I happened to be reading my latest novel, when I noticed this phenomena for the umpteenth time.
Let me give you some context; a couple of years ago I purchased a Galaxy S5 device (still happy with it, it’s still going strong :D), and Samsung kindly gifts us owners with a free book every month. We get a selection every new day of the month, and we choose the eBook we would like to add to our collection free of charge! Very generous, even though it irks me that sometimes I choose a book which turns out to be part of a series, but the remaining books of the series are never made available through the same offer, so it’s “pay up, or never find out what happens to the hero/heroine next”.
As such, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of books, I’ve read women’s romance novels, detective stories, fantasy and fiction stories, and the story of a guy coping with Asperger's syndrome. It is all a lot of fun!
The latest book I’ve read, “Sleeping with Paris” is one other example. It’s a love story, aimed for women, I believe, which was really quite entertaining, even if somewhat clichéd. However, I couldn’t help but become aware of this repeated instance in every women’s novel I had read. In “Sleeping with Paris”, the woman and her female sidekicks would only be attracted to guys who were 6"2, 6"3, or 6"4, even the cheating ex, repeatedly commenting on their height. In addition, the desirable guy had to be muscular and lean, much like a hot underwear model. Notice that I said “the desirable guy”, because actually, not all the guys the girls met looked like that. Furthermore, instead we are exposed to scenes where the girls say stuff which roughly translates to “I’m attracted to him, IN SPITE OF his bony ass, or how thin he is”. WOW. I would very much like to say that I only made such observations while reading “Sleeping with Paris”, but in reality, the same kind of scenarios were present in other such books.
I sympathize with all women everywhere. I’m very much in favour of Gender Equality, and I also agree how cruel it is when weight loss ads shamelessly tell women that they need to be THIN in order to be attractive or desirable. I genuinely believe that beauty doesn’t have to fit into a specific type, neither for men, nor for women. I’m also the kind of person who is always very careful not to offend anyone especially when it comes to appearances, I know how tough stuff like that can be. And then, women write stuff like what I just discussed above in their books, and sell it to other women?
So what are we telling people here? That if a guy is not 6"2–6"4, and he isn’t lean AND muscular, that he’s not exactly desirable, or what love or romance is meant to include? Let me put this into perspective. How would such women feel if they stumbled upon books after books, aimed at men, where the lead hero would consistently go for women who were 5"10 or above in height, with impossibly thin waists and huge breasts, repeatedly. What would that be like? Of course, it would be ridiculous, and just as unfair. Let me take this further. What if, atop of all those demands, all the women the heroes would give the time of day to were also blonde and blue-eyed, every single time. Just as dumb, right? Not to mention, it kind of seems to send the message: For you to be desirable to a man, you have to look like this (i.e. 5"9–6", thin waist, huge breasts, blonde AND blue-eyed). Which is INACCURATE.
Not to mention, if a guy ever had the audacity to say out loud “I don’t date fat women” or “I only like women who are a size 0 or *insert specific cup size here*” he would be branded as a jerk, because of all the people whose toes would be stepped on when such a statement was made. Perhaps, rightly so. I believe women should be considered desirable in all shapes and sizes, and all sorts of men like all sorts of different women, and women deserve to know this. But shouldn’t men be afforded the same treatment as well?
Before anyone assumes that I have been scorned, or I’m putting my personal feelings into this article, that is not the case. I’m actually gay, so these scenarios don’t really apply to me. I’m of above average height, I come from a family of giants (My mum actually IS 5"9), and I’m not too thin (even though some people have called me that-JERKS!) and I’ve dated all sorts of different looking guys- tall, short, normal bodies, ripped, fit etc; which is precisely why I feel it dumb to create fantasies in books where only a small archetype of guys (OR GIRLS) are allowed to be considered attractive.
For this reason, I do not think I am going to look at more romance novels, if this is the content that I would have to sit through. I understand that people everywhere all have preferences, turn-ons, and features they consider desirable, be it hair colour, shape, size, whatever. I’m NOT arguing against that, or saying that we should not have a “type”. I’m just saying that trying to purport that only a few specific traits are what make up desirability, and repeating this message across a great deal of books is both unfair and DUMB… although maybe, this sort of material is what a book NEEDS to include in order to sell. What do I know? (Maybe I should conduct a social experiment myself- write a novel with leading guys and ladies who are attractive, but not conventionally so i.e. not what these books are trying to tell us IS attractive, and THEN see if it sells.)
As a gay man, I’ve had the luxury of listening to women (and men sometimes) speak about their love lives for a great deal of my life. Something that I’ve easily observed is that, the people who seem to have the most deal-breakers or put-downs (Nah I don’t like him/her… he/she’s too short/thin/etc) always seem to be the ones who end up settling for the ones that are not attractive TO THEM in the end. So maybe, if you’re feeling like you somehow don’t measure up, or you’re not “what dreams are made of” just remember that you don’t need to listen to such people’s put-downs, because those people don’t listen to their own put-downs themselves.
I mean, if you claim that a guy was not right for you because he was too *insert adjective1 here*, and then end up engaged to a guy who is even more *repeat adjective1 here* years later, then you probably forgot what you said those years before, right? RIGHT?