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Heroes and, ahem, “self-love”

I’m curious.

This is something I’ve wondered about for a while–a long while, actually–and a discussion elsewhere has finally prompted me to go ahead and ask. (I want to emphasize that this is all just hypothetical/what ifs/conjecture; I’m not strictly endorsing any of these ideas, just thinking aloud and providing talking points.)

How do we all feel about heroes who masturbate? Especially when thinking of the heroine?

It’s not something we see often, is it? Which is kind of funny, actually; I think this is maybe one place where female sexuality is permitted more expression, because it’s not uncommon to see female MCs engage in a little solo play, but it is–to my knowledge–quite uncommon to see men do it, especially to see them do it to completion. I’ve read a couple of books where the hero perhaps starts to do it, but then realizes what he’s doing and stops himself, for various reasons (“What I’m doing is disrespectful to her/I’m too grown up to do this,” that sort of thing).

Are men just supposed to have more “control” over themselves/their desires, or are they simply supposed to want to only share sexual experiences with the heroine and if she’s not there it’s empty? Is having control over his sexual needs to the point of being able to sublimate them completely another way that the hero becomes the ubermensch: extra strong, extra smart, extra brave, extra controlled? Is he supposed to be so devoted to his heroine that he refuses to or just doesn’t want to have any kind of sexual feelings or release unless she’s involved?

Maybe we just don’t find the mental image of the hero having to wipe off his stomach or rinse the shower walls or whatever afterward to be all that sexy? I mean, even if we find the act arousing/interesting/understandable, thinking about him messing about with a handful of sticky tissues after just…maybe feels a little “teenage boy,” or just a little silly or embarrassing or whatever. Or perhaps it’s because of the porn money shot, which seems to appeal to men much more than women (I’m not saying it absolutely does, just that it seems to be aimed [no pun intended] at men; to my [admittedly sketchy] knowledge, many of the porn films put out by all-female or female-run production companies, or aimed specifically at the female audience, don’t tend to depict the money shot with such vigor and focus and don’t tend to focus so much on “Look! Semen!” as the ultimate sexy sexiness). I mean, again, female masturbation is depicted maybe not regularly, but certainly more often than male, and there’s generally little cleaning up to do after; most women don’t have to check the walls or furniture to make sure no stray fluids shot over there. (Yes, I know about Rainwoman, but she’s hardly the norm.)

Is there something just sort of inherently non-heroic–inherently sad, embarrassing, or pitiful, even–about thinking of the hero all by himself with a head full of fantasies and a bottle of lotion, or something?

Do we perhaps expect him to sate those desires by sleeping with some other woman, and isn’t that sort of worse, really–using some other chick’s body while in his head he’s banging the heroine? Does it change if he feels guilty about it, or doesn’t intend to use the other woman in that way but realizes midway through that he’s pretending she’s someone else?

It just seems to me that, while I would never say “all men masturbate*,” I’m sure a healthy proportion of them do at least occasionally. I find it hard to believe that NO hero in any novel which involves a sexual/romantic relationship ever finds himself trying to sleep one night with a body that absolutely refuses to let him, or finds himself practically unable to walk, especially in those early stages where he’s obsessed/consumed/whatever and is practically a walking hormone. And yet while it’s often considered sexy for the heroine to masturbate thinking of the hero, we almost never see the hero do it (again, from my reading; I freely admit I don’t read very much romance/erotic romance these days if any, so there may well have been a revolution in male masturbation in the last few years). Like I said, I did read it a few times, but the hero never went on to orgasm without the heroine’s actual involvement, i.e. she caught him at it and encouraged him to continue, perhaps lending him a helping hand, or, you know, a helping vagina. (Here, let me loan you this vagina. It’s the helpful sort. Hee.)

Does it feel objectifying, like he’s reducing her to mere jerk-off fodder in his head? Especially if their relationship isn’t yet sexual, does it seem almost like he’s mentally molesting her–taking what he wants without permission, mentally “having” her even if she hasn’t given him permission to do so yet in real life?

Is it maybe that in the world of novels aimed more toward women, with a female audience, men are the ones whose sexuality shouldn’t/doesn’t exist outside female involvement? We’ve all had the uncomfortable sensation of being undressed by a man’s eyes without our permission, so maybe it’s just not something we want to think of a man doing without our knowledge. Or are women simply more uncomfortable with the idea of masturbation in general? I’ve known more than a few women for whom the idea of their boyfriends/husbands watching porn or masturbating is very uncomfortable, even upsetting. So is the idea that the hero shouldn’t be masturbating related to that, or an extension of that, or even a perpetuation of that?

Do we simply not want to write male sexual fantasies? We live surrounded by them; male sexual fantasies are everywhere. Maybe we just don’t want them in our fiction; maybe we want books aimed at women to be about female sexual fantasies, if there are any fantasies being shown, and men can keep theirs to themselves (or, you know, out in popular culture where they are now.)

What do you think? Do you want to read that, or not? Why, if you’re comfortable sharing? Would you feel differently about a male character shown masturbating? What about the “starts to but then realizes he’s doing something wrong” idea/scene? Is the hero masturbating sexy and a sign of how badly he wants the heroine, or is it distasteful or a turn-off? Why? Do you agree or disagree with any of my conjecture?

*I personally dislike the broad assumption that all men or all women masturbate but just refuse to admit it, and that if someone denies it they’re automatically lying. Making such assumptions about the sexual expressions of other people strikes me as rather rude, and taking their denial as a sign that they’re liars just ashamed to admit it is especially rude. Sure, perhaps some people who say they don’t are lying, but I find it hard to believe that no one is being truthful when they say they don’t. There are indeed people who just don’t, for whatever reason, and that’s just as fine and valid as being someone who does.

ETA: Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that there is a way for the masturbation scene to advance story, plot, and/or character, okay? Obviously we all know that sex-for-sex’s-sake is unnecessary, and I’ve written more than once about that subject here. I’m not so much interested in structure and whether or not the scene fits as in how people feel about those scenes and whether or not they’re sexy/unappealing/whatever, or whether people think another way should be found to advance story/plot/character that doesn’t involve masturbation.

Originally posted at Stacia Kane. You can comment here or there.


( 15 people said — Say something )
Mar. 2nd, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
My two cents? Not only don't mind such scenes, but find them hot. ;) But that's coming (*blush*) from someone who has no hangups about masturbation, alone or with my hubby. I *can* think of a few scenes where the hero did it to relieve tension, or out of frustrated desire. But now that you mention it, there's not many scenes along those lines, are there? But happily, I can't recall a novel I've read recently where the hero *stopped* out of a feeling of *disrespect.* I find the idea kind of kooky and archaic, frankly. (YMMV) Sexual fantasies are not reality, and to be honest I rather like reading about what selfishly erotic things a man would do with his gal if he had her all to himself without inhibitions. It's another way to get inside the hero's head.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
I was thinking specifically of NO TRUE GENTLEMAN by Liz Carlyle. :-)

I think they can be hot when done right, but I also know some women who just find the idea unappealing; like I said I know of women who consider their boyfriends/husbands masturbating to be insulting or whatever, so...
Mar. 2nd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I can't wait to see what others have to say about this.

I've been working on a story with a male co-writer set in the middle ages or thereabouts. For certain scenes, I've written from the heroine's POV and he's written from the hero's POV. Let me tell you, this has really helped me to learn more about writing male characters and what goes on in their heads.

This scene was an early encounter that might or might not be leading to sex as far as the reader is concerned. In my co-writer's version, the hero ended up 'spilling his seed' while she was giving him a bath. When I read it the first time, my initial reaction was 'EW.' But thinking about it, it actually made sense and tells you a lot more about his character.

The hero is generally very much in control of everything. he has all the power...except where it comes to this woman who has him 'thinking and acting like an unschooled boy' or words to that effect. This sets up things that happen later that show when it comes to this woman, he is reckless and very much not in control of himself.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I actually see that as a plus/kind of a hot idea, that just her bathing him has him so hot he can't control himself. But yeah, I think the initial reaction of "Ick," or especially "How embarrassing" would definitely be there.

There are more comments at my website blog: http://www.staciakane.net/2012/03/02/heroes-and-ahem-self-love/
Mar. 2nd, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
I'm very interested to see what others say about this. I wouldn't have issue with it in a book.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
There are several comments over at my website blog as well. http://www.staciakane.net/2012/03/02/heroes-and-ahem-self-love/
Mar. 2nd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
In the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, one of the brothers masturbates. I forget now which one, I haven't read them in over a year. But I vividly remember him masturbating while thinking about the heroine and I'm fairly certain he finished. Maybe he just finished in my head. I'll have to reread those books.

Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
It was Zsadist, and Bella (that's her name, right?) was asleep beside him. She woke up when he'd just started, though, and encouraged him/watched him finish; I ca't remember if she actually climbed aboard or helped, but I know she was right there watching and encouraging. (That was actually the specific scene I was thinking of when I mentioned the heroine "catching" him at it.) :-)
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
I thought one of them masturbated in the shower while thinking about the girl. It is entirely possible I'm thinking about another series though.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, wait, yeah, that might have been Vishous? But again, if memory serves the woman came in and helped. I could be wrong/misremembering. I haven't read them all.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have to get them from the library again. Or just finally buy them. It's been at least a year, probably two since I've read them and my memory is fuzzy. I read a lot of books and they can get all mushed together sometimes.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
And I think he felt like crap about it after, now that I think about it.
Mar. 2nd, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
When I was fifteen a friend told me, "Creative people masturbate more than non-creative people." This was 1972 and I was living in Kansas. We were both listening to David Bowie and not Grand Funk Railroad like most of the other kids we knew. Take that for what it's worth. Anyway, since I aspired to be a "creative person," I realized there was nothing wrong with a little hands-on (pun intended) fantasying. In fact, it was probably good for one's creative side.

As per heroes in fiction. It's just not very macho for a Rambo type to "do it behind the heroine's back." Never having much affinity for the macho type, I put little stock in such thinking.

Cool post, Stacia. Let no one ever accuse you of eschewing the safe and boring for a blog post. ;-)
Mar. 2nd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was the crux of my thinking, actually: is it macho to do it "behind her back?"

Lol, thanks for the info on creative people!

And no, there are some things I eschew, but I try not to very much. Hee.
Apr. 4th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
Holy crap what a great post, I'm still laughing at the thought of some stories I've read having this happen with their hero. ;D Makes sense though.

This post definitely pushed me to friending you. Hiyas!!!
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