Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Male Sex Appeal in Romance Novels

The tall and sexy male sex appeal is consistent across the board in romance novels, but have you ever wondered why? Let’s take a look!

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male sex appeal in romance novels cover image- Kristi

The romance novel tends to have a standard description of the male protagonists–specifically, male sex appeal. Tall, dark, and handsome is a cliche for a reason. He’s at least six feet tall–more than likely taller–has washboard abs and shoulders meant to leverage for climbing or holding on for dear life, and a smile to knock you off your feet–the male sex appeal that grips us in without knowing. His bank account is mentioned by what he’s clothed in, and that man usually swims in the dough. Do we have Michaelangelo’s Renaissance masterpiece Statue of David to blame for this ideal male physique, or is this a reflection of male society’s ideal woman?

Book Covers With Visual Sex Appeal

Mom’s bodice ripper from the ’80s featuring Fabio tanned to perfection, golden locks blowing in the wind, and shirt unbuttoned showcasing his steely chest and abs haven’t upgraded much except the overly airbrushed look. S.L. Scott’s Best I Ever Had updates Fabio into a more contemporary man, casually leaning into his office chair, looking smolderingly at the camera while exposing his manscaped upper body. He certainly doesn’t have what one would call a ‘dad-bod,’ and his head of lusciously full hair isn’t hiding a combover.

romance novel book cover

Sexy Situations Enhance the Mental Image

Even if the cover doesn’t have an image of the male protagonist, the author’s description highlights his physical assets.

“Water droplets trickle down inches of pale muscle before disapperaring into a white towel wrapped around his narrow waist. He has V-cut abdominal muscles that point like an arrow to an area I sure as hell should not be thinking about right now. An area that proves Declan is well-endowed even when not aroused.”

-Lauren Asher, Terms and Conditions

The discrete cover of Lauren Asher’s second book to her Dreamland Billionaires Series, Terms and Conditions, only hides the spicy imagery from onlookers. Inside the pages, however, are juicy descriptions of Declan’s sex appeal. From nearly naked in a towel to fully clad in Tom Ford, his body impresses Iris no matter the situation.

terms and condition romance novel cover

4 Reasons Romance Novels Prefer a Prefect Male Protagonist Physique

The average male in the US is 5 feet 9 inches tall and approximately 190 pounds. If that’s what we typically see as we walk through the streets, then why are the men in the novels we love to binge not a reflection of that statistic? It’s even more curious given the love women on social media express over the ‘dad-bod’ and ‘big boys’. There are a few reasons I’ve gathered on why romance novels prefer a perfect male protagonist physique.

  1. That sexy facade usually comes with a crap attitude, and there’s no trope a romance novel embodies more than a sexy growly grump of a man turned into a sweet, doting lover.
  2. The female protagonist typically has self-esteem issues, and nabbing someone she deems physically out of her league breaks her mindset and establishes a sense of worthiness.
  3. The media shows that men with gym-worthy bodies are usually selfish and narcissistic. The romance novel changes the narrative to give those men a backstory worthy of creating this behavior. The female protagonist breaks down those walls and brings out his hidden goodness.
  4. Society places a high expectation–far above average–on what it considers the perfect woman, so why wouldn’t there be an equally high standard for men in the romance novel?
male sex appeal image

Our Conclusion?

Romance novels are about the happily ever after, the fairy tale ending to a whirlwind romance steeped in drama, epiphany, and adoring displays of affection. Given the high expectations of exaggerated events, I think it’s fitting that our male protagonist displays an exaggerated elevation of physical prowess. If he didn’t, his attitude would leave nothing to be desired, and our romance would come to a screeching disaster-fueled halt before it ever began.

Want more romance content? Click here for a list of love stories through the ages.