gay romance?
Who knows you read it?
What reaction do you get when you tell people?
Does your husband know?
Has it changed your sex life?
--but in the back of my mind one lingering thought kept holding me back.
What if these women didn't want their secret told?
What if they were happy reading about gay men in love, without the world even knowing about it?
Then in March 2012, something else happened that made me want to push past this barrier. A wonderful gay romance author named William Neale died. Bill wrote some of the most touching, honest, and heartfelt gay love stories ever written. One day he sent his latest manuscript to his publisher. The next day he was gone, without any warning at all.
News of his death took this very small and very tight little gay romance community by complete surprise. Bill had made many friends and fans, he was one of the organizers of GayRomLit, and his passing left us all reeling, whether we knew him well or not.
And this was something I couldn't figure out either.
I barely knew Bill. I spoke to him a few times at the retreat in New Orleans and via email, and yet his death left me devastated. And I wasn't the only one. Fellow authors and fans of Bill who had never met him were left so upset by his sudden passing that it were as though they'd lost a member of their own family.
In fact, the subject line of the email that Bill's publisher, Laura Baumbach, sent out was: A Death in the Family.
It was a few days later, after thinking about Bill almost non-stop, that I realized how powerful Laura's subject line was, how true it was, and this was why we were all so devastated.
Because we are a family.
We shared something that the world didn't know about.
Together we all loved gay romance. Together we shared a passion for stories about the love between two men.
When the attendees of that first GayRomLit retreat in October 2011 all came together for the first time, it was like being in a safe place, sharing something other people didn't know or understand. It was like being with family, despite the fact that we were all pretty much strangers. There was a sense of courage, of confidence, of unspoken understanding, as though so many people there were "coming out" in their own way, for the first time. There was instant trust, an instant friendship between us all.
Then Bill died and we lost one of our own.
And all I could think was: the world needs to know we're here!
How can someone like Bill die and his wonderful words and stories be loved and cherished by so few?
I truly believed it was time for this secret--these stories--to be told.
The first thing I did was send an email to Laura and my editor, Kris, at MLR Press and explain how I felt, what I wanted to do. With their undying determination, passion, and years of experience publishing gay romance, Laura and Kris whole-heartedly backed the project.
The second thing I did was approach the friends I had made at GayRomLit as well as online. I also approached some women I had never spoken to before, strangers who have since become my friends. I told them I wanted their personal stories, their honest answers to some very private questions. To be honest, I wasn't at all sure what kind of reaction I was going to get, but when I got it, it blew me away. Almost all the women I approached not only wanted to be a part of this book, they were genuinely thrilled and excited and passionate to help.
Yes, these women have something to say!
Initially I asked eight women to participate. Their responses had me captivated. They introduced me to theories and thoughts on the subject I hadn't even imagined. I was hooked, and so I asked four more women. Then another five. And still I wanted to know more. I wasn't simply fascinated by their responses; I was spellbound!
In the end, I interviewed thirty-two women from nine countries across four continents. And their answers are as diverse as they are riveting, which thrilled me because diversity was one of my main goals with this project.
I wanted the award-winning publisher and the #1 New York Times bestselling author, as well as the most prolific and successful female writers in this category. But I also wanted the fans, the women who read gay romance not with aspirations of writing a novel, but just for their love of these books.
I wanted women from different age groups in all kinds of different relationships. I wanted grandmothers and soccer moms and single women of all ages. I wanted the happily married and the happily divorced. I wanted women with children both gay and straight, as well as those who have no intention of ever raising a family.
And I wanted cultural diversity. From a town in Iceland to America's Deep South; from mainland China where homosexuality was classed as a mental illness until as recently as 2001, to Germany where the Mayor of Berlin is openly gay; from Italy to Ireland; from Australia to Canada; from Hong Kong to England.
What I found were stories that made me laugh, cry, and shake my head in astonishment. But what I also found was something that truly astounded me. I found a once-silent army of women who, simply through their love of gay romance, have become an army fighting for equality. They're educating their husbands and children. They're changing the perceptions of their parents and friends and work colleagues. They're joining support groups and waving flags and becoming a true force to be reckoned with. Before they started reading gay romance, many of these women didn't even have any gay friends. Now they are one of the strongest, and most surprising, waves of support for equal rights on the planet--and most of the world, both gay and straight, doesn't even know it.
Well all that's about to change.
It's time to meet the ladies.