Types of Masculinity

What does it mean, to be a man? To be masculine? What does it mean to be a man who is the hero of a romance novel?

Romance readers, including me, often talk about “alpha” or “beta” heroes as two generalized types. The alpha can be seen as a protector and/or a provider (rich in money or at least in skills) as well as a person with a need to dominate a relationship, or at least romantic situations; often the alpha is depicted as physically large and strong and far more attractive than the norm. The beta can be equated with the “nice guy” who might or might not be the most muscular or beautiful man the heroine has ever met.

What needs do those two basic types of heroes meet for readers? Are there possible alternative models of masculinity that could satisfy readers? How do market forces affect what’s available? How do reader expectations affect what sells and what writers write? How do types of romance heroes mirror what society finds normative?

Do the alpha and beta models of masculinity allow for truly equal male/female relationships? And how do those roles intersect with female alpha and beta characters in fiction?

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

2 replies on “Types of Masculinity”

  1. Reams could be written about this topic! On a basic level, I think it is hard-wired in women to be attracted to alpha males. It's the caveman thing…a woman wanting a strong male to father strong children and to protect her as she's raising those children. That said, our frontal lobes/education/culture do play a role in overruling or modifying that instinct.

    But I think that instinct continues to be expressed in romance novels. A romance is a fantasy, a fairytale and as long as you're fantasizing, why not fantasize about the most macho guy? When you fantasize about winning the lottery, do you think about winning a few thousand or do you hope for megabucks?

    The other thing is that I don't think that alpha males are unable to have equal relationships with women. Whether a woman has an equal relationship depends on her and what she's willing to accept. Either she chooses men who treat her as an equals or she doesn't. Alpha doesn't necessarily mean chauvanistic and there are a lot of passive aggressive Betas that are closet chauvanists.

    Lots to think about…

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