I just finished reading a novel by a popular erotic romance writer well known for her BDSM lite. It’s the first in a series that revolves around the shenanigans of three female submissives and the manly men who get off on tanning their pert little tushes.
What struck me about the book was not the development of the central love story or the steaminess of the sex scenes or the insane amount of spanking that went on. (There was a loooot of spanking.) It was that everyone was so damn good looking.
Sculpted abs, bee-stung lips and glossy hair galore. And that was just the men.
It got me thinking about beauty and its role in romance.
Have you ever read a romance where the heroine was just kind of average? Downright ugly? I haven’t. I’ve heard rumors that they’re out there, but they are as elusive as low-fat donuts.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m as guilty as the next romance author of filling my pages with specimens of pulchritude. Erotic romance is all about attraction, after all. The leads have to see each other as attractive.
But my heroines always have a self-perceived flaw. In Please, mother-of-two Elizabeth is shy about revealing her A-minus cups to new lover Sebastian, keeping her bra on though she obeys all his other commands. And Sherry, the tough-girl heroine of Dance with Me, sticks to jeans and cargo pants to cover up “the Wong tree-trunks”.
Romance may be fantasy, but for me, it needs to be grounded in reality. And, sadly, what woman isn’t the tiniest bit insecure about some aspect of her appearance?
At least romances tend to be equal-opportunity when it comes to the attractiveness. Contrast that with another medium of titillation and fantasy, porn. Most straight porn (or so I’ve heard, ahem) centers on average Joes with exceptional endowments getting it on with big-haired, lush-bodied beauties. We romantics, at least, insist that both hero and heroine be cover model-worthy.
But I wonder. Is appearance the final diversity frontier?
The romance community has accepted “Rubenesque” heroines, LBTGQ couples, interracial and multicultural couples, even interspecies couples (Twilight, I’m talking about you.). What about the appearance-challenged?
Are romance readers ready for heroes and heroines as flawed on the outside as they are on the inside?
Because, surely, even the less than perfect could use a good spanking.