Essay: What Women Want In A Man.
I’ve been reading a book recently called ‘A Billion Wicked Thoughts’ in which two Neuroscientists explore the search engine history of pornographic searches on the internet (interesting). They discovered in their analysis that there is a crucial difference between what men and women are searching for on the web. When it comes to the saucy stuff, men predominantly search for images. At the same time, women prefer erotic stories, think 50 Shades Of Grey, Harlequin romances. This is no trivial thing. The romance industry grossed 1.37 billion in 2008 and has the single most significant share of the fiction market ever since. These erotic stories are big business and probably where I will end up when I tank as a real writer. A Billion Wicked Thoughts uses the differences in searching habits to highlight the typical differences in female and male desire and how female desire is often not what we are told.
I have only ever read one book of erotic stories by a woman called Anais Nin. While they were pretty saucy, I struggled to get past how poorly written the plots were. Ok, so they are in the Opium den, and suddenly they are all naked? Where’s the damn character arches! I got fed up with the whole enterprise and gave it to one of the girls I worked with, who proceeded to read the entire book in one sitting. A bomb could have gone off in the office; she wouldn’t have missed a sentence. After about four hours, she stood up, weak-kneed and blurry-eyed.
‘Was it any good?’ I asked her,
‘Ye it was alright...’ she said - looked more than alright by the looks of things! So while men are turned on by high-resolution images of body parts, women have a taste for the theatrical, the romantic, and the emotional. Suppose you are interested in the mechanisms that underlie these differences. In that case, I highly recommend getting the book, but for the purpose of this article, I really only want to look at one thing; who are the men in these stories? And how can we be more like them? Would that be a good thing?
Who are these ideal heartthrobs? Are they nice guys who respect women and ask permission to hold hands? Hell no. Most of them are monsters, often literally, lovelorn Vampires and lusty werewolves. The main male archetypes in these female romances are doctors, cowboys, bosses, princes, ranchers, knights, vampires, werewolves, kings, and sheriffs. Are you noticing any trends here? The agreeable nice guy is not particularly high up on the horny girl list. These characters aren’t very well, feminine. These are typically masculine men, high status, powerful, tough as an old boot, and these are the type of men that we are saying men shouldn’t be anymore? So here is my shocking announcement for this article: men are being conditioned these days by society to be something that women aren’t actually attracted to. Ouch. The reality is that women are attracted to Alpha males, high status, dominant, powerful, rich, competitive, aggressive. I mean, there’s levels to this, but this is what the general trend indicates.
What these characters reveal is the central female fantasy in Romance novels which is of a woman, reasonable, nice, sensible, who meets an intolerable, uncouth, uncivilised beast of a man, and through the magic of her feminine charms, she turns him into a gentleman who adores her (cute). But what happens when men are civilised beyond belief? Conflict avoidant? Apologetic? Well we don’t have much of a story. This is the problem in modern Romance, fantasy author Angela Knight writes,
“I think this is one of the problems we are having in Romance in general right now: our heroes have gotten a little too PC. We’re portraying men the way feminist ideals say they should be - respectful and consensus-building, yet women like bad boys. I suspect that’s because our inner cavewoman knows doormat man would become sabertooth tiger lunch in short order. In fact, this may be one reason why EroRom is gaining popularity so fast; writers feel free to write dominant heroes with more of an edge…”
Wow. So Erotic Romance is so popular and gaining popularity with women because it is one of the last bastions of masculine men? (second bombshell) It allows women free range to experience what it would be like to be with one of these cowboys, pardon the pun. But does this mean there is a gap in the market? A genuine demand for masculine men? What does this information mean for the young men out there?
Let me break this down for the young lads out there. As David Deida says,
‘Women want the killer in you,’
if you scream and jump up and down on your tippy-toes when a spider is on the wall, she’s not going to respect you, or at least be turned off by you. A tough pill to swallow, but if you want to be attractive to women, some of the tropes for being a man are true. In fact, this drive-in woman for a killer is so powerful that this is why guys like Charles Manson get more girls than we do. Prison is full of serial killers that get entourages of women for their grisly murders,
“I can change him!” They scream! Admittedly, maybe that’s just a type of woman, but there is definitely some truth hidden in the extreme. The world is a dangerous place and throughout our entire history we evolved under conditions of privation and combat. Women like a man that is capable of violence, not necessarily one that is violent, but that definitely has the capacity for such things. This is important because in the back of her mind, she doesn’t want to be worrying if the two of you are in bed together in the middle of the night and somebody breaks, are you going to be any use to her?
Am saying go out there and be the baddest man in the whole wide world? Not quite. I think I realised unconsciously as a young man that women find bad boys attractive, which caused me a lot of problems. I was completely invisible to the Girls who I fancied most of the time, but then I’d do something bold, and suddenly they’d all be smiles and hair twirling,
“Oh, you did what??”
So I thought I’d discovered the secret... But admittedly, cultivating a criminal record and getting in trouble to try and attract women is not a great long term strategy. Another form this takes these days, which is becoming very popular, is the ‘Simp’ idea that being uncooperative with women is how a man should act, which may be better than doormat man, but really is a bastardization of real confidence and moral character. There’s a big difference between just being a dick and being assertive, and goal-driven, that is more attractive in the long run to women than just being an arse for no good reason.
So we are missing one other bit of this formula for the ideal man in Romance novels; his sweet and gooey center. This is the ladies prize that she gets when he becomes completely obsessed with her, “baby I love you!” You know the bit - que every Romance movie ever, on your knees, in the train station - Stella!! This bit is actually very key, though, because what it means is that the male ideal is the lion who can be a lamb, an aggressive man who can be vulnerable and bare his soul when the moment comes. Most men hide their desire for women behind layers of cynicism and defence mechanisms that prevent women from ever really getting to know them, and women do really want to get to know you. They will infer your character from the color of your shoelaces. Women really are all about knowing who you really are, so gotta make sure you are somebody worth knowing, somebody who has a story.
In conclusion, if the Romantic hypothesis of A Billion Wicked Thoughts is believed, what women crave in their hearts of hearts is a rough and tough coconut. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. Women hate a man who is civilised to the point of servitude and has lost the wilderness within him, the excitement, the danger, the passion, but also can’t tolerate a cardboard hardman who can’t open up and be honest about his vulnerabilities. One is as important as the other, and too much of either is no good. These kind of integrated men are missing at the moment, missing in action, and that is why the desire for Romance novels is increasing. It is also the same reason why, for men, the desire for superhero movies is increasing so much; there’s a great deal of energy we are not giving to the world, and we need more of these types of men. What do they look like?
Well, one female psychologist suggested that Denzel Washington is the epitome of the female fantasy,
“He is strong, confident, and can be very aggressive. At the same time, you just feel that he is a good man.”
We aren’t all going to be Denzel Washington, but we can be this hero in our own way, within our own Romance. That’s the kind of masculine energy we need these days. Hard on the outside, soft on the inside. Many people would say that the male characters in women’s romances are just a fantasy, something that’s different from reality, but I don’t believe that. I think the women are correct. Their intuition and desire for an aggressive, confident man who uses his gifts for good is the right male ideal and should be something we all strive for.