Romanticon 2013: On the Importance of Hot Shirtless Men
By Alexa Day
Last year, on Columbus Day, my mom and I were enjoying the last complimentary breakfast of Romanticon 2012 when a couple sat down at the table next to us. We started a conversation, mostly small talk about where we were from and why we were here and all that. We told them we were in Canton for a conference. You know, a book conference. For writers and readers. Of romance.
The woman looked cautiously interested. Her man gave us a disapproving look. The two of them had passed through the lobby and public areas of the hotel at various points during the weekend and encountered the posters and the swag and the Cavemen. The Cavemen are the hot shirtless guys featured on the covers of Ellora’s Cave books. They’re sweet guys and great dancers, and they make quite an impression, which in this case was reflected in our new friends’ facial expressions.
“So do you read these books, or are you a writer?” the woman asked.
Mom said she read and then added with maternal pride that I wrote them. My mom is awesome.
“And these dancing men,” said the man. “I suppose they’re beneficial to the process in some way?”
This is a no-brainer to the rest of us, even for the woman who didn’t know Romanticon existed until we told her about it. Of course they’re beneficial. But after a whole weekend at Romanticon, the annual conference presented by Ellora’s Cave, it’s easy to forget that there are still People Who Wouldn’t Understand What We Do. These are not prudish people, necessarily, which makes it even more difficult to understand what the issue is.
I’ll be honest with you. Among romance fiction conferences, Romanticon is probably hotter than average. Right now as I’m sitting here, in front of the coffee station, I can hear fellow attendees enjoying a photo shoot with the Cavemen, happily posing with up to two of them at a time in any number of positions often found on the covers of our favorite books. In a little while, we will disperse for lively games of Sexy Charades and BDSM Bingo. Some of my Facebook buddies held a workshop yesterday involving inflatable dolls and sex positions. Some more of my fellow authors ran a session about bringing hotter sex into both fictional and real-life relationships. This afternoon, there’s going to be a game of Pin the Junk on the Hunk.
It does get a little explicit here. But the underlying cause – the reason for the season – is praiseworthy.
Yesterday, I participated in a panel called Naughty Confessions. Really, it was a big game of I Never. The leaders would read out various … activities … and we participants would stand up or sit down, depending on whether or not we had engaged in those … activities. We shared heartwarming stories about partners and relationships, and we laughed and everyone learned something. At one point, I think I shocked my editor. (I probably didn’t; I think she was just mildly surprised. But let me have my moment.) In a way, this is what erotic romance is all about. On the surface, it looks like little more than a bunch of stories about sex, until you realize that behind each steamy tale, there are people learning about themselves and each other and exploring their feelings as well as their boundaries. Erotic romance is romance. When all is said and done, it’s about people just like us finding joy with other people just like us. I don’t want to state the obvious here, but when people joyfully interact with each other in a romance, they typically end up in bed. With their shirts off.
As far as the dancing men go, well, for most of us, this weekend is the only opportunity to be this close to guys this hot and this shirtless without fear. Here at Romanticon, the Cavemen are the open-armed ambassadors of our genre. They are a constant reminder that hot shirtless men really can be gentle and sweet and warm and wonderfully touchable, just like the ones we are reading and writing about. It is of critical importance to all genres of romance, for readers and for writers, and for skeptical men, that the world knows men like this are real.
Romanticon is a weekend full of best parts, but I think the best of the best is that moment when the hotel staff starts to join the fun. Usually, around Saturday afternoon, you start to see them wearing the Romanticon t-shirts and the swag and moving out of the shadows to dance with the hot shirtless men. It’s like being at a family reunion where anyone can decide at any time that they want to join the family.
Not sure what’s wrong with that. If you all figure it out, let me know in the comments. I’ve got to have a look at the photo shoot.
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