We’re all hypocrites.
At least those of us that read or write (or both) romance books like they’re ice cream covered in chocolate covered in whipped cream.
I’m talking about body image. For years women complained that heroines of our favorite romance novels were too perfect. They had the right hair, the right curves, flat tummies, etc. With the diversity of novels available to us today, we’ve seen an increase of “non-perfect” women gracing the pages of the books we love. I just finished Dirty by Kylie Scott and Lydia, the heroine, talked constantly about her dimpled thighs and tummy bulge. Talk about being able to relate to the main character! Kristen Ashley does the soft, curvy heroine well too, showing us how men really want this from the women they love. (My husband confirmed this to be true) It’s every woman’s dream.
As is the perfect male. And this is where we’re hypocrites.
After we women demanded that the leading lady of our books represent who we are physically, we ignored the fact that the Alpha Male gracing the cover and pages of our books is NOT representative of the normal male physically. Even when the hero has a physical flaw (facial scarring, missing limb), he’s got ripped abs and straining biceps. Is this a double standard?
I can’t help but think it is.
Now, I’m not going to lie. I don’t want to read about a beer-bellied, motorcycle riding dude romancing the heroine. No, I want the motorcycle riding dude to be a stud who finds time to work out 2 hours a day between all his outlaw activities and sexual antics. I was on Joanna Wylde’s Facebook page the other day and someone commented on how she now notices guys riding motorcycles and they never look like Horse or Ruger (same here, though I keep looking and looking). And, I just had a Twitter conversation about book covers, which increasingly portray very muscled men, usually with tattoos, and very little clothing. I buy that book first. Every. Single. Time.
or this guy:
So, are we setting ourselves up for disappointment in the real world? Since the onset of television we’ve been bombarded with ridiculously attractive women selling us stuff, telling us that in order to be them we have to look like them. Our young women bought into it (I remember asking my dad why I couldn’t get my hair to look like the shampoo girl’s and he had no answer, but I wanted my hair that way. Still do, for the record).
So how is this different with our romance book heroes? There’s a new app for our phones and tablets called Crave Romance where women can connect with their fictional heroes. While this might have sounded amazing to my 17-year-old self, my almost-mature-aged self wonders how this just won’t fuel the unrealistic expectations of women.
Of course, when reading, imagery is really up to the reader, as is our perception of who we meet in real life. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. While I’ll stop and look at physically beautiful male that I think looks like my book boyfriend, I’m also smart enough to know that in reality that guy probably wouldn’t make me happy. My happiness is tied up in my wickedly smart, badass, former Special Ops husband (thanks Michelle Hazen, I stole your quote). Yes, he sounds like a romance book hero, doesn’t he? And he is my hero. He’s also bad-tempered, embarrassing in public, and likes the wrong hockey team.
So, do we continue to demand equal rights for our heroines while demanding bodily perfection from our heroes? Do we say, “This is our escape and the guy HAS to look perfect!”? Am I over thinking this?