Why (Straight) Men Should Read Romance

Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight. If you’re of the opinion that men should never read romance because it’s “fluffy trash geared towards women who don’t have a life,” this post is not for you. Feel free to go on your merry way down the path of toxic masculinity. For those of you who are curious as to how I will plead my case, keep your mind open and enjoy the read.

Also, please be aware that I will be writing from the perspective of a cis-het woman, because that’s where the breadth of my experience lies. There are people who more equipped to handle other types of discussions, and you should take a moment to consider their POVs too.

As someone who has been writing romance and reading for even longer, I’ve always been baffled at the idea that the books are “only for women” to read. Sure, we all have our preferences, but there are no “women’s books” and “men’s books.” (Yes, I realize there are children’s books, but that’s a different matter entirely.)

Literature, by nature, contains universal themes that are relatable to all readers, no matter what age, gender, or sexuality. Romance as a genre is not exempt from this: its authors pose questions and offer commentary on a variety of social, cultural, and psychological topics. Yes, love and sex are covered as well, but there’s even consideration for the varying degrees of each when it comes to different novels. Let’s also not forget the broad backgrounds of those who write romance, so please leave the “middle-aged spinster women with no life” stereotype at the door.

Recently, I’ve seen a surge of cis-het men claiming a variety of reasons for why they’re single–they’re “good guys” but women love bad boys, they don’t make enough money, women are too picky, feminism is bad, they’re afraid of what to consider consent, etc. etc. etc. Yet, there’s been little effort by the same men to adapt and evolve despite it benefitting them in the long run.

Let me stop here and address a couple of thoughts that will no doubt come up at this point.

I must be a bitter old maid/spinster/divorcee hell bent on bashing men for life.

If that was your first thought…please let the door hit you on the way out (yes, I meant it that way). At no point have I specified I’m referring to all men, or even the majority of men. In addition, this is not my singular opinion, but one drawn from large pools of women of differing ages both professionally and personally.

That’s not me! I’ve done everything like I’m supposed to! It’s the women’s fault I’m single!

If you haven’t read any romance novels, then you haven’t done *everything.* If you blame women for rejecting you, then you already have the answer as to why you’re still single.

How is reading romance novels supposed to benefit me in my dating life?

I’m so glad you asked!

Historically, all around the world (and to a degree, still now), society has centered around cis-het men and their needs. Women have been put in the role of meeting them in any and all ways necessary, and in many cases, denigrated if they cannot or will not do so. There’s an attitude that one’s girlfriend or wife must serve while helping out with the finances, being in charge of the household, and raising the children…all while somehow looking like supermodels and acting like porn stars in the bedroom.

Men, on the other hand, were tasked with being the providers–to be the breadwinners and protect their families. Here’s the thing: in recent times, women have revealed their capacities to handle those as well. Some men have gone along with the paradigm shift and accepted the traditionally “female” roles. Other men have resisted, choosing instead to impose barriers and restrictions to maintain status quo.

That brings me back to dating and relationships. Women have fought for equality in this arena as well–the right to choose our partners, to voice their concerns, and to expect not only for our needs to be met, but to enjoy our intimate experiences. There’s no right or wrong about wanting a traditional, chivalrous relationship versus a fully equal partnership.

In the age of online dating, where instant gratification and momentary flings are available with the flick of a finger, things have deteriorated even more. Rather than encouraging communication skills, dating apps are removing the need for effort by offering a seemingly endless supply of potential partners. Now, women contend with men who won’t even invest in basic conversation and consider dick pics their go-to method of flirting. It’s frustrating, exhausting, and downright disparaging, to be honest.

This is partly the reason why romance novels are so popular. No two women are alike in what appeals to them, and this is reflected consistently in the vast array of literature available. Women devour these books not because they’re taboo or raunchy (although some are and there’s nothing wrong with liking them), but because they strike at the core of what matters to us most. It reflects the modern woman’s desire for respect, consideration, and in some cases, basic human decency.

Yes, the love interests and heroes in these books are dashing, sexy, and perform with great skill. But what’s really appealing about them is the way they treat the heroines. They’re intelligent, thoughtful, and motivated. They’re protective without being overbearing. They’re dominant without being aggressive, or soft without being clingy or dependent. When they make mistakes, they own up to them. Most of all, they choose to put the woman in the center, both in and out of the bedroom.

“But no one’s that perfect! It’s asking too much of me. How am I supposed to even come close?”

  1. If you expect us to live up to your ideal actress/model/porn star, we’re allowed to demand the same of you and romance heroes.
  2. The authors literally lay out things you can do to impress a woman. Read the books carefully and find the spots where the heroes receive positive responses. That’s it. That’s the secret.
  3. An open mind and willingness to listen goes a long way. Learn from experience.
  4. No, you don’t have to do this every day of your life, but just like exercising or learning a new skill, practice makes perfect.
  5. Once you figure out what your partner likes/wants/needs, you can choose to focus on those.

“Yeah, but deep down inside, women want a *real* man.”

Sure, but your definition of a real man is toxic and based on archaic societal norms. A truly strong man knows his strength, but never uses it against a woman. A confident man isn’t intimidated by his partner’s success, but strives to improve himself. An ambitious man is one who strives for meaningful success rather than wealth and status.

A real man doesn’t dominate the conversation, put himself first, and demand his needs be met at the sacrifice of another’s happiness. He takes the time to observe and listen so he can offer genuine assistance. He identifies what he can bring to a relationship to balance out its weaknesses.

Before I close, let me give you some additional food for thought. I was watching a documentary on Netflix about birds and mating rituals. I was astounded by the lengths male birds must go to in order to procreate. They not only learn calls, but they perform intricate dances, build structures/homes, give gifts, and keep their territory clean and clear of intruders. All this for just the *chance* to breed. When I finished watching it, only two thoughts came to mind:

  1. Those are some lucky female birds.
  2. If human men had to do this, our species would die.

Okay, perhaps the second one is melodramatic, but the point stands. Humans are one of the few animal species for which males have a choice in whether to impress the females with displays of health, wealth, or ability. As we move into the next decade, it’ll be interesting to see if the trend of more women opting to remain single continues. Unless more men adapt to the changing times, I suspect it will. We’re talking survival of the fittest here, and let’s be honest, there’s a dearth of worthy specimens at this point.

So, if you checked out of this post or skipped to the end, here’s my parting point:

Men, read the romance novel. Read as many as you can get your hands on. Then, take the knowledge they have given you and make the world a better place.

If all else fails, you can always shake those tail feathers.

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