Guys & the Girls Who Want to Watch: On Homoeroticism

A black and white photograph of two men embracing for Two Guys and the Girl Who Wants to Watch: On Homoeroticism by Malin James

Erotic postcard by Jim French

Roughly two years ago, I wrote a post asking this question:

What is it about two men having sex that turns so many women on?

That post got a lot of generous responses from men and women all over the sexual spectrum, including Exhibit A (though I had no idea at the time it would begin much more than a correspondence). His response, in particular, stood out because it underscored something I’d been suspecting – that the appeal of homoeroticism is, perhaps, even more common (and complicated) than I’d originally assumed. So I set the question aside to think about it.

Two years later….

I’m finally writing the follow-up thanks, once again, to Exhibit A, who retweeted the original post last month. While I’m usually a bit sheepish about letting a topic drop, I’m glad of it in this case. After two years, my thoughts on this issue have matured in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated when I first posed the question.

The biggest adjustment in my thinking was my realization that, while m/m sex clearly appeals to a lot of women, it also appeals to a lot of men who identify as flexibly straight (as opposed to bi). This realization made me curious about how it appeals across gender divides and sexual identities. But first, I want to address the question I originally posted two years ago. Why do women think m/m sex is hot?

As with so many things, the appeal of homoeroticism is intensely subjective, so there is no one answer, but I was able to slot the responses I got into three general categories:

  • Homoeroticism appeals because I like good looking men, so the more the better. 
    • Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Homoeroticism appeals because it gives me access to something I otherwise don’t have access to.
    • Not surprising given our cultural attraction to voyeurism, taboo or potentially transgressive sex; and our obsession with the mutual incomprehensibility of the opposite sex.
  • Homoeroticism appeals because it subverts a dominant paradigm.
    • Also pretty self-explanatory, but worth breaking down a bit.

That third category refers to the fact that, in mainstream porn and media, the traditional understanding is that there’s a power imbalance between men and women when it comes to sex. While this paradigm is shifting thanks to shows like Jessica Jones, Masters if Sex and American Horror Story: Coven, it’s been a standard for so long that this power imbalance is a cultural assumption for a lot of people. This leads to the common perception that men are sexually dominant (ie: guarded or inaccessible) while women are open, emotional and vulnerable.

The m/m fantasy subverts this expectation thanks to a different cultural assumption—one that presumes that two guys will avoid this paradigm more naturally than a straight pairing. Of course, this is ridiculous because sexual dominance and submission are about interpersonal dynamics and not about gender, (which is why M/m pairings are so hot). Regardless, a lot of women admit to being turned on by m/m sex because they assume the men involved to be enjoying a level playing field – both actors are sexually assertive while remaining emotional vulnerability.

This idealization of male sexual agency tends to lead to romanticized readings of m/m dynamics. I’ve read more than one study in which women thought m/m sex was because the guys were “equal” “open” “real” and “vulnerable” in a way that they hadn’t witnessed before.

Of course, we’re talking about fiction in most of these cases—specifically porn. The popularity of m/m pairings in slash, porn and erotica reflects a certain kind of female fantasy—one that subverts dominant paradigms and gives the illusion of emotional access to men in sexual contexts. And it does all this by appropriating a somewhat romanticized version of what people imagine happening when two guys fuck.

Sidebar

This form of appropriation is important but it’s also complicated enough that it requires its own post, so I’m going to leave it there for now and come back to it later. (Hopefully in less than two years).

End Sidebar

While the fictional portrayal of m/m sexual dynamics appeals on one level, the reality of gay sex appeals on another. So, while some women (and men) fantasize about general aspects m/m sex, others engage it more specifically. In otherwords, some women want to watch their man fuck and / or get fucked by another guy; and some guys want the same thing.

I can only speak for myself when I say this, but my desire to watch my partner with another man has nothing to do with the romanticization of m/m sexual dynamics, and everything to do with our relationship and all of the complicated, nuanced reasons that make it something we both think is super hot.

Which brings me to the selective appeal of homoeroticism across genders.

Awhile ago, I wrote a story called “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” about a woman who gives her boyfriend an m/m encounter for Christmas. It plays to a lot of my own kinks—voyeurism, dominance and, yes, homoeroticism—so I was really happy when women and men seemed to like it though they seemed to like it for different reasons.

Women liked it because the idea of watching their man with another guy is goddamn hot (because it is). Men seemed to like the wish-fulfillment aspect or it. The male protagonist wants to suck cock and get fucked, and his girlfriend makes it happen. It’s a portrait of the gray area between gay and straight, set against the backdrop of a loving, if unconventional, relationship.

That gray area is where homoeroticism appeals to me.

Don’t get me wrong – homoeroticism is hot for a lot of reasons, and it can subvert dominant paradigms. But that’s not why I love it. I love it because it breaks a barrier—one that often sits between a man and a woman, as well as between two men.

Unless you bury the needle at either 0 (exclusively straight) or 6 (exclusively gay) on the Kinsey scale, sexuality is more fluid than we tend to realize. The sexual behaviors sanctioned by mainstream society don’t always allow for safe experimentation within the gray areas. Homoeroticism, whether engaged as fantasy or more directly, is one way of experiencing a fuller range of sexual possibilities than might otherwise be available to strictly heterosexual pairings. What’s more, it makes those possibilities available in a relatively unthreatening way.

Homoeroticism is a way of romancing “the other”, whether “the other” is a partner of the same (or opposite) sex, or some unexplored facet of yourself. Ultimately, humans crave understanding and connection. We’re curious. We want to know and touch. A fascination with homoeroticism is one way we can taste things we don’t normally find on our plates.

15 comments

  1. Always an interesting subject! Let me throw a kink (so to speak) in one of your theses, though –that people (female and straight male) enjoy watching m/m sex because of its equality: some people prefer it when it’s NOT equal. Some are more aroused when a power imbalance is introduced: M/m. I’m not at all disputing your point, it’s true for many people I think, but I’m curious of what you might think of that — some of us just like power dynamics, and M/m is a bit of a different twist, as a voyeur. I’ve read more than a few stories (indicating it’s a fairly common fantasy?) in which the girlfriend arranges an evening with another man, with HER man in the submissive position.

    1. Thanks, L.N.! Actually, the original draft of this post included about three paragraphs on M/m sexual dynamics as a way of debunking the assumption that male sexual dynamics are, on the whole, more “equal” than those between men and women. In the end I cut them to keep the post more on message – I’ll probably use them in a separate post on power dynamics later (I love power dynamics too – the story I mentioned in this post is about the woman’s boyfriend taking a submissive position in the encounter). That said, I should probably add a mention back into this post to make sure the point isn’t lost here.

  2. Wonderfully timed post as I finish up an erotic story about two straight guys on a wilderness backpacking trip who get tent-bound by rain–and then do what comes naturally, masturbating, playing with each other and fucking. Thanks for this well-written post, which lays out the dynamics I was feeling instinctually.

  3. This reminds me of the Ken Russell film “Women in Love”, from the book by D H Lawrence, which came out in 1969. It starred Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, who did the famous naked wrestling scene, which caused some controversy at the time about what was considered to be a homoerotic scene (although it might not have been described so at the time). It was symptomatic of many books, films, plays etc. that came at the end of a period when sex in all it’s forms was coming out of the closet, after the rather repressed era of the 40s and 50s. I think a lot of women, as well as some men, suddenly realised that the sight of two naked men together was,in fact, rather erotic, even if they were not ready to admit to this.
    I must admit that I find M/M pictures quite enticing, but I regret that I am ageist and lookist, for the men have to be young, fit and good-looking for me to be attracted. The thought of watching overweight, middle-aged men rolling around naked on the floor does not seem appealing. But that’s just me being judgemental.
    I think also that the effect of the Sixties was to make people feel they could break out of the narrow sexual boundaries into which they had been slotted. Once one hurdle has been jumped, then each successive hurdle becomes so much easier. But beware of society’s self-appointed moral guardians,for they do not relinquish their self-given right to meddle in other people’s lives easily. Great post.

  4. Just like I had expected – a fantastic post unwrapping one of my favorite story of yours! I like the comment started by LN Bey. While most straight men would be excited to see m/m as its opens a secret window of expressing the submissiveness, an opportunity to be led by another man that too in front of the woman he loves! To me its the unequal power dynamics which is so hot. And I would assume her woman enjoys watching his “man” exposed to an unusual kinky vulnerability which may at times remind her of own self.

  5. Thanks for a thought provoking post. Your statement toward the end reflects much of how I feel about m/m sex:
    “Ultimately, humans crave understanding and connection. We’re curious. We want to know and touch. A fascination with homoeroticism is one way we can taste things we don’t normally find on our plates.”
    The few journeys I’ve taken into the m/m realm have been rewarding, passionate, and lots of fun.
    Ha, this makes me think of all kinds of scenarios to be enjoyed. Later…

  6. I like m/m porn, weirdly, because it’s harder for me to put myself in the place of one of the actors or characters. I get to enjoy it purely on its own sexy merits rather than thinking about how i might do it, how my looks compare to those of the woman in the scene, etc. Especially in mainstream porn, i don’t see myself, so it’s very freeing to enjoy watching sex where, of course i don’t see myself, because there are no women in the scene! This likely plays into your comments about the equality factor. I like watching the act without (even subconsciously) comparing my boobs to the ones on screen, without thinking “darn, I could never bend that way” or whatever. Watching m/m porn is a self-criticism-free-zone, where i get to enjoy all the blow jobs and pumping cocks I can take without once thinking of anything but getting myself off. For me, of course. I realize the oft-seen six packs might be a nightmare for a guy who struggles with body image issues.

  7. I’ve no idea if I can actually articulate my own reasons for liking m/m sex. I suppose I’ll give it a go.

    First – in this case, two in the bush can have more appeal than one in the hand, as it were – *two* sets of everything, stubble on stubble, strength against strength – all the things I like about men doubled and running off each other – I don’t understand what’s not to like about that!

    Secondly – the sexiness of it! There’s something so honest about men fucking the admission of the attraction, the pleasure seeking – this may not be the case at all, but it feels far less complex than heteromachinations and all the baggage that goes with – it’s about getting off. And I love that. They’re doing it for the sex, to scratch the itch, and nothing is getting in the way – they can override stupid social constraints and traditions, leave caution to the wind in the pursuit of sensory delight and difference and the solid pleasure to be taken in being manhandled. I just love the freedom that seems to entail. I could totally be wrong in this, but it just seems so brave and liberated and *sexy* to pursue your own pleasure in this way. I think it’s a similar thing to being Kinksexual – attraction being about the sex rather than the gender, the pursuit of good exerience trumping anything else.

    Finally there’s a certain vulnerability to it – I’m thinking we’re talking more about heteroflexibility here, rather than bi or gay – which adds a whole interesting angle, as described above. For that reason, there’s a laying oneself open to new experience, to experiment, that I find both tender and brave (I think you very much capture that in your Gentlemen story). It’s so there in the kind of domme-y scene you describe, but also in other scenes where men are both confident and open enough to go for it – there’s a vulnerability to accepting the intimacy of physical and sexual contact with another man that I just find gorgeous, hot and heady.

    Does all that make sense?

    1. ‘attraction being about the sex rather than the gender, the pursuit of good experience trumping anything else’

      This is what I can relate to. While not attracted to men, the act of having sex with one does appeal to me. Something new, something different, purely about the sex. Also, experiencing sex from more of a woman’s perspective/position, i.e. playing a different role and being the one getting fucked.

      ‘some women want to watch their man fuck and / or get fucked by another guy’

      This – the presence of a woman – is an equally large part of the appeal/fantasy for me, which is why I enjoyed ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ so much. Knowing that a woman is enjoying watching, getting turned on by it and even directing the action makes it that much hotter.

  8. Thought provoking post. M/M erotica and/or porn does absolutely nothing for me, in fact, it can be a turn off. Just does not float my boat in anyway, shape or form. I am always curious as to why it is so popular with women as I can not find anything about it that turns me on so reading this definitely gives me food for thought and some better understanding of how it works for others

    Mollyxxx

  9. This subject has always drawn my attention. My Tumblr can attest to that!

    I don’t know why either…but when times are dry in my life and I need a great orgasm… this is the fantasy that pushes me over the edge every time! Gawd…….!

Leave a Reply