As for the vicarious experience, of course there is a need to find characters that we can relate to. it's fun to read about somebody who goes through something we could go through and even if they are in a fantastic situation (love me some gay sci fi and fantasy!) the human component will always be present. Is the sex unattainable? Probably. But the whole idea of romance novels is to provide an experience that we don't find in every day life. Watching the growing arch of a character in a romance novel, though, does require some reflection and even though not all romance novels delve deeply into a character's psyche (we're here for the party, aren't we?) there's always an element of observation in us as readers that cannot be overlooked.
So yes, I'm a sucker for gay romance novels. Are they deep? No. Do we want them to be deep? Of course not. I read them because I like to read. And I like to read about men falling in love more than anything. And I like to support the people who write them. Nowadays you can find them mostly online. Some self-published. And that's a pity. I remember when I made bi-weekly visits to bookstores looking for my next novel. And it was fantastic.
So the next time you're browsing for some content online, go read a good M/M story. I promise you'll like it.