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Kinky F*ckery in 50 Shades: Interview with Jackie C. Horne

11 Feb

Ladies—Jackie from ROMANCE NOVELS FOR FEMINISTS is here with me today to delve deeply into the core themes of the 50 Shades phenomenon. We focussed on two questions:

Why do women love this fantasy?

Two reasons I love this fantasy--and they're big and blue.

Two reasons why I love this fantasy–they’re big and blue.

Does 50 SHADES represent a step forward in women’s sexual freedom—or a step back?

If you like 50 Shades and smart discussion – you’re in for a treat!

MADELINE IVA: I’m very interested in focusing on what it is that draws women to the 50 Shades fantasy…

JACKIE C. HORNE: To answer that, you first have to answer the question “what is the fantasy” that these books and films hold out to us? And that fantasy may be different for different readers and viewers. As a literary critic, I see three different fantasies at play in books 1 & 2. First, the fantasy that an ordinary girl (ordinary in both looks and intelligence) can catch the attention of a wealthy, handsome man (the cornerstone of much romance writing).

Second, the fantasy that said ordinary girl can rescue/save an emotionally messed-up man (again, a foundational trope in romance).

And finally, the fantasy that indulging in “kinky fuckery” is something to take pleasure in, rather than something to be ashamed of, even for an ordinary girl. The latter fantasy is the most progressive one, the most positive one as far as women’s rights and women’s sexual freedom goes. But the two former ones are what makes it safe, I think, for readers to accept the latter one. It’s the combination of all three that made the books such a phenomenon. Romance tropes as the life preserver, if you will, that allow readers to imagine themselves swimming out into the less familiar waters of sex with a touch of kink.50

MADELINE IVA: I’ve never heard it stated so well, Jackie! We’ve touched upon this topic before: I see the role of BDSM in the romance genre as representing a fundamental evolution in the role of consent.  Women are now asking for the sex they want and negotiating with their partners for sex that they want –or don’t want!–tons more than they used to.  I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts about this after watching the first movie.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I think this depends on the reader’s relationship with BDSM and the BDSM community. In the book 50 Shades Darker, when Ana is talking about Christian’s sexual needs with Christian’s psychiatrist, Dr. Flynn explains that “of course there is such a thing as sexual sadism, but it’s not a disease; it’s a lifestyle choice. And if it’s practiced in a safe, sane relationship between consenting adults, then it’s a non-issue” (412). If you are a reader who is a sexual sadist, or who is familiar with the BDSM community, then you’re probably going to find 50 Shades problematic when it comes to consent. The reason why I didn’t read these books until you asked me to participate in this discussion was because I had heard from romance writers who write erotic & BDSM romance that the books aren’t an accurate depiction of BDSM or of the BDSM community.

MADELINE IVA: True, but there’s a crap-ton of fantasy in BDSM erotic romance already. Inaccuracies abound and many fans want the fantasy—not the reality. (Esp. when it comes to sex clubs.)

JACKIE C. HORNE: If you’re not familiar with BDSM, though, if you read the consent to kinky sex not as a realistic possibility but as a metaphor, then yes, it can definitely be a metaphor for female consent.

It takes Ana a while (all the way to the end of book 1) to figure out what she wants, and doesn’t want, out of her sexual relationship with Christian. She’s up for bondage, up for spanking, up for lighter sexual pain, all things she never would have imagined she’d liked before she met Christian.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! And in the movie — what we see dominates what we hear. What we SEE is Ana enjoying lite kinky play…In the book, which is so much internal, her confusion and ambivalence take center stage.first-kiss-50

JACKIE C. HORNE: But in the book’s climactic scene, she realizes that she is not up for being punished, for being the object upon which Christian takes out his anger. Refusing to consent to the linking of love and male anger, the idea that male anger is always a part of male love—that may be the key shift from Old Skool romance novels to contemporary romances.

MADELINE IVA: This is a great interpretation, and I agree that if the fundamental message is not to accept male anger as a part of male love, that it’s a good one.  But I don’t know….(more on that later.)

What I saw as I watched that final scene in the first movie was her seeing his emotional pain and wanting to take on his pain — like a martyr.

Meanwhile, Cara McKenna is my touchstone for an author who shows consent VERY well without bogging down the plot or making us fall out of the fantasy.  50 Shades maybe does this less well, but it might be interesting to contrast how consent is carried out in the movie vs. the book.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Did you think there were major differences between book and movie in this regard? I didn’t notice any myself, but if you have specific scenes you can point to, I’d be happy to go back and re-watch the film again.

“Please, Ana, let me make love to you.”

“Yes,” I whisper, because that’s why I’m here. (50 Shades of Grey, 113) 

MADELINE IVA: I’m thinking of the contract stuff.  In the movie she was actively negotiating with him face to face and crossing out elements she vetoed. It seemed like there was energy to this exchange. To me this showed strong female agency — and have we ever seen a woman in a film before negotiating over sex so thoroughly? (Excepting scenes with sex workers–and even then not so much.)

In the book, meanwhile, the contract seemed (this is my interpretation) a packet of doom.  It seemed to make her cringe, and the details dwelt upon had to do with total control over her as well as painful sex acts.  It dragged her down into a pit of (again my take)  “No, no, no, no, OMG. Am I going to have to do this stuff? Gah!

JACKIE C. HORNE: Oh, yes, the contract scene is so great in the film! It shows Ana being far more empowered, and really enjoying the negotiating with Christian. Many film reviews cite that scene as the best thing in the movie.

In the book, the language of the contract appears not just once, but four times (at least in part). Is it just sloppy writing, that repetition? Or is there something really important in that legal language to James? The idea that this is a business relationship, rather than a personal one, to Christian? Which is an idea that Ana ultimately cannot accept.

MADELINE IVA: I’m interesting in talking about Jamie Dornan as a man/actor who was a kind of reluctant participant himself in the movie.  Yes, he did it for his career, and didn’t have long to think about his choice.  Also he is most definitely NOT a fan of the life style.

Dakota Johnson seems to have adapted a bit more (maybe because it’s the corner stone of her career?)

There are interviews where Dornan apologized profusely to Dakota Johnson before each take.  Do we care as much about male consent as we do about female consent? Is this going to be a problem? (Is it one already? Can men refuse sex without having their sexuality challenged, or facing aggressive repercussions –even if not physical violence?)

JACKIE C. HORNE: Your questions make me think about 15-year-old Christian, at the start of his affair with Elena. Did he consent? He says he did, but Ana is consistently appalled by the mere thought of an adult woman inviting a 15-year-old boy to have (kinky) sex with her. Ana never asks Christian to tell her more about his experience; she instantly assumes that he had no agency, no ability to consent, that he was molested and abused.50-shades-shower

I was disappointed that the books, which initially reserve judgment on this issue (was Christian abused? Or was his relationship with Elena a positive, even life-saving one?) end up coming down hard on the side of abuse by the end of book 2. Rather than presenting Ana’s intense jealousy of Elena as misguided or immature, the end of book 2 reinforces the idea that Ana is right to be wary of Elena. I thought this a very sexist move, complete with bitch-slap for the erring woman (not by Ana, but by Christian’s adopted mother).

I wished we could have heard more about Christian’s experience with Elena, that Ana had been more curious rather than judgmental about it. In some ways, you could say that Ana is infantilizing Christian by refusing to grant that even as a 15-year-old, he might have been capable of making informed decisions about his sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: And this goes back to the core fantasies.  What you saw as the ordinary young woman saving/healing the wounded man I saw as a kind of mothering thing — the power of soothing.  “Let me make the hurt go away” kind of actions.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

JACKIE C. HORNE: The larger issue—about male consent in general—is an interesting one. Yes, a man who turns down a chance to have sex is still likely to have his masculinity, or his heterosexuality, called into question, even in this day and age. But a man who turns down BDSM sex, or feels squicky about it, there’s something different going on there. BDSM sex isn’t as widely accepted, as widely admired, as straight heterosexual sex; there’s a taint attached to it for many people. Wanting to dominate women is a big no-no in our purportedly post-feminist age. So not consenting to participate in Dom/sub sex, or expressing uneasiness or discomfort with having to act as if you enjoy it, can be read by many as a positive thing, an endorsement of more equal power during sex between partners. A women’s rights kind of thing, no?

MADELINE IVA: Well, I actually know men who say “whatever she wants sexually I kinda have to do” and that with one man it’s kinky stuff with his wife. He’s okay with it, because she enjoys it.  With another man it’s about his incredible discomfort playing out semi-rape fantasies with women he’s having sex with…I think part of his discomfort involves reinforcing the perception that in some way he LOOKS predatory, etc.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I haven’t heard similar stories from any of my male friends or acquaintances. But your friends’ experiences do show how men can be subject to (or even victims of) sexual stereotypes. (I’m in the midst of reading a book about a gay asexual man, and he feels quite similarly, that he is surrounded by the imperative “men always want sex”). No man, or woman, should feel like they HAVE to do anything, sex-wise, that they don’t want to do. Ever. I hope your latter friend can find women to date who won’t push him to play the semi-rape game.

MADELINE IVA: Yup, I agree. The singles world of dating, hook-ups, etc, is a jungle—the price we pay for more sexual freedom seems to be more social pressure about sex and displaying sexuality in increasingly artificial ways.

Part of the conundrum of playing up one’s sexuality is that some men I know have that bad boy vibe, but at heart they’re good guys. They draw women to them, but eventually hit an impasse when looks and who he is just doesn’t match her expectations.  In this film the bad boy is gradually revealed as a ‘good boy’ on the inside. So maybe there’s hope for my friends…fifty-shades-ball-1486048963

Moving on! Has Trump ruined billionaire romances? Or put a significant dent in them? I remember thinking: “Consent all you want young woman from a poor family. Once you’re in handcuffs in his home he could do anything he wanted to you and probably get away with it…” and I know this is a direct line of thinking from the news/publicity about Trump during the election…

Yet there’s always one side in the romance world shouting “IT”S JUST A FANTASY!” Is there a problem with saying it’s all just a fantasy? And what are we to do with the constant  demand from women for forbidden sexual fantasy? Should we be pragmatic and accept this?

OR for instance, (as one who grew up watching male fantasies of women in the media), do we understand that this has deeply impacted and harmed our culture?

JACKIE C. HORNE: I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Village Voice, who asked if I thought the billionaire romance trend had contributed to the acceptance of Trump by many women. Rather than ruining billionaire romances, Trump might be the logical outcome of this romance trend. Because billionaire romances paper over the trouble that actual billionaires present, don’t they? Unlike saintly Christian, whom we only ever see engaging in business that is meant to help the powerless (donating food to Darfur; developing solar technology; donating money to the university to develop sustainable food programs), most real-life billionaires make their money through capitalistic competition, competition that often relies on shortchanging the average Joe (or average Ana) worker. To fantasize about a powerful billionaire falling for them, women have to forget or ignore all the other women (and men) upon whom his billions were built, and upon whom his continued wealth still relies.

And they also have to keep imagining that the only path to power is an indirect one, by being in a relationship with a wealthy man, rather than imagining that they could gain power themselves. Those are both fantasies that limit, rather than empower, women.

So I don’t buy the “it’s just a fantasy” explanation/excuse. What is the fantasy, and why are we having it? That’s a far more productive question, and avenue for exploration.

MADELINE IVA: I have no problem with this, only sometimes the liberal peeps can be as judgmental and shaming as conservatives without exploring the needs, frustrations, and context of those who are very different from them in terms of race or class.  If we could explore all of these issues without a dose of shaming, it would be nice.

But you know, scientific research on sexuality seems to indicate that what sexually turns us on seems to be fixed.  Maybe the “Why” of the fantasy and the turn on go back to that slushy mix of our evolution and what we were exposed to in our youth/teens and that’s that…Which takes us right back to your point about Christian’s first sexual experiences…

Let’s turn to talking about the differences between the first book and movie.  Some things just not translate well from book to movie? I don’t recall when in the book he showed up in Savannah that it was as big a deal to me.  But in the movie I had an involuntary “Stalker!” reaction. He seemed so much creepier in the movie.  Or is this just that I’m coming off watching him in THE FALL where he played a serial killer? ; >50shadesbathrobe

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I had just the opposite reaction!

MADELINE IVA: — Okay, I hang my head and accept that I am having a post-The Fall Dornan experience.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I thought he was far creepier in the book than he was in the film. Dornan just smiled too much to feel like the controlling Christian of the books to me! (Must say I’ve never seen The Fall, though). The film cut out many of book-Christian’s more stalker-y/controlling moves—no mention of him moving her to first class on the plane without asking her, and he’s not so insistent about her eating all the time—so he didn’t come across as quite so control-freakish in the film as he does in the book.

MADELINE IVA: The eating thing.  Ugh!  It also made Ana seem SO PASSIVE and waify/victim-y.50-touching-lips

JACKIE C. HORNE: On the other hand, in book 1, when Ana teases Christian in an email “Have you sought therapy for your stalker tendencies?” he tells her (and us) that “I pay the eminent Dr. Flynn a small fortune with regard to my stalker and other tendencies” (290). This reassured me; I had thought from what people had told me about the books that they normalized stalkery/über-controlling male behavior. That Christian is actively seeing a psychiatrist about his issues sends the opposite message: that stalkery/über-controlling behavior is psychologically problematic. I was disappointed that Christian’s shrink did not make it into the film.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! Anastasia seemed to enjoy most of what they did a whole lot more in the movie than her internals showed in the book.  And did that tilt the scales of problems some people had with the book?

ana-shirt-2JACKIE C. HORNE: For all that we get so much of her internal thoughts in the books, Anastasia of the novels is a pretty empty character. That’s not a good or a bad thing; it’s just a way of telling a story, a way that allows the reader more easily to project herself into the novel than if Ana’s character had more individuality, had been more fully developed. Ironically, though we get little of her internal thoughts in the film, seeing Dakota Johnson up on the screen made her more of a person to me, an individual with thoughts and emotions different from mine, rather than just an empty placeholder for me to project myself onto.

The lack of access to Ana’s thoughts makes her wishy-washy-ness re: the kinky sex less apparent. I agree that in the film, she seems to enjoy the kinky sex more than she does in the books. And that made the story more interesting to me—the story of a woman exploring the boundaries of her own sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: I agree that Dakota Johnson did a great job of seeming vulnerable and kinda raw in her own skin, but also very fluid and interesting in the kinky scenes.  She also just seemed older, which I found reassuring…

Going back to how this series explores typical/conservative romance values side by side with the more progressive idea of a young woman exploring kinky sex—Ultimately, Ana rejects kinky sex.  Do you think that this is on par with the other more conservative values of the book’s romantic tropes and again, makes it more safe for more conservative romance readers to accept it?  (Noting that this move seems to enrage many BDSM erotic romance authors more than anything else.)

Are we back to the “forced seduction” sexual tropes of the 80’s? In those romance novels it was okay for the woman to have sex in those situations because she didn’t ask for it… In the 50 Shades franchise, is it okay for Ana to explore BDSM-lite because ultimately she rejects it and therefore is still ‘a good girl’?

Meanwhile, what are we in the audience doing throughout the movie if not enjoying Ana’s engaging in forbidden kink?

weredoingwhat

We’re doing WHAT? Everyone seems to agree that both actors are much more comfortable filming together now. Not surprising, given the success of the franchise, and the boost to their respective careers.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I was thinking about what title I would give this discussion and came up with “Having your kink and condemning it too”!

I agree with you that Ana’s disgust with and rejection of the punishment aspect of Dom/sub play does dovetail with the more conservative values of the book’s romance tropes. Her rejection gives readers an “out,” a having your cake and eating it too safety valve. Which does undercut the progressive message to a large degree.

But on the other hand, Ana doesn’t rejects ALL kink (at least by the end of book 2). As I noted above, she enjoys being tied up, being restrained, being spanked. And in DARKER the book, she’s bugging Christian all the time to go back to the Red Room of Pain. Which doesn’t seem to me to be just about serving Christian’s needs; it seems to be a deep curiosity of her own about kinky sex.

Ana’s rejection of Christian’s sadism (and the book’s rejection of that label for him) enrages many BDSM erotic romance authors because Ana’s decision at the end of book 1 has a larger ideological weight: it tells the reader that the power dynamics in ALL Dom/sub relationships are both shameful AND are signs of psychological damage that needs to be repaired. Which is exactly the opposite message of current psychological thinking, as Dr. Flynn explains. Someone is a sadist just because he (or she) is one, not because he or she was traumatized as a child.

Perhaps Ana should pay Dr. Flynn (or another qualified psychologist) a visit to talk about her own ambivalences about BDSM?

MADELINE IVA: Perhaps!

Thank you Jackie SO MUCH for chatting with me! And readers, don’t forget our KAMA SUTRA giveaway.  All you have to do is hit our pink subscribe button above and to the right.

kama-sutra-giveaway

This giveaway includes massage oil, candle, soap, and lip balm.  (Continental US only!)

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

 

 

The Men Who Dare To Go There In Erotic Fiction

27 Jan

By Elizabeth SaFleur

The evolution of Viagra’s marketing from Bob Dole to 40 something men during football games (so now she wants it) has given me further insight into the degradation that women experience every day, living up to impossible standards of beauty and sexuality. ~Spencer Dryden

You pretty much have to love a guy who emails you the above lines in response to your interview request related to why he writes erotic fiction. And then when he—and other male erotic writers—jump in with other awesomeness, well, it’s hard not to let pride swell one’s little heart that these gentlemen are part of our book tribe.

Authors DaddyX, Spencer Dryden, Daily Hollow and Ian Smith graciously shared their experiences writing erotic romance and erotica, including why (oh, why?) they went there. Few men do. Let’s hear from the few, the proud and the brave.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Okay, guys, how did you get here? Why do you write in the erotic genre?

SPENCER DRYDEN: Nearly all my life I have been enchanted by female allure. I come from a time and background where anything sexual was obscured by a cloud of guilt and shame. When I reached my early 60’s (I’m 66 now) I gave myself permission to explore those fantasies through fiction as it would be much safer that trying to carry them out in real life. I have learned so much about sex and sexuality in the process, things I wish I had known as a younger man. A guy could learn a lot by reading my stuff.

DADDYX: To be honest—and I will be honest—being horny. And in appreciating the fact that I still felt sexy rather late in life. It’s what was always on my mind, even at 64 years of age, when I began writing erotica. Figured to document my libido before it went away.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: We love honest guys.

daddyx-cover

Good things come in plain brown wrappers. Daddy has stenciled a big red “X” on the cover of his new collection to warn the reading public. Open this book only if you’re ready for X-rated excesses beyond the ordinary. The five tales Daddy has chosen for this volume are X-tra outrageous.

IAN SMITH:  I read some ‘chick lit’ for relaxation, and enjoyed the development of the characters and the romantic story, but felt the lovemaking scenes were a bit tame. I decided to try writing this sort of story, but with rather steamier scenes. Sex is an integral and important part of most people’s relationships, and I thought it must be possible to be realistic without being ‘porn’.”

DAILY HOLLOW: I wanted to get back into writing fiction so a few years ago I googled ‘writing competitions’ and stumbled across Literotica. After reading a few stories I was like “I can totally do this.”

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: There’s that honesty again. You all come from different walks of life so I’m calling you my ‘representative sample.’ Here’s what I want to know. Why aren’t there more male authors in the erotic genre?

DADDYX: Hah! Momma X says that when a woman writes smut, it’s considered cute. A woman can get away with appearing something akin to adventurous without looking like a perv. Conjure a naughty picture of a cute girl, book in one hand, masturbating with the other. Isn’t that sweet? But a guy in a basement who can’t get a date, one hand beating Red Roger, typing like crazy with the other? Let’s just say it’s a different picture.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Okay, true that.

SPENCER DRYDEN: I don’t have a clue other than women weren’t seeing what they liked and have systematically taken over control of the ship. Very admirable. We need to get more male readers into erotica but I don’t see many characters I can identify with. Until men can identify with character and plot in erotica, what little fiction they read will continue to be action genres.

DAILY HOLLOW: I think because there are more female readers of erotica, so it would make sense more women would write it. Men (such as myself) tend to gravitate more toward action, horror, etc. Honestly, I very rarely read the genre, unless one of my friends has a new book or I am beta reading for someone.

IAN SMITH: There appears to be a widespread opinion that “men can’t write romance’” which I disagree with. Men feel romantic and get emotionally involved, probably in similar ways to women. Fewer men appear to write romance, or at least not under male pen names. I know the market for romance generally is predominantly female, and I can understand that people reading for escapism will typically identify more readily with their own gender.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: So as a man, do you feel responsible or obligated to write erotica or erotic romance a “certain” way? Such as more respectful (or more blatant) in certain areas because people know you’re a man?

DAILY HOLLOW: Not really. I write what I feel, then send it off to the betas. I have never had anyone tell me my writing was derogatory or disrespectful.

plumbersotherlovers300

Plumbers and Other Lovers is collection of four short stories about tradesmen who find unexpected rewards in home repairs as they stumble into romantic encounters during the course of their everyday blue-collar lives.

DADDYX: Not at all. But I sure get told when I get it wrong. :>) Much of my experience in offering, receiving and observing criticism is through The Erotica Readers and Writers Association lists. I have acted as Storytime editor for either flash fiction or short stories for the past few years. There, I see varying perspectives of criticism and as many ways of interpreting the same work. Everyone has his/her own way of perceiving and receiving erotica. That’s one of the more intriguing aspects of writing in our genre. Everyone absorbs the material according to their own turn-ons and squicks. In fact, with all the variety out there, it’s a miracle a writer ever connects with a reader.

SPENCER DRYDEN: My writing reflects the way I feel about women, which is that I hold them in high regard, especially the way they can use their powers of enchantment.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: See opening lines above.

IAN SMITH: No, I try to write with my own “voice.” I like my male lead characters to be decent, nice guys, and be courteous to the women they’re involved with, but that’s at least partly because it’s how I hope I am myself. I find it difficult to imagine being anything else, but that might be something fun to play with when I feel more confident about my writing.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you find people hold you to a higher standard? Like a woman can get away with writing certain things, but a man would get his hand slapped for “crossing a line?”

DAILY HOLLOW: Not really. I have heard some male writers feel that way, but I have never encountered any issues.

SPENCER DRYDEN:  I don’t know if “higher standard” is quite the right term for what I feel. I have read lots of short form F/F erotica (which I love) as a way to improve sensual vocabulary. Often these stories move fast and feature plots that move quickly from initial encounter to sex. (Hi I’m a girl that likes girls. Oh I like girls too….begin humping) My stories have the same structure and character arc as F/F stories but my are frequently labeled as “stroke” or “only about sex.” So it’s more like a double standard than a higher standard.

DADDYX: Some of my characters can be despicable. I do have to work to tone them down upon occasion. Though assholes make for interesting subjects, there should be someone for the reader to relate to. Often the reader equates a character with the author, so I wouldn’t want to alienate readership of any sexual orientation. Despite everything as personal as squicks and triggers, I’d like my work to be universal; but that’s nigh impossible, considering that many people wouldn’t open an erotic book in the first place.

kings-captain-cover-1000x633

Paul is Hayley’s lover and now her leading man. But acting and portraying a hero on a period TV show takes far more than a suit of armour. He’s totally out of his depth, personally and professionally. Help arrives with dramatic lessons in leadership and courage, when strange events put him and his friends in harm’s way.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: And, you Ian?

IAN SMITH: I don’t think so. Well, aside from trying to write from a female POV and getting it wrong!

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: In general, men’s fantasies vary wildly from female fantasies. They experience sex differently in real life. Do you believe that colors a male author’s viewpoint when writing erotic fiction? Do you try to write something that will appeal to what females (the bulk of erotic fiction readers) want to read?

DADDYX: Wish I had an inside track for success with female readers. Any readers. It sure would be nice. Maybe then I could sell some books. :>) So here’s what I think:

Again, I can’t really say that I write to a particular gender. To me, it’s all about the story, no matter who’s reading. The plot has to be fresh, intriguing, and hold together. The story arc must be accessible, if not immediately obvious. I like to give my readers credit as intelligent people who will extrapolate content and subtleties by my prompts and suggestions. I don’t want to alter or conform my work to appeal to the lowest common denominator. By the same token, while I’m writing, I wouldn’t want to distract myself imagining my readers as any particular gender. I feel that engineering the delivery by gender could effectively limit scope in development of the story. I like to think of literature as universal.

That said, I also like to get my readers juices flowing, no matter their gender. Problem is, how would I know?

DAILY HOLLOW: I write what I feel. I’ve actually written a few F/F stories, and honestly my novella, Leslie’s Dilemma, may be my best fiction piece to date.

SPENCER DRYDEN: “I hope that female readers will find my male characters to be genuine and memorable. There are no billionaire bad boys, alpha males or self- destructive ego-maniacs in my stories. I feature ordinary guys who fall into the orbit of sexually assertive women. [As for a different viewpoint?] Absolutely. It’s why we are more visual and more mechanical in our fiction writing.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Confession time: Are you writing stories you wish would pan out in real life?

DADDYX: Heh. I’m 72 years old, for chrissakes. My fantasies will remain as such. :>) If Momma and I can achieve orgasm in the missionary position without injuring ourselves, we consider ourselves lucky. Best fantasy these days is a sexy dream. Or a trip to a thong beach.  In truth though, I often write situations I’d like to have happened. Other situations, not so much. Depends on the character. He/she may think like me. Or decidedly not.

IAN SMITH: In a general sense, of people meeting and forming solid, emotionally-fulfilling relationships, and having a few adventures along the way.

daly-hollow-book

Mark Jenson is a handsome, easy going man who enjoys drinking with his buddies and the occasional Myrtle Beach golf outing. Gabriella is a beautiful, yet intimidating Jamaican assassin who has nearly fifty kills to her credit. Because Mark unknowingly insulted a mobster’s daughter after they had a drunken night of sex, Gabriella is hired to end Mark’s life

DAILY HOLLOW: LOL, who doesn’t? I also try to throw a little personal experience in as well. I’ve been in several multi-racial relationships and have written a BWWM novella and short story. I’ve also had sex in public and one of my works in progress is going to have a scene where my MC has sex in a river at a popular college hangout. In my short story “Charlene’s Surprise”, my MC is tied up while his wife and her best friend “put on a show.” I guess that would be something I wish would have panned out in real life. 😉

SPENCER DRYDEN: I think fantasy; especially sexual fantasy is a very important part of a balanced life. Fantasy helps us set boundaries and then offers us a risk free way of seeing life on the other side of the boundary. In my case, through fiction, I can make love to any woman I want, my wife could care less and the woman even likes it. I think it would cause lots of marital difficulty if I were to ACT on my fantasies. I can also brutally murder people I dislike without fear of jail time.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Isn’t that the best? I digress… For you, what is the most satisfying part about writing erotic fiction?

DADDYX: Positive feedback. Connecting with a reader in an erotic endeavor. Nothing feels better than hearing a reviewer you don’t know say: “That’s the most erotic book I’ve ever read,” as has been said about “The Gonzo Collection.” Considering the aforementioned variety of erotic preferences (and the odds against of making that connection) the connection, once made, may be on some level equivalent to sharing sex with those readers.

SPENCER DRYDEN: When I see the whole story arc. I write most of my stories backwards, that is, I start at the end and work my way back to the beginning.

IAN SMITH: Readers telling me they enjoyed my storytelling. If they found it hot and steamy as well, that’s a bonus!

DAILY HOLLOW: Typing the words “the end.” One of the most challenging parts about writing is actually finishing. I currently have about five WIP going at once.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: So, I guess in the end, it turns out all writers are alike!

Thank you, gentleman. Keep up the great work. Readers, below is how you can stay in touch with our male cohorts in sexy crime. And follow LadySmut. We know all the great writers…and lovers of sexy romance.

 Love Links

Daily Hollow’s Facebook and Amazon author page

DaddyX’s  Oh Get A Grip blog  (where he posts fortnightly with nine other accomplished erotica writers) and Amazon author page

Ian Smith’s Facebook, Facebook Author Page and Blog

Spencer Dryden’s Facebook, Twitter and Amazon author page

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it  — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I Like ‘Em Big & Stupid! Aren’t Dim, Vulnerable Guys Kinda Appealing?

30 May
"I want a moron with talented hands..." sings Julie Brown in her song I LIKE EM BIG & STUPID

“I want a moron with talented hands…” sings Julie Brown in her song I LIKE EM BIG & STUPID

I know what you’re going to say. “No, I don’t like them big and stupid.  Not at all.  Never.  Pttoooeee!”  I know, I know.

But then I would have to remind you of Jason from True Blood.

Not the brightest bulb in the box, fo’ sure, but so sweet, so simple hearted.  And cute.  And…let’s face it ladies…hawt.  He’s what I’m talking about.  Not the complete package, but the almost complete package.  A good guy.  A nice guy.  A sweet guy.

Would you cozy up to a guy if all other things considered, he wasn’t the next Mr. Einstein?  What if he was the next Mr. Einstein, but remained extremely naive about everything else? In one of my favorite classic films THE LADY EVE, Henry Fonda is a killingly cute amateur snake expert who knows next to nothing about women. Totally adorbs.

Igon--You know you want him.

Igon–You know you want him.

What about some GHOSTBUSTERS? You know you want Igon–you know you do. He’s another single-minded scientist of the a-complete-idiot-except-for-in-this-one-area-type.  I’d argue that the extreme science geek is just a girl’s version of the ditzy blonde.  He’s so clueless he’s to die for.

By now you’ve cottoned onto the fact that along with a lack of worldliness comes a lot of vulnerability.  If you have to shave a few IQ points off a guy to make him sweetly vulnerable, well, so be it.

Then you have your classic stereotypes of the un-brainy. What about jocks? (Raphael Nadal, Ryan Lochte, Tom Brady come to mind)  What about strippers? (I know what you’re thinking.  “Channing Tatum’s iconic character Mike could also design weird furniture, btw. He wasn’t JUST a stripper.” Defensive, aren’t we? ;>)

PeckThen there’s the issue of a guy who’s maybe not born super-stupid, it’s just that he’s got a special disease.  Wait, that sounds bad.  No, he’s wounded.  In the head.  Just a little.  Yeah–that’s it.  He’s got–to name a very popular movie trope–amnesia.  He might even be a mentally ill.  Anything so that you can just mother him and make his big boo-boo all better.

I myself DO like a guy who’s vulnerable and yeah, sure, a tad tortured. Who doesn’t?

You might prefer Guy Pierce in MOMENTO, but I prefer Gregory Peck all freaked out in SPELLBOUND.  The wrinkles in his forehead just floor me as he wonders if he, you know, perhaps killed someone and should go to jail for it.

Why Hugh Jackman bothers taking on other roles, I can't figure out.

Why Hugh Jackman bothers taking on other roles, I can’t figure out.

Meanwhile, for those of you who like the whole sci-fi/fantasy scene there’s Wolverine.  Amnesia, AND constant painful boo-boos.  He’s got that wounded, snarling, hurt  and yet very sexy thing going on.  Why Hugh Jackson bothers playing any other role, I simply cannot fathom.  No other character he can play will ever match Wolverine in terms of hotness or massive charisma.

Maybe your dumb goofy guy just hasn’t grown up yet?  The Peter Pan’s of this world–those who’ve deliberately turned off most of their grey matter for whatever reason–can still be fascinating, tantalizing, and if he’s sexy, then he’s probably also all too tempting.

Nadal

Raphael Nadal–he may be a dumb jock, but he’s a sensitive dumb jock.

And last but not least, there’s that cute guy who couldn’t hurt a bunny.  Hunter Parrish playing Silas, son of Nancy on WEEDS is an example of this type.  He’s the kind of actor who could play a serial killer and you’d still want him on your eighth grade math folder with stickers of unicorns and rainbows dotted around his handsome face.

Finally, I think that we could have a contest on google to discover who comes up most as the biggest cutest, hottest, dumbest guy in popular culture.  While there are some front runners for sure, (Colin Farrell, Gerard Butler–I’m looking at you boys) ultimately, for sheer genius when it comes to playing dumb really well in almost every category I listed above there is the one–there is the only–Keanu Reeves.  Big and stupid? Check.  Naive scientist? Well, not so much.  But he’s vulnerable, and he’s a Peter Pan type who’s not into flexing his cranium.  I mean, his acting makes it seem like he could be a brain-trauma victim, and he’s cute like a bunny.  He is/was the ultimate dim-but-cute icon of his generation.

Keanu baby

Keanu baby

The great thing about dumb guys is that they are content to let the woman be in charge.  Which is something that most of us do very well, and so all feels right with the world when you’re dreaming about a very cute if somewhat dim sweet man.

Seriously Stacked: Extremely Curvy Women

27 May

ChristinaThere are certain women in popular culture that rivet our attention with their seriously stacked, uber-curvy feminine bodies.  These bodies at the extreme end of the female spectrum–exaggerated and seemingly made for sex–fascinate us and drive a celebrity image.

There is something larger than life about all these women.  They are not simply actresses –they are vixens, femme fetales, and divas.  Add brains to all that or a great sense of humor, or–like Adele–a vibrant personality, and the experience goes sideways — our society just doesn’t quite know how to deal with so much woman taking up so much space. (There was a reason Marilyn Monroe played dumb.)

scarlettThe uber-curvy–as I think of them–are super sexualized by society–to the point where even an aspect of their innocence seems sexual. I also see these women as having a kind of vulnerability.  Even for the narcissistic facing a continuous onslaught of sexualized attention has got to be exhausting.  Meanwhile, these women have got to wear a bra at all times–or watch their booty–or both.   They have to be careful to pick out clothes that fit in a certain way –clothes that aren’t over embellished or boxy cut or baggy–if they wish to avoid looking frumpy and fat.   Kim Kardashian–the most reviled of them all–is actually the most dedicated in providing clothing designs for curvy women that flatter figures like hers.

LisaMuseMeanwhile, the ‘rape-y’ romances of the 80’s  played up this type of women and her body by the use of what academic scholars call ‘gendered fate’.  The basic idea is that those crazy curves inspire instant bodice ripping from any ‘real man’.  So the heroine, because of her body and gender–her beauty essentially–would be ‘fated’ to suffer from unwanted passion.  I.e. men were going to try and rape her.  She could either submit to that passion in the end (with the hero) or resist it to the bitter end (with the villain).  The brains & personality she had were going to provide an irresistible compelling goad to the hero, making him ‘tame’ her with his sexual prowess until she was breathless and weakly trembling afterwards with complexicated feelings.

Eva vampNowadays a lot of romances are on the more chaste side and they feature ‘relatable’ women — women that some of us aspire to be.  She’s not overly endowed, she’s much more trim.  It’s even okay if she’s sorta normal.  If men are driven compulsively into her embrace it’s because she’s good with dogs, she’s sassy, and she’s always helping others out.

The advent of erotic romance channelled the ‘gendered fate’ of the 80’s in a different direction.  The idea of consent and agency in women has firmly taken hold, and women of all shapes and sizes can find themselves surrounded by sex fiends in these romances. ;>

So where have all the crazy-curvy women gone? Today we have a category  called ‘Rubenesque’, ‘Voluptuous’, or ‘Full-figured’ in erotic romance.  You can go to an online publisher and search for this category by genre/sub-genre.  Beware: you might become confused and think you’re not in the right section because few, if any, of the women on the covers are actually full figured or uber-curvy.  This apparently is the fault of women readers who are less drawn to those covers…so I’ve been told. (I’m highly skeptical of this.  If you had a model like Christina Hendricks on the cover I think people would buy it.)

lena

Does Lena Dunham–creator and star of ‘Girls’ use her oft-naked body in a fetishistic way? (Are we supposed to be compellingly repulsed?) Or is she normalizing larger body sizes?

But what does ‘Rubenesque’ mean exactly? Is ‘rubenesque’ a politically correct way to say ‘fat’?  Are we talking Crystal Renn or Lena Dunham?  I read a novel by a fairly popular erotic romance author that had three love stories in it.  One involved a ‘rubenesque’ character.  Despite the authors best intentions there was a certain way in which she handled that character that rang a tad hollow–though props to her for trying.

For instance, unlike the other heroines, this character was always described in exactly the same way by all the men and women.  It was as if all the other characters saw her in this very specific, yet positive way. That doesn’t happen in real life.  Men are definitely drawn to different looking women in different ways–and that’s okay, why shouldn’t it be? More over, it’s completely different from having anti-fat attitudes.  Someone looks at a specific persona and sees eye candy. Other get hard or wet.  Others still feel a strong compelling sense of charisma or attraction — they are seeing someone they might want to mate with long term.

CrystalThe author I was reading used three stock phrases to describe her curvy heroine over and over again.  It was as if she had to keep reminding the audience that the character was different to reinforce the curviness as a kind of fetish.  Or perhaps she was slapping on a label to the character and didn’t really see her heroine beyond that label.  This author didn’t spend nearly as much time describing the other heroines throughout the book — instead it was their reactions to the sex they were having that took center stage.

Basically, women who aren’t a standard size and yet are incredibly sexy face a roller-coaster in terms of their status and self esteem.  If you aren’t a sex goddess then you aren’t being seen.

One thing that’s interesting or challenging about Christina Hendricks and her place in La-la Land is that she refuses to be called plus size or curvy or any other size-related term.  Woe to the  interviewer who tries.  She wants to be seen as an actress first and last, letting the public’s obsession with her body remain unspoken and sizzling beneath the surface.

Christina when she's not all glamor-ama.

Christina when she’s not all glamor-ama.

On the other hand, she’s making herself a little less relatable to everyday women who do categorize themselves as not fitting into that standard size 2 mold and who are looking for someone to champion them in another category.  However, in taking this stance she is doing something quite feminist and political–by insisting on being mainstreamed with the rest of the Hollywood starlets out there, she is breaking down the ghetto-ization of women who don’t fit Hollywood’s norms.  Go Christina!

Kirk or Spock?

16 May

by Madeline Iva

Pepsi or Coke? Logolas or Aragorn? (Or are you one of those weirdos out there who prefers Frodo?) We women really seem to line up on different sides when it comes to the types of men we like. Why is that?  Does it all come down to the guys who thrill vs. the guy who’s chill?

Of course Spock.

Spock's hittin' it

Spock’s hittin’ it

Of course Legolas–but I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t agree with me.  [Fist pump with my sisters out there who do.]

Chris Pine you are fine.

Chris Pine you are fine.

My first crush was on Spock. (I won’t even tell you what movie.)  And I’ve been faithful ever since.

Original Spock--accept no substitutes.

Original Spock–accept no substitutes.

And I’d bet money that those women out there who prefer Kirk would also prefer Aragorn.  Don’t know why, it’s just a gut feeling.

--And we--love. Men who talk. Using strange...pauses. In their speech.

–And we–love. Men who talk. Using strange…pauses. In their speech.

The latest Star Trek is coming out.  [Let the summer movie extravaganzas begin!] I’ll be interested in seeing it because I don’t know…ladies, I may be jumping ship.

While Spock’s getting it on with Uhura, I’m going to be checking out a third dark horse in the race for yumminess: Bones.Hot!

Karl Urban was recently in a not-too-bad reboot of the Judge Dredd franchise.  He’s cute, people.  Have you noticed that? And I’m saying that after watching him play Dredd–where we never saw his face.  His side kick was kinda okay too btw.

Damn it Jim, Karl's hawt.

Damn it Jim, Karl’s hawt.

So you tell me in the comments below — Kirk or Spock? (Or have you been reading fan fic where they *ahem* are both together?) Who’s open minded out there and willing to toss Bones into the ring as a contender?

Oh wait! You know what–they should call this movie STAR TRECK: VOYAGE INTO EXPONENTIAL HOTNESS.  Because hey look–Benedict Cumberbach is playing the bad guy.  And B.C. –if you’ve been following the BBC’S SHERLOCK — he’s just riveting.Benedict

So you know where I’ll be Friday night.  Meanwhile, if you’re home over the weekend and you’d rather stay inside in front of your own TV to watch some action adventure, here are two DVD’s to check out:

Dredd — as I told you, it’s not. that. bad.  Harsh, with cool slo-mo effects and a great villian-ness.

Dredd and his girly side-kick.

Dredd and his girly side-kick.

I thought that Lena Headey (see my Bad Mommy post) was an awesome–practically stole the movie.  Funnily enough her character’s name was ‘Mama’.

Lena rocks it as the villain--of course.

Lena rocks it as the villain–of course.

Check out John Carter as well.  It got panned quickly for no real good reason that I can see.  Really, it’s just fine.  And the princess isn’t a size zero–that was refreshing.  It’s long though,–so make sure to settle in with a snack–but it’s honest, bouncing fun.  Makes up for the last few wretched Star Wars flicks.

Johnny Boy & a princess

Johnny Boy & a princess

 

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Mmm, Smells Like Heroine To Me

22 Apr

You’re a bitch, you’re shallow, you’re selfish,” so says Tracey, a matchmaker on the reality TV show Ready For Love.  She’s reporting how she is willing to give it straight up to women about why they’re not married.  Mmmm, smells like a potential heroine to me. 

Ernesto

Ernesto. Can you say cute?

Pamela Palmer admits her love of deeply flawed heroes who must be redeemed, but I love me a flawed heroine just as much.  The ugly duckling, the woman afraid of intimacy…and the woman who has got a lot of great qualities, but some big honking flaws as well.  I think my obsession stems from my mother telling me The Taming of The Shrew as a bed time story when I was growing up.  I found the implied comparison between Kate and myself annoying when I was nine, but the trope of a beauty-in-the-rough who must be tamed obviously stuck with me through the years.

In last week’s show we saw some beauty, but also some beasts as the claws come out over the new guys up for grabs. Ben and Enrnesto were presented to their potential matches, and at the end of the show the women were called out on their bad behavior by the experts.

I watched one woman try to hold it together.  Her chin would come up and her lips tighten like she’d sucked on a lemon.  She did not like anyone—except Ernesto.  She was heartily sick of the other women but managed with sheer effort to rapidly pull her emotions together as soon as he came around and present him with a sense of herself: a flash of flame, and a hint of playfulness.  Yet she shot herself in the foot running down the other women in the house when she had Ernesto’s full attention.  She really just needed to vent a little, but his time is too precious for such ordinary activities and in the end she was sent home, thinking she was misunderstood.

Matt the matchmaker points out that even though she was feeling misunderstood: “She said she was feeling awkward, but her response to feeling uncomfortable is negative.  The dream partner is not an automatic drama queen when things aren’t ideal.”

Ben likes a woman who keeps him on his toes.

Ben likes a woman who keeps him on his toes.

I want to say back to Matt: but so many men marry drama queens! Face it: men love drama.  The next guy after Ernesto was Ben and when his ex is around he snaps to.  What’s going to happen next? Ben doesn’t know when he’s around her and he relishes the cheap adrenaline rush she brings to the table.

Mindy is only 80% selfish.

Mindy is only 80% selfish.

I didn’t really care for the contestant sent home but I was left to ponder what we want in a heroine.  Myself, I find a misunderstood heroine so appealing. After all, misunderstood guys are catnip for women.

Aubrey hates you.

Aubrey hates you.

Edward in Twilight is a classic example of the ‘misunderstood’ guy.   He’s not moody and unsocial, daddy, he’s just a vampire who’s trying not to kill me.  He even says he’s the bad guy and I should stay away…See, he’s totally misunderstood. (Okay Twi-hard haters out there, don’t leap on me in the comments section.  It’s just one example. I’m sure you can think of others.)

We love the misunderstood guy, but what about the misunderstood girl?

Cloe Moretz in the Carrie Remake.  Carrie is misunderstood AND scary.

Cloe Moretz in the Carrie Remake. Carrie is misunderstood AND scary.

Could the misunderstood girl become a new kind of heroine in romance novels?

Or the Selfish Girl?

Or the Anti-social girl?

Or the Scary girl?

Or must heroines all be near-perfect, selfless and endlessly giving?

Can you think of a heroine who’s idiocyncratic and a bit indifferent to others? I think I’d be interested in her—especially if her flaws keep me laughing.

Meanwhile, I’m even more convinced that the hero of Ready For Love is Matt the matchmaker. Again, trying to keep the women from succumbing to competition Matt says: “Men value what they have to earn.”  True, Matt, so true.  But so do women.  We watch these shows because it’s 8 women fighting over one guy—if they aren’t earning his love, I don’t know who is.

Matt speaks wisdom.  Even though I disagree with him a lot.

Matt speaks wisdom. Even though I disagree with him a lot.

Matt, my hero, then says towards the end of the show: “99% of people allow the quality of their life to be affected by strangers.  Never be one of them.”  Woot!

And then there was this heart-breaking moment for me.  There’s a virgin on the show, and Tracey, another matchmaker said to her: “Instead of being vulnerable you talked about being vulnerable. Big difference.”  It’s so true, that’s exactly what happened.  But come on Tracey, baby steps.  This virgin just doesn’t know HOW to allow herself to be vulnerable.  And my heart goes out to her because she’s trying.

In the end, I deeply admire the women we watch on these shows who are feeling so uncomfortable, but they just keep trying.  These are the women who suck me in and keep me watching.

The guys slay me too.  They are intent, focused, and yes, very vulnerable themselves.  My heart melts watching them struggle to be honest, to be the good guy, and work hard—but not too hard!—at their job of finding love.

Three’s Not A Crowd

20 Mar

Menage-a-TroisLike many writers, I belong to a critique group. We met last night and one of the writers happened to have brought in some pages for us to critique that included a very graphic ménage-à-trois scene. We all listened carefully and made notes for comment, but one of the ladies in the group summed it up well at the end. When the writer finished reading her scene, our fellow member said only, “Wow.”

It’s no secret that many male fantasies include either watching women-on-women “lesbian” sex or being able to participate in a ménage-à-trois, with only one y chromosome in the bunch. But three way sex isn’t just for the guys. Take a look at the hot sellers of any erotic romance publisher and you’ll see a good number of them include three-way sex, but as we girls like it – with two of the guys and only of of us.

It’s interesting to me that ménage is such a fantasy for women because it seems to go against how I often hear women describe themselves. We’re not the ones with the commitment issues; it’s the guys. We women want to find our one true love and, just like two turtle doves, mate for life. We sing the choir fidelity. So what gives with fantasizing about a three way?

Part of the answer, I think, it’s the fact that it is just a fantasy. I certainly don’t know a woman who lives and loves equally with a guy and another woman, and I don’t even know anyone who’s been in a three-way sexual relationship just for fun. So all that hot ménage sex only seems to be happening in our minds and in our erotic romance where it’s all just as safe as can be.

The “bad girl” element also comes into play when considering the attraction of three-way sex. It would definitely be a little bit naughty, wouldn’t it, to have sex with a girl and a guy at the same time? We’re often turned on by bad boys; maybe we secretly crave wanting to be a bad girl. Fueling the fantasy as a bad girl would definitely be having “bad girl” sex, meaning a good ol’ fashioned three-way romp.

Depending on one’s fantasy, a girl’s three-way sex may also include having her two hunks goin’ down on each other just as lustily as they go down on her. Oooooh, now we’re really being naughty! The m/f/f erotic romances I’ve read always have the characters being fully bi-sexual, which does lend itself to a variety of options in the bedroom if it’s a no-holds barred kinda relationship.

It’s easy enough to speculate on why women may have ménage-à-trois fantasies but in the end, who really cares what the reason is? Like all turn ons, it’s no single factor that makes us blaze with lust for one thing and roll eyes at another. As long as the fantasies don’t hurt anyone, I say the more the merrier. 🙂

The Reacher Influence

11 Mar

I’m clearly addicted.  I blame my sister.  She has always loved the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child and so when one came my way, I tried it.  Didn’t like it at all, I said, not confessing that I read it in one sitting.

Give me a chance, sis.

Give me a chance, sis.

Then I saw another free Jack Reacher novel at the gym.  (Did I mention that I belong to the most perfect gym ever? They give away free books there.) The second book I read was ONE SHOT — That’s the novel that the recent Jack Reacher movie is based on–the one with Tom Cruise.  The movie my sister refuses to see because Tom Cruise is 5′ 6″.

Reacher is 6′ 5″.  Reacher starts off around two-hundred pounds or so, but after enough books he’s up to two hundred and fifty pounds of killing muscle.  Reacher grinds men’s bones to make his bread.  He also lives off diner food.

Then there are the women.  They are slender, they are pretty.  They  tend to loan Reacher their cars on sight.  Then they sleep with him.  They are either incredibly competent or they have small, yet adorable children and someone has been incredibly cruel to them.

Reacher never ever owns any possessions until after a long time he compromises and begins to carry  a travel toothbrush.

Reacher was made for the reader–male or female–who has a lotta kids, a lotta mortgage, a lotta burdens and obligations. Reacher was made for the reader who leaves a strip mall on Saturdays with a car full of stuff feeling empty and weird.

The brilliance of Lee Child is that he knows how to keep you turning those pages. Child sacrifices plausibility for the sake of action, lots of action, coming at you fast, fast, fast. “Character is king”– and Reacher is nothing if not a character.   Reacher walks with total confidence, he analyses crimes with total confidence.  He matches his arrogance against the arrogance of the bad guys and he comes out on top by playing dirty as much as he possibly can.

Reacher is a funny one.  Reacher’s peferred method of starting a fight is to give a sudden, unexpected crushing head butt.

Killing FloorEver get frustrated with good guys pansy-footing around? Are you thinking as you read Don’t tie the bad guy up–he’s just going to get away? Do you ever want to chant Just kill him–just kill him! to the good guys?  Reacher is your kinda guy.  Reacher does not tie up bad guys.  He does not hand them over to the cops.  Why bother? The bad guys are very dead by the time Reacher is through.  Reacher does not aim for truth or justice, he aims to maim and kill.

Yet he’s not like Dexter–he’s not a serial killer full of self-loathing.  Reacher likes himself just fine.

Character is King

Character is King

Is it any wonder, then, that being in a profession which loves alpha heroes that I’ve noticed my own hero is suddenly displaying some alarming Reacher-like qualities? My hero is suddenly a lot less apologetic in chapter three.  He is more preoccupied with business.

Scarier still, he’s perfectly willing to revel in the lust of a super sexy moment with my heroine, but afterwards he’s no longer immediately sucked into a deep pool of emotional commitment.  Pre-Reacher my hero was denying the bond.  Now he isn’t denying it–he doesn’t feel it. He is perfectly happy in the moment they have together and with her and how it all went. His thoughts don’t go one tiny bit beyond that.

As Reacher once said, “Feelings? What are those?”

It made me shiver when I read that. I also wanted to laugh, because he’s being honest.

So readers, what should I do? Impose a No Lee Child Reading ban while I’m finishing up my novel?

On the other hand, isn’t it good when characters come alive and have a will of their own?  Maybe the Reacher voice is a reality check against my man-loving “isn’t every man at heart really a good guy and a feminist if he’s being rational and not scared or something” mind set.  I mean, I want my guys to be good guys–sure.  But I want them to be guys.

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Chicks Being Catty

6 Mar

Mud wrestlingShortly after the Academy Awards show was on a week and a half ago, I started seeing all kinds of stuff in the blogosphere and Twittersphere about people bashing Anne Hathaway. And I mean serious bashing, as in tons of articles about people who claim to hate – yes, hate – her. Call me clueless, but I don’t get it. What’s the problem with Anne? She’s a great actress, she’s beautiful, she’s happily married. Honestly, I’ve got no beef with her. But many people, for reasons I don’t understand, take issue with Anne. And, I have to say, many of those Anne bashers are women.

When I was a teenager I worked at a fast food restaurant. I actually stuck it out for, I think, three years, and I got pretty comfortable there. I knew the job and I knew the people, many of whom became friends for a time. But I remember toward the end of my burger-slinging tenure a girl was hired who I hated immediately. Oh, I knew nothing about her, of course. Nothing about where she came from, or what her interests were, or who she hung out with. I just knew that I despised the sight of her. And, to be fair, our animosity toward each other was mutual. If pressed, I could cite reasons for my snub. But see, the thing is, those “reasons” were completely made up. It’s not like we had some kind of incident where things went terribly wrong and thus caused our dislike toward one another. No, on the contrary, I just knew by looking at her that I couldn’t stand her.

Several months later we found ourselves at the same party and I, probably fueled with alcohol-courage, decided to talk to her. And guess what? She was totally cool! We chatted for awhile and decided we’d gotten off on the wrong foot. Now, it’s not like we became BFFs or anything. But we repaired the weird damage that had been part of our relationship and tossed away the previous animosity we’d had.

This whole Anne Hathaway bashing and my teenage incident makes me wonder what it is about women who are catty toward other women. If you look at it from a distance, it makes no sense. We women have to survive and thrive in a world that’s often ruled and run by the guys. And we do a damn fine job of it. There are so many wonderful, creative, smart, powerful women out there for us to admire. We all need to bond in sisterhood and support each other. And, in many ways, we do. I have wonderful friends for whom I’d do anything and they feel the same toward me. But then sometimes, for whatever reason, we come across a certain woman who just rubs us completely the wrong way and the claws come out. Rather than supporting that female in a bond of sisterhood, we’d much prefer to scratch her eyes out.

So what gives? Is it jealousy? Envy? And why is it only certain females? We can admire someone who we feel is prettier, smarter, thinner, richer than we are and be fine with her, but then we meet someone else and despise her at once.  Sometimes I honestly wonder if there’s physiology involved. Maybe we unknowingly give off territorial pheremones to certain women because . . . well, just because. Because we don’t want her around us, we don’t want her knowing us, we don’t want her stealing our man. We look at her and think, “that bitch isn’t all that. And, P.S., she looks fat in that outfit.”

It all seems rather unnecessary, but I am curious as to what you all think of this? Why do some chicks just rub you the wrong way and others are friends for life?

Mister Speaker,The Metrosexual President of the United States!

12 Nov

Last night I watched a woman sit on a bench next to my husband.  I was across the room stuck talking to some people about the event that was about to happen, but I clearly heard her ask if the seat next to him was taken.  He said no–it was a long bench after all, and he was the only one sitting on it.  So she sat down and crossed her legs in his direction.

On the way home I teased him about it, saying that I saw her trying to chat him up.  He told me that she asked him if he was participating in the event and he said, “No, but my wife is.” Then she got up and moved away. (Can you hear the ‘ting!’ of a halo popping out over his head? He really is a perfect husband.)

To give her a tiny bit of credit, she was on his right side and didn’t necessarily see the ring right off the bat.  Though how much does a ring matter? I once had a guy-friend who (looking back on it) was crushing on me pretty badly but playing it cool.  I actually thought I could get him to become friends with DH as well as me and we’d all live happily ever after in friend land.  Anyway, after I got married I confided to him that I was dismayed to find men didn’t stop hitting on me.  Didn’t they see the ring? He said most men saw a ring as presenting an extra challenge–it made them want me even more.  Then he gave me a look.  He said they saw the ring all right, they just didn’t care.  Gulp.

At any rate, I think my DH is gaining ground with ladies because he’s fit, he dresses well, and he’s very feminist.  Let’s face it, he’s a metrosexual.

It seems metrosexuals are gaining ground these days.  We’ve come a long way from the time of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy when metrosexuals were looked upon with suspicion. Metrosexual seemed to connoted a guy who might be, well maybe, perhaps…a little gay.  Metrosexuals care about their appearance…but maybe they care a little too much? People weren’t sure.

This makes me think of an event in 2007 when I remember giving a guy-friend of mine a ride home.  (A different guy-friend.) We were talking about a mutual acquaintance of ours, one commonly called an asshole.   The guy-friend said he had some reservations about the mutual acquaintance, but really had a hard time just coming out and saying what the problem was.  So I was more than a little surprised when guy-friend said of our mutual acquaintance “Do you think he’s a metrosexual?”

Personally, I’d never thought of Barack Obama as a metrosexual.  I thought of him as hankering after that early sixties classic ideal, the Kennedy-eque years, the hip years of clean cut cool.

Then I saw this video from the BBC where someone speculates that Romney might have an edge in the election because we in America like our masculinity a certain way.

Apparently NOT.  Maureen Dowd said in her NYTimes op-ed piece and here that we’re moving on from that kind of old school masculinity and into a new era.  [She doesn’t seem to think much of Barack Obama’s leadership skills however, and kicks his skinny ass a bit, demanding he keep up with the woman, immigrants, and other parties that want more leftist love and they want it now.]

Meanwhile, some say the world of romance novels is a throwback world where masculinity means muscles – -not just toned lean fitness– but hulking big and bulky mass.  Romance novels often portray women wanting cave-men in cowboy boots, dirty, sexually aggressive, and possessive.  Is there room for a guy with taste, who’s clean, fit, and expects a woman to be his equal in all things?  Hmmmmmmm.

I obviously speak from a biased point of view.  On one hand, my perfect guy doesn’t come with a lot of atrocious furniture that we need an entire man cave to hold.  On the other hand, if we were mugged, would I be the one more likely to save us? Perhaps.  I have been known to kick some ass in the past, and I don’t think my husband has every actually been in a fight.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama looks like she could kick some ass as well.  She seems every bit the equal of Obama–and probably has a much higher approval rating.  Is this different kind of America one where we can see the Obama relationship as a sort of romantic ideal?  Or are we always going to want muscle bound lunk heads that we need to set straight about respecting womankind?  Are these guys becoming so rare in our actual world that we can only envision them has half-animal or as aliens or paranormal monsters in our romances?

We want to hear from you reader — what do you think? Meanwhile, know of any romances with metrosexual heroes that you’d recommend? Kristan Higgins Somebody To Love comes to mind.  A metrosexual lawyer with mean carpentry skills and a fear of the ocean stars in this romance.

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