When a Man Loves Another Man

by AJ Grant

Warning: This article necessarily uses sexually explicit (and sometimes vulgar) terms which may not be appropriate for younger readers.

If there’s anything that can improve on the idea of a handsome naked man, it’s the idea of putting him with yet another handsome naked man—ideally with Barry White on the CD player and perhaps some form of massage oil handy. Male/male sex scenes can stir the heart (and other body parts) of everyone from gay men to straight women, and many in between. They can be as fun to write as they are to read, and gay male erotica is a market that’s growing by leaps and bounds. But before you pick up a pen, you need to know what you can write with it. This article will give you an overview of male/male erotica audiences and what they look for, followed by detailed descriptions of the common gay sex acts you’ll probably be writing about, and the politics involved.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

As James Lyn pointed out in How to Write Sex, one of the first things you should do is determine who your story is for. Are you writing pornography or erotica? Is your audience primarily male or female? The answers to these questions greatly affect what you’re going to write.

Pornography is sex-driven. There’s very little plot, and what little there is exists for the sole purpose of getting to the sex scenes. (”I see the copy machine is out of toner. Mind if I take my shirt off while I fix it?”) If you’re writing a story for a pornography market you should stick to sex as much as possible. Avoiding sex in a porn story is like writing a murder mystery without a dead body and no aspect of “whodunit?” Titillate your audience, certainly, but don’t waste their time. They’re there for the naked men, not lush descriptions of the bedroom that they’re being naked in.

Erotica is story-driven. It hinges on sex just as pornography does, but it has a plot, and characterization that goes beyond “Ooops, I just spilled this syrup all over myself. Whatever shall we do?” If you’re writing erotica, it’s expected that story and sex scenes will go hand in hand. If pornography is about sex, erotica is about the people having sex. Who are they? What are they doing? Why are they with one another? If you’re not sure whether you’re writing erotica or pornography, ask yourself what would happen if you separated the sex scenes from the rest of your story. If you faded to black just as the touching began, would the audience still be interested in what was happening? If the answer is no, you’re not writing erotica. (If the answer is that your audience would kidnap you, Misery-style, for interrupting the hotness, then you’re writing good erotica.)

Similarly, male audiences and female audiences have different needs. Typically, female audiences look for stories and sex scenes that are more emotional (”I love you”) and dialogue-driven; they like scenes where the characters verbalize their feelings for one another, and where the sex is a part of showing what’s going on in their relationship as a whole. Male audiences tend to prefer sex scenes where the characters cut directly to the chase and don’t sit around talking about where the relationship is going.

There are exceptions to every generalization, but this gender difference tends to mean that if you’re submitting a story to a gay male audience, they’re going to want to see men who aren’t too touchy-feely, and if you’re submitting a story to a female audience, gay or straight, they’re going to want to see stories which show guys that Dr. Phil would be proud of. Again: this is a generalization. As always, the only way to be certain of what kind of story to submit is to familiarize yourself with stories that that publisher has accepted in the past and then to adjust accordingly.

GET THEIR MOTORS RUNNING

You’ve figured out your market, you know what kind of scene you’re writing—now how do you get your boys going? Luckily for you, the start of any male/male sex scene can begin like any other sex scene: with kissing and touching. Foreplay is as much a part of fictional sex as it is with real-life sex. And, as with real-life sex, the goal is to get everyone warmed up and in the mood. In this case, “everyone” means both your characters and your audience.

What can your characters do? At this point, pretty much anything. Ears can be nibbled, tongues and lips can slide along jawlines (perhaps noticing a faint dusting of five o’clock shadow). Deft fingers can pinch nipples through shirt fabric—or start unbuttoning the shirt and then let their hands go lower still.

What’s this going to do to your male characters? Get them hard. Their breathing will change, their pupils might dilate, well-kissed lips will get swollen, and blood will start traveling south and creating those lovely erections. This is when the fun starts.

WAIT—THOSE LOVELY WHAT AGAIN?

Now’s as good a time as any to talk about vocabulary. There are as many opinions about what to call everything in a male/male sex scene as there are people who read and write the stories in the first place. Some people like down-and-dirty four-letter words. Others hate them and feel they throw the reader out of the moment. What’s a writer to do?

To begin with: know your audience. Pornography tends to love four-letter words. Erotica might favor gentler language. There’s no hard and fast rule, so check the writer guidelines of your intended market. Some publishers will be helpful enough to let you know in advance what kind of vocabulary they’re looking for—even the ones who will tell you not to waste your time unless your boys are using the most filthy words your fingers can type.

If the writer guidelines don’t specify, read some of that publisher’s other stories. (Intense research—don’t you just love being a writer?) Seeing what language went into those stories will help you shape your own.

If that doesn’t help, then at least try to understand the spectrum. If the word could be used in a high school health class, it might be too clinical for your sex scene. Notice the difference between these two examples:

Bill moaned, his penis hardening as blood flowed into the erectile tissue thanks to the stimulation of Jonathan’s hand. Seminal fluid welled up at the tip of his urethra. He knew he was in danger of achieving orgasm long before he could stimulate Jonathan’s prostate.

Bill moaned, his cock hardening as Jonathan stroked him again and again. A bead of fluid welled up at the tip of his erection. He knew it would take every ounce of willpower to keep from coming before he had the chance to fuck Jonathan so hard the neighbors would hear it.

Both examples say the same thing, but one’s more likely to get your readers reaching for a glass of ice water.

As a general rule, try to figure out where in the spectrum your story falls, and write accordingly. A story with only four-letter words is not the same as a story with some four-letter words and some euphemisms, which is not the same as a story which dances around mentioning body parts altogether. What tends to throw a reader isn’t the word per se, but the wrong word being used for that setting. Don’t say “penis” when you need “cock” and don’t say “cock” when you need “felt his body become aroused.”

And though it probably goes without saying: don’t use euphemisms that are silly. Save the purple-headed warriors and one-eyed manhoods for your parody writing.

STROKING: NOT JUST FOR ROWBOATS

Now that you know what you’re calling that thing inside of your character’s pants, you can go ahead and let his partner start touching it. This can begin outside of his clothes, with one man rubbing his hand up and down his partner’s fly. Or perhaps the boys push clothes aside for hot flesh on flesh action.

When dealing with clothes, make sure to ask yourself questions like button vs. zipper for the fly and boxers vs. briefs vs. nothing at all for what’s underneath. What your character chooses to wear can say something about him, or his approach to what’s going on. Is he wearing an easy access zipper with nothing underneath? Or perhaps he has a complicated belt and a fly that could rival Fort Knox. One outfit suggests a character who is comfortable with his attractiveness and with the idea of having sex, which he probably has frequently; the other suggests one who is more reticent, or who wasn’t expecting a sexual encounter.

Regardless of what your characters are wearing, when the clothes are out of the way some mutual masturbation can begin. (One character wraps his hand around the other’s cock and starts some kind of massage.) The touching can be fast or slow, rough or gentle. In general, men tend to be more direct and to the point with masturbation than women are, but that doesn’t mean that one man can’t tease his partner to distraction.

It’s worth noting that you can torment a man far better by not letting him come, whereas women tend to respond to being made to come multiple times. Along those lines, a hand job can be a great way to take advantage of a man’s refractory period. If one of your characters has a long night of sexual fun on the schedule, he might want to make his partner come once at the start of their activities to help guarantee that he’ll be able to hold off on coming later. It’s a controlled form of premature ejaculation, in other words.

When writing about hand jobs, you should make a note of whether or not your character is circumcised. Is his partner encouraging a foreskin to move back (and exposing the extra-sensitive skin underneath) or does he not have to worry about such things? Remember that American men are likely to be circumcised regardless of their religion, whereas men from other countries are far more likely to be uncut unless religion or culture demand it.

Finally, your character may wish to give a seductive lick to the palm of his hand, or perhaps take advantage of some lotion or oil to help deal with the issue of friction. It’s not required, but some men like it as a courtesy.

GOING DOWN?

Once you’ve gotten your characters—and hopefully your readers—hot and bothered, you can move on to the kind of fun that only happens once clothes come off. Oral sex holds an interesting place in the spectrum of male sexuality. Helped in part by a certain famous man who pointed out that sometimes definitions depend on “what your definition of ‘is’ is” there are many people, both male and female, who feel that oral sex isn’t sex. More interestingly, there are some who feel that a man can receive a blowjob from another man and not be considered “gay.”

What this means for you as a writer is that if you have a sex story that uses blowjobs exclusively, it’s not unheard of for you to be able to market it to a theoretically “heterosexual” market. As an example, you will find some of those “Dear [magazine], I never thought your stories were true until one day…” letters that are written from the point of view (POV) of a man talking about getting a blowjob from another man.

The caveat here is that the letter or story will make it clear that this does not make the protagonist gay. Some people may find such assurances offensive. If so, this is not the market for you. If not, be aware it’s another potential place to submit to. Your odds of acceptance might not be as high as a market that’s specifically looking for male/male scenes, but who knows? You might get lucky.

What this means for your characters is that blowjobs are very likely to be their first experience with gay sex. Receiving a blowjob is certainly fun and not too unusual an activity, and giving a blowjob doesn’t require as much prep work, both mental and physical, as anal sex.

Blowjobs involve one character putting his mouth on the penis (see how clinical that sounds?) of another. Depending on what the recipient likes, the character giving the blowjob might first cover his teeth with his lips, or might go at it whole hog if the recipient finds a bit of pain pleasurable. There can be sucking, licking, actual blowing (warm air via a wide open mouth, cold air by puckering the lips as if to whistle or blow a kiss), scraping of teeth, swallowing (the contraction this causes in the mouth can be quite enjoyable), and various forms of massage done by the lips. If you’d like to add some vibrations, have the character hum. If you’d like to vary those sensations, have him hum a favorite tune. (Perhaps he will traumatize his partner for life by using the theme to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.)

While this is going on, what is the character doing with his hands? He could reach up to caress and pinch nipples, or perhaps cup and squeeze balls (depending on what the other man likes, there could be sucking, licking, and nibbling of the balls as well). A lubricated finger (more on this in a moment) could also slide inside his partner’s anus and stimulate his prostate (more on that in a moment too). (Bear in mind that while in real life, it’s usually polite to ask first, your characters can enjoy whatever you tell them to.)

There are various positions that oral sex can be performed in, some more involved than others. A few basics are one partner sitting or standing, the other on his knees; one partner lying on his back while the other lies on top of him (albeit lower down); and of course the famous 69, which involves both partners fellating each other at the same time.

Deep throating involves a character relaxing his throat enough to take his partner’s cock all the way in. There can be some contraction of the throat muscles at that point if your deep-throater is quite skilled. Obstacles to deep throating are things like a strong gag reflex and worrying about the inability to breathe; not everyone can do it, and you may want to bear that in mind when figuring out the sexual skills of your character. Deep throating, while fun to feel and think about, is not something a first-time fellater is going to try outside the magical world of porn (where there’s no such thing as an inappropriate time for sex, a refractory period, or a virgin who hasn’t memorized the entire Karma Sutra). If you’re writing an erotica story, hold off on the deep throating until your character can work up to it – or only have your experienced characters perform it.

If the oral sex goes all the way to orgasm, you now face the famous question: spit or swallow? In real life everyone has his own preference. There are those who say that swallowing is faster, and therefore gets the taste (salty, musky, some even say a bit bleachy) out of your mouth that much quicker; others, who can’t stand the idea of swallowing (there’s that gag reflex again), spit. Conversely, some people enjoy the taste and will not only swallow but make a show of licking their hands and lips clean. Another option might be for the taste to be shared as one man kisses another after the fellatio is done. Much like wine or coffee, this is something that some may initially find gross but then eventually get used to—or even enjoy. It all depends.

As far as your story goes, you should choose the option that you think makes sense for the moment and for your readers. For example, a man might swallow as a symbolic sign of how much he wants to be connected to his partner. Or a male audience used to the money shot of visual pornography might prefer to read about one man ejaculating onto another man’s face, chest, or hair.

THE TOUGHEST JOB THEY’LL EVER LOVE

Hand job, blow job—after a while these terms make sex sound a lot like work. But for many people, the most difficult “job” they encounter is one that sounds like auto maintenance: rim job.


More popularly called “rimming,” this involves one man kissing and licking his partner’s anus as a method of foreplay. The description alone is enough to put a lot of people off the idea for life, but it can be quite pleasurable. To begin with, assuming your character is using the normal rules of hygiene, the area in question is actually quite clean. On top of that, it’s also very sensitive in males because of the location of the prostate. Oral stimulation via lips and tongue can get a man gasping and writhing in all the right ways, especially if he’s already dying for penetration in that very spot.

Is it a necessary part of foreplay? No. But ice cream isn’t necessary to apple pie either. You can have one without the other, but having both can be twice as nice.

PENETRATION

You’ve got your boys so keyed up they’re ready to pop. Sure, they could’ve come before now, but if they haven’t yet then you might as well go on to the main event: actual penetration.

The act of anal sex is actually fairly simple, all things considered, but there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it that can trip a writer up. Here’s the truth:

  • Not all gay men enjoy anal sex.
  • You cannot determine who is a “bottom” and who is a “top” just by looking.
  • Some men enjoy both positions.
  • It is possible for men to face each other and kiss while one is penetrating the other. (The bottom’s legs need to be drawn up, typically over the shoulders of the one on top.)
  • Lubrication is extremely important.

Anal sex involves one character (the “top”) putting his erect penis inside of the anus of his partner (the “bottom”). For the top, this provides pleasure and stimulation in much the same way vaginal sex could, and for the bottom this is enjoyable because his partner’s penis is now stimulating the prostate gland, and stimulation of the prostate gland feels very, very good (this is why some insert fingers there during blowjobs).

Anal sex requires a bit more prep work than oral, however. Oral sex can theoretically happen anywhere at any time, but anal sex can take some planning. The problem is lubrication. Unlike most women, men do not self-lubricate , and penetration without lubrication is no fun for anyone involved. (Friction hurts.) If your characters are going to have anal sex, lube of some kind needs to be brought in. This could be a store-bought lubricant such as KY or Astroglide, or it could be improvised—vegetable oil or hand lotion. You ideally want something that’s nice and slippery and won’t dry out before the sex is done.

Depending on the bottom’s character, prep work might be needed to get him to relax his muscles enough for penetration to occur. Someone being penetrated for the first time is likely to be nervous, and need some coaxing both for his partner to be able to get inside of him in the first place and for him to enjoy it once he’s there. Those more experienced with anal sex, or those more relaxed in general (perhaps your character has a few beers in him) won’t have quite the same problems.

The lube plus preparation equation often leads to a cliché of the genre, which is “one finger, two finger, three fingers, push” The idea of one man slowly prepping the other by working in lube one finger at a time has unfortunately been done to death. Think of it like the “Adam and Eve” story that’s been overdone in the sci-fi genre: it’s possible that you have a fresh approach to this, but make sure you have a fresh approach before you shop the story around.

While anal sex is going on, characters can kiss (if they are facing one another, or if one turns his head around to look over his shoulder), touch, say dirty things to one another, the works. The one on bottom might squeeze his muscles to stimulate his partner. The one on top might reach down to give his lover a handjob. Hearts beat faster, hips thrust out of control, muscles tighten, eyes squeeze shut, and before you know it your boys are seeing stars and crying out each other’s names.

THE POLITICS OF SHAGGING

Though it sounds like a Vaudeville routine, “Who’s on top?” can be an emotionally charged question for you and your characters. Generally speaking, the top could be anyone. One man might prefer to bottom all the time. One might prefer to top. Still others switch off.

The key thing to ask is not what the one right answer is, but rather what are the factors that go into that answer. For example, though in theory it shouldn’t matter which man is on top, in some cultures you aren’t properly gay unless you’re the one on the bottom. (This goes back to the earlier idea of markets that will accept stories of men receiving blowjobs from other men but won’t accept stories of men giving blowjobs to other men—in other words, it’s only a “gay” story if the protagonist is the one on his knees.) Along the same lines, a character who self-identifies as very classically strong and masculine might have a difficult time wrapping his mind around the idea of bottoming to another man.

Likewise, a common mistake for newbie writers is to assume that all same-sex pairs have to trade off on who gets to be on top because that’s the only way to make it “fair.” Certainly, there might be some partners who do this, but only because they both enjoy being on top and being on bottom. If one partner only enjoys being on the bottom and the other only enjoys being on top, it’s hardly “fair” to them to switch into positions that neither one of them will like.

It’s also incorrect to assume that men will pair off in ways that will ideally match where they fall on the spectrum of masculinity. Yes, there are very fey men who love pairing up with big, butch bears and vice versa, but there are also bears who like bears, femmes who like femmes, and everybody in the middle who cheerfully mixes and matches with everyone else. And remember: a man who is butch isn’t necessarily the one on top, and a man who is very fey isn’t necessarily the one on the bottom, even if they are dating each other.

Within the confines of your story, ask yourself what you need to get out of the sex scene. If it’s a porn story, this answer might be very easy for you, since it might be detailed in the guidelines from your publisher. If it’s an erotica story, sit down with your characters and figure out where they are mentally. Is one of them comfortable with his sexuality to the point where he’s happy to try anything? Is another working in a job that not only keeps him in the closet but encourages him to repress his desires? Does one enjoy being in control? Does one enjoy giving up control? Do either of them even enjoy the concept of penetration in the first place?

No one answer will give you a key to automatically unlock the secret of whether your character is a top or a bottom (or both), but the more you ask, the more you’ll start to understand where your character’s sexual preferences fit into his personality as a whole.

LOVE IN A TIME OF STDS

You may notice I’ve made no mention of condoms. That’s because condom usage can depend on your market. Pornography tends not to be interested in condoms unless condoms are part of the fetish. Erotica may or may not want condoms depending on the type of story you’re telling. If you want to tell a realistic story then yes, condoms should be a factor. (Bear in mind that the lube in a condom story should not be petroleum-based as that will render the condom useless.)

Condoms should not stop the flow of your sex scene. Unless the point of the story is for one character to teach the other safe sex, don’t stop all the wonderful touching just so your protagonist can launch into a PSA. Either make the condom a part of the foreplay (”Jonathan unrolled the latex up Bill’s cock slowly, his fingers pressing in on the sensitive spots of Bill’s dick until Bill whimpered and began to squirm”) or make a quick, cursory mention and move on (”Bill slipped the condom on, then pulled Jonathan closer”).

AFTERGLOW

It’s like Caesar in reverse: your characters saw, they conquered, and then they came. You’ve gotten them this far; what’s next?

First, let’s take a step back and talk about those orgasms. It’s a cliché of writing that partners always come at the exact same time. Symbolically, this is usually intended to show how wonderfully in sync and in true love they are. Realistically, while this can happen, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

In real life, partners don’t have the exact same needs sexually. Their body rhythms aren’t identical, and moreover person A might need a heck of a lot more foreplay than person B in order to get anywhere near the ballpark, let alone to round first, second, and third base and wind his way towards home. Plus, sex is just downright distracting. It’s hard to remember to keep stroking and sucking somebody who’s making you, well, hard.

Does that mean you have to throw simultaneous orgasms out the window? Heck no. In real life the pizza delivery guy rarely looks like Brad Pitt and rarer still will offer to work you over with massage oil in exchange for a tip. After all, this stuff is called fiction for a reason. What it does mean is that you should be aware of what a simultaneous orgasm signifies in a story and use it accordingly. Sometimes your guys really will be aware and in sync enough to make each other come at the same time. Other times, one partner might want to take care of his lover before being taken care of himself. Still other times may see partners that go back and forth pleasing each other until one of them can’t hold off any longer.

In other words, there are tons of options to play with. Only in fiction are simultaneous orgasms the be-all and end-all of sex. In reality, as long as somebody’s coming in some fashion, they’ve got a high likelihood of enjoying what’s been going on. And remember that coming first doesn’t necessarily mean coming best. It’s not a competition to see who gets done the fastest. Sometimes it can be just as good—if not better—to be the partner who had to wait.

LET’S STAY UP AND SNUGGLE

Those pesky orgasms out of the way, you’re now left with the question of what to do with your characters. If your story is written for a porn market, there’s a very high likelihood that the very first thing your characters do after having sex is immediately get up and have more sex, only this time with different people or at the very least in different positions.

If you’re writing erotica, then this is a time to explore your characters’ relationship a bit further. Does one of them immediately get up and leave? (And, if so, is the other one relieved or disappointed?) Do they help each other get cleaned up and dressed? Do they talk to one another, or immediately roll over and go right to sleep?

If you’re writing for a female market, this is usually the time when your audience will want to see some kind of relationship forming or developing. Women typically do not want male/male erotica to simply be about good-looking men having sex. They want the sex to have emotional connotations for the characters. Sex might not have to equal love, but it should equal something—a partnership, a bond, a respect, or a connection of some kind.

If you’re writing for a male market, this isn’t as much of an issue. Male audiences tend to be more on board for sex simply being about sex. It can be about a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be. A male audience will be fine with a character who has sex with a man he barely knows and never sees after the fact. A female audience will be more likely to want those two characters to meet again, or for the encounter to have an impact of some kind on your protagonist, even if the man he had sex with wasn’t his one true love. Male audiences might not mind a fade to black after the climax; female audiences will tend to want to know what happened next.

And, as always, the best answer is the one that best showcases the story you want to tell.

MORE ON LANGUAGE

There’s one final pitfall to male/male sex scenes, and it has nothing to do with nakedness: pronouns. When writing two men together you’ll quickly find that “he” is all over the place. Pay no attention and suddenly your reader won’t be able to tell who’s doing what to whom.

A common pitfall for male/male writers is to start using epithets to fix the problem: “the blond man” “the shorter man” “the brown-eyed policeman”. There’s nothing wrong with epithets per se, but they can be like using “exclaimed” “barked” and “questioned” instead of “said” or “asked” – fine occasionally, but distracting if you use them too often.

Though it may stand out to you, readers of male/male sex scenes are used to seeing names repeated more often than usual. Don’t abandon pronouns entirely, but don’t be afraid of throwing a name in just to help make things clear. When in doubt, it’s better to reword the sentence to take the confusion out entirely than it is to attempt clunkier wording.

CONCLUSION

Writing male/male sex scenes is a great deal like writing anything else: know your audience, research what you’re talking about, and write something that brings pleasure to both you and the reader. Get those basic tools under your belt, and there’s no end of how much fun you can have with a pair of good-looking guys.

AJ Grant has a BA in psychology from Columbia University, which may go to prove the argument that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A full listing of AJ's articles and stories can be found on aj-grant.com.