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!