Monday, April 25, 2011

Heroines of Romance: Finding a Balance

Note: I say "most" or "some" throughout this post in order to avoid making blanket statements about gender roles and/or desires. I'm speaking in general terms, not in exclusive terms.

Perhaps, of all the tasks a romance author has when writing a viable romantic fiction story, creating the heroine proves the most challenging.

While alpha-males remain popular, gone are the days of boy-rescues-girl. Wilting-flower females are not only frowned upon, but they are outright rejected amongst readers and publishers.

For me, I embrace the challenge of creating today’s heroine. My delight is deeply rooted in real life, where I love and am married to a classic alpha-male, yet have found a balance in which I’m not only protected and provided for, but also respected and equal.

In old romance, the hero is often depicted as the powerful savior who the heroine longs to serve in a multitude of ways: in the kitchen, in the bedroom…

But servitude or total submission is no longer relatable in today’s society. The heroine must take as much as she gives; she must be as powerful (in one form or another) as the man she loves. And that power isn’t solely between her legs.

Today’s heroine should have the ability to rescue herself, not simply be milling around life aimlessly until the man of her dreams swoops in and saves her from terrible misfortune. Sure, the hero can be the catalyst to the heroine’s self-rescue, but it’s almost essential that the actual saving comes from the female’s personal growth or actions.

So, if the hero isn’t actually a “hero,” what’s his role? And why must he be alpha?

Role: The hero’s role is not clearly defined beyond the friendship, sex and partnership he offers the female. It’s the writer’s goal to create an attractive male with equally attractive characteristics. Sometimes he’s rich, sometimes he’s funny. He’s always good-looking and his charm—whether he’s a badass biker or a highline executive—is his main appeal. Likability is the hero’s main job. Beyond that, it’s not necessary for him to be anything more than a good match for the heroine.

In most situations, the heroine would’ve been capable of saving herself even if the hero hadn’t come into the picture. Although she wouldn’t have had nearly the fun had he not.

Why Alpha?: I’m pretty certain women like alpha-males for the same reason men like women who challenge them. Women are getting stronger with every generation, and the roles of power have mutated into something completely unrecognizable when compared to the gender roles of fifty years ago. Women of yesterday liked alpha-males because they’d been taught to need them. Women of today like alpha-males (and demand them in their romantic fiction 99% of the time) because there’s something sexy about knowing the man you’re with is strong enough to “take care” of you if needed.

I also believe some, if not most, women have—at least subconsciously--certain fantasies of being overpowered in the bedroom. There’s something very erotic about a women’s sexual fate resting, quite literally, in the hands of a powerful man. Why? Because there’s intimacy in vulnerability.

Lastly, alpha-males demand respect, and a strong woman simply does not feel respect toward a man who is seemingly weaker than herself. And even in cases of exception,—where the female does respect the weaker male—she doesn’t necessarily want to sleep with him.

In summary: Females are the heroic ones in romantic fiction; men provide fun and entertainment—think a court jester with rippling abs and a certain useful appendage—and, of course, a loving partnership. The hero is whatever the heroine desires and needs. It’s her story, after all.

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