Physical Erotic Perfection

A reader and graduate student named Kate emailed me this question:

“Intrigued by the concept
of well-written, professionally published erotica, I downloaded some of your
recommendations. After sampling several I found a pattern that bothered me
and yanked me out of the story.

All of the male characters – and sometimes the
females too – are described physically, right off the bat, as being tall,
handsome, and having perfect sinewy muscular bodies that I’ve certainly never
seen anywhere besides Michaelango’s David. I understand that romance and
erotica are designed to be fantasies, and that the reader is assumed to be a
heterosexual female who is inserting herself in place of the heroine and
fantasizing about this male.

I don’t know where they got their information as to
what real women want, because they certainly didn’t talk to me. My current
boyfriend is overweight, and past partners, while running the gamut from skinny to round, have never possessed rock-hard muscles or perfectly chiseled features. *I’ve* never had sex with a guy who looks like that – why would I want to?

Perhaps if I found one who was a great match for my personality, I might, and
I’m sure I’d find his body attractive, but I’m insulted that the industry
assumes that this is all I want to read about. I might be able to look past it
and enjoy the plot, but I’m likely to skip past the sex, as I don’t get much out
of picturing a Playgirl model (or two) screwing a blonde, either in terms of
arousal or placing the scene in the progression of the plot. It’s just so far
removed from my actual sex life and what I’ve learned to enjoy.

I’ve been dealing with body image issues in women as part of my graduate research, and I’ve often had to help my imperfectly-bodied partners feel secure and wanted – I hate being a consumer of the kind of cultural material that makes so many people feel inadequate.

There’s been discussion on SBTB about romance novels with plus-sized heroines,
so the matter of “imperfect” bodies has been raised before, but I don’t think
it’s been raised in the context of either the hero’s body or erotic romance. Is
there anything out there (either romance or erotica) for those of us who
actively dislike overt physical description of the “ideal body”?

I realize that I’m unlikely to find an erotica writer explaining that her hero weighs 300
pounds, but there are alternatives to descriptions of lean muscle – I recall the
hero of Spymaster’s Lady being described as “a big man,” and there’s also the
option of limiting the description and letting the reader fill in the blanks.”

I think Kate asks a very good question – the erotic-romance men are often very, very perfect, in ways that often don’t seem real.

I think erotic romance is very much about reader fantasy, and can be more liberally dolloped with idealized figures, both on the covers and in the books, particularly when it comes (ha) to the men.  I think the male standards of beauty are just as damaging as the female standards, and are slowly growing in pervasiveness,

Why do you think the men in erotic romance are so often muscularly and sculpturally perfect? Do you prefer erotic heroes to be written that way? Can you recommend quality erotic romance titles that feature more realistic men, at least, not chisled angular men of perfection?

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Lyssa says:

    I think when we had the prior conversation (the one with the plus sized barbie doll illistration) this was brought up. And when you limit the conversation to “erotic” romance I don’t know of an ‘imperfect male’(thus striking out such characters as Barron’s from KMM’s Shadowfever who is described as a primative featured man who…Ohhh can’t say because there are those who are still reading it , Or Miles our hyperactive git of a short science fiction hero). Perhaps imperfections could be shapeshifters, but no even there they are super-perfect (perfected bodies, with muscles and expert techniques). If you included ‘romance’ vs erotic, Barrons, Stan (from Suzanne Brockmann) and those scarred heroes of Regency would be mentioned, but even those are muscled and perfection below the neckline.

  2. 2
    Katherineb says:

    Lord, the idea of a non-physically perfect erotic hero ha me perking up my ears. How great would that be? The unexpected surprise has an erotic thrill of its own. Girl takes schlubby guy to bed and finds out he’s a tiger!

    Which actually puts me in mind of a brit chick lit book, where a guy marries such a nice average and plump guy in a fit of pique, but rejects him physically, and he has to trick her (some sort of subterfuge with a lightless bedroom and taking the place of the guy she had actually wanted). Was a really terrible book really. Wanted to slap the girl, but I think there was decent grovelling in the end. Can’t remember the title.

    I suppose I like to fill in the blanks on the erotic hero a bit, though not completely. Ad nauseum loving descriptions of light glinting off his rocky abs and how his hair is like a newly minted guinea – nah.

    Though erotica where the hero is not so nice physically that I’ve run across are ones of BDSM that were Gor-ean in nature. After all, a guy need not be young and handsome to subjugate a woman, right? Frankly, wasn’t erotic for me, though some like the slave theme more than I. A chacun son gout.

  3. 3
    Katherineb says:

    Wait….a GIRL marries an average guy. Not guy marries a guy. Darn my lack of editing!

  4. 4
    Tara Maya says:

    I’m going to be honest and say that if I am reading a sexy, escapist fantasy erotica, I want all parties involved to be awesomely sexy. Sorry, but I’ve (unfortutnately) seen porn movies, aimed at guys, where the men are downright ugly, and uhm, no, that’s just not what I want to associate with the bedroom.

    As for any feminist squeamishness about romance, I think the “alpha male” behavior bothers me more than the physique. I’d be happier reading more about nerds and geeks, my favored male type—but nerds and geeks with rock hard abs. The very fact it seldom happens in the real world is what makes it appealing. ;)

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate

  5. 5
    redcrow says:

    and he has to trick her (some sort of subterfuge with a lightless bedroom and taking the place of the guy she had actually wanted). Was a really terrible book really. Wanted to slap the girl

    I would want to slap (or better yet, to punch) the guy. If he had sex with her without her concent (she concented to sex with other man, not him, after all), then I hope you know how it called. Hint: not “normal marital sex”.

  6. 6
    kytten says:

    Interesting. I think it’s difficult- peoples sexual tastes are very different and it would be hard to write about a man who fit for everyone- because he wouldn’t. Perhaps it’s easier to write about the physically perfect man as an object of desire? I mean, it’s easier to say ‘Her hads ached to touch his lean hard abs’ and be relatively sure of most readers agreeing that that would be a pleasant sensation.

    I’ve lusted after men with that physically perfect physique (current direction, Alexander Skarasgard) but in real life I’ve never been interested. Looks plastic and fake to me. I prefer someone with ‘working’ muscles- not gym muscles. Muscles that are got from being physically active and strong, not from eating no fat and doing 1500 crunches a day. Hard muscles, but with very little definition.

    Of course, unless you have hours to spend at the gym getting that six-pak definition is virtually impossible, whivh probably spikes my desire a bit. I have no interest in being second fiddle to a workout.

    I also like personality. A strong, intelligent man who doesn’t take shit or bullying or domineering but, all importantly, doesn’t dish any of those out either. Emotionally strong. Able to give a verbal slap-down when someones out of order, but also able to admit to his feelings.

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    Hmm.  I haven’t read any modern ‘erotic romance’, I suppose, but it seems to me a trifle naive — well, very naive —  to write detailed physical descriptions of that type at all.  I would be inclined to say that dwelling obsessively on the specific physical characteristics of a character is more characteristic of pornography (which is about the mechanics of sex, not about people) than erotica (which is, or should be, about people engaging in sex a lot).

    Sexual arousal suppresses all sorts of intellectual judgements, including aesthetic ones, so a physically ‘non-ideal’ mate can be extremely attractive when seen through the filter of intense lust.  Nearly all of us, fortunately, are sexually responsive to partners who are far from ‘perfect’ physically, whatever that means.  Most of you are young, but reflect, for a moment, on the fact that all bodies, however ‘perfect’ they may be in youth, change with age, however well they are looked after, and tend to get softer, saggier and baggier (or in other cases, leaner and scrawnier):  doesn’t stop middle-aged and elderly people from responding to sexual stimuli and remaining sexually active.  A normal, healthy, 55-year-old body looks different from one that’s 30 years younger, but that doesn’t make it intrinsically imperfect. 

    Tastes in physical beauty are culturally and personally determined anyway:  there is no abstract canon of perfection (other than that all bits should be present and in working order), but only some widely-held opinions and popular preferences.  There are people who are actually powerfully sexually attracted specifically to individuals with physical characterists that are generally classed as imperfections or even deformities.  Individuals are dramatically divided on the issue of body-hair, some seeing profuse hairiness as digusting, others as delightful.

    Some physical descriptions of the appearance of characters is generally welcome to most readers, but unless there is some precise relevance to the plot, it seems to me that leaving a certain amount to the imagination of the reader actually increases the latter’s engagement with the story, enabling her to imagine the protagonists fulfilling her personal preferences.  Kate, who inspired this discussion, illustrates that perfectly.  All these tall, large, muscular males are not to her taste, so minute description of them works against the erotic effect of the books rather than in their favour.

  8. 8
    kimsmith says:

    It only takes one.

    One person, holding up the book, reading it aloud to a couple girlfriends, giggling as they read aloud the passages describing . . . well, insert your own descriptive of a less than perfect physique.  People can make fun of anything—and WILL.  Do I want my fantasies about a woman of my shape read aloud in a mocking manner, or is it a lot easier to bear when the description fits no one I know or will ever know?

    I can easily imagine a reading broadcast over youtube, knowing that it got two billion hits, with that snide, humiliating mockery of a description of a woman’s belly folds.

    This is a difficult issue to address simply on that basis.

    But maybe I’m underestimating my fellow man.  Maybe authors are braver than that, and are prepared to embrace the controversy, who will be backed by their publishers as they go on Oprah and address the social issue of why a realistic body deptiction isn’t commercially successful (in general).  Maybe a youtube sensation like that would become the world’s greatest opportunity to discuss realistic body issues with our daughters, and we could raise a generation that embraces and demands realistic fiction—and has a ripple effect in the visual media.

    More than likely, written erotica of those less than idea couples would get sidelined, commercially forgotten, or fetishized.

  9. 9

    I haven’t read much “erotica” of the kind that are best sellers at most of the sites.  However, I sure wish I wrote that stuff!  (My stuff is more like “typical” romance taken over the top.)  But I’d sell better if I wrote erotica!

    But my books have featured purrfect heroes and heroines.  I’d not thought about why before, but I guess it’s because so much of life is imperfect.  It’s not only sci-fi and paranormal that’s about the fantasy. 

    Having said that, I think the piece makes a good point about the imagination.  As a reader, I usually paint my own mental picture of the hero and heroine and I’m free to make them look however I want!

    Happy reading everyone – we’re all artists at heart and all of our hearts are different.

  10. 10
    FD says:

    My main beef with the tendency towards ‘physical perfection’ in erotic, and to a certain extent, regular romance heroes, is very simple: it makes them too interchangeable. (I also have issues with heterormativity, and gender rigid scripting etc but identikit heroes are biggest bar to my personal enjoyment.) If they have physical flaws there’s at least something to anchor my vision of the character in.  For me, more description is better than less, because I’m not reading for what I like, I’m reading for vicarious enjoyment of what they (the characters) like.

  11. 11
    Bri says:

    BDSM

    excuse my ignornace – what does this stand for?

    i agree with @Tara – i want my erotica heroes to be beefcake, and most time i dont so much care what their other characteristics are either.  it might be shallow, but most of the erotica I read, i want pure escape and steam.  I am more discerning of my heroes in other romance sungenres where i am going to be more involved in the plot

  12. 12
    CherishPassion says:

    I recently read a really great erotic romance called ‘Breaking the Silence’ by Katie Allen. While the guy is described as looking like a physically perfect big, blonde viking, he is totally shy and geeky and has no idea he looks like a god. I loved the book. It is the best I can suggest for the moment, since I am just getting into erotic books recently. But on the more traditional romance front, I have lists and lists of physically imperfect heroes. They are my absolute favourite. I call them ‘Beauty and the Beast’ stories. Maybe Pamela Morsi would be good for you. She has at least one short and chubby hero.

  13. 13
    Isabel C. says:

    Real woman here: I totally, in fact, do want the chiseled features and the lean body and so on.  I could go for a romance with a skinny-rather-than-muscular hero, but I’d probably put the book down as soon as it became clear that the love interest was pudgy or balding or whatever.  I wouldn’t consider it a bad book, but, like erotica featuring watersports or master-slave play, it squicks me rather than turns me on.

    And yeah, I’m interested in the personality, but you know what? If I want a guy with a “great personality” and a body that makes me go “enh”  well, there are *plenty* of those in real life.

    Do I feel bad about this? Not really. First of all, it’s fantasy. Second, I don’t read or write to shore up the self-esteem of insecure men. Third, if you look at the tropes common to mainstream media, it’s pretty clear that the Ugly Guy Hot Girl thing gets plenty of play already. Society expects a lot more from women in terms of appearance than it does men, and I’m really okay with seeing a little more in the way of expectations for guys.

    I’m all about writing for different tastes, though. Not sure how much it would split any particular market, but it could also create some cool niches.

  14. 14
    Chelsea says:

    I wouldn’t mind less than perfect heroes, as long as the scenes are well written. The escapist factor in erotica, for me at least, is the plot/sexual content—I could honestly care less what everyone looks like.

  15. 15
    Flo says:

    Katie MacAllister, in her contemporary romances, often uses a heroine that is imperfect as well as a male that is physically imperfect.  I recall the one about pirates (it’s somewhere on my bookshelf) where they were stuck in a virtual reality game.  The couple fell in love there and he kept protesting to her that he did NOT look like his avatar.  She said the same.  So when they finally meet they had already fallen in love (or cared deeply for each other).  The description when the heroine sees him involved a beer belly, scruffy hair, and basically non-perfect features.  MacAllister made sure to let the readers know that her heroine didn’t give two shits.

    Now the strange thing about THAT story was that all the hot monkey lovin’ was done in VR with their avatars.  So you DID get that “perfect physique” factor going in a round-a-bout way.

    I wouldn’t care if someone read a mocking description of more realistic bodies… if they mocked it, it would prove that they were worthless pieces of shit who have more issues than they can handle and they should be looked upon with pity.  I find romance novels with less physically perfect people (or people who act…well LIKE PEOPLE… thank god for romance heroines who actually go to the potty every once in a while).  I still recall a romance where the heroine was having issues with paying her bills, needed a doughnut fix and raided the penny jar to get her cruller.  Granted she met Mr. Right at the doughnut counter!

    More imperfect men please.  More imperfect women please.  And in their imperfection… they are beautiful and unique!

  16. 16
    Cris says:

    BDSM = bondage, discipline, sado-masochism

    I like my heroes to be unnaturally hot, but I prefer to imagine them that way on my own – MY idea of unnaturally hot, not someone elses.  Tell me he’s fit and handsome with a quirky smile and I may see Mike Rowe or I may see Brad Pitt, I don’t need exact descriptions and don’t want overly detailed 12-packs or a rock hard butt. That’s when he becomes fake to me. 

    And please, for the love of God stop with the painfully large penises!!!

  17. 17
    Barbara W. says:

    Is there something I’m missing?  She’s looking for an occasional hero written with flab?  Love handles?  Cankles?  One with protruding collarbones or bony elbows?  Why not extend it to micro-penises and elephantis of the balls while we’re at it.  Hey, it happens in real life and some chicks might go for it.

    I admit to not reading romance where the hero can’t lift the heroine because he can barely bench press the empty bar, but while I can’t quote the names of the books, I know I’ve read books where the guys were less than muscle-bound.  I’ve read more than one heroine-loves-her-dork.  While they may not be “fat,” I also read a lot of brawny-types, which are in real life what I go for so it works for me more than the muscle-bound gym dude anyway (or guy that works out excessively because it’s for his job).  I’m not going to turn my nose up at a guy who can deadlift me while running with an assault rifle then toss me on a bed and go to town though.

    Okay, that said…  I really love it when there’s a crooked nose or weird hair or some imperfection.  I’m hanging my head in shame here as I admit Roarke drives me to distraction sometimes with his utter perfection.  I like an author who gives the description in the beginning then backs off for the most part and lets the reader fill in the blanks from then out because I can keep the idea of where she wants me to go but put my own spin on him.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the older I get, the more I like this.  I’m starting to make my eyes blur when I get to any part of the book that tells the hero’s age. 

    When it comes to pure erotica though, I think my feelings about it are a little different.  It’s absolute escapism and I think I do have a different expectation about physical appearances.  I don’t want a heroine with a poochy belly any more than I want a hero who doesn’t have a sculpted ass or abs of steel.  I really might be tempted to toss my Kindle (onto something soft though) if the hero had moobs.

  18. 18

    Wow, this is fascinating!

    I write erotica, and I like to think of myself as an author who [generally] writes “believable” erotica. My heroines tend to be rather imperfect in both body and temperament, but attractive and charming enough to interest the heroes. I also let them keep their pubic hair, give them physical imperfections and insecurities, and I don’t dress them in elaborate underwear. They don’t gush like geysers. They don’t generally take anything up the back passage, which I suspect is becoming somewhat rare in erotica. They’re normal-ish women with normal-ish boundaries. (Like any of us knows what normal is.)

    My men…well, busted. My men tend to be attractive. They generally have either a) an exceptional body or b) an exceptional face. If they’re built, I don’t typically go on about their faces. If they’re exceedingly handsome, I dial the muscles down. Also, I always give my muscular heroes physical jobs (and no, not former SEALs) or hobbies that explain their unreasonable physiques. Totally irks me when authors don’t do that.

    I try to not laundry list the features that make my heroes exceptionally attractive, since the more specific I get, the harder it becomes for the reader to fill in the blanks and make my hero into their own ideal. I want my readers to be free to picture whomever turns their crank the most when they’re spending time with my characters. I hope I succeed.

    Of all my published books, I think I have written only one totally out-of-the-mold hero. Evan, from a novella called Dirty Thirty, is 5’10”, pretty scrawny, covered in tattoos, and sporting a mohawk. He works in a cubicle and rides a bicycle. He’s married, and he adores his equally off-beat wife. Beta, all the way.

    In defense of the genre, I do believe there’s room for heroes of different shapes and sizes in erotica. I doubt you’ll see them represented on the covers, but I believe that my own editor would be very open to such a thing. Will I write them? Maybe. But to be honest and probably a bit TMI, when I write erotica, I need to be turned on by my own stories, and I’m generally turned on by physically fit men with nice faces.

    Great topic. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

  19. 19
    Overquoted says:

    I’m a little torn on this. On the one hand, some of the physiques featured on erotica covers (pecs bigger than my tits!) are sometimes off-putting. Few men carry that look well, and were usually large-framed to begin with. I’m also known for having an affection for shoulders and could not care less about a six pack. On the other hand, I have an entire library of dvds full of incredibly handsome, fairly muscular men (even if only a few have abs of steel). These range from Johnny Depp and Billy Wirth to Elliot Cowan and Jay Tavare. I even have a documentary somewhere that originally caught my eye because of a few male bodies that were simply gorgeous to behold (Rize).

    So I don’t know. I think the fantasy is that we can have the desired mate, the desired personality *and* the body that comes closest to our version of perfection. Simple truth is, a skin-and-bones or pudgy hero isn’t going to do it for every woman. I’d simply recommend what I do with every erotic/romance book – skim the description and replace it with whoever has caught my fancy recently. ;) Billy Wirth has been in soooo many of the books I’ve read.

  20. 20
    Penelope says:

    This is a great topic. For those of us who read a lot of romance/erotica, reading about physically perfect characters in every book gets boring. I don’t really care about the believability aspect, but having all of the characters look the same—tall, slim, muscular, etc etc—is dull. I personally love older male heroes, bald or with salt and pepper hair…their lives and bodies are far more interesting, there is a history there that I want to explore. I also love books with heroes/heroines who have major physical imperfections…scars, missing limbs (war injuries), arthritic hands, etc. It adds a whole other level of emotional intensity to a story when the H or h must overcome physical insecurities and their partners accept them in spite of these “deformities” for lack of a better word. Imperfect characters make for good stories.

  21. 21
    jennifer says:

    While the male focus of the book is on a “sexy” French chef, Emma Holly’s Cooking up a Storm features the heroine with some “regular” guys, including an older man and some chubby dudes.

  22. 22
    Elise Logan says:

    I’m of two minds on this. Emily Ryan-Davis’s Changing Thumbelina has a hero that is in no way perfect. I love that story, it’s a favorite of mine, but beta readers uniformly pointed out the hero’s flaws with distaste and suggested they be edited out. Which speaks, I think, to why erotic romance authors write “perfect” characters. Emma Holly has a variety of characters in her books – both male and female characters who are not physically “perfect.”

    I disagree with Kate, actually, in that I find physically “perfect” people very attractive, so having them in the story doesn’t throw me out at all. My literary universe encompasses a variety of body types and physical morphs. I don’t cleave to any one race, body shape, or sexual preference.

    I think it’s a similar question to why do we prefer our movie stars to be physically perfect specimens? Because it IS fantasy, and we like people that look good to us. No, not all movie stars are perfect – and not all characters are perfect – but the majority of them are. And that’s because Brad Pitt sells more movie tickets than Jeff Bridges. In the same way, I think publishers select because they find that audiences tend to buy more if the characters are physically excellent specimens of humanity.

    From an evolutionary perspective (since we’re talking science and stuff), there are certain evolutionary cues that humans look for in mates, and those translate into beauty. I don’t think erotic romance authors are alone in incorporating those things into their work. Particularly because erotic romance aims to appeal on a visceral, primitive level, pitching characteristics to that primal preference makes sense. Humans prefer mates with symmetry, mates that have cues to their ability to provide for young and produce viable and strong offspring. Those things are generally conveyed in physical fitness and what society calls “attractiveness.” It makes perfect sense to me that erotic romance authors would play to that when trying to engage the libido and more primitive drives of readers.

    It’s too early in the morning for this. I hope I’m making sense.

  23. 23
    Inez Kelley says:

    In erotic romance, I prefer the ‘perfect” over the imperfect. It is a fantasy in ink(or e-ink) and I know that going in. I can get imperfect any day of the week in my own life. (and I love him dearly but still…) Not every reader imagines themselves as the heroine. They are able to read without placing themselves in the story.

    It is a matter of suspending belief and being swept into a story. I don’t ask the scientific, spiritual, religious or whatever explanations for my paranormal stories. Even historicals and contemporaries have to be able to make me suspend my everyday cynicism and transport me. I believe based on what the author SHOWS me.

    A decent enough author/story can convince me that a 1000 year old vampire exists, a guy fears the full moon since it controls his inner beast, a secret underground world of supernatural things roam the streets.

    I can believe a Navy Seal fathered a child on his best friend’s sister during a drunken one night stand and never knew about it until after said best friend dies(always on a mission, never in a car accident).

    I can believe a next door neighbor is a security specialist who makes daring international trips of untold danger(and my aren’t all his coworkers just as mysterious and sexy).

    I can believe a quirky hometown reporter stumbles onto the ‘story of a lifetime’ and gets caught up in some web on intrigue that places her life in jeopardy and the local cop who helps her NEVER gets behind on his paperwork.

    It is in the delivery. Can you make me suspend my belief long enough to draw me into your world? If you can, I will love your book.

    The same holds true in erotic romances for me. A good author/story makes me believe somewhere out there, this story could happen. Every guy who looks at Penthouse, Playboy or Sport Illustrated Swim suit edition knows it is not the REAL thing and that 99% of the female population hasn’t been airbrushed. They have no worries about that and just merrily flip through the pages.

    Same for me and my romances. Airbrush that sucker with words and make me believe your story. Give me the perfect hero.

  24. 24
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    Personally, I don’t care whether we’re holding men up to unrealistic standards in the fiction read by a predominately female audience.  What’s good for the goose, etc, and I doubt you’ll find men having this conversation regarding the lack of “realistic” female bodies in Playboy or Penthouse.  And I don’t think the body standards are “just as damaging”.  Perhaps if we lived in a world where men and women were both treated like they’re obligated to hand out sex like candy on Halloween, the scales would be more evenly balanced.  But I’m going to have to go all militant feminist here and say I just don’t care about a man’s feelings being hurt because I write a book where the guy has great abs.

    I do not hold myself, as a woman, to a higher standard of respect for men than what our male dominated culture grudgingly gives us.

  25. 25
    Jeannie says:

    I’d just as soon not have a cover on an erotic novel, or if so it shouldn’t be “over the top” with the man-titties and the bulges. A subtle hint is nice and let my imagination take over for the rest.

    And I’m sorry but I read erotic romance for the fantasy and in that fantasy my ideal man looks like Gerard Butler.

  26. 26
    Alley says:

    I rarely read erotica, so I have no opinion on that.  I will say that when reading romance, I get very, very, very aggravated when the hero towers over the heroine and fills doorways.  Any description of the hero as a bull/bear/ox/other enormous animal makes me roll my eyes to the point where I mostly mentally shove aside any lines that talk of how much larger the hero is than every other man the heroine’s ever met, and how she doesn’t understand how he can even find clothing that fits.  Muscular, toned, fit?  Fine.  Enormous bodybuilder in the 1800s?  Less so.

  27. 27
    anonymous for this one says:

    I don’t have time to read the previous comments right now, but if there are any writers listening—I would LOVE to open a book and discover that the hero isn’t a flawless sculpture of perfection, rock-hard everything, with an aura that makes the heroine swoon with desire as soon as she lays eyes on him.

    I have encountered a few men like that in real life, and sure, it’s fun to fantasize about them (so I’m not *complaining* that there are lots of stories that let us do that), but frankly, most of these guys have also been people that I personally wouldn’t actually want to be in a relationship with; they’ve been arrogant and overbearing and, well, like alpha males. Stunning men have even less reason to attempt empathy with other people’s problems than ordinary men, I’ve found. (Naturally there are exceptions, and I am definitely speaking from bias thanks to an emotionally abusive relationship and a sexual assault by two different men who knew how attractive they were.)

    I’ve had sex, absolutely-worth-it sex, with men with pot bellies, men lacking in the bicep department, men with silly haircuts and silly facial hair, men with bad teeth, men with pimples. But you know, all of them have been beautiful to me, and some of the most erotic sights I’ve ever seen have been the expressions on men’s faces gazing up at me from the pillow when I’m on top.

    I was so grateful to Carla Kelly in her recent book (I’d never read anything by her before) The Admiral’s Penniless Bride when she described the hero as missing a hand, aging, and with an imperfect physique. He was even more lovable that way.

  28. 28
    Kimberly R says:

    I don’t read erotica but I wouldn’t mind reading about physically imperfect men. I’ve had sex with overweight guys and it has been phenomenal (and bad, depending on the guy.) I’ve not had as much sex with skinny guys because I’m a big girl and afraid to crush them but I wouldn’t mind reading about a skinny guy whose muscles are in his brain, not his body. If the hero and the heroine are having (believable) good sex, it really doesn’t matter how big or small or muscular or not either party is. I guess I’m saying that the descriptions of both hero and heroine don’t matter to me, as long as the writing is good and transports me to that world. I am completely against male models on the covers of books because it prejudices me against wanting the book (unfair, I know. I’m working on overcoming it.) Mantitty makes me instantly think “bodice-ripper” and I have no desire to read that kind of romance.

  29. 29
    Cyranetta says:

    As someone whose attention is more caught with auditory than visual stimuli, such things as tone of voice and wordplay wit (but not cruel wit) are more likely to stir the libido.

    I wonder what the breakdown is of romance or erotica readers who don’t rely as much on visual description as on auditory or kinesthetic (ROWR!)?

    Capcha word: trouble91—now there’s inspiration for erotica!

  30. 30
    U.A.C. says:

    99% of what I read is erotica and there is variety out there.  You just might have to weed through a little.  When I read a book it’s like a little mini movie playing in my head and I make the characters look like whatever I want. 

    IRL what I find unbearably hot is a man who is comfortable with himself and knows what he wants.  Yes, the Alpha male.  The physical package that goes with the attitude isn’t really much of a factor.  Another uber hot trait is a guy who makes me laugh.  I have a not so secret crush on Simon Pegg, not a looker, but I would still love to climb up in his lap and…mmmm.

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