I think romance novelists have a tendency to portray men not as they actually are in real life, but as women wish they were. Have you ever heard of the comedy play, "I love everything about you...now change for me"? Women have always been attracted to the dangerous man, the rebel, the one your parents don't want you to have anything to do with. Usually your parents are right, but you don't realize that until much later. Some learn it the hard way, when they have to divorce, or escape from that bad boy who went from bad to worse. In reality, bad boys are usually self-centered jerks and no one wants to spend any time hanging out with them...at least not for long. Women and other men are attracted to what they perceive as the bad boys' confidence, but it's actually insecurity that leads men to act that way. In reality, they feel so unsure of themselves, they need to be "hyper-masculine" in order to convince everyone else, along with themselves, that they are manly and desirable. Hence they are easy to irritate, often pick fights, and they are very bad husband material, since having won your heart, they take it for granted that you will always be there, and feel free to "sample" any other women they can convince to give them a second look. Their insecurity makes them crave constant reassurance, and the word of one person is never enough.
I've always called this tendency of romance novelists "the Harlequin syndrome," since most of their romances that I read during my younger days involved a cold, hard, seemingly unfeeling man who just needed the love of a good woman (a virgin, of course) to make him realize the error of his ways. Then he presumably became a loving, gentle husband who is only fierce in protection of his loved ones...never against them. I get that we all want to feel special, and to think that our love can change someone for the better. But if you believe that kind of fantasy, I've got a bridge I'd like you to take a look at, and we can ride white unicorns with ribbons in their manes over to see it.
Bad women, on the other hand, are usually guilty of one thing only: they like sex and don't care how many men they have it with. And they don't care who knows about it. They'll have sex with single men, and with your man, be he committed, engaged, or married. They'll break up your happy home, and laugh at your pain. Of course, no one ever thinks about the fact that they can only "play" if the man is willing. A good man, happily married, has no interest in what any other woman is offering. If he does, he's the one that's no good, but that's hard for some women to grasp. So they blame the femme fatale. Since she's not the one who's married, I don't think she deserves all of the blame.
As a female who sowed plenty of wild oats when I was younger, before I met my husband of over 30 splendid years, I object to that scenario. I wasn't a "bad" woman just because I liked sex. I still like sex, but now that I'm married, it's okay for me to admit it. Why wasn't it okay before also? Who was I hurting? I avoided married men like the plague; even after I was married, there were still married jerks who figured that talking me into knocking boots with them would be easier, since being married surely would have made me bored and ready for some illicit adventure. Um...nope.
I kissed a whole lotta frogs before I found my prince. Once I found him, I swore to never let him go. And I haven't. So I'm a perfect example of what rarely is found in romance novels: a woman who had her wild days in her youth, but once she met the right man, she settled down to happily experiencing orgasmic bliss with only him. If you want to read about that kind of woman, who usually falls for a beta male, so there's none of that "alpha-hole ego" to have to contend with, then check out some of my books. My heroines are never mousy and filled with self-doubt. They're not perfect, but then who is? But they are confident in their abilities, which men often find extremely sexy. And when the right man for each of them decides to make her his, the sparks will fly!
How about you? Do you agree with me, or not? Or is the "changing love" trope your favorite?
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