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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When the hero makes love to himself


You know what he's reaching for!

I'm not sure how many of you pay attention to the reader forums on Amazon, but this past weekend, an interesting topic appeared. I repeated it in my new poll, asking you all how you feel about it when the hero "takes matters into his own hands." That's a silly euphemism for "wanks."

Society has long accepted that men do this. But, oddly, in romance novels part of contriving sexual tension is putting a hero in a situation where he wants the heroine but he just can't have her for whatever reason. This leads to frustrated, sometimes rude or aggressive behavior on the hero's part because he's so hungry for her!

A male friend of mine made this point when he read Ride the Fire and said, "So do romance heros never jack off? I mean this Nicholas guy could quit kicking his traps around if he just got himself off."

In real life, of course, most guys would ease some of that tension by grabbing hold of the root of the problem. Twenty years ago, one would never have read that in a romance novel. Nowadays it's much more common. The Amazon thread, and my latest poll, ask you to say how you feel about that in a book.

What was interesting in the Amazon posts was that a lot of readers find it very hot, while others say they're completely repulsed. The latter were far fewer in number. Some said it just depended on how "icky" it was. As an expression of the hero's desperation they were willing to accept it.


A bunny is a girl's best friend!

What was just as interesting was the almost universal dislike of heroines who do the same. There's still a double standard, it seems, one that says a woman's sexual pleasure is only legit when it comes from the hands/mouth/naughty bits of a man. There was a loud rejection of "battery-operated boyfriends," though some said such things were okay if used by the hero on the heroine, again placing the heroine's pleasure under the control of the hero. (Is my inner feminist showing?)

In my historicals, there's less mention of self-pleasuring — masturbation is such a judgmental word, I think — with only Wentworth doing the deed "on camera." Refresh my memory if I'm wrong...

In my contemp RS books, Will ("Catch of the Day") admits to doing it and overhears Lissy using her vibrator, which he then sabotages. (They're in the midst of a bet to see who can make it the two weeks until their wedding without asking the other for sex, so though he is using his hand, he thinks she's cheating to use her B.O.B.) Marc does it in prison, though not "on camera," and he thinks about it when he's on the lam after breaking out. Julian and Reece reference it, but I don't think they do it when the reader's watching. (How rude of them!) As for Gabe, yep. You'll have to wait till November to see how/when.

Among the contemporary heroines, there's Kara's "jiggle stick," and Sophie's vibrator, which Marc discovers when searching her house for planted drugs. I don't think there's any mention of it with Tessa. And Kat? Nope. Her situation is very different than the others due to her Navajo upbringing.

I obviously find it sexy when the heroes at least think about it. When the heroines have toys (not that they necessarily use them), that makes them real to me. One problem I've always had with contemp heroines is their tendency to be like women from my grandmother's generation -- waaaay too goodie-goodie for a contemporary woman.

So what are your thoughts, gentle reader? Let's hear it. And there are a few more days to vote in the poll!

18 comments:

Barbara said...

Oh boy did that wake me up!! Granted it's late and I should be sleeping, but whoa what a post! Okay, my thoughts are that for me when I read and the hero takes care of business--it's very sexy. But, truthfully, I think I've only read one or two novels where the woman took matters into her own hands.

I think generally for me, I find the man doing it more attractive because he is, afterall, the character I would find to be most appealing. I wasn't turned off with the scenes I read revolving around the female, but it wasn't anything that left me in awe, lol! I suppose if the author was vivid with regard to the fact that the heroine was "thinking" about her hero, then it would be a bit more drool worthy.

Great post, Pamela!!

Linda A. said...

For me, it all depends on the context and how it's written. When it's the wee German princeling, I roll my eyes and think 'pathetic loser'. When it's Morgan pining for Amalie, it's hot. I've read stories where the villain's doing it while having depraved fantasies about the heroine - then I shudder and can't wait for the hero to deal with the creep. I agree that it can be very hot when it's written that way, and I think it can also be hot when the heroine's doing it. It's an expression of desire.
By the way, I've reread Surrender - more slowly this time - and I'm no longer so sure I'd choose Morgan over Iain. I want both! I love that Iain cares so deeply about his men and suffers for them. The scene where Annie's wiping the powder and sweat from his face made me tear up. Yeah, I didn't vote in your menage poll because I'd only read one book, but I know how I'd vote now.

Christi said...

You know that is funny you brought that up. When I wrote my manuscript (for RWA) I had my hero (remember it is 1809) "help himself" in a scene when we was away and frustrated. The scene was not overly detailed but I eventually cut it b/c I took the whole trip he was on out of the manuscript since it took my storyline off focus for a bit. Yet, I had no problem thinking about my Hero doing it only b/c I would rather he do so than slake his lust with any other females.

I am not opposed to it being in books b/c it is a part of real life. Even though it was not a condoned behavior does not mean that men refrained from the impulse. But I do have to admit that I like when the Hero does it while wanting and fantasizing about the Heroine and not just as a relaxation technique.

Now, as for the Heroine. I agree, that is a tricky topic. Sure it is ok for her to have a "jiggle stick" but to write a detailed scene with it without a hero holding it just isn't really done currently. Hmmm.

Heather said...

Well...I think because we read romance, that if there is any self gratification going on, we want to "see" it in a romantic way. I'm reading a book right now where the hero "took matters into his own hands"...what made it sexy, was that the heroine was secretly watching him (of course it wasn't so secret since he knew she was watching him). So there's that voyeristic aspect of romance between the h/h. If the reverse happened and it was the heroine taking matters into her own hands (and I've read books like that), it's boring to read if it's just her and BOB, but if the hero is secretly watching her...well, then it takes on a whole new excitement. Reading about the h/h wanking off, privately, well...like any part of a book we read...does it move the story along in any way? If it doesn't, then I really don't want to read about it. Just like I don't need a blow by blow of them brushing their teeth before bed, or shaving in the morning...none of these actions, written in the story, move the story along. We just assume they brush their teeth, shave...and yes, privately wank off!!!

Zeek said...

O I'm all about a good male wank scene (that picture is HOT btw!).

In fact, it's almost a fetish of mine! Almost nothing gets me hotter- or sticks with me more- in a romance novel, and I think it's because of the "he wants her so bad" thing.

And I never minded it for women either- although it's the male ones that "does" it for me. :P

Like the other said, Of course it has to be by a character I find attractive- if it's a pervy villein it has quite the opposite effect, but that can be useful too for a writer, no?

So I say- write it in baby! grrrrrrr

haleigh said...

I'm with Heather on this one. What makes sex scenes in romances hot (for me) is the emotional connection and intimacy between the h/h. It's the growth and development of their physical attraction for one another.

For instance, the first time Marc and Sophie go at it, there's huge emotional implications for both of them, deep intimacy, and it drastically affects their relationship. To me, *that's* a hot love scene. Watching Sophie by herself with a vibrator has no emotional impact, and therefore I have no desire to read it. If characters are just whacking off for the sake of whacking off, good for them, but I'm going to start skimming. I mean, we all know how it works, right? LOL

Now, if an author can pull off that level of emotional depth in a scene where a character is alone, then by all means, go for it! I just haven't seen it done yet.

Heather said...

I'm going to go off topic here...I have a question, cause I just read the "Naked Edge" excerpt...and of course, I want it NOW. So I go to Amazon...is there going to be an EBOOK of this one? I thought Berkley had finally decided to go ebook. I want it in EBOOK dammit!!!

Jane said...

I'm not turned off if the hero or heroine pleasures themselves "on camera." Have you decided if Natalie will have a jiggle stick?

Hi, Barbara — I can totally see what you're saying. It's the hero that most of us find titillating, not the heroine. But if the heroine were thinking of the hero, it might make it hot. That's a good point! And thanks! I was fascinated by the Amazon discussion and thought I'd bring it here. :-)

Hi, Linda — I totally forgot that Morgan does it. Thanks for the reminder! I think that's exactly how writers intend it. When the villain's doing it, it's an expression of his depravity. When the hero's doing it, it's an expression of desire. With Wentworth, it gave me a chance to explore his obsession with Annie just a bit more...personally.

And, let's see... That's another vote for Iain and Morgan then? LOL!

Hi, Christi — Thanks for sharing that about your manuscript. I agree that if it draws the story line off track, then it probably needed to be cut. And I'm with you! I definitely prefer the hero to have a bit of solo sex if he needs release than to hook up with a prostitute or other women. I also agree that the hero should be thinking about the heroine, and not just trying to get to sleep quicker. I can't really imagine a detailed "jiggle stick" scene, except maybe if the hero were there watching her or something.

Hi, Heather — I think you're absolutely right. I think the key is that we want the sexual aspects of the story to blend with the overall romance plot. We want to see the sex feed the romance, not just be there for its own sake. So if the h/h go it alone, it need to reflect back on the romance plot, or it really isn't necessary to the story.

Yes, I believe Naked Edge will be in Kindle format when it's finally released. But that's not till November. Not sure why Amazon doesn't list that yet.

Hey, Zeek! How is life as a camp follower? I'm glad your membership finally arrived. Eileen at the Rogers Island Visitor Center is one of the coolest people I know! And thanks for the feedback on the solo sex issue. I love the way you put it! Made me LOL! As for my books, well, I write pretty much what I want and for me "wanking" is just part of keeping the sexual tension/romance story line alive and real. Or in Wentworth's case, as you suggest, a useful way of revealing more about him.

Hi, Haleigh — Well said! And I agree. All of the sex -- not just solo sex -- must mean something for the story. I would think that's true for well-written erotica too. If it's just having sex or wanking for the sake of having more sex in the book, it's going to feel pretty empty. I'm glad you found Marc and Sophie's first love scene to be hot.

And you know what? I bet I could pull off a "Marc solo" scene and make it emotionally stirring if I wrote about him "killing to" another Sophie fantasy while still behind bars, because he really cared for her and missed her so much. She became an expression of everything he would never have... Maybe I should do that just for fun and post it on my Web site. LOL!

Hi, Jane — I haven't decided much about Natalie's story yet. I've been focused on getting to know her inner turmoil. That's always where I start with characters. I'll know more about her when that falls into place. What happened to her during Katrina was pretty terrible.

Thanks, everyone, for your insightful comments!

Heather said...

OK...NEW POLL...how many here want Pamela to write the "solo" scene for Marc...just for us?

:::raising hand::: ME!!!

Ahhhhhh...I see a re-read of Marc and Sophie coming up!!!

LOL, Heather! I might be persuaded to do that. I can see it (him!) in my head very clearly! Let's see who else is interested.

Ronlyn said...

I only have a couple minutes as I'm dealing with the phone company (blarg!)
Anyhoo...I think it's HOT! The first time I ever ready about a man taking matters into his own hands was Sabrina Jefferies "A Pirate Lord." I was shocked at first. Wide eyed and white knuckled I gripped the book and simply couldn't read fast enough. And, well, then I had to read it again. LOL.
When it fits into the sotry (like with everything else, invluding regular old fashioned sex) I like it. man or women, doesn't matter to me, as long as it doesn't derail the plot.

now, I'm off to battle the phone tech and beat him into submission.

alba said...

Well for one I dont mind the hero taking care of business with his own handy pandy;} Its hot

Jo said...

alba...
ROTFLMAO. Handy pandy??????

I think it is so erotic as I read a scene from a romance novel when the main male character ummmm...ummm...blows the cannon.
I agree with the other fine ladies here. :}

Hi, Ronlyn --

I hope you won the phone battle and got the system working again. I've never read the book you mentioned, but sounds like I should. :-)

Yes, just as you say, it can't derail the story. I bet we'll see more of it in romance in the future. I know you won't mind that. *g*

Hi, Alba — Handy pandy??? LOL! I've heard guys call it "Rosy Palm and the Five Fingers." I've never heard "handy pandy."

Hi, Jo — Blows the cannon? I'm learning so many new terms from this blog. I've never heard that before. LOL!

I think because of this conversation, I'm going to have to put a "self-service" scene in NAKED EDGE. And when you all read it, you can say that you remember this blog post. :-)

Amanda said...

Ok I do find it extreemely hot if the hero takes matters into his own hands...... it doesn't disgust me but I do like it mentioned in a certain way I am a little fussy!

But this is certainly an interesting topic

Jo said...

IF you know me well, I research...stuff.
I found these terms Pamela, in case you need a phrase or two to describe...the action.
One handed clapping (what a miracle feat this is), manual override, charm the cobra, butter your corn, squeeze the lemon, hitching to heaven, staff meeting (note taking not required), whipping the pony, milking the bull (why a guy would try THIS is beyond me), making the bald guy puke (that's a visual I'd rather not think about), smacking your sister (not going there), devil's handshake, spreading the mayo (reaching in the refrigerator for the EGADS... 'Miracle Whip' to my horror. Not going there. I'll use mustard from now on). Get Connor in here cause we've got to warn him!!!!
...clean your rifle, polish the sword, polish your bayonet,
polish your helmet (are you using lemon scent Pledge?! Cause that might fall under squeezing the lemon now that I think upon it), shaking hands with the governor (so wash your hands good), and sending out the troops.
Nuff said. No other comment.
Jaw dropping to the ground. Next time, I'll just request a hug along with a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Who knew ?!!!!
Surely not I...

Hi, Amanda — I think most readers fall somewhere on the spectrum near you. They think it can be hot... provided it's not written in a way that they find distasteful. And given that everyone has different ideas of what's distasteful, I'm betting that the same scene could turn a lot of readers off and at the same time be a favorite for others.

Hi, Jo — ROFL! Well, there's no shortage of terminology, is there? Goodness, the creativity of some of those slang terms is hilarious! Good for you for being such a diligent researcher. :-)

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