Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The lure of the forbidden book

Being a severe book lover, I belong to several reader loops. They're great for recommendations and to make friends who don't think you're crazy for staying up all night to finish the latest Laurell K Hamilton. I mean who really needs more than three hours of sleep anyway, right?

We've always taken comfort in our book-obsessed oddness, so you can imagine my surprise when a member outed her husband this week. It seems she'd been missing a copy of her favorite paranormal romance. She assumed she'd accidentally packed it in with her wad-o-books for the used bookstore. She resigned herself to the fact that it was gone forever…until she went into her husband's dresser drawer a few weeks later.

She'd been looking for stamps and found her romance. Hmm…When confronted with the evidence, he admitted he wanted to see what the fuss was about and, well, now he likes paranormal romance. She laughed. Very hard. In fact, everyone on the loop got a kick out of it. Why? Because there's nothing wrong with a man liking romance. In fact, it's pretty darned nice that he wants to read a great story about a couple who fall in love.

I've had several men at my signings, sci fi fans mostly, who enjoy the paranormal elements in The Accidental Demon Slayer. Of course, most of them were quick to point out that they saw the book at the front of Barnes & Noble and didn't realize it was a romance at the time.

But still, I have to question a stigma where an entire group of people are somehow forbidden to enjoy a good story. It's like men somehow being forbidden to enjoy chocolate because it's a "girl thing." So what do you think? Do you know any men who read romance? And if not, I wonder what we can do to show them that it really is okay.


Jess Granger said...

I think there is an enormous pressure on men to conform to "manly" norms. I saw a documentary on human sexuality, and a professor had a group of students and did a little experiment. First he sent the guys out of the class and asked the girls, what makes a guy attractive? Their answers were things like, attentive, clean, well-dressed, nice, funny, good dancer, good listener, etc.

Then he sent the girls out and brought the guys in. He covered up the girl's answers and asked the guys, what characteristics make you think a guy is gay?

Guess what their answers were. Clean, well-dressed, good dancer, good listener, etc. He brought in everyone and revealed the board. You should have seen the amused shock on everyone's face because 85% of the answers were the same.

Which is why I think Metro got real hot a while back. Guys clued into this phenom a bit. I remember the professor saying to the class, so for a guy to demonstrate his masculinity to attract women, he has to be sloppy, rude, poorly-dressed, which is exactly what the women want. And everyone laughed.

But it is a strange phenomenon, and a hard cultural minefield for men to navigate.

I was really honored when my husband read my book and said he really liked it, but more importantly, said, "If this is typical of a romance, it certainly changes my conception of romance."

That was huge.


Blodeuedd said...

Can't say any men that read it, then again i don't know many women who do in real life, I so need to find more friends who read books ;)

But I understand why they don't, the books are too girly (well then they haven't seen what I have read). Dunno how they could be reached though

azteclady said...

I introduced my significant other to romance three years or so ago. Of course, he has been an avid reader all his life, from "serious" classics to fantasy and science fiction, so he was not adamantly opposed to try.

Something that has put him off some books is the super sexy covers. Perhaps in e editions... *plots*

Angie Fox said...

That's a good point. I like a lot of the girly books too - like Regency romance. I can see a guy picking up a paranormal or a thriller/romance before the historicals.

My husband thinks he has to suffer when he reads fiction. He goes for the Illiad, or Dante's Inferno. My apologies to those who like those kinds of books, but to me, they're not fun. Since he'd rather play games on his cell phone than read in bed, I'm thinking he feels the same way.

Kudos to Jess and Azteclady for introducing your men to good books. And let us know how the plotting goes. :)

Casey said...

Back in the day when I wrote romance, I spoke at a library here in Ohio. I was introduced to the audience by a librarian named Richard, and I thought we were in trouble when he started out with something like, "There are a lot of people who don't read romance. There are a lot of people who think it's silly, light-weight fluff, who think these are books just for women and as such, aren't really literature." By this time, I was getting nervous! Until he added, "Well, I'd like you to know that I read romance and it's wonderful." I still see that librarian at book signins once in a while--and he's still one of my favorite people!

Ann Aguirre said...

My husband reads some paranormal romance. And I have a number of male readers.

SaturnMoonie said...

All my male friends are too stubborn, and refuse to read any of my books (grr). My ex boyfriend calls them porn for women *eye roll*

I mean sure, sex scenes are hot and good and whatnot, but I don't need to have it in a story to enjoy the book. For me, the scene is less about that actual sex and more about the romantic meaning behind it. That the hero and heroine are at that point in their relationship where they let their guard down and open up themselves to eachother.

On a side note: Angie, I wrote about The Accidental Demon Slayer on my blog. You're more than welcome to take a peek. http://bookverse.blogspot.com/