Let’s Talk About: Male Love Interests – Where’s the Diversity?

male love interest

Let’s admit it guys: everyone has, in varying degrees, swooned over a Male Love Interest (MLI). Whether they were great characters that supported the protagonist in achieving their goal, are inherently good people, have good hearts, or contribute to the story, the love interest and the romance are, most of the time, one of the core elements of YA fiction.

In today’s Let’s Talk About, I’m not going to talk about why Male Love Interests are great, or how they are great. I’m not talking about their gooey insides. Today, I want to talk about how Male Love Interests, regardless of their personalities and idiosyncrasies, are pretty much all the same appearance-wise.

male love interest divider

MOST MALE LOVE INTERESTS PRETTY MUCH LOOK THE SAME 

Okay, maybe not the same down to the angle of their broken noses, but I believe most of them subscribe to the same masculine ideal archetype. You know, the Adonis, the buff-but-not-too-bulky, the ‘perfect’ man. To test this, I pulled out my YA books and eBooks and looked at how important male characters were described, especially as a first impression. This mostly involved me using Ctrl+F, searching ‘muscle’, ‘eyes’, ‘lean’… you get the picture. This is what I found:

Muscular/sculptured bodies or “lean”

“His shirt is tight enough that I can see his collarbone and his faint depression between this shoulder muscle and biceps.”
Tris describing Four, Divergent

“Long and leanly muscular, he dwarfed the molded plastic elementary school chair he was sitting in.”
– Hazel’s first impression of Augustus, The Fault in Our Stars

“He has the body of an Olympic swimmer, taut and muscled.”
– Peryn describing Raffe’s A+ body, Angelfall

Firm muscles embrace me from the space where the cushions used to be.”
– 
Peryn getting a nice, firm cuddle from Raffe, Angelfall

“His body is erect, 6 feet of gorgeous lean muscle, his profile strong and steady.”
– Juliette describing Adam, Shatter Me

Specific facial features, “sculpted”/likened to art

“He was also strikingly handsome, with the sort of sculpted cheekbones and angular features that you couldn’t help but notice, even if you did have a boyfriend.”
– Macy’s first impression of Wes, The Truth About Forever

“Emerald eyes studied us from a face that could have been sculpted by one of the classical artists I so admired.”
– Sydney describing my second husband Adrian, Bloodlines

“He looked like a fair-haired angel from a Rembrandt painting, except for that devilish mouth.”
– Clary talking about killing things with Jace, City of Bones

Blue eyes

“Yet there was something in his eyes, strikingly blue-the color of waters of the southern countries- and the way that it contrasted with his raven-black hair that made her pause.”
– Celeana seeing Dorian for the first time, Throne of Glass

“Sharp-featured and blue-eyed, he could freeze fire with his smile—he despises this pageantry.”
– Mare recognizing Cal, Red Queen

“He was lean, a few inches taller than me, with blond hair, and his eyes—a bright, piercing blue—never left my face.”
– 
Allison’s first impression of Zeke, The Immortal Rules

White and able-bodied

Pretty much all male love interests.

male love interest divider

BUT WHAT’S THE POINT OF IT?

Surely there’s a reason why this trend is so prevalent? When a male character’s physique is described, there are several intentions. Here are my ideas of why:

1. Males with great bodies = usually good people

When was the last time you saw a male villain’s body described in vivid detail, at least as much as the male love interest? In Psychology, there is a thing called misattribution of arousal – it means that when people are aroused (physically, sexually, emotionally) and their hearts are palpitating like they’re watching the finale of their favourite TV show, they mistake the cause of that arousal. For example, if you were running after the bus and your heart was racing and you were short in breath and had increased blood pressure, and you saw a somewhat attractive person, you might misattribute your physiological state to arousal for that person.

To an extent, I think that happens when we read about male characters – descriptions of their physique make us feel warm and fuzzy, and we assume that the character himself is making us feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe we end up falling in love with them too. But maybe that’s how attraction works? Maybe? (Well played, authors.)

2. Because “goals”

When we think about a fictional love interest (your absolute, ultimate #1, not your #8th fave), to an extent I think the characters we love reflect our own personal desires or what is sought after in a significant other. When we read about these love interests that set our hearts a-fluttering, they shape or reflect what we want.

And perhaps it is all an implicit process, but these descriptions are appealing to our ideals of beauty and what society generally perceives as attractive. So when you have a love interest that represents who we ever want in a person (mega-brownie points if they’re attractive — on second thought, maybe make it a prerequisite): “goals”.

3. Attractive male love interests sell

Who doesn’t like attractive people? (The truth is everyone does, though attractive is subjective.) I think authors throw in certain buzzwords or catch-phrases because those buzzwords and catch-phrases are what sells.

And maybe it’s not for the money – I certainly don’t believe it’s a massive conspiracy in an attempt to drain the money out of readers, but attractive male love interests are safe. They work. They make the book better, more enjoyable to the readers. They are subjects of discussion and connection for readers. (Read any review of a YA fiction with a romance, and the male love interest will have a mention!)

male love interest divider

WHERE’S THE DIVERSITY? + WHAT I’D LOVE TO SEE

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see the defined jaw, chiseled chin, washboard abs, they completely fly over my head. Woooosh another attractive male lead that ends up looking like an attractive blob in my head anyway. Big woop. I want more than attractive/hot/sexy/steel tank (but circumstantially soft) of muscles. And I want authors to get creative with how to capture our hearts.

1. More male love interests that do NOT have the ideal male body

I would love to see a male love interest that is loveable, sexy and desirable, but not because of his mountain of abs and guns for biceps. What about a male love interest with a beer belly? Maybe a little chubby? Someone who is shorter than the female lead? I want authors to take risks, go against the grain, and subvert the idea that all amazing and popular male love interests need a great body. I want authors to challenge us with what we want in MLI’s.

2. More Men of Colour love interests

I mean, all popular YA books have white MLI’s. Great. But where’s the MoC at? They’re there! Represent them!

But, if any authors want this, I ask for two simple things:

First, no fetishization. Eleanor and Park and how Park is fetishized makes me shudder. Read more in this great review here or this review here for great discussions on this topic.

Second, don’t just write a white character in mind and think, I NEED MORE DIVERSITY and just magically change the character’s ethnicity. That never works. If you want to write a great MoC, research! Listen! Be respectful! Incorporate culture and identity into the narrative! Check your work with PoC! Check your work for stereotypes and racist tropes! Because hell, that stuff matters and we’ll know if your writing is lazy or not.

3. A male love interest with a physical disability

I’ve seen books with people with mental disabilities or mental disorders (which is great!) but characters, let alone male love interests, with a physical disability are so rare it’s like looking for a needle in a football fields of haystacks. People with disabilities are often desexualized and this can be harmful and hurtful. So why not have a love interest – regardless of gender – with a physical disability? We need more of those narratives! (To anyone with physical disabilities – what do you think?)

male love interest divider

Maybe it’s a small case of confirmation bias, but I want to see more diverse male love interests – scratch that, love interests with a diversity of backgrounds and histories. Personally, I love MLI’s with complex personalities, character development, and the emotional connection they have with the protagonist (if I can feel the lurve, I’m pretty much sold). But as much as I love tall, dark-haired, jewel-eyed, broody male characters as much as the next reader, I want to fall in love with new MLI that have different physical appearances as my other bookish husbands. 

(Small note: I really enjoyed doing the wee graphics for this Let’s Talk About. Are the dividers too much? I went with them 90% for the hell of it, and 10% because I thought they were funny.)

male love interest divider

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT IT

So this has been me spewing my opinions, but I’d love to hear what you guys think! Unleash your inner fangirl! (Or fanboy, or fanperson.)

  • What do you look for in a love interest? What makes you go “HNNGGHHHHH”?
  • Do you think most male love interests have similar appearances – why or why not?
  • What would you love to see more of in portrayal of love interests?
  • And, for fun, who is your favourite male love interest of all time? Do they represent what you look for in a significant other?

Let me know in the comments below! ♥

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65 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About: Male Love Interests – Where’s the Diversity?

  1. Dude I love this post! (Also those psychology terms lolol) I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. When I read “sculpted figures” and “amazing blue eyes” I just skim over the words at this point. I find that I am immensely more interested in a love interest who is disabled somehow (physically or mentally) and/or diverse. I love seeing their flaws and being able to relate to them, you feel? It’s nice to have a perfect love interest but it’s way more intense and lasting to have an imperfect one. I’m pretty sure I answered none of your discussion questions (oops) but these are just some of the thoughts that sprang up in my mind.
    (ALSO THOSE GRAPHICS ARE AMAZING ARE YOU KIDDING)

    • Thanks Aila! :’D (Heheh my major came in handy for once!)

      You and I are absolutely the same. I like love interests that are different; it makes them so much more interesting. And totally agree – I think flaws and character depth is so important, esp in developing that connection between the protag and the reader. One of my favourite love interests was one that was super flawed – he started off with these bad habits, but over the series, he slowly changes and becomes a better person. It was so satisfying!

      Hehheh it’s alright! The discussion questions are there as a guide – I appreciate your thoughts, whatever they may be!

      HAHAH THANKS! I was wondering if they were too much. But I’m glad you like them. (I do too!) :)

  2. Not gonna lie, I had to stifle a giggle when I saw the 1000th repetition of the word “muscles.” :D

    I think the lack of diversity of male love interests aligns pretty closely with the lack of diversity in YA main characters (most of whom seem to be thin, pale-skinned, and brown-haired).

    Sometimes, the muscley-ness (musclitude? muscleocity?) of the love interest makes sense, given an active line of work – e.g. Mal (Grisha trilogy) is an ex-soldier and animal tracker; Gale (Hunger Games) probably gets a decent arm workout from his job as a miner. Other times, though, I’ll agree: the mega manly muscles (!) could realistically be toned down, or substituted for some other physical feature.

    • Heheh! Putting it together was very fun and interesting – I had a feeling that some words were used repeatedly but when I found the sentences/words themselves, I was a bit surprised with how prevalent they were!

      I agree with you there. Some of them make sense, which is fine, but some of the male characters spend no time working out and it just feels a little unrealistic. With some of their habits, you wonder why they have such good metabolism? (Can I have it too please??)

  3. Oh buddy, you said it all! Great discussion post (gotta include this again on my Spotlight Saturday post!)! I’d be scared to pursue my writing career if I were an author bc of this lol.
    Idk if we talked about this before but were you a psychology graduate or something? L
    Awesome coining of references!
    But seriously, it’s all a marketing strategy I guess so girls could swoon for what social constructs (here we go again!) dictate as gorgeous male body and that they buy the story. And like, why should Neville Longbottom be fat and ugly-teethed just because he’s not the chosen one? Even in movies! Ugh books and other media are all slaves for money.

    • Aw, thanks Trisha!! Wow, thank you so much! Why would you be scared?? You should pursue it fearlessly! c:

      I was! Psychology and Sociology! I think it is somewhat of a marketing strategy too, but from the responses I’m getting in this blog, I think authors can achieve more with diverse love interests!

      I LOVE NEVILLE. And he turned out pretty good though, eheheh! But I completely see what you mean. :I

      I know what you mean. With every new American blockbuster with the cookie-cutter trailers, I get that feeling too. Though, I think books do it slightly better than movies – even then, we still have a long way to go! I think that’s why these discussions are important to have, so authors realize that we love complexity or content that challenges us. :D

  4. This post is so spot on! I don’t think I could add anything, you covered everything.
    Completely agree with you.
    My favorite male characters are the ones that have some diversity whether that be in their background or in their appearance.
    BTW loved your dividers. not only were they funny but they also oraganized the post into sections :) much appreciated

    • Thank you meena! c:

      I do too! As Jenna pointed out (somewhere in the comments), most male characters look the same-ish anyway, so what makes them different is what stands out to me!

      Hahaha thank you! I was worried that they might be too much, but I am glad that you liked them. c:

  5. Yes! Thank yoU!! I’m sick of reading the same thing again and again… I want more diversity in general in books… It’s sort of the same with female characters like there are an abundance of green eyed, ginger females which you actually don’t see a ton of irl. I want male characters that are different and not the same old muscular and blue eyed men… I can’t actually think of any good examples of male leads who are conventionally “attractive”. Great post!!

    • I completely agree with you, Lara! I think some authors try and make the characters more quirky or ‘unique’ to try and convey a point, but depth and authenticity is lost in the meantime.

      I do too! Particularly because not that many guys are muscular (though there are a few)! I think authors should try find other ways to make male characters appealing. There is so much more than appearances.

      Thank you! <3

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I talked with my boyfriend about the very same thing. I’m writing a novel, my first one to be exact. Earlier, I asked him how he felt about having a character modeled after him. He’s excited, but he wants the character to look like him. My boyfriend’s far from the typical male love interest type. He’s black, tall and stocky and I have yet to read a book where the male love interest resembles him.

    • Ahh, all the best with your novel, Kristen! I think that’s so sweet – modelling your character from your boyfriend. :)

      We definitely need more PoC love interests, so go you! I totally support you. :D

  7. This is such a great discussion, CW, I absolutely loved reading this post, and I agree with everything you wrote. This is, in fact, one of the things that annoy me the most, when talking about love interests in books. Muscles, beautiful eyes, they’re all looking gorgeous in our minds, but I like it, too, when they have little flaws, it can even make them more likeable. In real life, no one’s perfect, so why are they in books?!
    I’d love to see more diverse male love interests, more descriptions of some of their little flaws, because for, me, it doesn’t make them less likeable, it just makes them more real :)

    • Thank you Marie! Completely agree with you there – the more realistic and ‘real’ the character, the better! I think it’s good for the story too, since such characters make me feel more emotionally invested. :D

  8. Eek. I haven’t yet read Shatter Me but the word ‘erect’ makes me think of certain parts of the body (and not the whole body itself). OOPS.

    I think anime/mangas are better than books at pushing the genre and the ‘looks’ of a love interest. I can think of one manga in which the male protagonist is shorter than the female, and the theme kind-of-but-not-really revolves around that, as well.

    I would looove to see more MoC in fiction in general—not only as love interests but even as side characters would be great. But I think this has something to do with how ‘white’ is the ‘default’ race, i.e. when we read a book and it’s not explained what the race/ethnicity of the characters are, we assume they’re white.

    As for a love interest with a physical disability – have you read North of Beautiful yet? It’s not really a physical disability as such but I remember the male love interest has a cleft lip, and the female love interest has a port-wine birthmark on her face.

    This might be a bit weird but I look for love interests who respect the protagonists—this means no stalking, no over-the-top persistence, no grand gestures. Also: lots of teasing and flirting, and nothing over-dramatic at the beginning. No ‘I love you’s when you’ve only met, etc. (I think this kind of reflects my url preferences as well though, haha.)

    Great post, CW! I could write so much more but this comment is already so long as is. <3

    • HAHAHA oh good, I wasn’t the only one who thought that too!

      I think I know what you’re talking about! Is it Love Com? (Off the top of my head!)

      I agree with you. It’s difficult for us as PoC too, because it’s something that we have internalized from watching so much white/Western media. (Funnily enough, the one time I imagined a character as Korean-American, she was played by a white actress in the movie adaptation…)

      I haven’t! I looked it up and it sounds like something that interests me. Thank you for the rec! I shall add it to my ever-growing TBR and add your name next to it so I remember. :D

      I don’t think that’s weird AT ALL. For me, love interests that respect the protag is a must. I never really understood love interests that didn’t respect the protag but were desirable anyway. Actually, I find the idea a little disturbing.

      You’re always welcome to leave super long comments! I love reading them. <3

      • I must say… I’ve actually never ever seen ‘erect’ used to describe someone’s overall body. Is it common use, would you say?

        Yes, it’s Love Com! I’m a huge manga reader but that’s just about the one that pops into my head when it comes to somewhat unconventional relationships/love interests. Have you read it yet?

        Oh no! That’s terrible. What movie was it? I think there was some backlash about Scarlett Jo being casted in Ghost in The Shell too. I really do wish they’d use more PoC actors/actresses in general. :(

        I find the idea of disrespectful love interests disturbing as well, but admittedly when I was younger, I was a lot more receptive to it. I used to like Twilight when I was fifteen—I thought he was protective (instead of a stalker), determined (instead of pushy), etc. I think that’s what makes it even more problematic though, because I see now that it’s ‘bad’, but back then I didn’t, and I can see other fifteen-year-old girls thinking it’s romantic too instead of creepy.

        Sorry, I’ve gone on a whole other tangent there. :p

        • To be honest, I wouldn’t think so! ‘Erect’… because he is standing up?? I’d keep guessing but I’d just be making innuendos. XD

          I haven’t! My sister has watched the anime though, and she said it’s very eventful. I think you’re right in saying that manga/anime are better at portraying unconventional looks, and what not. Even different kinds of relationships too – one of my fave animes of this year, Barakamon, has a very unconventional friendship between a young girl and a calligrapher who is trying to find inspiration. It’s such a heart-warming anime! ;_;

          It was The Martian! I imagined ‘Mindy Park’ as Korean, but then I googled her and noooope. I was a bit disappointed.
          I do too. But on the brightside, yesterday I watched AMC’s new show called ‘Into the Badlands’; the main character is Asian (Daniel Wu) and it also features a PoC romantic couple! :D

          Haha, me too! So many of my friends loved him, some of my guys friends wanted to be like him. D: When I learned that the relationship was unhealthy (through TwilightSucks.com, lol) I did a sharp 180 and hated the book. Now I just don’t care for it too much, though I am a little curious about Life and Death. But anyway, I think most people know a bit better now. :)

          Hahah that’s cool! I like tangents – they make good discussion. :D

          • I’ve never heard of Barakamon, but I’ll check it out! I’ll also take a look at Into the Badlands… I’m not a huge TV person and sadly not too experimental in what I choose to watch. :p

            I think back in the day, my friends were really into Edward too! I’m also really curious about Life and Death. I have a half a mind to check it out from the library but I know I CAN’T read it without judgment… I’m much too focused on the fact that it’s Twilight and that’s enough to make me unable to take it seriously, I think. Are you going to read it for real?

            • Do! It’s REALLY nice. It’s a slice of life and comedy. c:

              Haha, I’m not either! The only TV I watch weekly is The Walking Dead.I only watched Into The Badlands because my dad was so excited about it and wanted me to watch it with me, hehehe. XD

              I know what you mean! I was SUPER passionate about how much I disliked Twilight when I was very young and petty. I’m personally really curious – Jess from Mud and Stars said parts of the writing improved, so I’m suuuuper curious! XD To be honest, I may, if I ever come across it. c:

  9. OMG THOSE DIVIDERS. XD PERFECTION. I’m glad you chose to use them! Hehe I love this topic!!

    I think what i love most in a male love interest is personality. I want them to be funny but also kind-hearted. My favourite book boyfriend is probably Will Herondale because he’s broody but he’s also really caring and loyal and SUPER PASSIONATE ;) But I also really love Jase from My Life Next Door because he’s just the ultimate good guy and he’s realistic. He’s who I want my real partner to be like <3 . Because all MLIs tend to have the same appearance these days, it's their personalities that make them stand out to me. Also, intelligence makes me go MHMMM *nods approvingly*

    I think more authors are branching out and trying to make their characters more unique by giving them physical disabilities (Kaz from Six of Crows, Callum from The Magisterium series)… but we're still pretty far away from diversity. I think a lot of contemporaries now feature MLIs who are kind of average looking, but that's not something that I've seen in fantasy very often… possibly because readers like the drama of fantasy novels, so it's acceptable for MLIs to be completely over-the-top handsome, muscular and perfect.

    Having said that, I do love my Will Herondale, Rowan (ToG) and other popular fantasy MLIs. And they probably appeal to me because they're completely different to what I might find or go for in real life.

    Btw, who's your first husband?! (I should probably read VA or Bloodlines to see who this Adrian is)

    • HAHA Thank you! I won’t lie, I giggled to myself making them.

      ME TOO. Personalities are yummy. Will from the Infernal Devices? I really need to read this series, don’t I? XD I haven’t heard of My Life Next Door, but consider it auto-added to my TBR with your name next to it (so I remember)!

      Interestingly, you’re the only person (so far) that has mentioned intelligence! I think intelligence is great too, though sometimes it is confused with arrogance. :c but MHHMMMMM GIRL I want intelligence too!

      You make a really good point about fantasy. I think the genre has to subscribe to those ideal archetypes because it’s what makes it more… epic? The stakes are higher? After finishing a few contemporaries recently, I have noticed that they have veered away from putting too much stock into physical appearances, which is pretty refreshing.

      READ VA AND BLOODLINES! Actually, read VA just to read Bloodlines. And then we can swoon over Adrian together. :’)

      • Yes, please read My Life Next Door! I love, love, love all the characters in that book! And Jase is a sweetheart <3 And yes, you need to read The Infernal Devices. Both Will and Jem are completely swoon-worthy! XD I will gladly marry either or both of them :D I'll have my reverse-harem of beautiful, sweet and intelligent men.

  10. I could not agree more! All of them are always tall, muscular and drop dead handsome, oh an of course kind. Makes me want to puke! It is such bullshit, have you ever met in life a super trained guy who is all kind and shy? Usually these ones are jerks and mostly arrogant who let’s face it just want you to get into bed. I mean come on, step in the gym and they are all over you. I mean okay I do not want to read about guys who have oily hair like in Fangirl but still. Plus, I like complicated characters who are not bloody kind, I think that is why I adore Warner from Shatter me characters and the ending of the book. In your face Adam! :DDD Anyways, surely we all love some muscle but for me I barely register what the author writes about appearance. It is all about the character, like you said Dorian is all good looking but in my eyes simply because I do not like him I see him and one of these girly weak boys I avoid in my life (Wow that sounded worse than I intended) :D I think the beauty of the books is that despite what authors write you still can make them all just the way you want them!

    HannahCassie @ http://psilovethatbook.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Hi Hannah! You raise some interesting points. I think super trained guys can be shy and kind, but often they’re just painted as mean people (for no reason other than to play into the stereotype) or they are *secretly* nice. I think what we need is more depth – so more than the shallow portrayal of male characters!

      I agree with you about descriptions not entirely registering! I agree that it’s all about the character too. I haven’t read beyond Crown of Midnight, so I’ll have to reserve my comments about Dorian for now! (Though at the moment I like Chaol a bit more.)

      Thanks for the comment, Hannah! <3

  11. Oh I love this post! Totally bookmarking this for the next time I go writing romantic interests. I think what’s more important than physical appearance (because I normally skip over half the description I come across anyways) is just having lots of character? I mean, whether it’s adorkable or broody or anything in between, personality makes me squeal far more than, “OMG he’s hot.”*

    *this does not apply to several actors, which I shall not name or I’ll be too busy fangirling to hit post comment.

    • Oh wow, thanks Alyssa! I’m glad that I could be of some help(?) :D

      I do too. When I envision characters in my head, they’re more like ‘ideas’, rather than specific details. So when their physical appearances are being described, it doesn’t even really register to me.

      TELL ME ABOUT THESE ACTORS!

  12. I do agree that most male love interests look the same. Just the same as all female heroines are the same. When I read I take the physical description of the male love interest and spin it so it looks more like a guy I would want to date. Is that weird?

    I honestly feel like I don’t have a favorite love interest. I tend to pick a favorite from each book I read, but none seem to rise to the top of my list. I can say that Magnus from Falling Kingdoms is probably closest to my ideal type. But I dont know!

    Anyways this was such a fun topic! Great work :D

    • I completely agree with you concerning female heroines! I feel like their appearances are polarized – either very pretty or deliberately described as ‘not very pretty’ (but pretty to the love interest, haha) to prove a point.
      I don’t think that’s weird! That’s what I do when I have to imagine love interests too.

      Fair enough! I don’t either, with the exception of Adrian from the VA/Bloodlines series, but that was a seven year swoon-affair. XD

      I remember you recommending the Falling Kingdoms series! I’ve been on the lookout for that book ever since you wrote about it on your blog.

      Thank you! It was fun to write about and fun to talk to others about. :D

  13. PREACH! I am loving your discussion posts! I won’t repeat what most of the other comments are saying, but yes I just complete agree with you. When people normally talk about this issue (including myself guiltily) they excluded men which leaves them to be left out. Good for you for bringing up this issue.

    • Thank you, Astra! :D I’m glad you’re enjoying them!

      I see your point! Don’t worry, I am the same, but I think it’s great we can all talk about it now! I do wonder though, how these portrayals impact men – or if these portrayals turn them off from YA as a whole?

      • I just definitely want some more diverse looks in terms of male love interests. Looking back at the books I read in the last week (Everything, Everything and The Accident Season) along with the book I’m reading now (Anna and the French Kiss) all the love interests were described as “muscular” “lean” or “hot” and theres nothing wrong with that but just thinking of how similar male love interests are described as just makes me wish and wish and wish a good book would come around with some more diverse characters that give me the vibe of them being their own unique person instead of them reminding me of every other male character love interest.

  14. Just found your blog through a link on twitter and I just have to comment because I think you’re raising an important point.
    YES to all of this. I was just realizing the same thing while reading Penryn & The End of Days, although my thought was much less articulate. :p
    I have accepted by now that I much prefer sarcastic nerdy guys to muscular adonis. xD This usually led me to liking the sidekick/best friend more. For example, Simon in TMI.
    One of my favorite MLI is Alan Ryves from The Demon’s Lexicon. He wears glasses, is disabled, smart, anndd he works in bookstore. So, that’s my type. Hahaha.
    I certainly would love to see more diversity in male love interest.

    • Hi Windie! Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment! I’m always happy to meet new people. c:

      Hahah, it was mostly Peryn & The End of Days that drew my attention to this – I remember Peryn mentioning Raffe’s abs/biceps/muscles so many times!

      I remember reading about Simon! From what I recall, I preferred him over Jase too – though in saying that, I haven’t read the books beyond City of Bones. I’ve never heard of The Demon’s Lexicon – but Alan sounds like a character I’d like! What’s the series about? :)

      • Hahaha it’s true. I really like the series, but I wish Penryn would stop describing Raffe’s physique all the time. At the end, I just skim over every time she described Raffe’s adonis body. I will admit that I have fallen victim to Raffe, but it’s more about his attitude than his body.

        The Demon’s Lexicon is about two brothers living in London with their mother who have been constantly on the run from magicians who wanted something from their mother. They learned to fight magicians and demons and along the way they met some people who need their help. I know the premise sounds like the tv series Supernatural, but they’re actually very different (although I like them both). Alan is crippled since he got injured during a fight with the magicians and Nick is the muscular perfect-abs warrior one. The best thing about The Demon’s Lexicon is that they both get to live something that resembles normal life during the day (e.g., go to school or work in bookshop) but they fight evil magicians for dinner.

        • I liked Raffe too! For the same reasons as you, hehe. c:

          Oh wow, The Demon’s Lexicon sounds REALLY awesome! I never got into Supernatural, so any similarities will just go over my head. I like that fighting magicians is something that is ‘normal’ for them; I think it makes the narrative so much more interesting. Thanks for the recommendation, Windie! I’ve noted it down. <3

  15. This is so interesting! You must have put so much time and thought into this post.

    I completely agree with you. I think most of my thoughts have already been covered by this very intelligent comment thread. A lot of YA boys are just lazily written. The idea that attractiveness only comes in the form of a guy who’s six feet tall, muscled and broody is just so boring. It’s damaging for young readers to see this as the standard of masculinity they should expect. It puts so much pressure on young men to be a certain thing, and makes them feel like they’ve somehow failed if they aren’t.

    I liked that you mentioned characters with disabilities. I often feel that in discussions of diversity they are often missed out. My brother has autism, and he’s just as into girls as the next guy, trust me. And yet nobody wants to tell that story. (actually I do. I am trying to write about autism in my NaNoWriMo, but it’s hard!)

    On your point about the desexualisation of disabled people – a few weeks back, the charity Scope released this really great video recreating ‘that scene’ (the one with the fake orgasm in the cafe) from When Harry Met Sally with disabled women playing Meg Ryan’s part. It was great. On your point, hopefully they’ll do one with men soon too.

    • Thank you Lydia! I had a lot of fun writing this post. c:

      I think you raise a super interesting and important point, and I’m kicking myself for forgetting to mention the implications! But you are absolutely right – I do agree with you, and I think these characters can shape expectations. I felt this particularly when I read some NA – some of the characters just hypermasculinity on legs. I found it ridiculous and unrealistic. :I

      Thank you for sharing that with me. c: That’s so awesome that you’re writing about autism! That would definitely be something I’d love to read. ♥ And I think we definitely need more literature or stories about disabilities, and the effects of ableism on people. I recently took my friend to a massive convention and she was in a wheelchair, and I had no idea how difficult it was for people with wheelchairs to get around. I was definitely ignorant of the small things that I took for granted, and it has compelled me to be more aware and conscious of these things.

      (I actually haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally before but…) I can’t seem to find the video, but I had a good hour or so exploring Scope’s website and their content. I really like their A to Z of sex and disability, and their End the Awkward campaign – it’s super eye-opening! :D

      • I always thought that writing about something so close to me would be easy, but it’s the opposite. My brother has found a really interesting community of autistic people online though, and he’s always sending me videos of people explaining aspects of their experience so that we can understand each other better. It’s great.

        It’s so important to share people’s stories. I think for so many people disability isn’t something that they even see.I totally agree with you about wheelchair access. It’s ridiculous in so many places. I lived with a girl who was a wheelchair user in university for a bit, and the amount of planning she had to put into getting around was crazy. It’s taught me to really appreciate buildings that care about accessibility!

        I’m glad you enjoyed Scope’s website. They are doing some interesting things. :)

        • Wow, that’s wonderful. I’m glad to hear that your brother has found a community that understands him and can support him by sharing lived experiences. That’s really, really awesome.

          Me too! I agree – I think disability is something that is either very visible or not at all, and oftentimes the latter is out of ignorance. So I think it’s organizations like Scope that can achieve such great things, one small step at a time. Haha I did! Thank you for sharing. :D

  16. Great post! I completely relate to what you said about male love interests just being an attractive blob in your head… those samey descriptions are so generic, I just can’t picture what that guy looks like – I don’t think he exists! To be honest, and this might sound weird, but I tend to largely ignore descriptions of appearance, and make up my own version, which usually looks completely different to what the author describes. I couldn’t tell you what most love interests in the books I’ve read looked like because I almost definitely zoned out on those parts! What I look for in a book love interest is an interesting character, devoid of book-boyfriend cliches. I’ve read far too many books about alpha males who sleep with every single girl they can find until they find that one perfect girl they want to change for (they’re nearly ALWAYS the tall, dark, blue-eyed and muscley variety!). My favourite male love interest of all time has got to be Michael Moscovitz from The Princess Diaries (my first ever book crush, at the age of 12….) I liked him because he was intelligent, and full of banter (but not the sarcastic mean and moody variety). He definitely shares a lot of qualities with my real boyfriend. Anyway, sorry for the mini-essay I seem to have written here! Thanks for writing such an interesting post :)

    • I don’t think making up your own version is weird at all. I do it too – I think for me, personality and the way they speak shape the image I paint of them. Though, if the book’s cover has the characters on the front, I would go from there.

      I completely agree – I think having a great character is key to a great male love interest, or characters in general. People are so different and diverse, and I think it’s a real shame when authors portray the same caricature over and over again.

      HAHA I LOVE that you mention mean and moody sarcasm – I’ve personally never understood the appeal of it. On paper/books, it’s funny and ‘cute’ (maybe) but in actuality I find people like this extremely obnoxious. (Protagonist of The DUFF springs to my mind.)

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response, Jess! Hahaha, please don’t be sorry – mini-essays are the best sort of comments and I love them. <3

      • It really is a shame! What makes me more embarrassed is that I didn’t even really notice the lack of diversity in the books I was reading until I started my blog and began properly thinking about everything I was reading. I think the lack of diversity also leads to assumptions about characters that are there before we even open a book – white rich alpha male just becomes the default, and that’s really sad. Definitely with you on not seeing the appeal of Mr Mean & Moody… I’ve not read The DUFF because I was put off by the idea that somebody would want want a guy who labelled her ugly and fat before even getting to know her – in real life that would be the complete opposite of someone you’d want to go anywhere near!! What was the book like? I am a little curious!

        • I’m the same! Before I read for leisure – and I still do! – but now I look at books a bit more critically. It was then that I noticed a lack of a lot of things too.

          It’s very true! Lack of diversity also has an impact on real life and how people perceive others too, because people look at characters with certain traits and use them as points of reference. :I
          I think so too; there’s more to people than those common tropes. Imagine what authors can achieve and what readers can get if we had more than those representations.

          HAHA I’m not sure if I’m the best person to ask! I really disliked The DUFF. I thought it was very messy. I wasn’t fond with the story, and was definitely not fond of the characters. And yes! I was a bit concerned with how the male love interest was romanticized; the relationship was incredibly toxic. I don’t know; I didn’t really get why this book was so well-received, to be honest! It is a pretty easy read though? :)

          • I think it’s really interesting what you said about taking reference points from characters in books and applying them to real people. I think a lot of people probably think the mean and moody troubled player type can be fixed just by meeting the right person (which seems to happen so easily in all the books and movies), when in reality, it just doesn’t work like that, and will just lead to a very damaging relationship.

            Also thanks for letting me know about The DUFF. I’m thinking it is not my kind of book either haha… toxic relationships just do not do it for me!

            • That’s so true! I think movies/books have influenced people to believe that they can ‘fix’ people… which is honestly not the best of ideas! (But 100% agreed – damaging relationship probably wth a lot of manipulative tendencies too!)

              HAHA okay, The DUFF is definitely not for you! And I wouldn’t even qualify it as a trashy read… your time is definitely best spent on other books. :)

  17. What a wonderful discussion post, Chooi!

    Gosh, I totally agree with you on how every single MLI has the same type of build or physical description, mostly in YA at least. Even though I have noticed it, it doesn’t really bother me that much since when I read I don’t imagine what my characters look like as other readers (so I’m not one of those readers that has a dream cast in their mind-I have trouble remembering the protagonist’s hair color half the time to be honest, haha), which is kind of weird now that I think about it. But I can totally see why authors depict these type of attractive MLIs since the target audience are young girls that probably haven’t dated so they may find these handsome guys to be swoon worthy. Plus, the media sure has engineered some individuals to be quite superficial. It’s about the “looks” and society’s standard of “beauty” these days, right? Anyway, I’m kind of going of topic with this… What I think I’m trying to say is that maybe handsome MLIs are just easier for authors to use. Maybe they think readers will love the MLI more if he has a pretty face? I don’t know where I’m going with this anymore, LOL.

    Hmm, for me, my book boyfriend is Jem Carstairs from The Infernal Device. I really like (fictional and in real life) guys that are charming and are more sensitive. And ones that are kind and are well aware of their surroundings and the people they love. Intelligence is a bonus, too. ;)

    • I see where you are coming from! I really agree with the media engineering certain looks. I think it ties in with fashion and fads too. To an extent, I think some male characters are made that way to, as you say, appeal to the audience. But then it subscribes to these ideals of masculinity that are not achievable/unrealistic. I do wonder how this impacts young men and women too.

      Oh my gosh, so much love for Jem from that series! I really have to read it now – my library’s audiobook database doesn’t have the books, so I’m going to try and borrow them from a friend. :) Will hopefully send you fangirl feels soon!

      (Also, completely agree with sensitive guys!)

  18. Okay. I really love this post. For me, I want more diversity in love interests. Males especially. I hate the stereotypical blond and blue eyes guy. I want the Asian guys who are totally chubby and nerdy. And that’s cute. I want the nerds and the geeks. The ones who don’t work out.
    Life isn’t all blond and blue eyes, so why are books like that?
    Admittedly, I’m a little hypocrite since I ogle at the ripped Caucasian guys. But pssh.

    • Thank you Wren! I’d like to see more nerds and geeks too, though I often find that writers will write them as withdrawn/socially awkward/shy because nerds/geeks are stereotyped that way. So I do hope that books will look beyond appearance and put more stock in their personality. c:

  19. This is such a fantastic post! I also recommend Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier – the main characters become friends first before they develop any romantic interest in each other. They also take time apart to explore life and find independence while working towards their goals and coming to understand their bond. Plus the male character has a disability and it addressed in a realistic way. Heart’s Blood is also my favourite historical fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

    *Sorry for the late comment! I finally emerged from my Nanowrimo cave.

    • Thank you Glaiza! Oh that sounds absolutely wonderful. ;_; I had a read of the synopsis on Goodreads, and it sounds really nice. Definitely added this to my TBR list! I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, so I am sure I’ll love this one. Thank you!

      Ahhh I don’t mind at all! I love comments, late or early! :D Congrats on finishing Nanowrimo!! How did it go? c:

      • Yay! Nanowrimo was interesting – I managed to write a lot but there’s still a long way to go in terms of finishing the 1st draft so I shall keep working on it. Though I’m happy I have time to read again too!

          • I agree, it’s a hectic commitment. I’ve tried NaNo in previous years but it never worked out (which made my then teen self feel quite down). Even though I reached the minimum word goal this year, I’m glad NaNo is over because I tend to take my time processing a story – which can be counter-intuitive to the word racing nature of NaNo. I hope you can get back into writing in 2016 too! I recently learned about Camp NaNo in April and July where you can work on setting your own minimum goal of words and even work on non-novel projects. It’s a little less hectic than Nano because you can adjust the commitment factor.

            • Ooh wow, thanks for the advice! I’ve always been the type to process my thoughts and words too – I’ve always struggled with the whole word-vomit thing, and would favour mulling over every word to construct somewhat thoughtful sentences. But I think it would be a very good exercise for me, even if I don’t reach my goal! :D

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