Coming from an evolutionary psychology perspective, they hypothesized these titles would reflect mating preferences that have evolved over the millennia — specifically, a desire for a long-term relationship with a physically fit, financially secure man who will provide the resources needed to successfully raise a family.
You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m shocked. I’m Googling the word “agog” to see how I can best modify my facial expression to accommodate the definition. Linda Holmes from NPR’s Monkey See blog asked me to respond to the research study, which I did under the title Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Indeed: Expert Guidance On Romance Titles:
Stop the presses: Harlequin titles reveal our—by “our” I of course mean “women’s”—evolutionary coding and psychological desire for … wait for it, wait for it … You sitting down? Good.
We prefer to mate with “a physically fit, financially secure man who will provide the resources needed to successfully raise a family.”
In other news, ice is slippery, water is still wet, and those silly romance readers are once again looking for fantasy men. Pah….
What baffles me is that any of this would be a surprise. Certainly it’s not to any romance reader: a lifetime of reading narrative tales of successful courtship teaches us to value a partner who is a partner, someone who splits the unpleasant tasks and celebrates the joys equally, knowing that each person has contributed fairly.
This is not to say that contemporary men, particularly contemporary fathers, are not getting the job(s) done. Far from it: another aspect of the mythical fantasy male revealed in Harlequin titles is that, for many of us, the wonder male already exists. While popular media portrays fathers as absent, bumbling, stupid or abusive, most husbands and fathers of my acquaintance are more likely to share the sticky and smelly responsibilities and revel in them—just as they share in the wage-earning and home-building.
I grow more and more fascinated with how romance novels portray men because it is so often at complete odds with how other forms of popular media portray them, particularly in fatherhood roles. But I remain unsurprised about what women desire in a man according to this study.