In my last blog post, I discussed how certain cold hard facts of biology shouldn’t be brought up in a romantic novel. Things like morning breath, lavatory habits, what happens after you eat a whole lot of soy products – these things are better left unsaid. The world of romance should be an ideal one, with only enough realism to, well, to make it real. As a reader, I want to be transported into a world where an attractive heroine finds love with a near flawless hero. Because it’s my fantasy, and I want to leave my everyday life just for a bit and lose myself in it all.
And that’s when I realized what a hypocrite I was.
Last winter I was chatting with neighborhood moms at a holiday party and the inevitable mention of ‘gentleman’s magazines’ came up. Some women made the usual arguments that the pictures objectified women, reinforcing stereotypes that females are only to look attractive and satisfy sexual needs. Several stated they refused to have them in the house. I announced that I liked these magazines. A few women looked relieved. Others looked at me as if I’d grown three heads.
“I don’t see anything wrong with people of either gender using visual representations, whether they’re pictures or words, to stir their libido,” I told them. Actually I wish I’d sad that. Instead I said something more like: “I’ve got no problem with smut. We’ve got piles of it at our house. ” (Which is probably why so many parents now insist that kids’ play dates occur at their house.)
Yes, women fight stereotypes every day. Yes, there is a glass ceiling, and jerks, both with and without male genitalia, try to discount strong women by emphasizing their physical attributes over their intellectual ones. But that doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, should stop enjoying the awesomeness that is sex, and the attraction we feel to each other.
I did have a caveat though. “I wish those girly-mags would show a more realistic figure. I hate how the models are air-brushed and Photoshopped into an ideal that none of us can ever hope to achieve.”
There. I’m a hypocrite.
I can eagerly devour a romance or an erotic novel, reveling in washboard abs and that wayward lock of hair that always falls onto the hero’s forehead. He never has love handles. He never has a pimple. He never has gas that smells like two day-old road kill on a hot summer day. He’s a hero, and this is a fantasy that doesn’t interfere with my ability to love and have real-life heart-pounding sex with a real-life guy. I enjoy the fantasy, but I don’t demand that in a real partner. I don’t even think I’d want it. I’m pretty real myself, and if my guy is going to excuse (and probably laugh at) my biological issues, then I want to laugh at his. The flesh-and-blood facts that should never be present in a romance novel often are those that we tease each other about in interactions with our real-life partners.
Men (and women) who enjoy nudie photos deserve the same privilege of fantasy that I get from novels. Aren’t they the same? An impossible ideal used to generate happy feelings of lust and love, to inspire our imagination, to put us in the right frame of mind so we can re-direct that emotion to our lovers? I don’t want a romance hero with back hair, and in all honesty, I don’t want a centerfold with a lumpy, cellulite butt. Heidi on page 20 may be airbrushed, but so is Ryan. He’s just airbrushed in words. And my worry that I can’t live up to Heidi with her smooth thighs and toned arms? That’s my problem. Even Heidi can’t live up to her image in the photo.
I know some will disagree, so let’s hear it! All points of view welcome.