Monday, March 5, 2007

The Case Against Mantitty

Who can gaze upon the towering, waxed, buffed, oiled glory, proud results of many hours spent at the gym and ten minutes with photoshop, and remain unmoved?


I don't get it. Why do publishers inflict these monstrous creatures upon the reading public? Why do they think that women find all that shiny muscular hairlessness sexy? Or rather, why is this presented to us as the only sort of male sexual ideal; because we all know that there are many different sorts of bodies and bodies alone do not sexiness make. That highly developed musculature belongs to the gym and if you're writing historicals, that's a bit of a problem.

Those of us who like skinny geeks, men who read, or a bit of chest hair poking out from the open shirtneck are plain out of luck where cover art is concerned. But I think it's also part of the phenomenon of readers, writers, and publishers attempting to define the genre and thereby narrowing the definition. I was at an event last year at RWA National where an editor told us, with the fervent passion of an old time revival preacher, that male-male-female was hot!!! whereas female-female-male wasn't. And it wasn't this particular pronouncement that made my heart sink, it was that already rules were being created in our brave new world, to go along with thou shalt find the depilated, muscled and waxed sexy covers.

I love Ingres' nude male torso studies (he did some very fine erotic sketches too), and this gent has about as much definition as you're going to get outside of the gym. Not quite six-pack abs. No visible chest hair for that matter but he looks so human, so full of energy and poised grace, it doesn't matter. You can imagine this man throwing his clothes back on to fence, or dance, or ride. Or losing the clothes again to make love.

Now, that's a hero.

Jane, reminding you The Other One is featured Noodler of the Month at


Pam Rosenthal said...

You rock, Jane. True, eloquent... and such a great pic -- wish I'd had him when I was imagining Kit Stancell in The Slightest Provocation. Gotta go now, will be back tonight w/ more thoughts about eroticism, rules and regulations.

Lacy Danes said...

Oh Jane! I so agree. The cover of the non-historical Antho I am in has one of "those" men on the cover. I personally like hair on my guy’s chest as well as a bit of a belly.
Skinny men and those with over developed muscles are not my thing. That is not to say there aren’t hot guys that fit those descriptions. It is just my personal preference.

As far as rules on what is hot and what is not. I think almost anything can be made into an extremely hot scene... it all is in how the author describes it and in how the characters feel about it.


Kate Pearce said...

I'm sorry...I like those buffed guys...not the ones in the poufty shirts with man titty but the really nice buffed muscular ones like the guy on my "Planet Mail" cover who happens to be an intergalactic viking (duh)

Maybe it's because Mr Kate goes to the gym three times a week and has that buff look despite his advanced years (snort)

And buff man titty sells books-just ask EC.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Well, on the one hand it's hard to argue with the "it sells" argument. On the other hand, how many of us have been told... and TOLD... and TOLD by this or that publisher that X, Y, Z doesn't sell? Until someone very smart, talented, and sincere commits her soul and imagination to X, Y, or Z -- profoundly enough to do X, Y, or Z RIGHT. And then it sells and sells and sells... spawning its own polished and photoshopped knockoffs, unfortunately, but that's another story.

I think that anything that gets somebody hot (and is safe, sane, and consensual) CAN be hot in the right horny little hands, and that the serious business of pleasure is too important to be pre- or proscribed. Literary fiction may have its styles, but the hot stuff ought to come from somewhere real.

Jane Lockwood said...

And buff man titty sells books-just ask EC.

I'm not convinced it does. I think mantitty is a cypher for erotic romance--you see cover A, you get content B. If, for instance, EC had started out with covers of great big meaty strings of sausages, wouldn't that branding have worked just as well?

And wouldn't it be fun to announce that you'd just sold a novella to the next Bratwurst collection.

Kate Pearce said...

I hate sausages... :)

Celia May Hart said...

So far my covers have had women on them. Blurred, soft curves women (well, except for SHOW ME, who has to be sucking it in) and I've been very happy with that, as none of my heroes, in my mind, are built.

Of the ideal, the only thing I like are broad shoulders....

That said, I did drool over the new James Bond coming out of the water in "Casino Royale". It was instant eye candy.

Celia May Hart said...

Jane *rotfl*!!!! (just read your last comment above)

meardaba said...

I find myself buying books in spite of the cover. So no, I don't think Buffy Waxed Chest sells, I think the stories do.

And I am much more attracted to medium sized, lean men. I'm quite short and small, and those great hulking brutes tend to ick me out. And it looks silly.

Elizabeth Parker said...

I'm also not turned on by young "mantitty." Give me an older guy in reasonable shape, one who wears glasses and looks intelligent with expressive bedroom eyes, and I'm there! I always ignore the covers and imagine the hero just as I'd like him anyway.

Robin L. Rotham said...

I do enjoy a certain amount of mantitty, but for the same reason I enjoy science fiction -- it's just a fantasy, not anything I'm likely to encounter in real life and probably wouldn't enjoy if I did. Who wants a man who devotes 90% of his free time to looking hot?

But I've always been partial to larger men and I tend to skip over descriptions of heroes who are slender, runner types and paint my own brawnier mental picture. Mr. Robin's got big hard forearms that the nurses always comment on when they take his blood pressure. :D He's also got a spare tire that they'd better keep their hands off of -- it's mine.

Pam Rosenthal said...

LOL, Robin. I'm with Elizabeth -- a cover isn't so much to illustrate a book as to indicate a mood. I like a pretty cover, but I never imagine the people on it being "in" the book. In fact, I think that as a reader, I might put more energy into imagining the characters' voices, quality of movement, aggressiveness or passivity... the way a character inhabits space and time and uses energy (to use a new age word). Sex is as much about those other dimensions as it is a certain set of visual pretty guy requirements to be checked off and filled.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Give me an older guy in reasonable shape, one who wears glasses and looks intelligent with expressive bedroom eyes...

Elizabeth, have I got a book for you. Taking shape on my hard drive, I mean.