God knows why I’ve spent almost the entire day today reading up on Romance / Erotic Romance and the debate of whether the genre should feature physically perfect heroes / love interests or flawed ones. As one would expect, there are a lot of opinions out there both amongst writers and readers of Erotic Romance.
Actually this so-called research happened by accident because I wanted to read a certain type of story. I wanted to find authors and books to fulfil a craving I had for some lunchtime / bedtime reading (I like to be prepared).
Personally – if you’ve read most of my work you’ll already know this – I don’t tend to go for what most people might consider physical perfection. With the exception of Beautiful Stranger, where the male lead is what you might call “perfect” in the sense that he’s buff, none of my other male characters are. If I had to find stock images representing the main characters of my books, I’d have issues because they don’t fit the chiselled 6-pack mould!
I have my reasons and these are mostly selfish in nature. This may sound harsh, but I didn’t start writing to fulfil everyone else’s fantasies, rather I did to record my own. Hopefully through self publishing I’ll find a readership that agrees!
1. My idea of attractive does not match up with the mainstream media’s interpretation.
If I write about a man who objectively could be described as fat, it is because that’s what I like and what turns me on. I’m not running a charitable operation here, churning out stories to make often overlooked types of men feel good about themselves. (However, if I have that kind of effect on some readers who can see themselves as a certain character and this makes them happy; awesome, it’s a bonus!)
2. Looks aren’t everything.
Attractiveness and arousal can be related to looks, but that’s not the whole story. Not for me, anyway. I fantasise about lots of situations, lots of different types of people getting up to all sorts with each other. Ironically, Peter in Beautiful Stranger is “conventionally hot” in a mature mid 40s sort of way. Visually he would not do it for me because of what I’ve already mentioned above. But he’s attractive anyway because he is a confident, attentive lover.
Similarly I hope that my more unconventional characters (John in Just Another Day at the Office, and George in One Night Stand) might appeal to readers who might not find them physically as attractive as I would. They might find John cute because he’s shy and quite innocent in a way. George could be appealing because he’s got that manly & rough, long-haired biker thing going for him. Or perhaps such readers would appreciate that in the eyes of their respective love interests, they are perfect.
Again perhaps (and this is something I came across in my pseudo-research multiple times today) some readers don’t care what I imagine my characters look like, they’ll simply imagine what they want them to look like and get their kicks that way. That’s fine and I do expect it; that’s why I try to keep physical descriptions fairly vague.
3. Realism vs. Fantasy
I get that (Erotic) Romance is a genre that a lot of people read to escape reality. A lot of these readers may want to imagine a perfect world where beautiful people have mind-blowing sex. Good for them.
Personally, I enjoy some realism because it allows me to identify with a story. I want to read about that guy I saw on the train or at the supermarket, not a billionaire who looks like an airbrushed magazine cut-out.Happily I also tend to fantasise about that same guy, Joe Average or even the guy sitting in the corner of the pub by himself who nobody notices.
So for me, realism merges with fantasy and I combine elements of both. While the characters show realism, I do like a bit of unrealistic hot fantasy sex where everyone always has an orgasm and instinctively people know how to please their partners.
4. The classic, tortured hero
I’ve touched upon this in an earlier, ancient blog post about 50 shades, but a lot of us women like “damaged goods”. Even if they are otherwise perfect alpha males, if they are scarred in some way that requires us to “fix” them with our love, the appeal grows exponentially. Whether this is due to some kind of misplaced instinct to mother the men in our lives, or something else, I’m not sure.
All I know is, give me a man who is honest enough to express some kind of self doubt and I’m like a moth to a flame. Not only do I feel like he’s a complete and genuine person rather than a one-dimensional arrogant prick, I also need to prove him wrong. This is especially the case if the issue he has is basically subjective (appearance related?) and not really a problem for me or my female characters. So you think you’re too old / too fat / too poor / too inexperienced or shy and therefore unlovable? Wrong!
Alright that’s enough ranting for one blog post. I should probably do a bit more research because I want to read about my ideal man before bedtime and I haven’t found him yet. Or perhaps I should just give up and write about him instead…