I’ve been drafting an erotic romance about a nice young woman who owns a bakery and her cowboy-ish love interest. The hitch? She’s a dominatrix and he’s not only vanilla, but a rather reluctant submissive. This isn’t hard-core, cane-the-guy-until-he-can’t-walk-for-a-week stuff. She’s playful and more about controlling the experience. They both compromise, and find there’s a lot to be gained in going where neither one thought they’d ever journey. But the hardest part of this book isn’t making a female top and male bottom sexy and exciting to more mainstream readers; it’s selling the fact that a non-alpha man isn’t a doormat.
Society smiles upon the Alpha Male. From the old-fashion bodice ripper romances, to Fifty Shades of Grey (review here), we’ve all come to expect a man to take the lead. It’s men who approach a woman, who ask her out. It’s generally men who initiate sex (unless we women have had a few drinks), and who propose marriage. It’s men who kidnap the reluctant heroine, toss her ass-in-the-air across his saddle, and ride off to a distant castle, where he’ll ravish her as she finds her weak protests vanishing in a rush of passion. Men dominate. Women submit.
Even with a strong, self-assured woman, it’s expected that she just needs an uber-alpha man. A man so incredibly strong and dominate that he is the only one who can tame this powerful woman. He’s her equal. . .sort of. Even in some of my favorite urban fantasy novels, it’s made clear that the man is just a bit more strong, more skilled than the woman, and if there was a true battle for dominance between them, he’d win. Somehow we’ve got the idea that submissive men are far from this picture, that they are weak, indecisive, doomed to failure. Right. Any man who allows a woman to tie him up and drip hot wax on important parts of his anatomy is pretty far from weak. Let’s face it, most men could easily seize control, take physical charge, if they desired. It takes a strong man to be vulnerable.
Just as a Neanderthal needs a soft side for the heroine to fall in love with him, so too does the non-alpha male need strength to round out his character. Maybe he’s only submissive in bed, or only where the love-of-his-life is concerned. Maybe, when the rubber meets the road, he always rises up to take charge and take out the bad guy. Maybe his strength is in the sacrifice of his own wants and desires for a greater good, or to save the woman he loves.
Management books abound on “Servant Leadership