The Biggest (Little) Lie in Romance Fiction

Soon after ending a twenty-year marriage, a friend of mine began dating. We’ll call her Marti. One particular hunk she had her eye on was a six-foot-two, green eyed country boy with a build that would put a linebacker to shame. After a few weeks of flirty stuff, he asked her out for drinks. Soon after that came an invitation to dinner, and then, well, you know. They went to bed.

Marti called me for lunch soon after and related her story. At his apartment and with all the appropriate amount of kissing and fondling, he undressed her down to her panties. She unbuttoned his shirt and a few minutes later he was down to his tighty-whities. They lay on the bed kissing and petting and while he slid his hand inside her panties, Marti slid her hand inside his briefs.

And kept sliding. Because what she expected to find, she couldn’t find. Seriously could not find.

She said she thought she had slipped into an alternate universe. Did he not have a penis? His testicles were there, large and heavy. But the particular biological feature essential to intercourse? Finally she realized that this tiny thing brushing her palm was in fact his penis. It seemed about the size of a large acorn at first, but after she touched it a few moments, it grew in size to his full erection—about the size of her thumb.

Even in telling me, she was embarrassed. How many times had this guy gone through this torment? She said she couldn’t imagine what it was like for him to experience this discovery process with each successive woman.

But more than that, she was angry. She would have preferred to have the choice whether to enter into sexual congress with a micro-penis before getting stripped down and in the clench. He could have manned up and had an adult conversation as the petting got serious, set Marti down, and said “I have a micro-penis. What that means is…” Etc.

Maybe he’d done that before. Maybe the result of such a conversation was the woman getting dressed and walking out the door. Marti didn’t see him again after that because, well, two reasons. The last couple of years of her marriage had been sexless and she was desperate for a good fuck. She wasn’t looking for a love affair or any kind of serious relationship. Just good sex.

The other reason—she felt like she’d been lied to. One of those sins-of-omission kind of lies where vital information was withheld. Almost like false advertising.

Sadly for Marti and the rest of us women, the reality is that lots of men are dick-challenged no matter how great their abs. And even more sadly, it seems environmental pollution is making this a much more common problem.  Various studies have shown a correlation between environmental contaminants and the size of otter organs, polar bear penises, and crocodile cocks. In some species, the pollution impact is so strong that the critters can’t reproduce.

Is that where we’re headed? So far, even the micro-penis is capable of successfully planting sperm inside a vagina. But, scientists warn, fertility levels are decreasing.

These pesky details are way too serious for romance novels where making babies is generally beside the point. Romance novels are many things, but most of all they are escape and entertainment. Just as men’s magazines feature images of women with fabulous breasts, tiny waists and nice tight bums, women’s romance novels feature tall muscular men with rippling abs and a massive cock.

“She watched with avid interest as he took off his shirt, revealing a chest that seemed sculpted of marble, all carved lines and beautiful symmetry. Even the smattering of raven curls over it turned her knees to jelly… He shoved off his trousers, then swiftly divested himself of his drawers. And that’s when she thought better of her plan to lose her virtue to him. Because that massive engine thrusting out from between his thighs like a cannon headed for war was far more daunting than she’d expected. It was as arrogant as he, with ballocks the size of plums.” (The Secret of Flirting, Sabrina Jeffries)

“She shifted her hips, feeling the large, hard…thing pressed against her. And she wanted to see him. Theresa rolled off his right side, her lags tangling in her disheveled skirts. “Oh, my,” she whispered, looking down past his hips.” (A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, Suzanne Enoch)

Of course every woman knows that such descriptions are idealized in order to entertain. Who would be interested in reading stories about men with micro-penises, pot bellies, or acne?

We crave the ideal and that’s what escape literature provides us. In these romantic adventures, we can become lost in a world where micro-penises simply do not exist and all men are virile hunks destined to fall in love with that cute little vixen of a female. Of course, most of us aren’t cute little vixens, either. By the standards of romance novels, we all fall short of ideal.

Romance plots usually follow from instantaneous attraction based on looks. That attraction leads to entanglement which leads to stunning sex which results in love. Which leaves one to wonder: without stunning sex, could there be love?

Love is one of those things no one can explain, but some wags have ventured to say a woman falls in love with any man who gives her a good fucking. There might be something to that. Orgasm is a hard thing to ignore.

Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones. It also increases blood flow to organs throughout your body, and reduces inflammation. In other studies, scientists have found that up to 30 different parts of the brain are activated by orgasm, including those responsible for emotion, touch, joy, satisfaction and memory.[1]

Yes, women can gain orgasm without penetration, although clitoral orgasm alone leaves something to be desired, especially if a woman has previously enjoyed vaginal orgasm along with clitoral. For most women, the clitoral orgasm is like phase one. Then it’s time for that serious fucking.

Studies have shown that women prefer larger dicks and in fact, evolution may have favored the development of larger male organs specifically for that reason.[2] Longer slongs also have a biological advantage in depositing sperm deeper in the female reproductive tract, reducing the chance that a successive male with a shorter penis could displace the sperm.

So what should women expect in real life? A report published in the British Journal of Urology International analyzed 17 studies of male organ size and found the following:

… the study participants totaled more than 15,000 men. In addition to the averages listed previously, the analysis charted sizes and placed them into percentiles. For example, an erect penis of 6.3 inches is in the 95th percentile. That means that out of 100 men, only five would have a penis longer than 6.3 inches. Likewise, an erect penis of 3.94 inches is in the 5th percentile, meaning that only five men out of 100 would have a penis shorter than 3.94 inches.

[The report also found that] The average size preferred by the women in the study was an erect penis that is 6.4 inches long and 5 inches in circumference for a one-time encounter. For a long-term relationship, the average size preferred by the women was a penis that is 6.3 inches long with a circumference of 4.8 inches.[3]

These preferred sizes are slightly larger than the actual norm for the male organ. The study also found that men with below average penis size suffered lack of self-esteem and confidence, which in turn surely affected their approach to women.

You can bet that successful authors of romance fiction have done their homework about such details, and that’s why they’re successful. Their stories push the right buttons in women’s imaginations where a man’s John Henry needs to be big.

Common sense tells us it’s a rare man who is so magnificently built and awesomely hung as romances depict, much less handsome, courteous, clever and dying to make us his own. Did I mention rich? For every duke story in Regency romance, there’s an equally breathtaking billionaire in modern romance. These are merely a retelling of the fairy tale of the knight in shining armor, and no matter how smart we women might be, deep down inside we feel cheated when we have to accept less.

The question is, does romance literature exacerbate the problem? Or does it serve as a release valve for women caught up in mundane reality?

We’re biologically destined to seek the best representative of our species in order to produce the best possible offspring. So it’s not just vanity or fluffed up fantasies that lead us to enjoy those magnificent men in romance literature. We’re only doing what our genes tell us to do.

These stories also provide a few hours of escape from whatever troubles us, whether the size of our partner’s manhood or his increasingly pudgy tummy or his lack of wealth. If he loves us, makes us feel beautiful, and does his best to care for us, what’s the problem? The sexy novel might stir us up, but it’s our real partner who’ll benefit when we drag him to the bedroom.

So yes, size matters, and it would be tragic for thousands of years of evolution toward larger pricks to be reversed by modern society’s indiscriminate use of chemicals. For myself and probably many other women, I prefer not to get naked with a man who isn’t going to make me feel it. Or to curl up with a glass of wine and a novel about a man who is anything short of, um, overwhelming. I hope that magnificent men with the skill (and equipment) to deeply stir us will continue to appear in our romantic fantasies. And in our beds.

~~~

 

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2031498/Sex-Why-makes-women-fall-love–just-makes-men-want-MORE.html

[2] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/130408-penises-science-evolution-genitalia-health-weird/

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/mens-health/average-penis-size

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The Hell of Romance Book Covers

The right stuff

Another holiday season has come and gone. It’s back to the writing desk. And now here’s a fervent plea to photographers hoping to sell stock photos to self-published authors who desperately need images for book covers.

I know it must be difficult to find attractive men with sexy bodies. And you’re doing a semi-okay job with dark-headed men. But please try really hard to produce some decent stock images of blonde men. They surely exist—Brad Pitt comes to mind.

Currently, searches for ‘sexy blond men’ through Dreamstime, iStockphoto, and Shutterstock yield images like these—not a bicep in sight.

Excuse me while I puke.

If I’m looking for a grown-up blonde man with dom tendencies, there is Nothing Out There.

This is heartbreaking because this guy in my story is deeply blonde and this is one alpha male that I refuse to change over to dark hair. I’ve done that before, you know, in desperation for a suitable male cover image.

Now as far as stock photos of men in general, what’s missing are images of men in poses that might actually work on a book cover. Authors don’t need men grinning inanely toward the camera. We need men with attitude, moody and boiling with pent up emotion. We need men standing at a door waiting to knock, men looking away from the camera absorbed in thought, men turning in surprise. Well, I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. Real life stuff.

Currently, what does a search for “sexy man” yield? This guy, for God’s sake. In what universe is this sexy? Or this one?

Okay, maybe for a story featuring a young guy who doesn’t know he’s gay and the breaking in, so to speak, by an older man. That might be sexy.

But the guy on the bed? Clearly he has no idea where to find his own ass. Who figured out that sexy pose? Give me a break.

Then there’s the inane batch of men with super-developed musculature, veins popping as they pose in front of gym equipment. I get that they’re proud of all the time they’ve dedicated to body building, and I get that photographers may feel so desperate to capture images of ‘muscular’ men that they resort to this bizarre subgroup, but I guarantee you that putting an image like this on the cover of a romance novel is a sure-fire route to zero sales. Gak!

Keep in mind, photographers, that virtually all romance for women readers is written by female authors. We are the ones looking at these images for something that triggers a faintly hot response. Muscle bound males grinning like idiots or, worse, looking at their triceps in adoration takes the female libido in the opposite direction. Read: self-absorbed, dude.

What’s wrong with men in sports jackets? Men sitting at a desk in a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up? How about carpenters, electricians, and auto mechanics who epitomize the allure of blue collar men? Cowboys actually on horses?

Oh, and another thing. Please try to tag your images with appropriate descriptions. There’s no reason for this image to show up in a search for “sexy men.” I agree that platforms for stock photo retailers should offer more discriminating search options. Like if I want to search for images of a threesome, why does a photo of a three women show up?

Why can’t I designate that I want to see two males and one female in the image? As it stands now, such a search might yield three women, but more often what shows up is two women with one man. I get that a lot of men have that fantasy, but we’re talking about women’s romance, you know, that market that sells more books than any other genre? Two men!

I appreciate that many photographers and male models may be gay, and maybe it’s that point of view that causes them to label images like this guy as “sexy man.” But in whose feeble imagination, even among gay men, is this ‘sexy’? This is simply embarrassing.

And a turn-off. This and so many other images that turn up in a “sexy man” search feature men who would never garner the description of “sexy” even in the wildest stretch of their own personal fantasies. Elfin, maybe. Jail bait perhaps. Creepy? Goofy?

Why do I have to look through over 170,000 images of idiots like these to find a handful that actually show a truly sexy man with personality, like this one?

Or this one?

The problem with useable images like these is that none of them are blonde, and, more importantly, they’ve been used over and over again by authors desperate for anything that shows a hint of male sexuality. Is it that photographers have no idea what they’re producing photos for?

Yes, I understand that there may be a few uses for sexy male images that are not for romance book covers. What those might be escapes me at the moment, but with romance authors publishing new books at a pace that far exceeds any other genre in the market, and with many of those authors minus the funds required to hire custom images, that leaves a huge opening for photographers/male models to give us what we want!

I think websites like Dreamstime and Shutterstock should set up a ‘want list’ among subscribers  so that there is clear information for photographers on what buyers want. Many photographers obviously go to a lot of trouble trying to meet demand but they’re working in the dark. Why not establish a workable dialogue between the producers and the customers that allows for a better match-up between the two parties?

This is the service retailers should offer instead of just raking in the bucks with a mute line-up of images, poorly sorted by description, and sadly lacking the aspects that made for a salable cover.

And please, for God’s sake, no more crass attempts at humor like this guy in a search for “blonde sexy man”!