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:

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.


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.


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!


  1. i understand you so well.^^;;
    i hope the giveaway is international because i really would like to discover this book

    thanks you a lot

    all the best


    1. Don’t you think it’s interesting, though, Danny, what kinds of imperfections heroes are allowed to have in romance? Scars make them even more rugged and can be signs of great acts of heroism instead of flaws. You’d never see a hero with a paunchy belly or moobs, though.

      1. Agreed, scars are made to be sexy, a sign of their alpha-badassness 🙂 And usually with romance heroes, their physical perfection is balanced by their emotional wounds and issues. (Which of course the heroine will totally fix. 😉 )

  2. I felt guilty about making all the female love-interests in my silly stories absolutely gorgeous, so for the last Hamster-Sapiens book (Danglydong Dell) I chose the plumpest and most myopic female as the female lead, and a formerly un-fancied military female character the object of all the male character’s desire. I thought that I ought to balance the books so-to-speak. Not sure I succeeded though: there were an awful lot of books to balance.

    1. Lol, I’d have a lot to balance out too if I wrote a less-than-hot hero. I think it’s okay to do what works for your story. You know your audience and if they want the gorgeous girl in their fiction, that’s okay. 🙂

    1. Lol, I’ll have to go check out your post.

      And yes, this isn’t across the board. I recently read Ashley March’s Romancing the Countess and the heroine is not attracted to the hero at first. I can’t remember exactly how she describes him but she comments on things like his narrow nose and such.

  3. Guilty here of writing about sexy six-pack toting men!! 🙂 Romance is an escape and a fantasy and in my fantasy, the men are hot!! And yeah…my heroines are usually everyday kind of gals…the ones who think they can never get the hot guy but do. That was so me once upon a time. I remember how elated I felt to be with that guy who was too hot for his own good….he actually wanted to be with ME!! But in my real life, the hot guy was just a facade. Maybe that’s why my stories always have a hot guy who is more than just a sexy bod and face!

    Anyway, I did actually just finish a story where the main hero is hot and sexy…a wounded man with ghosts in his closet…..but the guy to come in and make the love triangle is a nerdy skinny guy who makes her laugh. Who do you think she ends up with????? 😉

    1. Yes, in real life the perfect looking guys are usually full of themselves and haven’t developed much personality because they didn’t need to. That’s not across the board, but it’s pretty common from what I’ve seen.

      And I love the sexy nerd. My fourth book is going to have a nerdy hero (though he’ll probably still be fit, the nerdy part is more the personality.)

  4. Give me an erotic romance any day and let me imagine the characters – but keep the covers; one big plus on my ereader.

    No, please don’t write me a flabby hero.
    But a scar, a little paunch, some gray…?
    We women are hard enough on ourselves. I don’t want to mix my fantasy with my reality. Keep it unreal for me please.

    1. Lol, I know a lot of people feel the same way about the covers. I love the covers, but I read at home, so it’s not a big deal. If I bring a book to read at the gym or something, it’s definitely via my Kindle. 🙂

      And agreed, we all need a break from reality sometimes and we shouldn’t apologize for that.

  5. I read to escape from the real world for a while, so yes, I like my heroes with six packs and muscles and prefect teeth and great personalities who want to take care of the heroine, but treat her with love and respect. Deen is nce looking (come on James Deen?!?) kind of reminds me of a country singer, the one with the deep voice.


  6. I have to disagree a bit with the ixnay on the flab-bay hero comment. I’ve had some great responses to the hero in my WIP who finds he’s getting a little soft around the waist as he relaxes into a relationship with his pear-shaped sub heroine. Generally, I think most readers – and people, really – are interested in a broader spectrum of body type than the media gives them credit for.

    1. Jenna, that’s great that you’re getting a good response! 🙂 There are definitely variations out there, and I think anything written well can work. But I also don’t see the six packs going anywhere anytime soon. (Nor do I want them too, lol.)

  7. The “fantasy-guy” requirement isn’t exclusive to romance. I write suspense, and I recently had this conversation with one of my friends/readers:
    Her: “You write the hottest sex scenes, but, jeez, why do you do it with *him*? He’s too damn ugly!”
    Me: “His face got busted up when he was a kid. It’s not his fault. Besides, he’s a really nice guy and he’s mind-blowing in bed. What’s the problem?”
    Her: “He’s too damn ugly!”
    Me: *sighs* “So put a bag over his head.”

    I think she’s just cranky because she wants my protag to hook up with the truly hot guy instead, and I’ve kept her waiting for four books… 🙂

  8. I agree that I love a hunky hero – but I don’t mind some scars, and tats. And yes, my husband gives me crap about any romance book I read. I just tell him he’s jealous because he doesn’t know the meaning of the word – since he’s a wham-bam-thank you ma’am kinda fella, he’d better bite his tongue, or I’ll sew him up in the sheet while he’s sleeping and beat some respect into him. After 24 yrs he’s backed off on giving me a hard time quite a bit, lol.
    Thank you for the giveaway op! Would love to read this book! As you can see, I need all the romance I can get 😉

    Happy Holidays!

    1. Lol ,yes sounds like your husband better steer clear of picking on your books in the future. Mine has stopped playfully teasing me now that I’m getting paid to write them. 🙂

  9. Love this post! Funny and so true. And what’s even better is that this is a post promoting Roni’s book tour, but you totally couldn’t tell. Most posts in blog tours are so obvious–not that I really mind, I support the author regardless, but still, you can tell. This just felt smart, and fun, and did what it is supposed to do. Made me eager to read Crash Into You, which I’m stoked to say I pre-ordered this weekend 🙂

  10. It can be a totally turn off (even though you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover) to look at a cover and see a completely vain looking hero- I don’t mind a good looking body but I like the more rugged realistic manly look. Some covers make me think of a completely out of reach not ever gonna happen in this lifetime type of guy. It is possible to find men who have outstanding bodies (I have a friend who I really should convince to model for covers…) but cover models who look like they spend more time at the gym then myself and would fight for bathroom mirror time aren’t going to cause me to change my panties anytime soon. But that friend I was mentioning, well, that’s another story 😉

  11. I always wondered why the guys in porn had to look so bad but they should make some for us women with some hot guys 😉

  12. Great article, Roni! I think your husband got it right.

    An interesting side note to this… I once read a story where the heroine was first introduced through the hero’s eyes (chapter one was from his POV). I didn’t like her–she was too perfect. The next chapter was from her perspective and I could see her flaws, but the damage was done, first impressions and all. 🙂

  13. I think, too, that the guys in porn for straight men have to be the kind of guys that straight men would like to be – they have to be aspirational. So they have the kind of physiques that men would like to have – the kind that would bring them respect from other men.

    From my POV, I find the six-pack look a turn off. Trim is fine, naturally skinny with a beautiful, expressive face and long hands – even better – but a man should not look like he spends all his life in the gym, because that just makes him look like he’s got no conversation at all.

  14. Great points from both you and the hubby. It’s interesting to add that “soft” p0rn – the type on late night premium channels – has a mix of actors and actresses. Most of the women are beautiful, some are on the fake side, but…the guys are good looking too. They also tend to have deeper plots and more storyline.

    Case in point, my roommate ten years ago was watching TV when I came home from my then boyfriend’s house around 1/2am. When I walked in I asked her, “Why are you watching p0rn?” She adamantly denied that it was p0rn telling me the story and the characters. About ten second later the “scene” started and I burst out laughing. She had no idea.

    The reason behind this, the audience. This type of p0rn tries to capture both the male and female audience so they have both genders looking good, but usually not over done. This is the way I prefer my romance novels too. Is everyone beautiful? Yeah, probably, but if they don’t have vulnerabilities or some flaws, it is more difficult to relate to the story.

    1. Oh, Skin-a-max (cinemax), lol. I don’t have that station anymore but when I was younger I remember all those late night “movies” (soft porn) starring Shannon Tweed or whatever her name was.

      Now at least we’ve moved on to shows like True Blood that have great story lines, hot men and women, AND a little soft porn, lol.

  15. I LOVE James Deen! Geez have you seen him Dom? ::shudder:: Okay maybe I shouldn’t have said this out loud since I’m trying to be a YA writer…I really need to get an alias so I can participate in the erotica world too lol.

    Anyway, my romantic hero, based off my real-life crush, has a gut. And so does my real-life leading man. And the guys I tend to date…so I kind of have a thing for pudgy guys, but moving on…

    And thanks for hosting Roni – I just adore her to pieces

    1. LOL, you seriously crack me up. I haven’t actually seen James Deen in action, though I’m admittedly intrigued now. (Why are the YA writers always the bad influences on me–the innocent erotic writer? 😉 )

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