We all know the answer to the first question: Most are straight women. As for why, I hear the groans already. Hasn’t this topic been beaten to death? Probably. But I love animals and would sooner beat a dead horse than a live one. I readily admit that, since I don’t meet any of the criteria to speak for straight women—gender, orientation, professional training in psychology, etc.—my qualifications to answer the question are… well, questionable. However, as often as I’ve seen the subject addressed, I have yet to see it answered, at least to my satisfaction.
The reasons most often given are that straight women enjoy stories about finding love, feel-good happy endings, and hot men. But that says what they like about m/m romances, not why they like them. I mean, sure—why wouldn’t someone like to read about what they like?—but why do women like these things? And why straight women in particular? (Okay, I understand why lesbians aren’t particularly turned on by hunky guys.) But don’t gay men also like hitting it off with someone special and doesn’t it make them feel good when people they like find happiness? I know I do. As for hot men, that’s a no-brainer. So why don’t more gay men read m/m?
Well, maybe they do. There are roughly as many men as there are women in the US. (There are .03% more women. Over age 85, women outnumber men two to one, but I somehow doubt the over-85 set account for a significant portion of m/m readership.) According to the most recent survey, approximately 3.5% of Americans identify themselves as LGBT, nearly twice that for Americans under 30. About half of that 3.5% identify as bisexual. Demographic surveys in the UK, Canada, and Australia show similar results. I lack the mathematical ability to coordinate more than a single set of figures, but it seems reasonable to take the situation in the US as a representative model of the English-speaking world as a whole (excluding non-European cultures), give or take a percentage point. A few percentage points more or less become insignificant the closer one gets to one hundred, and as it turns out, we get pretty damn close.
How so? As I work it out, there are approximately 28 straight or bisexual women for every gay or bisexual man. I have no idea what percentage of m/m romance readers are women, but given that 91% of readers of any kind of romance are female, we would expect women to account for over 99.5%. In short, the actual figures (whatever they are) are underwhelming, especially considering that no doubt some men read their m/m in the closet.
These figures are unreliable, no question about it. I am, to put it mildly, statistically challenged in the extreme. But at least they show that the question is misdirected. If m/m romance has any readership whatsoever, the vast majority of that readership will be female, so there’s no point asking why. And it makes sense that most m/m is written to meet the demands of that majority. Now, why that makes a lot of gay men feel uncomfortable is a question I am qualified to address. But before I do, I’ll have to mull it over some more. What aspects of gay romance don’t gay readers like? Is there anything woman writers can do that will make everyone happy? (I specify women writers on the assumption they want feedback from their gay readers. Male writers may think they already know.)
Maybe someone should conduct a survey.
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