Thu
Aug 16 2012 9:07am

What’s Your Hard Limit? (for a Hero)

Domineering, controlling heroes are dominating the romance world lately (heh!). Something about a hero being in absolute control of the heroine—even as she rebels against it—seems to appeal to romance novel readers.

For example, heroes try to control what the heroine eats, wears, sees, lives, works, and drives.

But if you were a romance novel heroine, what controlling behavior would you absolutely not tolerate? What heroic behavior would be your hard limit?

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21 comments
Laura K. Curtis
1. LauraKCurtis
*shudder* It doesn't appeal to me. But then, perhaps that is why I tend to like romantic suspense, where the hero often spends his time trying to help the heroine regain her control.
Hell Cat
2. Hell Cat
Were I the romantic heroine, I'd cut off necessary and enjoyable parts if someone controlled my life. Either you're my partner or nothing. This is why I'm not really into the total domination romance section. I like to read about competent women being treated as such.
Hell Cat
3. Linda Morris
Um, I agree with Hell Cat. I really don't even get fantasizing about being controlled by a man, much less enjoying it in real life.
Hell Cat
4. NancyH
I'm with you, ladies. Dominating heroes do nothing for me. Do I like a man in control? Yes. In control of his own life, his business, what he eats, wears, etc. And sometimes I like to read about men a little out of control, and the strong women who help them regain it. :)
Hell Cat
5. lovetoread
Doesn't appeal at all. Love is by definition self-giving and mutually reciprocal thereby reaffirming a person's worth and dignity. Controlling/domineering behavior is self-serving and egotistical and thereby dehumanizing.
Miss_D
6. Miss_D
As a strong woman, I'd need a strong man as a partner. I can't abide by weak men in real life nor in romance novels. That said, there are times... especially in Harlequins I read... where the hero takes dominance too far and is basically a controlling ass. By that point, I start wishing the heroine to do anything and everything to screw him over hoping it will either humble him some or make him go away. When I start wanting that, chances are that book won't be on my recommend list to friends.
Hell Cat
7. Hell Cat
@Miss_D, I'm like you in that as a strong woman I need someone as equally strong. Weak men make me scream in frustration because there's no sense of self-identity outside being a yeser. But there's a lot of difference between strength and control. A strong man will know when to trust the person he's with. A controlling man is too insecure to look beyond his nose. In my late teens and early 20s, I stopped reading the Harlequin books where the prince/CEO/Richie McRich/whatever started making the formerly average woman seem like dirt on the heel of his boot.
susan b
8. leshagen
I'll be the first to admit that an 'alpha male' in certain take-charge situations can be very appealling and sometimes down right hot. But that is not the same as controlling and domineering, which I have very little patience for. That does not define a healthy realtionship. If I were a romance novel heroine, a man controlling what I do, say, eat, etc is definitely a hard limit for me.
Jena Briars
9. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
I'm agreeing with leshagen here... take-charge and protector can be hot and admirable (if done correctly) - but controlling and domineering = massive turn-off (and very unhealthy).

I'm gonna have to say that the BDB are about as "alpha" as I can get - but Ward writes them in SUCH a personable way - where the reader can really understand the hero's faults and insecurities and worries (and yet the men don't look/seem like total wimps).

IMO, I think that Kleypas' heroes are just right... ;)
Hell Cat
10. Isabel C.
No controlling for me, thanks! I can read or write about a hero who wants to be in charge of a situation (especially if he has good reasons, doubly especially if the heroine has good reasons to push back, and does) but trying to have any say in how I dress* or what I do...nope.

*I remember a formative-in-a-bad-way story where the hero basically demanded that the heroine change a "too sexy" dress and threatened to get physical if she didn't; she put up token resistance but was inwardly "aw, it means he cares." And...damn. No.
Elizabeth Halliday
11. Ibbitts
I find several differant ways to look at this question. If the key is control, then I'd be the first one to opt out.
Sometimes, though, it's the appearance of control, like in BDSM: the Dom appears to be in control (because the Dom chooses the direction), but, in reality, the Sub controls everything; the second the safeword is given, everything stops.
Sometimes in a relationship, one might wear a certain garment just because one's partner is fond of it, even if one would prefer to wear something else, because it makes the partner happy. This would tend to work with me only if the desire to please was mutual, and the partner asked, rather than demanded.
If you know your partner well enough, and you should... you are able to determine whether gruffness and/or a demanding statement is an effort to control you or, rather, his own arousal.
Virginia Green
12. vloveg
Pretty much agree with the above. I heard a review of "50 Shades" where they mentioned described the appeal of Christian controlling Anna as his taking responsibility for making sure she is happy (or something like that). The appeal is in his focus on her pleasure appparently. I don't know that I buy that, but then there are a lot of ideas that sound better on paper than in reality. There's a lot to be said for doing things for your partner, but a complete submission of agency is definitely beyond me.
Hell Cat
13. Bea
"For example, heroes try to control what the heroine eats, wears, sees, lives, works, and drives."

This, I would not tolerate this. I'd boot his ass. A strong male, confident, caring, yes. But that nonsense? No way. Not attractive and very unsexy.

Each partner should want to make the other happy and compromises are inevitable but trying to control the other? That doesn't say sexy to me. Telling your partner, nicely, that they shouldn't do or eat something because it's not good for them or isn't safe is one thing, that's fine IMO.
Hell Cat
14. Rose Red
As a strong independant woman, I admire a strong man looking for an equal partner. I am disturbed by how many books have the Hero threatening to spank (sometimes even using the word "beat") the heroine until she's unable to sit, even in front of others if she disagrees with him. All bedroom games aside, a man using his naturally superior strength and size to controll a woman or situation turns me off. While I abhor the use of violence, just once I would like to read the h threaten to take a belt and light up the H's backside when he's being unreasonable.
Janis Clark
15. maliamartin
I like to be in control of my own life and so do my characters. My female characters can take care of themselves and are respected for it. My male heros are strong, self confident and masculine. The relationships are a coming together of mutually strong, mature people who don't need the other to be whole but want love because it's just that good. That being said, there's nothing wrong with some mutual game playing. Tie my hands to the bedpost and make it all about my pleasure - sure! Plan a date/evening/weekend getaway - surprise me so all I have to do is relax and enjoy - you bet! Masculine and in charge is sexy if it's romantic. If it's because they have issues then they can take it somewhere else.
Cassandra
16. charvey135
Well, I have to agree with almost all of the above! Totally controlling, even over what I eat, drink, wear, etc? Absoltuely not! Protective, preemptive, a little possessive? Sure ;) As long as my hero knows that when he pushes too far, I'm going to push back.
Hell Cat
17. Keke
Well, I feel that many of you will react strongly to this, but I yearn for someone to take control. This isn't an answer to the original question about hard limits, but one of my favourite authors Joey W. Hill wrote this in an article:
"
When we give our partner the opportunity to lead, and choose to follow, we dance together. The desire isn’t to be conquered — it’s to surrender." That pretty much wraps up my feelings about this.
Hell Cat
18. Jacqueline DeGroot
A hard line for me would be the heroine having to be accountable for her time. A nice, "How was your day, what did you do?" is far better then a gruff, "Where have you been?" On the clothing thing, I like the way Roarke of the In Death series always makes sure Eve has the most stylish clothes lining her closets but doesn't force them on her. Then when an event she hasn't planned for has her in a panic at the last minute, she succombs to his uncanny ability to dress the woman he loves in the most flattering ways.
Virginia Green
19. vloveg
@Jacqueline DeGroot: You're tempting me to move the In Death series to the top of my TBR list! I've been trying to wrap up some other series' first...
Marian DeVol
20. ladyengineer
As a fourth generation engineer (but first female in the bunch), I'd say I am a fairly strong woman and very much enjoy being in control of my life and my environment.

That being said however, I have very little patience with weak, clinging vine type males. Although I seem to attract them, I can run roughshod over them, especially in relationships. Neither fun nor sexy - they give me claustrophobia. On the other hand, I find myself attracted to the idea or illusion of surrendering control, at least in the bedroom. Being in control all the time is exhausting.

As someone who has taught dance (Scottish Country, highland, and some ballroom), I can't remember how many times I have had to dance the male or lead role, even in a waltz. I very much enjoy having a male partner who has the confidence and ability to provide a strong lead. It means I can relax and enjoy myself. ;->

Let someone else control my life? Not just NO, but HELL no!
Hell Cat
21. Gidge
I used to enjoy a fair amount of dominant male, but that was mostly before I knew anything else. I can still like it, but I prefer when the hero's dominance is over other men--meaning, a position of authority that he wields well over a group--rather than over his lady.

Lately, I've come to crave the reverse of the trope: when the woman is the one who makes the man feel safe and even rather ravished. (Thank you, Sunny, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Emma Holly!) Occasionally this translates into actual femme domme (of the whips and chains variety) but I like it best when it is simply a power dynamic, part of how the relationship naturally works. If this means the woman going dark side a touch, and getting into a little controlling behavior herself, so be it.

In men, I find I also rather like it when they have the impulse to be controlling, jealous, or paranoid, but they curb it. We know it's there, but they are actively controlling it, recognizing that it is not what their women need or want. It simply feels more realistic and respectful to me.
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