Are Non-Smoking Bad Boys Still Bad?

12 Feb
Strong guy b&w

Tough, gritty, and deliciously bad, no cigarette needed.

By Elizabeth Shore 

Let’s say someone tells you to picture a bad boy. What comes to mind? For me it’s a mixture of the following: tattooes, silver chains hanging from the pockets (purpose unknown), riders of bad-ass motorcycles, occasional scrapes with the law, listeners of hard rock, swillers of alcohol, kickers of ass. But what about a cigarette hanging from the lip or casually dangling between the fingers? When I was in school bad boys were always smokers. Not to smoke was not to be cool, and bad boys are definitely, unequivocally cool. So cool your parents warned you within inches of your life to stay far far away. But what about nowadays? The recent announcement by CVS drugstores to phase out all tobacco products highlights the global decline of smoking. Yet I wonder. Can a bad boy who doesn’t smoke still be bad?

I’m reading a dystopian erotic romance, the “Beyond” series by Kit Rocha. This series is chock full of bad boys – and bad girls, for that matter – surviving and thriving in a dog-eat-dog world where today’s rules don’t apply. It’s gritty and sexy and exciting and I’m really loving the series. Yet here’s the thing – not only does the bad-ass bad boy leader smoke, but so, too, does practically everyone else in his posse. The characters are  the wild and scary types who command respect the second they step into a room or else beat the crap out of anyone casting them a jeering eye. They’ve got tattooes a’plenty, fight in cages for fun, have lots of group sex, and they smoke. It seems to me that if you omit that last part you’d still have a pleasingly scary dude, so why include it? Is smoking still one of those required “props,” for lack of a better word, without which a bad boy’s badness takes a dive?

Here’s another consideration: is it possible for badness to be redefined? Imagine this scenario: you’re reading a romance in which the bad boy is a committed vegan, loves to swing dance, and can embroider sweaters like nobody’s business. But he’s had scrapes with the law and boasts some wicked ink on both arms. He doesn’t smoke and prefers classical music to rock. Could the inclusion of just a couple bad ass elements be enough to give this character official bad boy status?

There’s ongoing finger wagging directed at Hollywood for the inclusion of smoking in so many films. Impressionable youth who view movies look up to their silver screen idols and emulate their every move. If that includes smoking, so goes the thinking, then kids will be lighting up. I’d venture to guess that, if pressed, those in the film biz would say they need to include characters who smoke, in some instances anyway, because they’ve got to come across as tough or gritty or edgy or non-law abiding and a cig in hand goes right along with the image. So if Hollywood includes cigs as part of the bad boy appearance, and some romance authors do as well, what are the chances that that part of the persona can be redefined?

A lot of bad boy elements are equated with things illegal. Underage drinking, speeding, brushes with the law. Cigarettes fit in there as well – if you’re under eighteen (or under 21 in a couple of states). The thing is, though, that adult-level romance characters are generally older than that. So what is it about those smokes that transform a clean, nice boy into heart-pounding badness?

What do you think? Do you need a truly bad boy to be smokin’ or tokin’? Let us know what you think in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow us at Lady Smut. We won’t just blow smoke up your . . . well . . . you know. :-)

19 Responses to “Are Non-Smoking Bad Boys Still Bad?”

  1. Kemberlee February 12, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    “. . . tattooes, silver chains hanging from the pockets (purpose unknown), riders of bad-ass motorcycles, occasional scrapes with the law, listeners of hard rock, swillers of alcohol, kickers of ass.”

    I’m there for all of it but the alcohol, and not sure about scrapes with the law, and I think nonsmoking men are sexiest ever. Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray. Gag!!!

    And if he’s going to be a biker, he MUST have a Harley. Nothing else will do . . . except maybe an Indian :-)

    The chain, BTW, is usually attached to their wallet. Seriously. They usually carry the long ones so they don’t have to fold paper money and they’re not suitable for regular pockets so they fall out a lot. Plus it’s just one more place to attach some ‘garage bling’.

    Anyway, I like guys who look the part and can walk the walk, but who set examples for the young . . . no drugs, no smoking, no drinking to excess. Basically, I want the boy next door in the body of a bad boy ;-)

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Oh, for the wallet. Who knew! Well, not me, anyway. But regardless, the chain does look cool. Definitely an element of badness. And I LOVE that expression “garage bling!”

      Harleys are cool, no doubt, and the look of a Harley is the best. But I have to confess, I’ve kinda got a thing for the Italian motorcycles as well. Ducatis can haul ass.

      In any case, kissing a smoker doesn’t get my fire going, either, but the look of a cigarette . . . hmmm.

      • Kemberlee February 12, 2014 at 10:08 am #

        Yeah, garage bling . . . chains, bolts, whatever. Chains on the wallets, bike chain bracelets, etc. Have seen bolts and screws used as fasteners. And electrical tape to patch black leather jackets. lol And Au de Motoroil cologne. Yum ;-)

        Nope. Not for me. Harley or Indian. I don’t like fast bikes. Real bikers are into cruising, not speed. Though, at events, they’ve been known to soup up their hogs for short run drags, but not on the street.

        Thing with bikers is that if they go too fast, you can’t see how cool they look on their bikes ;-) With other bikes it’s like ‘Now you see me, now you don’t, and eat my dust while you’re at it.’ ;-)

        Ducati’s are cool bikes for that end of the market. Just don’t tell me you prefer a Honda Goldwing over a hog or I may have to leave this blog =-O

        {hmm . . . thinking I need to drag out my garage erotica again!}

      • Barbara Mikula February 12, 2014 at 10:25 am #

        I had a custom-made Ducati for my hero, Jamie Devereau, in Anne’s Courage by Skye Michaels. It was definitely cool and so was Jamie – even tho he wasn’t a smoker of anything.

    • Kemberlee February 12, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      My hero in Rhythm of My Heart has a Harley Low Rider, lowered, black, chrome. Low Riders are Harley’s faster bikes and can really haul when required. No match for Ducati, but still fast for a Harley. Kieran fits the bill of the boy next door in a biker body. {meow}

      Now that I’ve been thinking about it, Kieran has a cigarette in the opening chapter of Rhythm of My Heart, but he doesn’t really smoke them beyond the light up. He’s a guitarist and playing with a cigarette was his way of keeping nervous fingers busy. Beyond the opening scene, he has other things on his mind and quitting the habit was very fast and never mentioned again.

      Similarly in A Piece of My Heart, the hero’s father dies from emphysema and after the will reading the heroine chastises him for smoking when his father just died because of his habit. She gives him a wake-up call which he takes to heart quickly.

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      A Goldwing??!! Egad, that’s like comparing an RV to a Ferrari. Fear not, Kemberlee, Hogs rule. :-)

  2. Author Charmaine Gordon February 12, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    BINGO! You win the prize for this post, Elizabeth. Hilarious descriptions and so true about bad examples to movie watching kids. It’s not the fifties, Hollywood where everyone dangled a cig. Didn’t anyone read the Surgeon General’s report? My dear sister in law died at 34 leaving 4 small kids–Cancer and my brother-in law at 38-heart-leaving all those children without parents. Heavy smokers. And there’s more but why bother. A pack costs close to ten bucks.
    Meanwhile, smoke curling up is no longer hot. Muscles, a good heart, and he embroiders! Love it. Must ride Harley.

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks, Charmaine. :-)

      And honestly, if the guy in the photo above says he’s a non-smoker, well, I think his bad boy image remains intact.

  3. Barbara Mikula February 12, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    As an erotic romance writer (Skye Michaels) I have had to deal with the smoking issue too. What I have done with my edgy bad boys is have them trying to quit smoking, and maybe have the occasional cigar. With arms crossed, leaning against the railing of a club while he watches the hapless heroine with panther eyes looking sexy as hell (Matt Jackson in Belinda’s Crown). Then he tosses the cigar away, drops into his sexy sports car and drives away. LOL. Since I personally would not like my man to smoke, I don’t push it on my heroines. But there is something to be said about the look – darn it.

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      I know what you mean, Barbara. It’s definitely part of the look. And I think maybe Kit Rocha would agree because she’s captured the bad boy image extremely well in her Beyond series and her bad boys are indeed smokers.

      Honestly, you’ve got me intrigued about Belinda’s Crown, but can it be read out of order?

      • Barbara Mikula February 12, 2014 at 10:28 am #

        Yes, but I would recommend reading Madison’s Choice and Belinda’s Crown together. Madison is about the Kentucky Derby and Belinda is about the Triple Crown. The whole Le Club series is set in Ocala, Florida, a major center for thoroughbred breeding. I think you’ll love them. I know I was extremely proud of both stories, and all of the Le Club series.

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      Awesome, Barbara. I’ve officially placed them in my tbr pile. :-)

      • Barbara Mikula February 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

        Yay! Let me know what you think. Pls. visit my fan page, Skye Michaels Books on Facebook (all covers and first chapters are there).

  4. Wendy S. Marcus February 12, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    I never think of bad boy characters having a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, or being held loosely between their fingers. Because from a romance perspective, who wants to kiss someone with smokers breath? Maybe another smoker. But not me! So I don’t find a smoking hero or heroine at all romantic.

    • Elizabeth Shore February 12, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Ha! Totally agree, Wendy, not romantic. But without them, are they still bad?? This I’m pondering . . .

  5. Tara Andrews February 13, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    I’m with Wendy! All I picture is bad breath. (And this coming from an ex-smoker.) LOL. But I think of bad boys more in terms of the power they exude rather than brute beat em up strength. Whether they’re wearing jeans with a t-shirt stretched across rippled abs, or a tux with the promise to eat you for breakfast in his gaze – I don’t think bad boys need to smoke to add to the hotness factor.

  6. elfahearn February 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Hate smokers, just hate em. Bad boys have a self destructive edge that’s sexy as all get out, but when they’ve got a ciggy in their lips, all I can think of is ashtray mouth. Yuck!

    Great post as usual, Peachy. Sorry I’m late to the party.

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