The Alpha male = asshole

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Jan74

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Oh I have to add, I do love a good sweet romance too and a HEA....my post might have come off as a put down to those who do write that kind of novel. Like I said I really enjoyed Twilight and sometimes I need a lighter novel with good people :) So I'm sorry if I offended anyone who writes those novels. Like most people I love a variety of genre's and sub genre's.
 

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Since I've pretty well said what I have to say, and there's not much point in rehashing--or getting the thread locked--I'm stepping out now. But I would like to leave this thought.

Which is that there are some things we'd better judge, and some things we'd better shun, but because it puts so much responsibility on our heads, we'd better be amazingly careful how we do it. Oh, yes, this is a tight line to walk. There's hardly a tighter one. If moral neutrality is the short way to Hell, moral non-neutrality can get us to the same place.

The appalling truth is that humanity, on its own, will never be able to establish any absolute definition of "good" at all. There is no authority for doing so. Your good and my good and someone else's good strive for control, but that's all we have. Governments cannot define it, philosophers and academics cannot define it: authority is the authority of mutual consent and/or force. There is rule by a majority, or rule by a minority. But the majority is just as capable of tyranny as the minority, and just as capable of evil. A democracy can start up gas chambers as easily as Hitler.

There is no absolute authority for Good without an absolute authority that is higher than human beings. If we ever want a Good, we need a real God who exists independently of ourselves and holds power without us.

I know that God. I have experienced His power in my life. I lived for most of my adult life with a scoliotic curve in my spine that caused more and more pain as I grew older. Then, a car accident that should have killed me straightened my crooked back in an instant. I have a straight back today, and because I also have a relationship with the God who healed me, I know that His Word, the Bible, is true. This tells me He is coming back soon, to put an end to conflicts of right and wrong.

I'm glad that day is not far ahead. But until then, I will speak up. Because I don't want to live in a society where we accept that cruelty, whether fact or fantasy, is not something to be ashamed of.
 

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You have been warned! This is dangerous! That's calling out. You must not! You should be ashamed! I shun you! That's judgment.

I think that's a good distinction. Using shaming in too heavy-handed a way can invite pushback, too. Like, if I'm trying to lose weight for health reasons and I order a big gooey dessert at a restaurant, if the person I'm eating with reacts by saying, "That's disgusting! Why would you eat that? Don't you have any self-control?" I'm likely to eat the entire thing just to spite them. And if they go on to lecture me about how ruining my own health contributes to skyrocketing healthcare premiums and therefore my choices hurt others too, I'll probably order a second helping of dessert. Because the feeling that others are trying to take control of your choices or cross your personal boundaries instinctively makes people bristle and go into defensive mode.

Sometimes a gentle, "Are you sure about this?" can have more impact than an angry lecture. (And, ultimately, if I do want to eat a big gooey dessert even knowing that it's bad for my health and that Brownie Obsessions will probably be the downfall of Western civilization, that's my right.)

So, yeah...I'd say that having discussions about tropes is important, talking about the ideas embedded in fiction is important, reminders that a lot of behavior in romance novels (and fiction in general) would be unethical if played out in real life is super important. Because there is a danger of younger readers (especially kids) internalizing certain harmful ideas about relationships. But directly confronting someone about their choice of reading material (or diet) is usually a bad idea.
 

Jan74

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Since I've pretty well said what I have to say, and there's not much point in rehashing--or getting the thread locked--I'm stepping out now. But I would like to leave this thought.

Which is that there are some things we'd better judge, and some things we'd better shun, but because it puts so much responsibility on our heads, we'd better be amazingly careful how we do it. Oh, yes, this is a tight line to walk. There's hardly a tighter one. If moral neutrality is the short way to Hell, moral non-neutrality can get us to the same place.

The appalling truth is that humanity, on its own, will never be able to establish any absolute definition of "good" at all. There is no authority for doing so. Your good and my good and someone else's good strive for control, but that's all we have. Governments cannot define it, philosophers and academics cannot define it: authority is the authority of mutual consent and/or force. There is rule by a majority, or rule by a minority. But the majority is just as capable of tyranny as the minority, and just as capable of evil. A democracy can start up gas chambers as easily as Hitler.

There is no absolute authority for Good without an absolute authority that is higher than human beings. If we ever want a Good, we need a real God who exists independently of ourselves and holds power without us.

I know that God. I have experienced His power in my life. I lived for most of my adult life with a scoliotic curve in my spine that caused more and more pain as I grew older. Then, a car accident that should have killed me straightened my crooked back in an instant. I have a straight back today, and because I also have a relationship with the God who healed me, I know that His Word, the Bible, is true. This tells me He is coming back soon, to put an end to conflicts of right and wrong.

I'm glad that day is not far ahead. But until then, I will speak up. Because I don't want to live in a society where we accept that cruelty, whether fact or fantasy, is not something to be ashamed of.
God has no bearing on this. Religion has caused more deaths/pain/laws and unjust horrors that he/she/it is best left out of it. The bible is not a book to live by, it's a bunch of stories written down hundreds of years after the fact and can be twisted to serve all sides. I'm not being disrespectful of religion, my grandfather was a minister and my boys are in a catholic school....however religion should have no place in this discussion. There are many many many people who are ashiest or agnostic or people who believe in all sorts of different ideologies and they are free to do that....so the "Christian God" has no power over morality, especially when those people use the bible to say that being homosexual is wrong etc. Sorry but I take immense offense to bringing God into this.

I think that's a good distinction. Using shaming in too heavy-handed a way can invite pushback, too. Like, if I'm trying to lose weight for health reasons and I order a big gooey dessert at a restaurant, if the person I'm eating with reacts by saying, "That's disgusting! Why would you eat that? Don't you have any self-control?" I'm likely to eat the entire thing just to spite them. And if they go on to lecture me about how ruining my own health contributes to skyrocketing healthcare premiums and therefore my choices hurt others too, I'll probably order a second helping of dessert. Because the feeling that others are trying to take control of your choices or cross your personal boundaries instinctively makes people bristle and go into defensive mode.

Sometimes a gentle, "Are you sure about this?" can have more impact than an angry lecture. (And, ultimately, if I do want to eat a big gooey dessert even knowing that it's bad for my health and that Brownie Obsessions will probably be the downfall of Western civilization, that's my right.)

So, yeah...I'd say that having discussions about tropes is important, talking about the ideas embedded in fiction is important, reminders that a lot of behavior in romance novels (and fiction in general) would be unethical if played out in real life is super important. Because there is a danger of younger readers (especially kids) internalizing certain harmful ideas about relationships. But directly confronting someone about their choice of reading material (or diet) is usually a bad idea.
I love your analogy! Being told "don't" or "can't" is an invite to "yes I absolutely will".

Anyways I think we are beating a dead horse so it's been an interesting derail and I'm happy to resume back to our opening topic :)
 

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I agree, the best course involves conversation. That's generally how a disparate group can come to consensus, even if it's a reluctant one. The Harry Potter example is a good one because some of the reactions to the book did include straight-up community censorship. My kid's friend's family absolutely forbade the reading of the book because their pastor said it was devil-worship or some such. The pronouncement came, and with no conversation at all, and no independent reading of the book, the congregants said, OK!

Had they read the book, they might have objected to the content anyway, or they might have seen that HP is all about good vs. evil. They might have decided to ban themselves from HP anyway, but at least it would have been a conversation leading to an informed decision.

So talking about where these lines are is always beneficial in my mind, even when we disagree or (occasionally) get our hackles up a bit, because it just creates awareness. I've certainly watched the line move farther and farther away from rapey heroes in the last several years, and seen the ramp up of the conversation in the wake of FSOG. That's all to the good. We talk a lot about consent and condoms, too, and that's also good. The vast majority of romance and erotica writers do want to portray healthy relationships and healthy sex. It isn't really very romantic, otherwise. ;)
 

Marian Perera

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The appalling truth is that humanity, on its own, will never be able to establish any absolute definition of "good" at all.

I don't find that particularly appalling. Times change, and very often, what's considered moral changes with them. I think that's a good thing.

There is no absolute authority for Good without an absolute authority that is higher than human beings. If we ever want a Good, we need a real God who exists independently of ourselves and holds power without us.

Assuming this "God" is good. I don't buy into that assumption.

I know that God. I have experienced His power in my life. I lived for most of my adult life with a scoliotic curve in my spine that caused more and more pain as I grew older. Then, a car accident that should have killed me straightened my crooked back in an instant. I have a straight back today, and because I also have a relationship with the God who healed me, I know that His Word, the Bible, is true. This tells me He is coming back soon, to put an end to conflicts of right and wrong.

If your religion makes you happy, that's great. But it's something I have no need of, and see no evidence for. Personally, nothing turns me off religion more than people preaching at me, and I agree with Jan that religion has no place in this discussion.
 

Jan74

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I agree, the best course involves conversation. That's generally how a disparate group can come to consensus, even if it's a reluctant one. The Harry Potter example is a good one because some of the reactions to the book did include straight-up community censorship. My kid's friend's family absolutely forbade the reading of the book because their pastor said it was devil-worship or some such. The pronouncement came, and with no conversation at all, and no independent reading of the book, the congregants said, OK!

Had they read the book, they might have objected to the content anyway, or they might have seen that HP is all about good vs. evil. They might have decided to ban themselves from HP anyway, but at least it would have been a conversation leading to an informed decision.

^^^Yes that's it, they can say "I'm not reading this" and that is fine, but to push their belief on towns/schools/libraries is wrong. They should never have that kind of power or authority. Not in a free democratic society. Church and state must stay far far far apart...like ghost-busters "don't cross the streams!" :)
 

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I'm going to remind everyone that respect your fellow writer applies.
 

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This is a very interesting post and all the twist down the rabbit hole it has taken lol. I wanted to post last night but was side track by my new BB-8 lol. Unlike most people here, I do judge :chair. I judge, evaluate, and assess people for a very good pay and do so in my personal life. However, I'm a very liberal thinker so what I judge people on have nothing do with things like race or sexuality or if they like domesticated cats -okay I do judge people for liking domesticated cats :scared:. Due to the nature of the work I do and my personal views as a womanist, I am always mindful of the characters I write and their portrayal. While I don't condemn other writers who promote arsehole alpha, I don't condone it either and I consciously avoid spending my money on novels which promote ideals or concepts that are not align with my ethical beliefs. Am I wrong to do so? Perhaps, however, I know what type of society I wish to live in and the only way to ensure it's one of equality is by not supporting those who promote suppression or oppression as good in any subliminal way. Romance genre may be fiction and everyone is entitle to the fantasy they enjoy but it doesn't negate my personal responsibility to empower and uplift women when and where I have a chance.


To go to the original point -I'm still trying to think of a romance novel I've read where the alpha hero didn't get into the arsehole territory. Every time I think of one, I think they border more so on beta spectrum of the stereotypes than alpha or have a scene or two of arsehole-ness.
 
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morngnstar

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If your religion makes you happy, that's great. But it's something I have no need of, and see no evidence for. Personally, nothing turns me off religion more than people preaching at me, and I agree with Jan that religion has no place in this discussion.

Oddly enough, religion is where I learned to be wary of judging.
 

Jan74

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This is a very interesting post and all the twist down the rabbit hole it has taken lol. I wanted to post last night but was side track by my new BB-8 lol.
OMG BB was on last night????I love BB I thought it always came on spring through the summer...I'm so lost!

I consciously avoid spending my money on novels which promote ideals or concepts that are not align with my ethical beliefs. Am I wrong to do so?
No you are not wrong to do so, it's your money and why would you support an author that is in conflict with your beliefs? I know I wouldn't. For instance my mother is an anti-harrypotter person, so she would never in a million years spend any money on any of the HP stuff. What would be wrong is if she pushed her beliefs on me and insisted I not spend any money on HP, and since I happen to love HP I own every book and all the movies, and I don't feel bad about it even if it she thinks witchcraft is evil etc....I'm a very good eye roller, I've had years of practice. Looking back its amazing she ever allowed us to go trick or treating....and actually made us witch costumes one year...go figure. But I digress.


To go to the original point -I'm still trying to think of a romance novel I've read where the alpha hero didn't get into the arsehole territory. Every time I think of one, I think they border more so on beta spectrum of the stereotypes than alpha or have a scene or two of arsehole-ness.
Oh I think there plenty out there, unless you have a very low bar for asshole behavior and then it might be harder to find.

I personally like the asshole when he makes no excuses for being that and doesn't try to pretend to be something he isn't. I like seeing the asshole with good qualities much better than the "good" guy who turns into a douche bag half way through the novel.

I wonder and maybe this is a new thread I should start but...I wonder why women like the alpha asshole or the controlling dominant man? I'm asking myself this because I love the rough mean dominant controlling man in a novel....I can really sink my teeth into that kind of romance. Where you have this rough mean biker guy protecting his girl....I mean I know I'm not alone in this. Maybe because in real life most women aren't in controlling relationships we run the household and often work outside the house and raise the kids, so maybe we like it because all decisions are taken away? We like that someone else is taking over? I don't know it's a fine line between me loving the asshole and tossing the book across the room....or now promptly returning it from kindle unlimited section.
 
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morngnstar

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Maybe because in real life most women aren't in controlling relationships we run the household and often work outside the house and raise the kids, so maybe we like it because all decisions are taken away? We like that someone else is taking over? I don't know it's a fine line between me loving the asshole and tossing the book across the room....or now promptly returning it from kindle unlimited section.

Could be. I've heard that real-life powerful men often like to be dominated in the bedroom. Sounds similar.
 

Jan74

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Could be. I've heard that real-life powerful men often like to be dominated in the bedroom. Sounds similar.

Really? That is very interesting. Sex is definitely a release so I could see the person who is in charge all day long and has oodles of stress wanting to let someone else take the reigns in the bedroom. A place they don't have to be the boss. Although it would make sense in real life, it would do nothing for me in novel which is probably why most of the men are very dominant in the bedroom.
 

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Just a few of the things the "hero" did to the heroine : paid men to kidnap and/or sexually assault her on two different occasions, kidnapped her himself, threatened to murder her younger brother if she didn't marry him, and finally, once she was his wife, arranged for her to be delivered bound and blindfolded to a crowd of perverts so they could gang-rape her. All this because he hates the heroine's family and wants to destroy them.

I'm speechless. How can people like this sort of character? How do people think that that's the guy the heroine will be best suited to?
 

Marian Perera

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I'm speechless. How can people like this sort of character?

With heroes this twisted, readers might feel a weird fascination, the same way they'd react to someone like Hannibal Lecter - except in a romance, the one thing you know is that this hero, no matter how vicious and cruel he is, will end up falling for the heroine in the end (and sequels will see him settled down in domestic bliss with her and their kids). So it might be a bit easier to like him.

And with this particular author, there's nearly always someone worse as the antagonist. So in one of her novels, the hero kidnaps and forces himself on the heroine, not to mention belittling and insulting her up to the end of the book. But he also saves her from the villain, who is a racist, fascist, child molesting terrorist (and who aims a kick at a cat at one point, just in case his other crimes weren't enough to make him despicable).

So some readers adored the hero. It also helped that he had the requisite sad backstory where he was abused.

How do people think that that's the guy the heroine will be best suited to?

IMO, with a lot of these sorts of romances, it's not so much that the heroine is best suited to this guy the heroine is best suited to, but that he's the only choice she has. I guess if I was forced to choose between a controlling, abusive rapist and a racist, fascist, child molesting terrorist who kicks cats, I might pick the former as well. Assuming I didn't kill both of them and possibly myself as well to escape this nightmare.

Plus, the guy gives her multiple orgasms. Any time a guy gives the heroine multiple orgasms, he's The One for her.
 

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Plus, the guy gives her multiple orgasms. Any time a guy gives the heroine multiple orgasms, he's The One for her.
That is one recurring theme in many romances-- physically and emotionally satisfying sex without any work or practice or communication means the couple is suited for each other. Clearly effortless orgasms are a pretty widespread fantasy among women, perhaps because having orgasms take time and effort for so many women (and most can't orgasm from intercourse alone, even though we're conditioned to believe we "should" be able to). Add to this that many men don't really have the patience or understanding to do whatever is needed to bring their partner to orgasm, or to its brink, prior to the advent of thrusting and grunting (and many women can't articulate what they need, or feel uncomfortable doing so).

So maybe it's not surprising that many of us daydream that there might be someone out there who can satisfy us with very little effort or communication required. This still doesn't explain why it's so common to fantasize that the guy with this golden penis is also an asshole, though. Maybe it's because of the desire to believe that there's good in everyone, or that if you just love someone enough (or if he just loves you enough) he'll stop being a jerk. Many of us have been in terrible relationships where we've stayed too long in that hope (I know I did long ago).

And of course every novel needs some sort of challenge, or series of challenges, for the protagonist to overcome. Since the romantic arc is central to the plot of a romance, there need to be obstacles to the couple falling and staying in love. One major (and easy to construct) obstacle would be one or both partners being an asshole. There are romances where the FMC is a jerk of some kind too, but since most romance readers are women, there's generally a need to make the FMC someone the reader can relate to from the beginning of the story. So her faults can't be too egregious.
 
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Marian Perera

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Heh, golden penis. I may refer to that in the future.

So maybe it's not surprising that many of us daydream that there might be someone out there who can satisfy us with very little effort or communication required.

A good aversion of this trope is Courtney Milan's The Governess Affair, where the hero works to give the heroine agency in their bedroom (she was raped, and now she's afraid of sex). It's a very touching scene.

And of course every novel needs some sort of challenge, or series of challenges, for the protagonist to overcome. Since the romantic arc is central to the plot of a romance, there need to be obstacles to the couple falling and staying in love. One major (and easy to construct) obstacle would be one or both partners being an asshole. There are romances where the FMC is a jerk of some kind too, but since most romance readers are women, there's generally a need to make the FMC someone the reader can relate to from the beginning of the story. So her faults can't be too egregious.

No, they can't. It's also rare to have the heroine's behavior excused by an abusive childhood.

In any event, many readers will forgive rape from a hero before they forgive a cold remark from a heroine, so giving her flaws beyond "she's clumsy" or "she doesn't trust this man - for now" can be a risky prospect.
 
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I'm speechless. How can people like this sort of character? How do people think that that's the guy the heroine will be best suited to?

I think it's because all the rapes and so on are in a book or a movie that is clearly a fantasy. An article in Ms. Magazine in the 80s (I think) explained rape fantasies as "the most gorgeous man in the world won't take No for an answer. " It pointed to the book and the movie "The Story of O." All the men are gorgeous. The woman is beautiful and wears the most fashionable and lovely clothing. The settings are mansions or seaside condos. So the readers are choosing to vicariously live the experiences which in real life they would take up rocket launchers to resist.

Fast forward to today. In"Fifty Shades of Grey" the abuser is super-hot, a billionaire, and hiding the fact that he secretly loves the girl he's mistreating - again in the most decorous of settings and clothing.

Something of the same fantasy element is in many Regency romances. The arrogant man (who is always humbled by love of the virginal girl) is an Earl or a Duke. In the related Scottish Highlander novels the savage man is a chieftain and hot, not some knuckle-dragging peasant with a sword who lives in a dirty hovel.

In more realistic romances the fantasy element is subtler but still there.
 
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Laer Carroll

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This still doesn't explain why it's so common to fantasize that the guy with this golden penis is also an asshole, though.

A lot of men are taught to be assholes. I was. I was bombarded from birth with messages both obvious and subtle to be aggressive and unemotional and violent – cannon fodder for the military. “Big boys don’t cry” and the like was told to me millions of times. “Women like leaders,” decisive men, ambitious men, “take charge” men. I remember being told that my job with women was to turn No to a Maybe, a Maybe to a Yes. And once a woman was conquered to discard her for the next challenge.

So I don’t find it strange that women undergo a similar relentless and often subtle kind of brainwashing FOR MILLENNIA to expect men to be assholes. To pardon unpardonable behavior in exchange for the privilege and the pleasure of male company.

In times when a woman could not have or make her own wealth it became a survival trait to internalize submission to men, to get as much pleasure as they could scrounge out of their sexual experiences. Now that the situation is a good deal better the stain on their souls, and of we men who've been similarly stained, still hangs on as evidenced in our novels.

These are my guesses, anyway. I wonder what the sociologists theorize about the subject. Anyone know?
 

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Something of the same fantasy element is in many Regency romances.

LOL, this reminded me of a Harry Potter fanfic I read once. It used the ever-popular "Death Eaters force Snape to have sex with Hermione" trope, and Snape could have had a great side career as a male model, he was so muscular and athletically built. He must also have discovered shampoo, because there was no mention at all of his greasy hair.
 

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I think one thing that gets left out of consideration of the appeal of these kinds of very domineering heroes is catharsis.

You know that niggling feeling that you could totally have made a go of it as an adventurer, or that if you were plunged into peril, you suddenly find that somewhere inside of you was a hyper-competent badass just waiting to wake up and take charge? Part of that calls out in romance, as well - the fantasy that you could TOTALLY handle and tame a guy who was just too hot, too rough, too dangerous for anyone else. Romance gives you the chance to see a heroine who can do that, who can get swept away by that overwhelming force, but in the end, this big, bad, rough and tough guy who has done horrible things - she's got his heart in her hand, and he's made himself vulnerable in a way that he's done with no one else. (At least, in the most common narrative - there are dark romances where the guy never has that emotional catharsis and repentant moment, but I'd guess they're less common, and hit different buttons for people.)

And it's completely safe. Because the reader isn't the heroine, and the reader knows before going in that it all ends happily. That makes the "abusive" actions more like riding a roller coaster, or going into a really well-done haunted house. You might scream and clutch your friend, but you don't REALLY think the guy with the fake chainsaw poses any threat to you. It's all controlled, designed to evoke an exciting emotional response, but incapable of doing you any real harm. The reader never really forgets that s/he can put the book down and walk away, and the alpha-hole, no matter how powerful and dangerous he is within his fictional realm, has no power over the essential reader at all. So it's safe to explore the dark side, to fall a little in love with someone totally unsuitable.
 

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I agree totally. I think it's the same with readers who like intense horror or porn.
 

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I came to this late, but Jan74 has said it all. Cut, edit, print. I was a federal cop and many, many people called me to breakup some pretty bad arguments and assaults. In every case, these men were controlers, loud mouthed, abusive, insulting and demeaning to their women. The short men were the worst of the lot. That's the Napoleon Complex. I've been trying to educate women about this for 50 years. I didn't have a whole lot of luck, but some did understand as though a revelation hit them. The majority asked me, well who can I respect if it isn't that kind of man--who is powerful without those traits? I told them you could stop at Clint Eastwood, because he is that subdued, quiet and intimate male, both on and off stage. Those gals shut up and gave me squinting eyes. It was an "Ah, Ha" moment. I met Clint Eastwood--he studies--looks through you. He evaluates very quickly without saying a word. That's power. That's a man.
 
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Helix

not ready for summer
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I came to this late, but Jan74 has said it all. Cut, edit, print. I was a federal cop and many, many people called me to breakup some pretty bad arguments and assaults. In every case, these men were controlers, loud mouthed, abusive, insulting and demeaning to their women. The short men were the worst of the lot. That's the Napoleon Complex. I've been trying to educate women about this for 50 years. I didn't have a whole lot of luck, but some did understand as though a revelation hit them. The majority asked me, well who can I respect if it isn't that kind of man--who is powerful without those traits? I told them you could stop at Clint Eastwood, because he is that subdued, quiet and intimate male, both on and off stage. Those gals shut up and gave me squinting eyes. It was an "Ah, Ha" moment. I met Clint Eastwood--he studies--looks through you. He evaluates very quickly without saying a word. That's power. That's a man.

Maybe educating men is the way to go.
 

triceretops

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That's an excellent point. That's actually where it starts. I've tried it, but those men put me in the wimp, pussy-whipped cage. I think this all has to do with culture and history--men's and women's places in society. Women have been so down-trodden and hobbled, that they are accustomed to harsh order and sublime submissiveness. The military has led the way for the ruthlessness and domination of the male species--major confrontation--no quarter given, equipping him for war. Too damn bad he many times brings it home with him.

I'm a man, even a hero of sorts, but I don't like some old favorite anecdotes or sayings:

Bros before hoes

A fair heart ne'r won a fair lady.

When I go to a movie, I ask my girl what she's in the mood for and would like to see. I want her to think on her own. She deserves the right to feel and want. That's compromise. My dad used to say, "Understanding is the manifestation of true affection."
 

Happy Thanksgiving

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