Tag Archives: Let’s get it on

Why do all the romance heroes have six packs? – Guest post by Roni Loren

First, I’d like to thank Kat for inviting me over here to her blog. You gotta love someone who says–I’d like you to guest post and can you make it about sex? LOL

Why, yes, yes I can actually. : )

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this article via Twitter (where all interesting things come from) on Slate called P0rn Women Want: Why Does it Make Men So Uncomfortable?  The post was basically about this guy:

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James Deen. (Pauses to snicker about the ridiculous stage names.) But anyway, apparently this guy is causing a stir because he is appealing to women-which is obviously not the market p0rn targets. Here’s what they say of Deen:

Deen has carved out a niche in the industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top p0rn agency sites and you’ll find… just a few dozen men available…. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.

Which of course made me think–yes, this is why most women roll their eyes at p0rn. Beyond the complete lack of story line and emotional connection, the dudes are ugly and the girls are fake-looking. If the male actors looked like Alexander Skarsgard or Bradley Cooper, I’m thinking we ladies might change our mind and take a peek.

Come on, you know you’d look.
But the reason, the article hypothesizes, that guys who are “prettier” don’t get hired in p0rn is because it makes the guys watching it uncomfortable. Because *gasp* they don’t want to have any sexytime feelings about the guys. The post says:

The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire.

Hmm. Okay, maybe I could see that if a guy is particularly homophobic or un-evolved. But it seemed a little far-fetched. So, of course, I asked my husband (who is mostly evolved and finds p0rn more comedic than sexy) his opinion. After a derisive snort, he said, “It’s not about guys worrying about gay feelings. The reason is the same reason your romance novels have Mr. Perfect as the hero and Ms. Average Every Day Girl as the heroine.”

And you know what? He had a good point.

In fantasy, whether it be via books or something visual, we naturally put ourselves in the heroine’s (or hero’s if you’re a guy) shoes. If the heroine is written as some gorgeous model type who never gains a pound, never has an insecurity, and who wakes up with perfect hair–none of us are going to be able to relate. So most often, romance writers create heroines we “get”. And though she may actually BE beautiful, she doesn’t know it. We only see her beauty through the hero’s eyes when we’re in his POV. (Because isn’t that really our fantasy? That the guy we love sees us as the most beautiful girl even if we aren’t to the rest of the world.)

But on the flipside, in our fantasy, in addition to having the guy be smart and kind-hearted and loving, we do want him to look like Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgard. Men haven’t cornered the market on being visual, you know. It’s not to say we hold up our mates to those six-pack ab, slay the dragon, alpha standards, but everything is exaggerated in fantasy.

Which is the same reason why the guys look like they do in p0rn and the girls are the exaggerated female “ideal” (giant boobs, skinny, long hair, always ready and willing, etc.) The guys don’t want to think–damn, in order to land that kind of girl I’d have to look like Brad Pitt. They want to think, hey, I’m better looking than that frosted-tipped, tribal tattooed guy. I could totally bed this girl.

*snort*

So even though men and women are built very differently, it seems we have some things in common when it comes to this. We’re all a little insecure and we all can go a little overboard in fantasy land. It does kind of make me want to write a less than perfect-looking hero though, just to make a point.

But in the meantime, you can admire the perfect abs of my hero Reid on the cover of CRASH INTO YOU. 😉  *pets*

Any thoughts on all of this? Anyone think it really is guys being afraid the pretty boys will make them think impure thoughts? And how do you like your heroes in your books? Does your mate ever give you flack for reading romance novels with half-naked men on the front?


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.
Her debut romance CRASH INTO YOU releases January 3, 2012 from Berkley Heat/Penguin. If you want to read more posts like this one or follow her journey to debut authorhood, you can visit her writing blog FictionGroupie or her author blog. She also tweets way too much for her own good.

Giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Roni’s debut, Crash Into You. I’ll randomly select the winner on Tuesday December 27th. Good luck!
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Are men worse at writing sex than women?

The Literary Review has announced its nominees for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

If you’re not familiar with the Bad Sex in Fiction award, I can’t describe it any better than Jezebel magazine does:

[E]ach year the Literary Review has singled out an author who writes awkwardly enough about sex to convince readers that the winning author’s experience with actual sex acts has been limited to puppet performances put on by a middle school health teacher who had a very limited sense of irony.

Frustrated man at a laptop

rajsun22/sxc.hu

This year, male nominees far outnumber females, an occurrence that isn’t unusual. In fact, only two women have won the undesirable award since it began in 1993.

So are men worse at writing sex than women?

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Friday feminist funnies

I’ve stumbled across some brilliant parodies this week. The first is the blog Feminist Ryan Gosling, with its “Hey, girl” captions.

Feminist Ryan Gosling has only been around for about six weeks. Danielle, a University of Wisconsin grad student and teacher on the gender studies program, created it as a way of helping her remember the feminist theories she was reading.

Sadly, I first heard of Ryan Gosling only a few months ago, after my mom took my teenaged cousins to one of his movies (don’t ask me which one). When I asked her how the movie was, she hesitated and said, “Well, the girls liked it. And it’s not hard to spend two hours staring at Ryan Gosling.”

If Mom finds him attractive, I feel I can’t.

Genetics are perverse, eh?

My other favorite finds of the week are videos from The Second City Network, with Disney princesses giving love advice to young girls.

And let’s not forget Snow White with her seven man-friends.

Priceless.

What dating advice would other Disney princesses give young girls? Jasmine? Sleeping Beauty? Ooh, Sleeping Beauty’s gotta be ripe for giving sound relationship advice.

Do you have a favorite Feminist Ryan Gosling photo? Or do you prefer staring at him without the captions?

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Five things romance writers should know about vaginas

If there’s one thing you’d think romance writers – who tend to be women writing for women – know about, it’s the workings of their own bodies.

After all, some of us write fairly explicit sex scenes, right?

Read My LipsThis week, though, I was surprised to discover how ignorant I was as I read the delightfully informative Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva by Debby Herbenick, PhD, and Vanessa Schick, PhD.

This book, which will be released on November 14, should be required reading for everyone – women and men. It expels myths, builds confidence, and contains vital health information that would surprise many women.

And there are craft projects! I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so let’s just say I know what I’ll be dressing as next Halloween.

Luckily, Debby and Vanessa are giving away a copy of Read My Lips right here! (Details at the end of the post.)

For those of you who don’t write romance, please don’t feel you need to click away. Vulva knowledge is good for everyone – whether you carry one around all day or love someone who does.

First, a brief word on terminology. Vulva is used here to describe the genital region that can be seen from the outside (clitoris, lips, vaginal opening, etc). Vagina means the passage between the outside world and the uterus. But I won’t be anal about people using “vagina” to refer to the whole shebang.

Ready to learn about the mighty vulva?

1. All vulvas are different.

This might sound obvious, and maybe it is to people who have seen lots of naked women.

Then again, depending on where you encountered those women you might be forgiven for thinking most vulvas look the same. Apparently, most of the women pictured naked in magazines and online have a certain look: hairless or nearly hairless, with small inner labia that are fairly uniform in color.

But women are much more diverse. The authors say:

Painted lady statueThe inner labia (labia minora) are perhaps the most diverse part of women’s genitals. The color of women’s inner labia may vary greatly from one woman to the next. They may be a shade of pink, red, brown, gray, black, or slightly purple (particularly as women become sexually aroused and blood flow increases to the genitals, as the inner labia are filled with blood vessels; inner labia also sometimes darken in color while a woman is pregnant). The outer ridges of the inner labia are often darker than the rest of the labia. Similarly, in one study, forty-one of fifty women (92 percent) had genitals that were darker than the skin around their genitals.

Now, a lot of romance novelists skim over this kind of detail when describing sex scenes, but some don’t. And if you write explicit scenes, then you might like to add a little more genital diversity. Not only will it make your heroine more interesting, it’ll make her more real.

Most importantly, though, it could encourage your readers that their bits are normal, healthy and sexually desirable.

Wikipedia has a set of drawings showing vulvar diversity.

2. The hymen is at the vagina’s entrance.

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At first scent: exposing the secrets of chemical attraction

Couple nearly kissing

© Geber86/istockphoto

Romance readers are familiar with chemical attraction – that unmistakable yet intangible sensation when your body recognizes your soul mate.

For horror and suspense writers, the most important chemical reaction is different: the scent of fear and hint of danger the hero detects that lets him react just in time to save his own life.

These may sound like cliches, but they’re based on real-life reactions our bodies have to pheromones.

Earlier this week I went to a lecture by Karl Grammar of the University of Vienna, one of the few scientists in the world studying human pheromones. He gave us an insight into how humans react to the scent of pheromones, and I thought some of it might be useful, or at least interesting, to my fellow writers.

Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t take notes on the scientific nitty-gritty, so some of what follows here may be educational while other parts will just sound strange. Take what you will and store it away – surely it’ll come in handy for a pub quiz one day.

What are pheromones?

Dr Grammar began by saying that in almost all animal species life is controlled by highly volatile substances made by the glands. These are pheromones. We breathe them in, and our olfactory system takes these scents (which we don’t even know we’re smelling) straight to the brain.

In other words, people give off these super subtle messages which our nose takes to our brain for interpretation.

What do pheromones help us do?

Pheromones help us do things like recognize our relatives, select our mates, and be aware when someone scary or aggressive is nearby.

We have hundreds – possibly thousands – of different pheromones. They’re transmitted through our skin; since we each have a unique genetic epidermal composition, our pheromones “smell” different. This makes it easier for us to identify our kin, but it also means romance novels are right: we can identify that one person who’s special to us, even if we can’t see them.

Weird pheromone facts

Boar

© osmar01/sxc.hu

Humans have some of the same pheromones as other animals. For example, one of the pheromones men have is the same as a boar’s. Dr Grammar explained that when a female boar smells a male boar’s pheromones, she assumes the copulation position. “It doesn’t work like this for humans,” he said.

Women share a pheromone in common with wasps. Yep, women smell sorta like wasps, men smell like pigs, and no one knows why.

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More hot men are concerned about your breasts

I don’t usually drool and post pictures/videos of ripped men…unless I can find a way to relate it to writing.

Remember last week I shared that video by Rethink Breast Cancer? The one featuring hot guys showing you how to check yourself for lumps and also served as a great lesson on providing a unique twist on the same old content?

Mmmm…

Sorry – I mentally wandered for a second there. Well, yesterday stars from the British TV show Loose Women (basically The View) had the incredible opportunity to visit London rugby team Harlequins…and wander around the locker room where the players were nekkid.

For copyright reasons, I’ll be a good girl and won’t post the pictures here. But you can see them here. Don’t worry – the men have strategically placed balls.

Rugby balls, that is.

Good thing rugby balls are long.

I couldn’t figure out whether the photo shoot was related to Harlequins’ support for the charity Breast Cancer Care. They’ll be supporting the charity on 29 October at their Ladies’ Day match. My husband’s a season-ticket holder for their cross-town rival, and that’s our last day in London, so I won’t be going. I hope everyone who does will donate, though.

Whether the photo shoot is for a good cause or is purely gratuitous, it’s still great for me – I’m in the process of rewriting my contemporary romance featuring a London rugby player. These pics have inspired all sorts of ideas…which you’ll get to read if this novel is published.

How many ways are there to describe abs like this?

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Does it matter what an author looks like?

Have you ever scheduled a professional photography session, then woken up five minutes beforehand, not taking time to wash, brush your hair or gather enough energy to smile?

Neither have I—at least, not since a hot guy I liked looked at my college ID photo and said, “Ugh! Looks like you just woke up from a crack sleep.”

Authors take a lot of care over the photo that will be printed in the back of their books and all around the internet as they promote their work. Debut authors today even get their blog, Facebook and Twitter followers involved in selecting the best photo.

Why? Because, to a certain extent, it matters what we look like. We all want to present ourselves in a way that makes readers feel connected with us, and humans connect when they can read signals in each other’s faces—like a friendly smile. And thank God we do that, because looking around the animal kingdom, it seems that the alternative is sniffing each other’s rear-bits, and I dread to think how publishers would replicate that in the back of a book.

The problem is that we’ve all got insecurities, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Several weeks ago I asked a professional photographer friend at work if he’d take some pictures of me for my blog. Most of the photos I have of myself are taken on holiday, where I look happy but sweaty or tired. Ever since Mat agreed to take my picture, I’ve been putting off the date. My hair’s too shaggy. My brows are too bushy. My chin’s too…well, let’s be kind and say “undefined”.

Those are mostly things I can control. But what about characteristics that we can’t control—like our age—which can lead to others judging us?

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How realistic is the contemporary virgin?

First off, welcome to my new followers! *waves* Just so you know, I’m a romance writer, so sometimes I blog aboout things relevant to all writers and sometimes I focus posts on the romance genre. Please feel free to comment and share even if you’re not a romance reader.

For those old followers (I prefer to think of you as “seasoned”, not old) who don’t know, my last post was Freshly Pressed yesterday, so it was on WordPress.com‘s homepage.  My blog picked up quite a few new followers, and I look forward to getting to know you all better.

Now for today’s post, which is cross-posted at The Season.

When I started reading romance *mumble mumble* years (okay, decades) ago, it was nearly impossible to find a heroine who’d had sex before meeting the hero. While this is completely understandable and realistic in historical romance, it’s always seemed curious to me that contemporary adult women were virgins.

Most of them weren’t just virgins but were about as inexperienced as I was at 14. (That is, not experienced at all).

As a teenager, I enjoyed reading about women who were a decade older but just as inexperienced as me. Considering I went to a religious high school, I knew sex would remain a vicarious experience for many years, and I’d probably end up like those heroines. Watching their long wait pay off with a hot man made me happy not to experiment with fumbling teenage boys.

I was also surrounded by messages from other forms of media telling me it wasn’t normal for teenagers to be virgins. TV, music, films—they all made me feel my friends and I were strange, while romance novels encouraged me that good things come to those who wait.

A couple of decades later, readers tend to complain when an adult heroine is a virgin. It seems unrealistic. Or perhaps it’s offensive to subject heroines to centuries-old double standards that real-life women are finally shattering.

But how realistic are contemporary adult virgins?

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Erections, as written by women

As varied as the romance genre is, there are a couple things most romance novels have in common.

1. They are mostly written and read by women.

2. There is usually some description of arousal, both female and male.

Reading over and over how women describe the sensations men experience has made me wonder whether readers accept some cliches because we think they’re sexy, or whether we just don’t know any better. After all, I’ll never have an erection.

There’s one erection myth perpetuated in romance novels that really annoys me as a reader.

Let me preface this by saying that the romance genre is not about recreating real life exactly as it is. Although I love my novels to be realistic, real life isn’t always sexy and romance novels should be – at least, the ones I want to read will be. So I’m not asking for romance writers to be faithful to reality when writing about arousal – just to think beyond cliches and find a more interesting way to describe our heroes.

So what’s the erection myth that bugs me like no other?

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Why my romance novel hero is the ugliest man in the world

Homunculus model

Courtesy Krishna Sadhu/etsy.com

Here’s a picture of my hero.

Quite a looker, isn’t he? Well, this picture could actually represent most of us (plus or minus the penis, of course). It’s a sensory homunculus – a representation of our bodies that emphasizes our most sensitive parts.

The sensory homunculus distorts humans based on how many sense nerves each body part has sending messages to the brain.

One of my favorite descriptions of the homunculus is from Tommy Kelly on his blog Darkling Wood: “The Homunculus is what we’d look like to everyone else if we looked the way we felt.”

When British comedian Jimmy Carr saw a picture of one of these beauties on the quiz program QI, he said: “It’s a good rule for a first date – these are the areas you should be concentrating on.”

It’s a good rule for a novel, as well. We’re told to focus on the five senses, and the sense of sight is often the easiest to cover well. But the sense of touch is hugely important in helping us understand the world around us. To create well-rounded, realistic characters, we need to describe how things feel when they brush against our characters’ skin, particularly focusing on these sensitive body parts. It’s not just about the tingles they feel, but temperature, texture and pain as well.

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