The Real Boy Syndrome
We’ve probably all seen this statement in reviews at least a hundred times: “I like this author because their characters feel so real.” That’s a great thing to read as an author. Nothing makes me happier than knowing somebody was able to relate to my character enough to call them real.
In the same avenue of thought, especially in the gay romance genre, we’ve also heard (probably just as many times) the authors who get indignant over the fact that other authors, “just don’t know how to write real men,” more specifically, they apparently don’t know how to write gay sex.
Well, halle-freaking-lujah for that stroke of kindness.
I mean, real? Really? Do you know… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a bit.
I will admit that when I first started writing in this genre I did my own share of spreading the hoopla that my characters were “real.” I even made a point of putting this fact on my website.
“I write,” I smugly typed, “real men.”
It only took one shaky yet way-too-fun step into the paranormal side of things for me to change that. Because let me tell you something, anybody that swears up and down that they only right “real” men, but then promptly sets you up for their werewolf-shifter, dramatic-yet-darling vampire, or magic-conjuring-wizard needs a little lesson on the meaning of the world “real.”
These days my website says that I: “have a fondness for real men, with real issues, doing their best to overcome and succeed,” and that, as they say, is da’ truth. My fondness for them runneth over, in fact, and while I will do my best to keep them as true to what I believe their characters should be, I make no promises on their level of real any longer. I absolutely will not make their sex scenes “real.” I don’t want to write about characters that are too real—not in romance, and definitely not in erotica. Honestly, I don’t think many people do. In today’s day and age I have to imagine that there could actually be a few folks out there who read romance and want to hear about how Gorgeous George has to do two rounds of anal douching before Prissy Paul shows up. Or how they’re both going to avoid making a dinner date if either one of them thinks the night will end up in penetrative sex. They are few and far between, though.
Does it happen in real life? Would that make their sex scenes more real? Of course it does and of course it would. But it’s about as romantic as… as… well, honestly, avoiding poop is about the most unromantic thing I can think of so I can’t quite find a comparison. And let’s face it, if we’re going to start talking about “real sex” in gay romance, we’re going to need to start delving a whole lot more into poop. Possibly literally.
So no, thanks. I’m going to keep my romance romantic. If that means that I have to substitute the concept of “real” for merely “responsible” then that’s what I’m going to do. Responsible, on the other hand, is important. Lube, condoms, consent: yeah, I get why that kind of thing needs to be in a novel. I’m just going to leave out the douching and the starving, okay?
Wait. Did you hear that? That heavy sigh in the background? That person who’s now mumbling that gay sex between two men hardly—no, I think I heard rarely, even—constitutes penetrative sex. That it doesn’t happen in “real life”? You heard it too? Okay. Excuse me. This will just take a minute. Help yourself to a cookie and a cup of coffee (Quad, there’s tea as well) while I deal with the heckler… I’ll be right back…
No, sir, it doesn’t happen in your life. But your life does not make up the basis of everybody else’s existence. Perhaps try rephrasing your admonishments to “I don’t like penetrative sex,” and then we’ll all nod politely and leave you to it. There are a whole bunch of guys out there, straight and gay, who believe that dirt washes off and that’s what condoms and old towels are for. If you prefer to keep your sex life mostly oral and manual, that’s up to you. Just don’t tell an entire genre of writers that it’s the “right way” to do things.
All right, where were we? Ah, yes; dropping some of the “real” for the sake of romance. This doesn’t just apply to the M/M genre or even the entire lot of same sex romance. All romance does this to a certain extent. Ask any of your cis-het female friends how’d they feel about getting caught by the upper arm and dragged into an embrace. Pretty sure their answer is going to range somewhere between sounding off a rape whistle or announcing that “somebody gonna die.”
However, if Pirate Sexy-Eyes, former Prince of La-La Island, does it in fiction, it’s different. Because it is fiction. Because the characters aren’t real people and they’re not living real lives and Pirate Sexy-Eyes is going to be redeeming himself somewhere along the way and Lovely Linda is going to be okay with that.
My point being, I want to write scenes—especially sex scenes—that are romantic, beautiful, spontaneous, and racy. I’m going to use the stories to get me up and out of my head for a while, and hopefully it will do the same for you. Real life and fiction shouldn’t mesh up too much because we use fiction to get us the hell out of that. If there’s too much emphasis put on being “real,” we’re going to get awkward fumbling, false starts and accidental finishes, knocking teeth and trying to find a way to get short guys a good angle with tall guys. We’ll get farting, leaking, limp penises, prolapses, and spasms. Sex scenes are exhausting enough to write without trying to make all of that sound sexy.
(Although, I will admit that a bit of awkward fumbling in a just-getting-to-know-each-other scene is kind of cute sometimes.)
What I’m saying is: write what you want, and what you know, and what you’ve researched the ever-loving-heck out of, but don’t be afraid to throw some of the realism aside for the sake of your romance. Your love story just might be better for it.
Happy writing, and happy reading! All my love,
AF Henley <3
About the Author
Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica.
A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.
Henley has been proudly publishing with Less Than Three Press since 2012, and Henley’s newest release, Wolf en Garde is now available at Less Than Three Press or through your favourite online provider.
For more information, please stop by for a visit at afhenley.com.