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Eye candy, man candy, hunks and heartthrobs…these are all terms for those hot looking guys that end up on the front of our romance novels. Some of these pictures are real scorchers, and every woman who looks at a cover will be looking for something a little different from every other woman. But how normal are these guys? Do you see them walking down 5th Avenue? Or Main Street, USA?

These gorgeous specimens of humanity have perfect features, smooth skin, and a steady gaze. They also have no extra weight on them at all. Wait…that describes Kate Moss, too. Hmm. To get those six-pack abs, well-defined pecs and bulging biceps, these male cover models have to have a body-fat below 3%. Is this healthy? Sure, they look great, but imagine what they have to put themselves through, the near-starvation they have to endure to get their body fat that low, and the hours upon hours in the gym. Frankly, I like looking at these guys, but when I think about the sacrifices they have to make to get there, I feel kinda sorry for them.

Let’s think, for a moment, about how feminists have reacted, over the last 40 years or so, to the stick-thin nature of female models. Most of us normal women couldn’t possibly compare favorably, and, jealousy aside, it isn’t a healthy role model for our young women. Anorexia and bulimia are potential nightmarish results of this kind of irresponsible portrayal of feminine beauty.

Men, young men in particular, are exposed to the same social pressures. They are learning that they have to be built like Michael David Barre in order to be physically attractive to women. Is this practical?

It is something to think about as we ogle all that tasty man candy on book covers. Those photos are real people. Just because they’re men does not dismiss our social responsibility to encourage portrayals of handsome but normal looking men.

Real men, men with average bodies are gorgeous, too. Let’s all try to appreciate them more, and maybe put a few of them on romance novel covers. A guy who spends 3 hours in a gym every day and eats nothing but chicken breasts might be pretty to look at, but I want to talk about books and current events, not bench-pressing 300 pounds. Give me a guy with two-pack abs and a brilliant mind any day. And give those models a cookie, would you?

4 Comments

  1. I’ve never really thought about it before … But those six-pack ab guys on the covers of books have never really appealed to me. Maybe it’s something to do with my own father – who was 5’8″, never worked out (but worked on an assembly line for many years) and was slender but not exactly the ideal male model of today.
    So my taste in men is for guys who are cute – reasonably, but not outta-sight good-locking – and slender, but not overly endowed with muscles. Brains appeal to me more than brawn.

    • I like to look at the hunky ones–except for the full monty shots with the extra-large privates (scary!)–but I much prefer a more cuddly guy with major brain power in real life. Maybe that’s the crux of the problem — “real life” — those models are real too, though we have a tendency to think of them as something else because they’re so perfect looking. I think I’d be just as happy with pictures of normal guys on the covers. They might not help sell books, though!

  2. Thought-provoking post, Patricia. I guess I don’t know so much about the male physiological make-up. I always assumed men had an easier time of it because they gain and lose weight differently/easier than women. But I suppose there are unrealistic expectations made of them as well. I always figured they had to work-out to keep those buff bodies, but didn’t think they had to be but so strict in their diet. Poor babies. They can come on over to my house anytime and I’ll give them something good to eat. 🙂

    • I’m sure they’d like to drink beer and eat french fries and still keep those physiques. It seems unlikely that we women will suddenly stop drooling over them; certainly I won’t be able to. But maybe we can acknowledge that what’s good for the goose might be good for the gander in this case. We shouldn’t ought to criticize men for wanting to look at pictures of young, thin women when we have corresponding desires with all the negative outcomes that go along with them. I may not have said that well in my article, but I feel that it’s important. Thanks for commenting, Jenna!

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