I figured since I did a post on how women are different, I should do one for men.
Here are my top pet peeves on stereotyping heroes…
Stereotype #1: Men are incapable of speaking long sentences. (In fact, it’s okay if he only grunts a reply.)
This has to be my top pet peeve when it comes to stereotyping male characters in a book. I was part of a critique group once where the men were not supposed to speak more than a few words at any one time. This stems from the belief that men have a very little teeny tiny cup in their verbal arsenal. This means that men are born with a certain number of words they can speak in a single day. So when they run out of words, they are not capable of talking anymore. You need to just wait until morning when their little cup is full again.
Okay. I’m exaggerating, but I have heard this theory many times in the past. The idea is that women are natural talkers while men aren’t. So while a female character can talk all day long, the male character simply isn’t able to do this.
Anyone who’s read my work knows that my male characters like to talk, and they aren’t afraid to do so (unless they have something like a speech impediment).
The truth is, some men are capable of speaking in complete sentences. Not only that, but they can even ramble. I have a husband, father-in-law, and a son who can speak for hours if you let them. I get tired of talking way before they do. So yes, men are able to speak more than a little bitty cup’s worth of words in one day. This is not some strange phenomenon. It is possible. Maybe the man in your life doesn’t speak much, but the men in mine definitely do.
Now, no one wants to read a hero who’s rambling nonstop in the story. Dialogue should have a point. But keeping everything choppy and short can actually hinder the flow of the story…unless, of course, you’re pointing out some character trait or some health issue. Stuttering, a stroke, being extremely shy, etc, are all valid reasons to have your hero be a man of few words.
Stereotype #2: Men are obsessed with their stomachs.
This is my top pet peeve #2. Yes, I’ve heard the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and I do think a man likes it when his wife is a good cook. Though I have something shocking to tell some people. Sometimes the man cooks better than the woman. Sometimes a woman isn’t any good at cooking, and for the sake of their taste buds (and sometimes their health), the man takes over the cooking. I knew a woman in college whose husband cooked and she cleaned up. Both were very happy with this arrangement. I know that’s not “traditionally” how things are done, but it really does happen.
Besides the above, I am a firm believer that men are capable of thinking beyond their stomaches. Their entire worlds don’t always revolve around the dinner table and what the little lady is making. When I read story where a man is obsessed with what’s on the table, I want to bang my head against the wall. I know. It’s a strong reaction to something so simple, but it just grates on my nerves. I don’t mind a man thinking, “Wow, that fried chicken smells great! I can’t wait to dig in!” But when he’s clutching his stomach in agony because he hasn’t eaten since morning, it’s going overboard.
Also, the mention of mealtime in every other chapter or so can get very boring very fast. Yes, people eat every day. I have boys who are quickly becoming teenagers and eating is about all they seem to do. But they don’t only fixate on food. They worry about their school work, they want to play video games, they hang out with their friends, and they look for ways to stay up later on a school night than they should. Their world is a lot of “food”, but it’s not 100% food 100% of the time. They do think of other things than their stomachs.
Stereotype #3: Men are large and in charge (in the bedroom).
How many books have I read where men have this amazing ability to give a woman an orgasm no matter where they’re doing it? Seriously, I’ve lost count. The hero and heroine can be riding along in a carriage that is bumping all over the place, and yet, in the throes of passion, he manages to make her see stars. Now, I will believe she’s seeing stars because her head is hitting the side or top of the carriage, but I won’t believe she’s seeing stars because of an intense orgasm. Nor can I believe that a heroine who despises the hero can lose sight of all the things that drives her nuts because he’s so gorgeous, and when he takes off his shirt… Well, who needs a good personality when you have abs like that?
I threw out a book once because there was a couple based on this premise. The hero was a complete jerk. He was rude to the heroine on almost every single page of the book, and yet when he started kissing her (because there’s only one way he was going to get that heir), she forgot all about what a lying jerk he was and had the best sex of her life. Look, I don’t know about most women, but when I’m not being treated right, I don’t want to kiss some guy, let alone take off my clothes for him.
Sex begins outside the bedroom. It’s about treating our heroine right at all times and in all situations. It’s the tenderness in his touch when he helps her into a carriage. It’s about taking an interest in who she is. It’s about talking to her and being her friend. It’s about offering to do dishes or sweep the floor when she’s been doing stuff all day and she’s exhausted. It’s about changing the baby’s diaper. It’s about putting her needs before his own. Do couples fight? Sure. No one is perfect. But overall, what is the tone of the relationship? Does he put her first, or is he selfish? A hero who puts the heroine first is, by far, the best lover out there. He doesn’t have to be muscular. He doesn’t need a six-pack of abs. He doesn’t have to be tall. He doesn’t have to be drop dead gorgeous. He doesn’t have to be “oh so big” down there. He just needs to be the kind of sweetheart a woman can give her whole heart to.
Speaking of size… I only bring this up because apparently in the United States culture, being “big down there” is important. The average male penis is not what you would read in erotica or the historical romances from the 1980s. (Now, he can “look” big to a virgin heroine who has never seen a penis before. I’ll go with that. But I also think it’s not normal for her to be trembling in fear that he is going to rip her apart.) I remember reading a series of books by a certain author years ago, and every single hero was huge, and every single heroine was tight. It would always initially hurt for her (even if she wasn’t a virgin) because he was just so big (and sexy).
In reality, if all men were like this and if all women were like this, I can’t see many men having sex. Sex is not supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to feel good for both the man and the woman. If the woman is going to be in pain each and every time, then she’s not going to be inclined to keep doing it. Doing a quick search on the topic of penis size, I learned that the average erect penis is a little over 5 inches long. So this notion that sex has to hurt a woman is not quite what the erotic and romance novels would have you think. Of course, women are not all built the same, either, and some men will not take the time to get her ready for sex. So… that all only goes to emphasize how important it is for the man to put her needs before his own, doesn’t it? And if he’s a smaller than average, the good news is that women have a clit, and when stroked just right, she can still receive pleasure during the act.
So those are my top pet peeve stereotypes when it comes to male characters in stories. What are yours?
I agree with all of them – especially #3. If you don’t treat a woman right – um – well, lotion and the bathroom for you, mister. 😀
One of my pet peeves – and probably the biggest one even over all the sex stuff – is that heroes not only have to be big, sexy, and good in bed, they also have to be a whiz at making money. I get so tired of both MCs having to be perfect, but combined with the income issue…
What’s wrong with a middle class kind of guy? A mechanic? A manager at Walmart? A driver on the county road crew plowing snow or grading bumpy dirt roads? Yes, we read to escape for a while but I find normal, every day kinds of people can be at least as romantic as perfect, wealthy couples. 🙂
I hadn’t thought of the income angle. In historical westerns, I think it’s rare that a hero would be making a lot of money. In Regencies, a lot of heroes are broke and need to marry a heroine in order to save their estate. 🙂
However, in contemporaries, that would be a huge issue. There is definitely nothing wrong with a hero having an ordinary job. But I have seen a ton of billionaire contemporary romances. They seem be as popular as the rake heroes who are masters of the bedroom. I’m guessing the rich hero in contemporary is the wish fulfillment that a tall, rich, and handsome man will come into a woman’s life and make all of her dreams come true. It’s a lot like Cinderella, isn’t it? 😀
I forgot! Yes, if he doesn’t treat a woman right, then it’s definitely the lotion and bathroom for him!
Agree on all three (though I’ve used #1 in my sci-fi trilogy).
You don’t use them for every male character. Having a certain character with that trait is fine. But I’ve been around authors who insist that in order to be authentic to all men everywhere, each and every single male character needs to say very little. They would mark up my work whenever my hero would say anything more than a simple sentence. So if i wrote, “I’m going to wear that shirt tonight, and tomorrow, I’ll wash it.” They would have me separate this sentence apart because it was impossible the man could say so much in one breath.
Have they met men? And have they read literature? Male and female characters in Harry Potter sometimes talk for an entire chapter!
You know, it’s weird. There’s an old stereotype that men are better writers or that women are only capable of writing romances, and yet the stereotype here is that men are incapable to talking and women are the eloquent ones. And this is why stereotypes are stupid.
They were married women in the critique group I was in a long time ago. 🙂 To be fair to one of them, her husband really is the type who speaks very little, grunts a lot, and thinks with his stomach. But he is very different from all the other men I’ve come across. I’m not sure what the other women’s husbands were like.
I think another stereotype is that men can write thrillers and horror but women can’t. I know a female author who writes thrillers and said she sold better after she used her initials instead of her full name. She thinks it’s because people assume she’s a male writer, and she’s probably right. I have heard the romance stereotype. I know women who don’t know the first thing about writing a romance. You don’t write romance, but you have a better handle on the emotional aspect of a romance than they do in your stories. It really all boils down to personality. I agree that stereotypes are stupid. They put everyone in the same round hole, and that’s not fair since we’re all different.
That explains why JK Rowling wrote her mystery novels under the pen name Robert Gailbrath. While people know she has writing chops, she was afraid people might not judge her fairly when it came to them not just because of Harry Potter, but because she’s a woman.
And do you really think that I have a great handle on romance and the emotional aspects of it? Ruth, you’re awesome!
This, all of it, is why I read your books, and why I no longer read those written by a few others.
#1. Why would anyone want the hero not to talk? There’s nothing quite like listening to a man with a sexy voice, regardless of what he’s talking about, plus it can actually make for some impressive foreplay before he even touches his lady. In fact, those who recognise the symbol on my avatar will be able to guess who one of my favourite fictional heroes is, and boy can he talk!
#2. I’m not much of a cook, but my hubby is. Enough said 🙂
#3. I too tossed out a book, quite recently in fact, because the “hero” was frankly a complete jerk, and really nothing but a bully when it came to how he treated the woman he supposedly loved. I wont name the book, or author, but I sure wont be checking out any more of her work.
Personally though, my biggest pet peeve can be summed up as “abuse of the English language”, though there are specific abuses that annoy more than others. Lately for example, I’ve noticed more and more cases of people who clearly have no understanding of the difference between wary/weary and past/passed. As a Brit I also find it particularly grating when a story that’s supposed to be set in the middle on England, is riddled with “Americanisms”.
A man’s voice can be very sexy. Sometimes I prefer male singers just because of the way they sound. 🙂
I envy you that your husband is the cook! I hate cooking. I’d rather clean. But alas, my husband hates it even more than I do, and since he’s willing to clean furnace filters and the appliances, I have agreed to cook. I’m really hoping one of my sons will want to do more cooking now that he’ll soon be in high school and has shown an interest in it. *fingers crossed*
I think the worst romance I’ve read to date was the one with the hero who ran right off to sleep with his mistress after the wedding night. That made my eye twitch for weeks. But yes, there have been some where the hero treats the heroine like crap, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why she stays with him. I think some authors misunderstand what an alpha hero is supposed to be. A hero can be a sweetheart and alpha. I just notice my style is a beta hero. I guess that’s not surprising since in my own marriage my husband is a beta guy. I’m more alpha than he is. 🙂
Those words “wary/weary” and “passed/past” are tricky. I often go into my thesaurus to make sure I have the right meaning. One of my weak points is “effect/affect”. I try to be careful with words like that.
That’s a good point about “Americanisms” being thrown into a book set in England. I’ll have to watch for that.
My biggest pet peeve is men thinking that women are the weaker of the sexes. Everyone has their strengths and weakness’.
That is a big one! We’re all different. Not all men are the same way, and women aren’t all the same, either. There are some women who are stronger than men. In my house, I’m the one who has to go get the mice or bugs or some other icky thing. In an emergency, I also tend to have a cooler head and can get things done more efficiently. I love my husband, but I think of the two of us, I am the stronger one. Sometimes I’m surprised I even write romances. I’m so matter of fact about a lot of things. 🙂