Rakes, Rapists and Alpha-jerks

This is the flip side of my ‘In praise of decent men‘ post. In this post, I’m going to talk about ‘heroes’ you won’t find in my stories (and a little about heroines that I won’t write, too).

You can’t reform a rake

One enduring trope of romantic fiction is that reformed rakes make the best husbands. Nothing wrong with that. It ignores inconveniences like illegitimate children and sexually transmitted diseases, and embarrassments like knowing your husband has slept with half the women you meet at any given social occasion, but this is, after all, romantic fiction.

It also makes the possibly erroneous assumption that said rake’s conquests depended on an application of charm and technique that could later be applied to the lucky wife. I’ve written comparing the rake of fiction with the real rakes of history, but again, let it pass. Undoubtedly, some rakes were both charming and skilled, so why not the hero?

I don’t object to heroes who have been rakes and who reform to become devoted husbands. Some of my favourite novels have ex-rake heroes.

What I don’t like and won’t write is the concept that all the rake needed to reform was the love of a good woman. I mean, I know this is fiction, so I’m not looking for fact, but I am looking for truth. We all know what happens to any female who takes this trope seriously and tries to apply it in real life. Maybe he’ll behave for a few weeks, or even a few months. But soon enough someone else’s perfume lingers around his shirts, and he spends more nights out than home (working late again? Yeah, right.)

You can’t reform a rake. The rake can choose to reform, and falling in love may be the impetus for the final shift in behaviours. But I’m looking for signs that he was already changing his way of life before the heroine came along, or the book goes.

At the worst end of the scale is the guy who falls in lust with the woman, seeks to seduce her thinking that will get her out of his system, and then is converted to true love by the power of her Magic Vagina.

Do Not Finish. Hate that Hero. Don’t much like that Heroine.

No doesn’t mean try harder

Rape was purportedly popular in romantic fiction decades ago. The heroine is in the hero’s power, and he uses that power to coerce her into sex, which she absolutely loves. She then goes on to fall in love with him, thanks to the potency of his Magic Penis.

I’m okay with seduction, and it is even more fun when it’s a game two people are playing, neither one aware of the intentions of the other. I absolutely abhor forced seduction, of any kind.

An arranged marriage story can be beautiful, if carefully handled. I’ve even read a story or two that I really liked where the heroine is in the hero’s power. If he’s the right kind of hero, he will leave her room to give true consent, and if he doesn’t, he’s no hero.

If one of the sexual partners has not consented, then it isn’t intercourse, it’s rape. Simple. Doesn’t matter if the unwilling partner then enjoys the physical sensations. In fact, the betrayal of one’s own body probably makes it worse.

Do Not Finish That Book. Throw At Wall.

Alpha-jerks are still jerks

Woman who trusted an Alpha-jerk

The Alpha, Beta, Gamma classifications have fallen out of favour in animal psychology, so I’m told. Pack dynamics are more complex than people thought. But they still have some useful application in writing romantic fiction, as I’ve discussed in a post called ‘Alpha and Omega‘.

An alpha hero is a natural leader; the man everyone turns to when things go wrong, the man who makes the decisions and keeps the group strong and together.

That doesn’t make him a good man or a good hero. It just makes him the boss.

Is he bossy, domineering, unwilling to listen to anyone else or to give credit to others? He’s not a hero; he’s an alpha-jerk. Stand clear. Do Not Breed From This Man.


8 thoughts on “Rakes, Rapists and Alpha-jerks

  1. Thanks for this! I’ve long wondered if the main reason Regency is popular is the innocence of the female and the manners of the age. Oh goodie, let’s all be virgins again. I hate hate hate the “reformed” roving (non-infected) penis. Not going to happen. Also the multi-orgasmic virgin. And what abt the virgin who just throws herself at the man because “why not?” I much prefer a man of integrity and a woman with a brain in her head. Thanks for the article. You made my day.

    • Thanks for commenting, Irene. I’ve never seen the innocence thing as a great benefit, and love books in which the author turns that trope on its head by showing how dangerous innocence can be.

  2. Brilliant post. Agreed! I like heroes to be more complicated and realistic. Consent is crucial, and it’s difficult to redeem an alpha-hole, particularly when that personality type isn’t seen as a weakness!

    • Absolutely! One of the characteristics of an alpha-jerk is that he knows he is perfect, and that the world should conform to him, not vice versa.

  3. Truth is truth Rakes make terrible mates. Maybe he won’t stray but unfortunately you are always looking for signs that he has or someone has caught his eye and it may be an old flame that he thinks he is over but does she? Trust in this kind of relationship is really very hard to achieve and worse on the partner than a normal relationship when the trust is broken.
    Rape is not only common in non married couples it is more common in married ones. The male thinks that he has bought and payed for the right to have sex and doesn’t even bother with foreplay after a while. It is a trap that many women find themselves in even today. Children make the trap even worse and women feel bound the stay in the relationship “for the children” even though they are rape almost on a nightly. Eyes they should leave the abuse but….. (Name the thousand and one reasons why they do not or will not.)
    Alpha-hero/alpha jerk There is a very fine line between leader and bully. They make even worse husbands than the rakes!

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