What happens when science meets love?

Romance writers spend a lot of time trying to come up with new and interesting ways to describe what a person feels when they experience love.

It turns out that scientists are also finding intriguing ways of showing what happens when we love someone.

This wonderful video shows a light-hearted competition between six people who are put into an MRI machine and told to think about love. Whoever’s brain lights up the strongest and longest wins.

It’s a simple premise, but what comes out of it is more than a visual depiction of our brains’ reactions to various chemicals or memories. Do yourself a favor – take 15 minutes out of your day to listen to the “contestants” talk about their experiences of love and what it means.

From a 75-year-old man who spends the time reflecting on his wife of 50-something years, to a young man whose heart has been broken, to a 10-year-old boy who thinks about his new baby cousin, it’s a beautiful and life-affirming statement on how varied love can be.

Did you watch it? Did the winners surprise you? If you were taking part in the experiment, who would you think about?

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Why do all the romance heroes have six packs? – Guest post by Roni Loren

First, I’d like to thank Kat for inviting me over here to her blog. You gotta love someone who says–I’d like you to guest post and can you make it about sex? LOL

Why, yes, yes I can actually. : )

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this article via Twitter (where all interesting things come from) on Slate called P0rn Women Want: Why Does it Make Men So Uncomfortable?  The post was basically about this guy:

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James Deen. (Pauses to snicker about the ridiculous stage names.) But anyway, apparently this guy is causing a stir because he is appealing to women-which is obviously not the market p0rn targets. Here’s what they say of Deen:

Deen has carved out a niche in the industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top p0rn agency sites and you’ll find… just a few dozen men available…. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.

Which of course made me think–yes, this is why most women roll their eyes at p0rn. Beyond the complete lack of story line and emotional connection, the dudes are ugly and the girls are fake-looking. If the male actors looked like Alexander Skarsgard or Bradley Cooper, I’m thinking we ladies might change our mind and take a peek.

Come on, you know you’d look.
But the reason, the article hypothesizes, that guys who are “prettier” don’t get hired in p0rn is because it makes the guys watching it uncomfortable. Because *gasp* they don’t want to have any sexytime feelings about the guys. The post says:

The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire.

Hmm. Okay, maybe I could see that if a guy is particularly homophobic or un-evolved. But it seemed a little far-fetched. So, of course, I asked my husband (who is mostly evolved and finds p0rn more comedic than sexy) his opinion. After a derisive snort, he said, “It’s not about guys worrying about gay feelings. The reason is the same reason your romance novels have Mr. Perfect as the hero and Ms. Average Every Day Girl as the heroine.”

And you know what? He had a good point.

In fantasy, whether it be via books or something visual, we naturally put ourselves in the heroine’s (or hero’s if you’re a guy) shoes. If the heroine is written as some gorgeous model type who never gains a pound, never has an insecurity, and who wakes up with perfect hair–none of us are going to be able to relate. So most often, romance writers create heroines we “get”. And though she may actually BE beautiful, she doesn’t know it. We only see her beauty through the hero’s eyes when we’re in his POV. (Because isn’t that really our fantasy? That the guy we love sees us as the most beautiful girl even if we aren’t to the rest of the world.)

But on the flipside, in our fantasy, in addition to having the guy be smart and kind-hearted and loving, we do want him to look like Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgard. Men haven’t cornered the market on being visual, you know. It’s not to say we hold up our mates to those six-pack ab, slay the dragon, alpha standards, but everything is exaggerated in fantasy.

Which is the same reason why the guys look like they do in p0rn and the girls are the exaggerated female “ideal” (giant boobs, skinny, long hair, always ready and willing, etc.) The guys don’t want to think–damn, in order to land that kind of girl I’d have to look like Brad Pitt. They want to think, hey, I’m better looking than that frosted-tipped, tribal tattooed guy. I could totally bed this girl.

*snort*

So even though men and women are built very differently, it seems we have some things in common when it comes to this. We’re all a little insecure and we all can go a little overboard in fantasy land. It does kind of make me want to write a less than perfect-looking hero though, just to make a point.

But in the meantime, you can admire the perfect abs of my hero Reid on the cover of CRASH INTO YOU. 😉  *pets*

Any thoughts on all of this? Anyone think it really is guys being afraid the pretty boys will make them think impure thoughts? And how do you like your heroes in your books? Does your mate ever give you flack for reading romance novels with half-naked men on the front?


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.
Her debut romance CRASH INTO YOU releases January 3, 2012 from Berkley Heat/Penguin. If you want to read more posts like this one or follow her journey to debut authorhood, you can visit her writing blog FictionGroupie or her author blog. She also tweets way too much for her own good.

Giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Roni’s debut, Crash Into You. I’ll randomly select the winner on Tuesday December 27th. Good luck!

Are men worse at writing sex than women?

The Literary Review has announced its nominees for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

If you’re not familiar with the Bad Sex in Fiction award, I can’t describe it any better than Jezebel magazine does:

[E]ach year the Literary Review has singled out an author who writes awkwardly enough about sex to convince readers that the winning author’s experience with actual sex acts has been limited to puppet performances put on by a middle school health teacher who had a very limited sense of irony.

Frustrated man at a laptop
rajsun22/sxc.hu

This year, male nominees far outnumber females, an occurrence that isn’t unusual. In fact, only two women have won the undesirable award since it began in 1993.

So are men worse at writing sex than women?

Continue reading “Are men worse at writing sex than women?”

Friday feminist funnies

I’ve stumbled across some brilliant parodies this week. The first is the blog Feminist Ryan Gosling, with its “Hey, girl” captions.

Feminist Ryan Gosling has only been around for about six weeks. Danielle, a University of Wisconsin grad student and teacher on the gender studies program, created it as a way of helping her remember the feminist theories she was reading.

Sadly, I first heard of Ryan Gosling only a few months ago, after my mom took my teenaged cousins to one of his movies (don’t ask me which one). When I asked her how the movie was, she hesitated and said, “Well, the girls liked it. And it’s not hard to spend two hours staring at Ryan Gosling.”

If Mom finds him attractive, I feel I can’t.

Genetics are perverse, eh?

My other favorite finds of the week are videos from The Second City Network, with Disney princesses giving love advice to young girls.

And let’s not forget Snow White with her seven man-friends.

Priceless.

What dating advice would other Disney princesses give young girls? Jasmine? Sleeping Beauty? Ooh, Sleeping Beauty’s gotta be ripe for giving sound relationship advice.

Do you have a favorite Feminist Ryan Gosling photo? Or do you prefer staring at him without the captions?

Five things romance writers should know about vaginas

If there’s one thing you’d think romance writers – who tend to be women writing for women – know about, it’s the workings of their own bodies.

After all, some of us write fairly explicit sex scenes, right?

Read My LipsThis week, though, I was surprised to discover how ignorant I was as I read the delightfully informative Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva by Debby Herbenick, PhD, and Vanessa Schick, PhD.

This book, which will be released on November 14, should be required reading for everyone – women and men. It expels myths, builds confidence, and contains vital health information that would surprise many women.

And there are craft projects! I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so let’s just say I know what I’ll be dressing as next Halloween.

Luckily, Debby and Vanessa are giving away a copy of Read My Lips right here! (Details at the end of the post.)

For those of you who don’t write romance, please don’t feel you need to click away. Vulva knowledge is good for everyone – whether you carry one around all day or love someone who does.

First, a brief word on terminology. Vulva is used here to describe the genital region that can be seen from the outside (clitoris, lips, vaginal opening, etc). Vagina means the passage between the outside world and the uterus. But I won’t be anal about people using “vagina” to refer to the whole shebang.

Ready to learn about the mighty vulva?

1. All vulvas are different.

This might sound obvious, and maybe it is to people who have seen lots of naked women.

Then again, depending on where you encountered those women you might be forgiven for thinking most vulvas look the same. Apparently, most of the women pictured naked in magazines and online have a certain look: hairless or nearly hairless, with small inner labia that are fairly uniform in color.

But women are much more diverse. The authors say:

Painted lady statueThe inner labia (labia minora) are perhaps the most diverse part of women’s genitals. The color of women’s inner labia may vary greatly from one woman to the next. They may be a shade of pink, red, brown, gray, black, or slightly purple (particularly as women become sexually aroused and blood flow increases to the genitals, as the inner labia are filled with blood vessels; inner labia also sometimes darken in color while a woman is pregnant). The outer ridges of the inner labia are often darker than the rest of the labia. Similarly, in one study, forty-one of fifty women (92 percent) had genitals that were darker than the skin around their genitals.

Now, a lot of romance novelists skim over this kind of detail when describing sex scenes, but some don’t. And if you write explicit scenes, then you might like to add a little more genital diversity. Not only will it make your heroine more interesting, it’ll make her more real.

Most importantly, though, it could encourage your readers that their bits are normal, healthy and sexually desirable.

Wikipedia has a set of drawings showing vulvar diversity.

2. The hymen is at the vagina’s entrance.

Continue reading “Five things romance writers should know about vaginas”