In a Facebook group, there began a discussion regarding the alpha male trope. Since the alpha male is ubiquitous in romantic fiction, I chimed in.
That comment sparked a lengthy discussion--well, lengthy for FB--and veered onto a tangent as such discussions often do. Romance in particular is populated by an overabundance of wealthy, entitled, womanizing cads with disparaging views of women. I don't think they make good heroes.
These male protagonists don't respect their heroines. They view the women as possessions, as little more than bedroom toys that can be used outside the bedroom. They have little or no interest in or interaction with women beyond that. Men who call their women sluts and whores certainly don't respect those women.
Why would you want a man like that as your hero?
The sames goes for promiscuous heroines. Let's get down to the basics: sex entails the merging of flesh, one person's body penetrating the other's. That's incredibly intimate. It's special. There's no such thing as casual sex, unless one views oneself and/or one's partner with contempt or utter disregard. The proclivity within contemporary romantic fiction to have young heroines hop from one bed to another an a series of short-lived relationships or one night stands for whatever specious reasons the authors give smacks of an utter lack of self-respect and disregard for consequences.
A woman who respects herself also respects her body and understands the consequences of her actions.
Which brings to mind that last part, an utter disregard for consequences. Why are heroes and heroines so surprised when the result of a one night stand is pregnancy? Um ... sex is a procreative act, remember? That's the ultimate purpose of it, remember? Not to get preachy, but any author whose characters don't understand that little fact of biology seriously lacks common sense and writes idiotic characters.
I understand that romantic fiction is a fantasy. Heck, I write romance. I write fantasy and paranormal romance. But my characters have self-respect, because that's important to the human condition (even for those characters who aren't necessarily human).
R-E-S-P-E-C-T isn't just what one says, it's what one does. It encompasses how characters treat other characters and how they treat themselves. That doesn't mean an alpha hero cannot be possessive and wildly in lust with his heroine--the story's better if he is. But there must be something more and that something must be demonstrated. Respect, not just love, redeems an otherwise irredeemable character.
Don't believe me? Read The Barbary Lion, probably the least respectful hero I've ever written.
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