The Romantic Hero

What do women want?

Ahhhh, the age old question.

For the record, I have no idea.

But I do know that in 2010, romance novels accounted for 13.4% of mass market book sales (source: $1.358 billion was spent on romance novels in that year. Neither classic literature nor science fiction nor mystery nor religion earned a billion dollars in sales. And 91% of the readership of romance novels is female. Think we can learn a thing or two about women from romance novels?

How many of you guys heard of a book called “Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women”? If you haven’t checked it out yet–HIGHLY recommended. It’s all these romance writers talking about what it is about romance novels that appeals to women so much. It can help us learn about women and what they want.

I read this one essay called “The Androgynous Reader” by Laura Kinsale and it gave me a mini epiphany into why women love romance novels. Check this out…

Women seem to read romances the way we read centerfolds. In this essay, Kinsale claimed female readers identified less with the heroine. What they really liked about the novels is the hero. She uses this quote from a female reader (among others) to make her case: “If [the hero] isn’t in in the first chapter or two, I’ll put the book down. It’s just boring.”

She says women enjoy that sexual admiration. The way she puts it: “it’s a simple, erotic, and free-hearted joy in…desirable maleness.” Just like we to admire the tits and ass of a centerfold, women like to admire the desirable masculinity of the hero.

Case in point, the Twilight series. And now Fifty Shades of Grey. How many women read the Twilight book because they wanna be just like Bella (she’s the “heroine” of Twilight)? I’ve even heard girls say they like the Twilight movies in spite of Kristen Stewart. It’s not Bella women flock to Twilight for. It’s to experience that relationship with a man like Edward (vampire guy) or Jacob (werewolf guy).

But notice the difference between a centerfold and a romance novel. We LOOK at a picture of a naked chick. There ain’t no guys in the picture. Heeeeeell, no. In fact, better if it’s two chicks are going down on each other or something.

Pure male fantasty. Haha. Credit: Alan1828 at deviant

In romance novels, though, women EXPERIENCE being in a relationship with an ideal man. It’s sex with love, with emotions, a story-line, struggle… it’s like this whole internal experience.

The centerfold? It looks nice. No love necessary. In fact, it’s more an external experience.

This was the other epiphany I had. It’s incredible how central love is to romance novels, including Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve been watching the Twilight series with my girl, fascinated, learning what women want. Watching the movies made me realize how incredibly important LOVE is to women. Women want to be loved voraciously by a man, and she wants to love him voraciously in return.

Now who is this ideal man of hers?

Yes, good-looking, but there’s way more to it.

He has a painful past, he has suffered, he’s wounded. As a result, he lives outside the structure of civilization, doesn’t give a damn, a melancholy rebel. He rejects the standard guidelines of society, the established norms and behaviors, the restraints of social conventions. It’s as if he represents the force of physical nature, amoral, ruthless with a sense of power, and leadership. He’s got an edge, depth. No bullshit here.

Women want him, but he’s like whatever.

But he meets the heroine of the romance… there’s something different about her. He sees beyond her beauty, beyond her physical surface, and falls in love, in spite of himself, with her inner qualities that make her different than other girls. He pursues the heroine relentlessly like a beast, an animal, a panther stalking his prey. He’s like a sexual threat. She finds him dangerous and exciting.

He’s strong, PROTECTIVE, masculine. Yet gentle, compassionate, feeling, and tender at the same time. He’s got character, integrity. Noble, sophisticated, gentlemanly. Perhaps he can even play an instrument. Sensitive, never wimpy.

She falls desperately in love with him. And out of all the women in the world, she can teach him how to be happy again.

It’s been said the great poet Lord Byron created the model for the romantic hero in his long poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Apparently his hero was so well received, it was copied over and over again from Emily Bonte to romance novels today. The term “Byronic hero” even entered the language of literature. Models we can follow in this tradition (without having to read romance novels) is Count of Monte Cristo. Or even Batman (not as much Superman).


Stay strong. Don’t care what others think of you. Serving a higher purpose than self is more important. In other words, stay masculine. Yet be kind and empathetic, too. Appreciate a woman not for her physical beauty, but her inner qualities that make her unique. And always take the sexual lead… in fact, be a sexual threat. You don’t have to marry her. We can be that mysterious stranger passing through town that sweeps her out of this ordinary world, into a more extraordinary world. Women want love. Let’s give her love, while always still staying the man.

10 thoughts on “The Romantic Hero

  1. Dom

    There is one question that hasn’t been asked…if you fulfil her desire for love and she teaches you how to be happy…what next?

    1. renaissan

      Hey Dom,
      Thank-you SO much for reading my post! And for commenting. I have a question for you, though. No where did I say a woman teaches a man to be happiness. Happiness must come from within, never from a woman. What did you mean by that question?

      1. Dom

        I’m always interested in reading pieces like this and then comparing it to my experiences. I may have taken some liberty but you said “And out of all the women in the world, she can teach him how to be happy again.”
        What I meant by the question, though, is: more or less there is a big element of ‘the thrill of the chase’ but once the chase has been achieved and the wooing ‘successful’ (basically, sex), then what? A lot of guys and sometimes girls lose the attraction once reaching this step because there’s nothing more to achieve. What are your thoughts on this?

      2. renaissan

        Ah, now I understand. Man, what a great question. You’ve hit on something really deep.

        And you’re right, I did say “out of all the women in the world, she can teach him how to be happy again.” Good call. I was referring to the fantasy in romance novels, though. You know that theme where a woman “tames” the womanizer or “takes care” of the bad boy at the end of the story… like he’s become her child? That’s what I was talking about. I’m not saying I advocate that. God, no. I was just saying it’s a theme you’ll see over and over again in female fantasies.

        But man, your question’s a great one. The answer is the same to other questions like it: “what happens when I become a millionaire?” or “what happens when I become famous?” or “what happens when I get shredded abs?”

        The answer is those things aren’t the answer. Getting sex and attracting the woman of your dreams isn’t the answer. It feels good in the moment when you succeed at it… like driving in a Lexus or something. But it’s just a thrill that eventually fades. Real happiness doesn’t seem to be in the external world. It seems to be somewhere deeper, like from within. Maybe when we transform ourselves or make contact with reality…?

        That’s why I believe with all my heart that real success with women happens when a man doesn’t make women his #1 priority in life, but when he makes serving a higher purpose than the self.

        Thanks for the great question.

  2. Dom

    I see your point, yes a very common fantasy. You’re probably right, that part of it all is just a game. When you want to settle down it won’t be a game because you’ve got to think about where you’re going to live, job, children etc. And women’s needs change from game playing and drama to stability and maturity (which is probably a big reason why you see a lot of guys “punching above their weight”) because women don’t see a future with “players”.
    As Tim Minchin said, “happiness is like an orgasm: the more you think about it the more it goes away”!

  3. renaissan

    From your comment, looks like I may have misunderstood your question again. It seems like what you’re really asking is: what happens after you “get the girl”? Then what?

    Have you ever noticed how in a lot of marriages, guys are subtly controlled by their wives? That’s NOT what we want. A lot of us guys become like a sheep in relationships. And we just sit around watching a pile of DVDs, not having sex.

    So, everything you did to win her in the first place, keep doing. “Game” doesn’t end once you’re in a relationship. You’ve gotta keep doing all that stuff you did in the first place… forever.

    When I’ve stopped taking care of myself, stropped developing myself, stopped doing romantic things, stopped teasing her, stopped appreciating her… my relationships would always come to a close.

    Again, after you “get the girl” the work hasn’t ended. It’s just begun.

    The answer I gave in the previous reply applies here, too. The moment a guy makes his woman the #1 thing in his life, rather than his deepest purpose, is the moment she feels like she doesn’t have a man anymore and wants to move on. Always make your deepest purpose #1. Love her with your heart, of course. But keep serving your purpose. This keeps the sexual energy alive in a relationship (because you’re being the man), and it avoids psychologically depending on someone else for your happiness.

  4. Dom

    OK, yep that was the question I was asking. Yeah definitely see a lot of marriages fall to pieces because of those things. Cheers!

  5. Names Sara

    Ok so I had ran into this site on accident doing research on the romantic hero and may I say that sometime men make me realize how much of a different species men and women truly are ……. But it’s very intriguing to see that men are so fascinated with what women want.
    A man who cared for my wellbeing once told me a woman gives sex to get love and a man gives love to get sex and this hit me hard being in love and all are men incapable of love? And for this reason and this reason alone is why women want the romantic hero he is capable of loving a women forever it’s like a the man in the room who is absolutely in love with his wife it doesn’t matter what he looks like every women in the room wants to be her, women flock to men who understand a women’s basic needs to be loved.
    If men lose interest maybe like you said they need to serve a higher purpose men have become over the ages very crafty in their dealings with sex and love but in the end you are all just wolfs and sheep’s skin we are looking for a sheep.
    women like to be stimulated that’s why they like men with a deeper understanding of things and women can be dominating, true but every women wants to be dominated by a man who can be dominated by her for the perfect triangle to keep you from abandoning her when you have received the one thing it was that you were out to get…….sex, it’s not satisfying to a women if she has no dominance either, in truth worthlessness is not a turn on.
    Women enjoy the simplicity of a man’s mind because a women’s is far from it, referring to another saying that I have been told on how it seems men have one box and women have various that can all be opened at the same time the question that I would love is for a man to ask solving every problem is what do you want? and how can I do this for you? and actually care to go out of his way to do It, I think that’s what makes relationships last when two people go out of their way for one another you find happiness in serving one another its easier getting through the problems of this world through service to one another that’s all women want a man who’s loyal to help her to forget this unanswered puzzle of why it is we are here or……maybe just mine.
    Off the subject I think you guys are looking to get into a girls pants and be happy with this twit you have devised in your head for the rest of your life’s but the reality is you are fighting a battle against yourself a man who sets no goals hits it every time.
    very smart.

    1. renaissan

      I’m glad you stumbled on my site by accident. You’ve shared a lot of valuable insights.

      One thing you said that’s been flipping over in my head was how you defined a romantic hero: someone who’s capable of loving his woman forever.

      I love your image of a man in a room with a woman he loves, and only has eyes for her. You said other women in the room would would want to be her. That image really grabbed hold of my mind.

      On a related note, I also loved your insight about how a woman’s basic need is to be loved. Duly noted.

      I also loved this insight: women want to be dominated by a man she can dominate. In other words, sex isn’t satisfying for a woman unless she can play the dominant role from time to time.

      I’ve never heard it put that way before, but it makes sense. A relationship must be a two-way street. So, it’s okay to switch roles from time to time. But I still maintain it’s important for guys not to be “sheep” and to still be men.

      In other words, if we’re the ones driving a car to a destination, our woman in the passenger seat can make suggestions to us. It’s important for us to listen and compromise. But if she tries to grab the steering wheel away from us, well, our job is to not let that happen. Our destination, direction, and purpose must be #1.

      Finally, I enjoyed your insight about relationships: the key to a successful one is two people being in service to each other. And being loyal to each other. I love this! And I agree one hundred percent.

      But, I disagree ALL men are wolves in sheep’s clothing. You’d be surprised at how many guys are looking for love and for the “one.” In fact, that’s probably why we’re so fascinated by “what women want.” Ultimately, we want to make our woman happy.

      Thanks again for your great insights. It’s incredibly helpful to hear a female perspective. I learned a ton from you.


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