Saturday, August 27, 2016

How Romance Novels Gave Me A High Standard Of Men ... And Why I Like It.

You guys know how much I love YouTube by now right? You know I like to use it for entertainment, and that I follow several different YouTubers whose videos I especially enjoy for various reasons (which is coming up in a later post). Well, one of the ones I most recently found - and fell in absolute love with - is Richard Grannon, who calls himself the Spartan LifeCoach. I haven't seen all of his videos yet (I'm working my way slowly through them), but he's a psych guru with lots of knowledge into such interesting topics as co-dependence, narcissism, toxic relationships, etc, and his videos never fail to leave me with the feeling that I've learned something valuable that I can apply to my daily life and the relationships in it.

The video I was watching most recently was this one, where he talks about relationships and sexuality between men and women as a sort of economy. At least, he did in the first third of the video, which is where I had to pause it and take a break to come talk to you guys because you know what? I loved everything I was hearing - every bit of it so far already applies perfectly to my personal view of romantic/sexual relationships, and explains things I already feel in a very clear and concise sort of way.

The concept is this: sex and dating is an economy, right, like relationships are a job. When you go out into the world seeking a relationship with someone, particularly when it's of a sexual or romantic nature, you become a product you're trying to sell. So here's what we do:
  • FOR MEN: They work out more probably, trying to become what they think every woman wants, trying to make sure that biologically, they come across as strong and virile men with strong and virile DNA, ready to procreate and carry on the human race with what will assuredly be strong and virile babies. They take showers, wash their faces, turn on the charm, trying to appeal to a woman's need to be appreciated and pursued. They dress nice, act nice - to make sure the woman knows this man can love her better than any other man that might compete for her attentions. They lay on the compliments and give gifts and open doors. They throw money out and pay for dates because they want women to see them as good providers, providers who will keep a woman safe and protected and fed so that she can nurture the young and keep providing the sexual gratification that makes men feel so manly. Maybe they don't really sit down and think about it to do it on purpose, but they do it. Some men that I have known would even save their text conversations with women, making note of their birthdays, their favorite flowers/colors/songs, so that the man can use these things later to prove that they are good listeners who care. They learn how we need to be loved, and they either learn to do it, or learn to fake it, so that we will respond to them.
  • FOR WOMEN: We shave our legs because that smooth skin is really sexy and men like to touch it on the way to the promised land, where the procreation happens. We show off our bodies, partly on purpose because it turns on and seems to attract the manly and virile men we want, and partly on a biological subconscious level because breast and hip remind those men that we women are the other half of what is needed to carry on the species. We dress our eyes up so they look bright and shiny, we wear makeup so our skin looks healthy and vibrant. We make ourselves into a visual promise of sexual satisfaction so that men want us, and we point out every possible hint of health and vitality, so that men have a biological attraction response to the idea that we will bear them healthy children and we won't die while we do it. In moving away from looks and sex, we show interest in what they like so that they feel manly and fascinating, we laugh at all their jokes so they feel funny and confident, and we encourage them to go out there and hunt and gather like a boss for our well-being. We feed their need to feel strong and virile, manly, entertaining, and safe. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable, so that they will feel needed, as all humans want to feel needed, and men are not exempt from this. We show them the respect required to feel manly and all those other things, or we fake it, so that they will respond to us.
So basically, men and women alike, we're all whores. Sort of.

But seriously, it's like any other marketing of any other product, right? Everyone does it. Perfume/Cologne commercials tell you their products are THE BEST, and if you wear their products, you'll smell THE BEST. In fact, you'll probably be downright irresistible and members of the opposite sex will be utterly unable to control themselves in the face of your complete and total domination of our senses. (I'm looking at you, Axe products that make men think they have to smell like that to be attractive. Don't y'all know we like the pheromones in good old-fashioned working man sweat?) Food commercials do it too. This burger is SO GOOD that it turns women on. They can't not eat it, and they have to have miniature orgasms while they eat it, too. So not only will you attract hot, sexy, horny women if you eat this burger, you'll also probably get to bone them afterward because if you bring them this burger, your spectacular provision of sustenance is such an incredible turn-on that you'll instantly become irresistible. Who knows, the women might even get so hot that you can bone their friends too, which is even more chances to spread your manly seed and procreate and keep your AMAZING genes swimming in the gene pool. (Hardee's, making regular women feel totally unwanted and insecure since ... whenever.) You'll probably even be extra-super irresistible if you bring the burger while wearing the cologne ...

And don't even get me going on underwear commercials that try to make women believe that if they just wear THIS bra (Soma), their breasts will magically be young enough to be appealing again, or if they wear these underwear (Victoria Secret), then men will automatically find them sexy and want to be with them (because they stop at a certain size, of course). My point is, there's a reason we use sex in marketing though - it's because sex is how we open the door to sell ourselves to the opposite gender (usually).

So once we open that door, then the marketing campaign continues. We talk about our jobs and such, our political and religious views. We try to find a good match, a buyer for ourselves as a product. We try to find our appropriate market, and we attempt to sell ourselves to those we are attracted to. In the video that spawned this post, Richard Grannon talked about how sometimes we don't do that though, because we don't realize we need to. He talked about how women whine about how men "only" want this, and how men whine about how women "only" want that. Right? Well, okay ... so if you want someone to "buy" what your "selling," but it isn't what they seem to want, here's a duh: you either sell it to someone who DOES want that, or you change your product so that it appeals to your market.

And it's in books too, where we also sell sex for entertainment, and we all individually seek out the book that holds the type of product we want. But since I'm talking about romance and not erotica, I'll get off sex for now and move on to what's next - the part that comes after the initial contact, when we're on to the real meat of the marketing campaign. We've already used our sexual health, willingness, and vitality to get the initial attention, so what now? How do we KEEP it, so that we don't have to keep cycling, searching for a new customer to buy what we're selling?

How do we keep them coming back for more?

Well, in our modern society, we often don't, and that's the simple answer. Boy meets girl, both attempt to be as attractive as possible. Both are attracted (ideally), and they embark on a relationship. But once the woman has captured the man and the man has conquered the woman ... well, then what?



Ahem. Yes, I'm aware of the imagery. I'm a romance novelist, remember?

Now I know we all go on and on about how we hate commercials (except for during Super Bowl season, where we watch TV almost as much for the commercials as for the programming, if not actually more), but the truth is, those commercials work because they appeal to what we want. They say, "Come, enjoy this fresh product that's lovingly crafted and visually appealing. It looks good for you and will bring you pleasure of some kind. You need this. Come and get it." And we listen, because we DO need that. We do need to be sustained with fresh and healthy food. We do need entertainment and companionship. Most of us do need the love and attention of the opposite sex. Most of us do feel the biological need to reproduce. We just do.

Honestly, I don't watch that much TV because the commercials work. They do appeal to me and they do make me want things. Sometimes I can get those things, sometimes I can't. And it's the times when I can't that make me avoid the TV.

But romance novels are my favorite commercial. They sell me a product that I WANT, every time - and this is one that, when the right circumstances present themselves WILL give me what I want. They sell me a woman just like me, who is maybe a little flawed and maybe a little insecure, and maybe in a little bit of danger or distress of some kind that's relatable to me on a personal level. They sell me a feeling of solidarity, a feeling of not being alone in my human struggles as a woman. They sell me the hope that I can find and appeal to and capture the kind of man I want in my life. They sell me fights that lead to actual discussion, problems that actually get resolved. They sell me understanding and compassion that makes emotional me feel safe and loved and protected, if only in a virtual sense, by a man who is strong and loving and willing to meet my needs through the needs of the female character I relate to. And yes, they sell me sex, the kind where a man cups my face in his hands and looks me in the eye and promises me I'm his everything, and HE MEANS IT, and he makes sure every single day of forever, that I believe it. They sell me the high of a strong palm on my waist, on my thighs. Elsewhere. They sell me the satisfied contentment of his fingers intertwined with mine, laying on the couch just because it feels good to be in each other's company. Romance marketing sells me emotional hope and fulfillment in the same way that visual marketing sells men sexual virility and gratification.

But then there's this idea going around that romance novels are bad for women - and bad for relationships in general - because "novels give women unrealistic views about what to expect out of a relationship because they, well, romanticize love." (Quote from Susan Quilliam, relationship psychologist, Cambridge)

What? I don't think so.

Romance novels are not "bad" for me. Romanticizing love is not "bad" for me. A romance novel is a commercial for the product I want, and the booming romance novel industry tells me that I am not alone in my infatuation with romanticized love.

It's true though, that romance novels have impacted my standard of attraction. They have impacted what checkboxes and essay questions are on the "application" for the "job" of being my romantic partner. And as unromantic as it may sound, the fact is this: if you aren't qualified to "work" here, then you don't get the "job."

Any other occupation has standards and requirements, right on down to dating. Some men prefer big boobs, some men prefer smaller. Some men prefer business women, others prefer the housewife type. Some men enjoy the challenge of juggling the multi-faceted needs of a woman who is both. Women have requirements too though, right? Of course we do! And while I learned a good deal of what I like and don't like from real-life trial-and-error relationships with boys and men throughout my life, I have also learned a good deal from studying the ideal "business" model as it applies to relationships - the romance novel.

From studying that "model" of relationship success, which is what all good romance novels really aim to be: I learned that I like the way I feel when I am complimented and treated with dignity and respect. I learned that I appreciate pretty words and flowery promises. I learned that those pretty words mean nothing without appropriate dependable action behind them. I learned that I like how it feels to dress up and go on a date with a man I know I can have a good time with. I learned that a free afternoon walk in the park is just as romantic as an expensive night out. I learned that, particularly as a larger woman, I like how it feels to feel physically small next to a large man (let's not let this get confused with emotionally small, which is not the same and will have an opposite result on my affections). I learned, after experiencing various forms of domestic abuse, that I like how it feels be held by someone who makes me feel safe and protected. I learned the desire for acceptance, the desire for compassionate understanding, the desire to feel like I am an equal and valued part of a team that works together for the greater good of all parties involved.

Most importantly, I learned that it is perfectly okay for me to want these things, these "High Standard" items of requirement that come from the way I as a romance reader have learned to "romanticize love."

It's okay for me to be attracted to men somewhere between 5'10" and 6'2" because they are taller than me and I enjoy the way my head fits on their chests. It's okay for me to be attracted to men who are on the thin or athletic side because their hardness balances out my softness. It's okay that I want my man to be physically and emotionally strong so that I can FINALLY feel safe enough to be weak sometimes. It's okay that I'd like to know someone is there to pick up the slack. It's okay that I like men who smile and have a good sense of humor, because that means we'll have fun together. It's okay that I prefer men who take care of their physical and mental health, because despite the limitations of my body, I take care of my physical and mental health too, and I want a long-term partner with the best chance of growing old with me. It's okay for me to want a man who is already as whole and happy with himself as I am with myself, because while I accept the responsibility of my own mental health and welfare, I cannot and will not accept the responsibility for his. It's okay to want him to have a steady job and a decent income, because that shows me he's ambitious and mature enough to maintain himself in a professional environment. And there's so much more, so many more things on my "checklist" of "requirements," a checklist that I am perfectly happy waiting for the right man to check off ...

Not because romance made me unreasonable, but because romance helped me learn what it's like not only to value myself, but to be valued by others. So I'll keep my high standard and my unromantic "application process" in the "dating economy." I know my own worth, and here's another thing I learned from romance novels: what I'm "selling" is incredibly valuable, and if you want to "work" here, I deserve to know that you're "qualified." Because here's the thing: at the risk of sounding cocky, my own personal acceptance tells me that as a product, I'm the difference between Louis Vuitton and Walmart, and with the marketplace I'm shopping in, that value standard is worth way more than "free."

And now, I'm off to write some more, so that I can keep helping my readers romanticize love and grow some really high standard expectations for the relationships we allow to touch our lives.

Until next week,
Happy Reading.
B

28 comments:

  1. Lol i totally agree with this post. Society these days judge people as materialistic or demanding when they have a checklist of requirements they want their lover to fulfill. Its as if in our time where SJW are everywhere, you are being forced to like everyone because if you don't they label you negatively.

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  2. It's all social science and I love it. Very true-

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  3. I was never really one to read romance novels. I prefer non-fiction. In a book the 7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens that I have been reading with my students they discuss a relationship bank account. I believe to have successful relationships everybody needs to attend to making more deposits than withdrawals.

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    1. Yes!!! I love that someone is teaching that to teens - so many of our youth have NO CLUE what it's like to really exist in a give-and-take relationship, and to top that off, too many of them are emotionally ignorant. They can't even label their own feelings, let alone taking time to consider someone else's.

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  4. You just changed a whole lot of my perspectives. I mean I thought I understood society's views but you just deepened my understanding.

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  5. haha loved reading this post which is so true.And that picture made me laugh so hard.

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  6. There is so much to unpack with this post. High standards are definitely worth carrying. How someone treats you, how they work to take care of you, respect you, desire you... those are all standards you should keep without exception. Whether someone is 6 ft 2 whose physique is more Adonis and less Bacchus, and can and has enough money to make you feel comfortable and secure I think gets a little tricky. I'm not saying lower the standards. I guess I have heard those who say I deserve all that frequently get hurt by the people they think meet those standards. And people frequently get stuck on the standards that are less important. I'm guessing that many people find when they have all of the respect, love and security from their partner that the rest vanishes.

    I do agree that we are marketing ourselves to one another. I just feel that we market the wrong things. As a guy, you will draw my attention with big boobs hips, shaved and smell good. But the part where you discuss what happens after is the key. You can fake respect until serious, But I'm going to find the lack of respect out sooner or later. And then we will just be unhappy together. It's like a bait and switch in selling a product. I may like the outside of the package and it draws my eyes to it. But the value I place on it is how well it works once I open it up. It's like a car. It can be beautiful but if the engine doesn't work, I won't be happy with it for long.

    I guess I have had someone try to fix things in a broken relationship try to keep me by fixing the externals and not worry about what's on the inside. But even saying all that, I admit I am drawn by all sorts of physical things.

    Sorry if this is long and rambling. Ultimately, I think that relationships are messy. Women and men are different. Those differences are part of the struggle of maintaining a good relationship, but also the beauty of what a relationship can be once you figure out how to deal with the other person before you. I totally agree with you that team is the beauty of a good relationship. I knew I was going to go off in a million directions here. Good post.

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    1. I don't mind the long or the rambling, actually - I find longer, more conversational comments to be refreshing and a joy to stumble across.

      I'm glad you liked the post too - and I agree with you completely as far the standard of treatment and care being greater than any standard of physicality. Prime example: I once knew this amazing guy, and he was my best friend for years. He wasn't conventionally attractive by today's standard, but the longer I knew him and the better I knew him, the more attractive he became to me. He was definitely not an Adonis - but he was beautiful to me because he was genuine and humble, because he was a strong Christian. Realizing that I could imagine myself PRAYING with him was actually one of the biggest "turn-on" moments of my life - not because he was muscular (he was) or tall (he wasn't) or particularly wealthy (he wasn't) or any of that. We had a mutual respect that led to some amazing conversations - we couldn't even watch movies together without discussing the deeper themes and topics the whole time, and it was an amazing experience. I've had a lot of relationships that taught me what I DON'T want - he taught me so much of what I DO want.

      And lest you think it was one of those "typical" best-guy-friend things ... HE wasn't the one that got friend-zoned. It's of course more complicated than that, but anyway.

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  7. This is so true! At 20, I've never had a boyfriend lol and I pretty much blame this from all the movies I watched and books I have read. My standards have just gone sky rocket high and I have been having a hard time finding this guy I'm looking for.

    xoxo,
    http://janineladdaran.com

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    1. He'll turn up. Give him time - sometimes guys are a little slow.

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  8. This make me think of the books series 'Outlander' and the character Jamie. I have a major crush on this character. When I was young I had a crush on Todd Wikins from Sweet valley high (yes laugh at me!). However fifty shade of grey Christian Grey does not give me warm fuzzy feeling!!

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    1. Omg I'm not laughing AT ALL! Todd was amazing - and so is Jamie! You have good taste, Anna. And I am right there with you on Christian Grey, too. Gag.

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  9. I agree with what you said. It is important to have high expectations but are they realistic? Just like men can have unrealistic views of women based on TV, the same could be said for women viewing men as those in romance novels.

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    1. Likewise - I agree that it's easy to fall into TOO high of a standard. BUT I have to say, I'm thankful to have learned a higher standard in that way, as romance novels have helped me decide so much of what I think love should look like, thus helping me so much in seeing when I've gotten myself into something that doesn't fit what I want.

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  10. It's not bad to have high standards in men, while the men complain about books and tv shows and characters setting the bar so high for them. We should love ourselves enough to know our value and to know that we're worth the effort the same way that we should also love our partners the same way.

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  11. This part of life can be so exhausting. Lol! The older I get, the more I see relationships in a different perspective. There's never a specific way to go about it.

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    1. So true - everything is relative, based on our own experience.

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  12. My husband and I talk about this all the time. He boils this down to women are looking for a man that will protect them and they can mold into exactly what they want. Men look for a beautiful women with minimal flaws that will never ever change physically. This is why I prefer action movies to pure romance movies with a few exceptions like Pride and Prejudice which does both.

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    1. I'm not sure that's entirely fitting to my way of seeing it. I personally don't want a play-doh man - I want one who knows his own way and how he sees things. It's only that I want a man who ALREADY happens to see things mostly in line with how I see them - I want compatibility in viewpoints and major characteristics. Can there be differences? Sure, and there should be. But in the major points, I'd like us to see things alike - things like politics and religion, childrearing, etc.

      As for the never changing physically part ... meh. People change, bodies change. I want a man who understands that too, just as I'm apt to understand changes in my man.

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  13. I actually kind of agree with you! I love reading romance novels, but I don't think it changed my expectations of love. If anything, because it is so exaggerated in books, it helped me lower them if that makes sense? And not lower them per say, but just made them more realistic. My fiance loves me, and is wonderful - but it isn't like a book and won't ever be. It makes me cherish those romantic moments more and gives me entertainment in the meantime!
    | diaryofasouthernmillennial.com

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    1. Yeah I mean, I'm not expecting to live a romance novel - but do I credit the novels I read with my realization that I need strong conversation with my partner? Partly - I read it in books, and it makes me smile. "Aww," I'll say, "I want that!" And then I'll keep reading. Likewise with certain other aspects to be found in romance novels.

      On the other hand, I've learned things I DON'T want from novels, as well.

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  14. Just like you, I've been a fan of romance novels and it really has a way of making you feel like you are the leading lady in it.

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    1. And really, that's all a woman wants, isn't it? *wink*

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