My September author newsletter, My Backyard, should be in your inbox. You’ll find an excerpt of my current work in progress and other fun things. I had some serious reflection about masculine heroes and wanted to share it with readers. I hope you enjoy!
Check my romance novels’ covers and you’ll see that several of my paranormal romantic suspenses boast a sexy, muscled man on the cover. I’m told this type of cover attracts readers’ attention and sells well. It makes sense to me. Readers enjoy reading romances not only for the pleasure of following development of a relationship but for romance and the characters made of hero material. I enjoy that, too, about romances.
Masculinity in our society is defined with physical, mental, and emotional aspects. Typically, the hero is very strong, very fit and muscular, able to handle anything, and maybe not have much need for emotions other than to love the heroine fiercely. He may not be able to communicate very effectively, but he drives a heroine to ecstasy with a delicious kiss. Although I feel the romance genre has expanded to define heroes in more variety, “fantasy” of the super hero type, whether a cowboy, werewolf, or billionaire, still dominates. I love them all.
But a couple things have occurred that have made me consider what the impact may be of romantic heroes who illustrate an idealized type of man who fits our society’s image of masculinity. Maybe it’s just pure fun and we all know that. Or maybe it frames a context for how we expect males to behave.
I began my marriage to my husband with the desire to be taken care of. I worked at a well-paying job. I was a grown woman who believed in strong women. But deep down I held an idea of what my husband should be for my children and me. After some intense inner work, I had a shift in how I saw my husband. In fact, I told him I didn’t need or want him to be a superman. It was more important to me that I see who he really was and love him for that. It took him back a bit.
I had grown to treasure who he was in truth over an idealized man, and who he was was so much more than a superman, because it was real. He was much more fascinating and we could become truly engaged in meaningful ways when I could allow that to happen.
Beyond being the wife of a good man, I’m the mother of three sons. When I’ve heard women over the years make remarks about how stupid men are or how insensitive they are, I have quietly disagreed with the blanket statement. My sons are individuals, not blanket statements. With that in mind, I have tried to write heroes who have humanity in them, who try to engage with heroines in meaningful and healthy ways. Of course, I’m writing romances, so these male characters also have the attributes readers, and I, enjoy in our heroes. I want to write well-rounded, maybe quirky, heroes with inner conflicts real people face, but with sex appeal.
The other thing that occurred recently to make me consider how I illustrate masculinity was watching the documentary, The Mask You Live In. It was created by the Representation Project and it shines a light on what it’s like to grow up male in a society that tells young boys they need to be tough, invincible, and tears-free, no matter the occasion. According to the project’s website, “The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.” It’s very enlightening and at the same time heart-breaking.
This is a very serious topic. Where’s the fun here? But I think it’s important to consider our actions. It’s just food for thought. And I’d love to know your thoughts.