WHAT IS MM ROMANCE?
"Why does it exist? Who is reading it and who is it for? Is this something I would be interested in?"
An essay more than a Q & A.
**Disclaimer: I am not a certified expert. I do not have degrees in writing or sociology, but I do have a degree related to people, am a POC, and was brought up with a post-colonial education in America, so you might find that my views and take on things may differ vastly from that of the majority.
MMR: AN ORIGIN STORY.
MMR, which stands for male male romance (also written as M/M Romance, MM Fiction) is a sub-genre of romance with a focus on romantic relationships between two or more men. While its exact origins are not entirely clear, as one could argue that homoeroticism in art and culture can be traced back to ancient times across the entire world, there are indicators that in its most modern and current form, MMR may derive from "yaoi" (Japanese manga that feature gay relationships), fandom, and shipping culture within the geek community. Thanks to authors like Laura Baumbach, it is only in recent years that MMR as a genre has begun to enter the limelight and receive the recognition it has.
MMR and yaoi are NOT the same as gay fiction. Like any other genre, both categories come with a specific set of "criteria" of their own. MMR is, as its name suggests, primarily focused on romance. The romance genre first and foremost focuses on romantic and/or sexual relationships between two or more people. MMR specifically focuses on the romantic and/or sexual relationships between two or more men. It exists as a fantasy and, more often than not, a form of escapism, just like a sci-fi or fantasy would provide.
LGBTQ literature on the other hand oftentimes focuses on the experiences of being and living as a queer person. It is an entire discourse on its own. It is written by and for a different audience with entirely different goals in mind. The two genres do oftentimes converge, but you will find that you could easily distinguish between MMR and gay fiction by their cover art and blurbs alone.
Yaoi in particular also comes with its own definitions. It is a genre surrounded by controversy as much as love and celebration. With that said, one might argue that MMR has long since evolved and taken on a new and entirely separate identity of its own from that of yaoi. To understand why that is, it is crucial that one look at both genres through a cultural lens.
That topic in itself is an entire book all on its own, but to touch on it briefly, yaoi originates from Japan. While these days more people from around the world have joined in on the phenomenon, it would be wrong to erase its uniquely Japanese history. They are graphic novels mostly made in Japan, by Japanese authors/artists, and was popular within Asian culture even before it began to make its way overseas into Western hands. Yaoi novels--comics and light novels alike--were being written and published by small Japanese presses long before gay marriage was legalized in the USA. Understand then that these stories are written from a uniquely Japanese/Asian lens. Their views on the LGBTQ community--and really, on relationships, gender, and sex in general--differ from that of a Western audience. All the same, as accessibility to yaoi manga improved over time, readers from across the world have come to enjoy the genre. (If you're curious for more information, I recommend watching Linfamy on Youtube, starting with this vid on Wakashu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzG4UOaGy7M&list=RDCMUCBkqDNqao03ldC3u78-Pp8g&start_radio=1)
With that said, MMR seems to be a uniquely Western phenomenon. It is mostly made by Western audiences with western views on the LGBTQ community, love, and sex in mind. It has only grown to prominence recently, but I would argue it has actually existed for quite some time. Unfortunately, America has a difficult past with erotic literature, sexuality, and especially the LGBT community as a whole, so much of that piece of our history is likely erased. But it is my belief that increased accessibility thanks to the Amazon Marketplace social media, growing positive views on LGBTQ relationships in the west (particularly speaking of the United States), and the explosive popularization of feminism have all contributed to the rise in the genre. And, of course, the continued stigmatization of positive sexuality and sensuality, especially that of womens', but that too in itself is a heavy topic all on its own :)
WHO IS MMR FOR? IS IT OKAY FOR ME TO READ EVEN IF I'M NOT GAY?
Short answer: anyone who enjoys the prospect of reading about men in love with other men. Fans of MMR are straight, queer, cisgender, men, women, and/or non-gender conforming. They range anywhere from twenty years of age to sixty-five and come from all kinds of cultural backgrounds.
Reading erotica or romance of any kind says next to nothing about who you are as a person. It does not define your sexual preferences or sexual tendencies, and reading them does not make you a gross person, sexual deviant, or someone who desires to be so in real life. Erotica and romance are simply another means for human beings to explore the realm of sexuality, especially safely, with the added plus of great, well-written stories. By the end of any novel or story, you are still you.
Like any other genre that exists, however, MMR is not meant for everyone.
Even Disney can't and doesn't appeal to everyone. And that's okay! I encourage everyone to find their joys in life and focus their energies on them.