beta... revisited

I’ve been thinking more about this idea of beta heroes in romance novels (comments regarding which inspired the parental investment posts).

I’m inclined to think that non-beta heroes are attractive largely from a narrative point of view – if the heroine doesn’t have good reason not to LIKE the hero, whence comes the story’s conflict?

And conflict is the heart of a story. Right?

Once (if) I get into book-writing mode, I’m going to write a book for romance novel readers, correcting some of the basic errors romance novels make about women’s sexuality. In my view, this is something they get wrong: when a woman actively dislikes someone, she’s not simultaneously drawn to him sexually. That’s a common conflict in novels, and it doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny in real life.

Example: About a year and a half ago I went on some dates with this cardiologist (I’ve mentioned him before) who was attractive to me in a lot of ways – he was plenty smart, plenty articulate, not unattractive physically, not American, and enjoyed a spirited debate. These are good things. But apart from disagreeing with me about my area of expertise, he showed not interest in or respect for my opinion. He was kind of a jerk. I was QUITE DISAPPOINTED by this.

After a date with him, I would go into the office and people would ask me how it went and I would tell them just what I’ve told you. He’d be very attractive to me if he weren’t such an arrogant, egotistical, self-involved bad listener.

And they’d go, “Oh this is how it starts!”

And I was like, “No dude. This is not how it starts.”

Because conflict may be the heart of a story, but if it’s the heart of an actual relationship, then there’s something wrong.

It’s what drove me crazy about the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice – in that moment after Darcy asks Lizzy to marry him and she’s all like, “Hell no, you’re the reason my sister is heartbroken AND you’re an arrogant, egotistical, self-involved bad listener,” they lock eyes and almost kiss.

Almost KISS!?!?

Almost kiss the dude who ruined her sister’s happiness? Whom she has found to be a jerk the whole time?

Dude. If someone ruined my sister’s happiness AND was an arrogant jerk-face, there is nothing on earth that would make him seem sexually appealing to me, no matter how pretty or smart or rich he was, and my sense is that that’s true for lots and lots of women, and mostly only not true if a woman has some Issues. And that’s why that movie is bullshit. Ya don’t have to like or even respect someone to be willing to have sex with them, but from what I’ve seen you’re not likely to be hot for someone you actively dislike.

It could be that I’m missing something. I don’t understand the concept of “frenemies” or “hate sex” and I’ve always been a social weirdo, so maybe there’s a whole phenomenon that I’ve never been aware of, even in the research, about women being sexually interested in legit assholes – not the “bad boy” phenomenon, that’s different; that seems to have a lot to do with caretaking and helping and stuff. No, I mean women aren’t, as a rule, sexually compelled by a man’s body in spite of the fact that he’s a dickhead. The fact that he’s a dickhead takes whatever sexual attraction she might feel and twists its neck like a chicken.

Am I wrong about this? Female types out there, have you had the experience of seriously wanting to fuck a boy you really didn’t like? Am I wrong in thinking that actually disliking someone – and I mean genuinely disliking him, as Lizzy dislikes Darcy in the first half of the novel – stops you from wanting sex with him?

Anyway. I know: dating someone who’s smart and articulate and not unattractive and not American AND not a jerk would make for a less interesting movie/novel/blog post/workplace anecdote.

But it would make for a more interesting date. And it would make it more likely that that someone would get laid.