As a gay guy who has been obsessed with horror since I was a little kid, I never searched for any correlation between the genre and the orientation. I just thought horror fans were horror fans. But because horror over the decades has been so heterosexual male-oriented, when I began writing my own horror fiction, I decided it made sense to do it from the all-male perspective while modeling it after the tried and true traits of the genre: scares and sex.
My first erotic horror collection Closet Monsters included five erotic horror stories and the novella Zombied Out, which had some sexual situations but was not erotica. I used the same formula with my second book, Horny Devils. This time, the novella, entitled Scream, Queen, was a gay slasher. It was easy to sex it up because the slasher genre lends itself to “gratuitous” sex. That was when I realized I would never write a sex-less horror novel. For me, just like humor, injections of sex into horror help to awaken the senses and totally screw with your mental state. It’s part of the ride: I’m scared. Now I’m horny. I just peed a little from laughing. I almost shit my pants from fear.
Sex in my writing is not necessarily always an “integral part of the plot.” Just like in real life (and straight horror), when the opportunity seems right, in it goes. If a given moment guarantees the characters would be having sex, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to show it. But I don’t consider my writing erotica. It’s not written solely to get readers off, so it’s not like you’re reading a sex story labeled “erotic horror” simply because the guys are having sex on Halloween night. These are actual horror stories, albeit loaded with explicit sex.
I just assumed that it was a logical fusion for gay horror fans. Imagine my surprise when some reviews expressed appreciation for the…um…meat of my stories but then made comments about the sex being a distraction. As someone who grew up at a time when sex was mandatory in horror, I’m going to guess these readers weren’t properly raised on sex and violence.
I’ve even seen the equating of the sex in my horror stories to “sexual assault.” That’s far from the same thing as doing something sexual with a man because you want to be forced into doing it with him, as is usually the case in my stories. Sexual situations involving an unwilling participant are a complete turn off for me—I’ve read that kind of erotic fiction with no enjoyment and watched it go on to win literary awards. Which means I won’t be winning any awards any time soon, because you won’t often find a Deliverance moment in my writing. And when you do, the point is absolutely not to arouse; it is to horrify. I can’t be responsible for where the mind wants to go, but isn’t it possible that what might be making readers uncomfortable is that they are left questioning whether or not a scene is supposed to be turning them on?
Perhaps it’s easier for a gay reader to assume such scenes in my books are intended to be sexual because, unlike a heterosexual male, who is most likely repulsed by the idea of butt fucking (as depicted in Deliverance), gay men generally expect it to be a positive experience. Look at it from the reverse perspective. A gay man watching I Spit on Your Grave is not likely to see the rape scene as sexual at all, but the protective anonymity of internet message boards shows time and again that there are heterosexual men who do find it stimulating. Does that mean they are sick individuals, or does it mean that horror is succeeding in making them uncomfortable about the darkness within themselves? Maybe that’s why the sex in my books unnerves gay readers; it makes them contemplate what they never had to when female T&A was being splashed needlessly across the screen through twelve Jason movies.
Either way, whether sex is in place to arouse or to disturb, of all people to express distaste in its presence, I never imagined it would be gay men. Could it be true? Straight male horror fans are more in touch with their sexual selves than gay horror fans? Was I going about writing gay horror all wrong?
Thankfully, for every comment about the supposed unnecessary sex, there is appreciation of it. It was nice to have someone tell me that my story “Woof!” proved to be the first time werewolves made him hot. I often get nods for writing horror stories that feature piggish, hairy, burly bears instead of vanilla, smooth, pretty boys. Not all gay men want sex in their horror, but there are definitely those who aren’t complaining. Still, it’s hard to find the community of gay sex and horror lovers. General horror message boards aren’t bringing them out of the closet. I began to wonder just how niche the market was for my writing.
Then a friend turned me on to a Greenwich Village bear bar called Rockbar NYC, where a couple of horror-loving gay guys hold a horror trivia night every month. Before I know it, I’m co-hosting the trivia night and doing a reading/signing of my books. I had a blast. Here was a bar full of gay men who could answer the question: How many people did Cujo kill? That night, my books were bought and given away as prizes. But did that mean gay horror lovers would actually like them? I didn’t know.
With the release of Combustion, I returned to Rockbar NYC and something wonderful happened. What was clearly a regular crowd at horror trivia night remembered me as much as I remembered them. And they had actually delved into my books. I witnessed one friend tell a couple that when he read my novella Zombied Out, he pictured them as the bear couple in the book. Another reader told me that whenever anyone peruses his bookshelves, their eyes are drawn immediately to my books.
Yet another horror fan told me that he won my book in the trivia contest the first time I was there, loved it, and read it out loud to his adora-bear hubby. He specifically referenced my story “Monstrosity” about a man suffering from a case of “gargantuanism.” He said the ending was horrific—but readily admitted that he also thought it was so hot he took care of business to it more than once. Good news for him. That huge man will be making a comeback in the novels yet to come in the series that begins with Combustion.
And there it was. Evidence that my kind of gay erotic horror fan is out there. I’d been in contact with one occasionally over the internet. But to be in a bar full of them was not only an honor…it was hot as hell.
And things have just gotten better since then. I was inspired to create a Facebook page called Boys, Bears & Scares, dedicated to everything gay horror, from movies and books, to art and graphic novels. Doing so has connected me to lovers of gay horror, from the men who create it to fans who devour it. It’s a place where gay horror fans can find an exhaustive and ever-growing list of what’s out there.
Gay horror is hard to find. It is often targeted at the “erotica” market rather than the horror market, which does it a great disservice. There’s a good chance when an erotica reader sees a hot guy on the cover of a gay horror book, he’s in for something he didn’t bargain for: gratuitous horror along with the sex. When the cover also successfully captures the horror elements, the erotica reader may be repelled by the horror, but the horror fan—the true market for the genre—will be intrigued. And unless he’s one of those horror readers who find that sex gets in the way of the story and wasn’t tipped off about its inclusion in the book by the half-naked guy on the cover, he’ll be right at home with every gory gay, horny homo detail.