Possessive, check. Jealous, check. Volatile, check.

It’s no mystery that the Alpha-Male character type has dominated romantic fiction. Nearly any romance you pick up will feature one of these tough, rugged, manly men out to woo their lady of choice with their muscular body and chiseled looks. I don’t mind indulging in this type of fantasy at all when reading romance, although I do enjoy the sweet, Beta-Male as well. However, lately, I’ve noticed that the trend has shifted away from the standard Alpha, which is normally a beefcake with a heart of gold, to what I like to call the Alpha-Douche. This guy is possessive, volatile, jealous, and borders on stalking the lead female. I have to wonder, why is it that this type of man has gotten so popular recently?

Alpha-Douche Checklist:

Obsessive, Borderline Stalker – He will almost obsessively pursue her. She typically tells him no several times while he insists that she be around him. This situation was just brought to my attention with the book Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. Dean sees Sky for the first time and follows her, demanding to know her name. He even insists on seeing her driver’s license as proof that she game him her real name. The next time they meet, he follows her while she is out jogging and offers her a drink of his water, which she accepts. So, the Alpha-Douche just stalked her and offered her a mysterious bottle of water. In real life, this would be terrifying. If some guy followed me to my car and demanded to see my driver’s license, I would be speeding off as fast as possible. If that same guy showed up again and wanted me to drink an open bottle of water he brought with him, I’d be pretty tempted to call the police. This sounds like step one of some creep’s kidnapping plan. Yet, in fiction this is somehow acceptable because the guy is hot? Sky even feels uneasy with the encounter, yet doesn’t stop herself. To quote, “My instinct is telling me to run and scream, but my body wants to wrap itself around his glistening, sweaty arms.” Ladies, if a strange man follows you and demands to know personal information about you, and you feel endangered enough to think you should “turn and run”, do it! This isn’t sexy behavior, unless you’re really in to serial killers.

Moody and Quick to Anger – I can’t be the only one who would be embarrassed if the guy I was with freaked out and got physically violent with a total stranger at the least provocation. If you want a book that is the perfect example of this behavior, just read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. Travis is the king of the Alpha-Douches. He punches a guy for touching the heroine’s arm. He starts a brawl in the cafeteria at their college that, in reality, would’ve ended in criminal charges and expulsion from the school. If I was around a man in real-life who was so quick to destruction and violence, I would feel terrified that he could turn that violence against me in a heartbeat. In Beautiful Disaster, Abbey is informed that Travis went on a destructive rampage because she left his apartment:

“Travis is a fucking wreck! He won’t talk to us, he’s trashed the apartment, threw the stereo across the room… Shep [roommate] can’t talk any sense into him! He took a swing at Shep when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! It’s scaring me! Abby, he’s gone fucking nuts! I heard him call your name, and then he stomped all over the apartment looking for you. He barged into Shep’s room, demanding to know where you were. Then he tried to call you. Over, and over and over,” she sighed. “His face was… Jesus, Abby. I’ve never seen him like that. He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door… broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Oh yeah, that is a totally reasonable reaction to Abbey leaving without telling him. Travis even tells Abbey that he would probably “end up in prison” if she slept with another guy. That little bit of murderous jealousy brings us to my next point.

Jealous – A little jealousy is human nature, breaking into fits of violence if your significant other so much as talks to another guy is unhealthy. I have too many examples of stupid, Alpha-Douche jealousy to even list here. What shocks me even beyond this jealousy is the total double-standard present. The heroines can’t so much as speak to anything with testosterone without the Alpha-Douche throw a tantrum, yet the guys in these are nearly always promiscuous. In True by Erin McCarthy, the Alpha-Douche and heroine meet because he is sleeping with her best friend. Like, he comes out post-coitus and that’s where their story starts. Travis Maddox in Beautiful Disaster has a raucous threesome one room over from Abbey during one of their on-again-off-again moments.

Controlling – The Alpha-Douche likes to tell his lucky lady (not) how to dress and wear her hair. Either because this is how he likes it or because he’s worried she might draw the attention of another male. See Christian Grey’s (the Alpha-Douche spokesperson) list for Anastasia on how to dress, exercise, sleep, eat, etc. If my significant other told me I needed to lose ten pounds, I would get my feelings hurt. If he wrote specific instructions on how many hours of sleep and exercise to get each day; I would laugh and get a restraining order. Braden in On Dublin Street tells his hostage lady love that she needs to wear her hair up so no other man will see how beautiful it is. That would sort of be sweet if it wasn’t horrifying. The Alpha-Douche also likes to tell these girls where they can go and when. Think Edward Cullen (a pioneer in the Alpha-Douche territory) ripping a chunk out of Bella’s truck so she can’t go see her friend. Beautiful Disaster is guilty of this one as well. I hate to keep harping on that book in particular but it might be the Alpha-Douche handbook.

What makes this trend even more concerning to me is that it appears most often in New Adult novels. I sincerely hope that this can’t be taken as a sign that young women consider this type of behavior appealing.

When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was terrible to me. It wasn’t until I was out of the situation, at the urging of many of my friends, that I realized the way he acted could be categorized as abuse. By the end, he called me names, screamed at me, demoralized and insulted me on a daily basis. I put constant effort into keeping him happy so I wouldn’t set him off. Looking back on it now, it shocks me that I was so unable to see that how he acted was wrong. The thing is, it didn’t start that way. At first, he was just controlling. He had to know where I was, who I was, and what I was doing. He caused rifts between my friends and I if they had an issue with him. He tried to tell me what to wear and frequently told me I should dye my hair to look more how he wanted me to. I couldn’t talk to other guys but he would flirt with other girls in front of me and threaten to leave me for them or cheat. He frequently expressed his anger with me through throwing or kicking things. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you have no question at all that this was a toxic situation. If you knew someone in the same type of relationship, you would tell them to get out immediately. Yet, somehow, a measure of this decidedly abusive behavior is accepted in fiction from the romantic leads in the form of the Alpha-Douche.

The idea of meeting a bad boy and reforming him to be a great boyfriend is nothing new. However, I can’t ever remember these bad boys of the past as being so psychotic. What makes women drawn to the Alpha-Douche character? In all the books I’ve read containing them, the only justification ever given is that the guy is sexy. Trust me, no amount of good looks will make up for having to be constantly on edge with your violent, stalker boyfriend. I can understand the excitement of a guy who is totally captivated by you and wants to be with you at all costs, but I think there is a line between consuming love and an unhealthy obsession.

So, tell me, what do you think the appeal is of the Alpha-Douche? Do you think they are contained only to fiction, where more leeway can be given, or is this what women are looking for in their real relationships?

AAR Haley


This entry was posted in Characters, Haley AAR, Heroes. Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Possessive, check. Jealous, check. Volatile, check.

  1. I think, especially with NA and YA, it’s the fantasy of letting somebody else take the strain. For many emerging adults, life isn’t a challenge, it’s terrifying. Taxes, jobs, the stress of passing exams, and the idea of being responsible for yourself, can be horrific.
    So the alpha-hole takes all that strain. He folds his protective wings around said heroine and takes responsibility for her. He’s usually rich, or at least not poor, so he can afford it, too.
    It’s a fantasy, the same as the billionaire hero, and like it or not, the billionaire/waif trope has a lot of appeal these days. You can see it right in the early days of genre romance that women bought for themselves. In the twenties, when, due to a shortage of men brought on by the Great War, women were suddenly vital to the economy and had to go out to work, that was when the trope found a new lease of life. Before that, we have characters like Sylvia in “Parade’s End,” highly intelligent but held back and frustrated by the restrictions of her life, and after, we get the retro heroine, for the secretaries and factory workers to read. One of the earliest of these new, cheaply produced romance books was called “Waif Into Wife.” Says it all, really.
    A real alpha is a leader who looks out for his followers and encourages them to acheive their potential. He’s not a bully or intimidated, because he’s secure in his role.
    Maybe an NA alpha douche is an alpha in the making? He’s not quite sure of where he fits?
    In any case, in the words of my dear old Dad, “I give it six months” (the relationship, that is).

  2. Jen says:

    I hated Beautiful Disaster for this very reason. It bordered on abuse. I am not a fan of the alpha douche aka asshole.

    • Mary says:

      I started to try and read this book several times because I saw such glowing recommendations. UGH! I couldn’t.

  3. Maria says:

    I tend to not look upon the behavior of characters in romance novels as proscriptive….I’d be in trouble if I did! :) I do find it somewhat amusing that this behavior among fictional characters arouses such anxiety about “What Lessons are Women Learning from this Horrible Book” especially “Vulnerable Youmg Women.” If a reader is getting all her relationship advice from romance books…..well ’nuff said, right?

    My take on the popularity of such behavior (in fictional reading) is that it speaks to the anxiety of women who look around and see a lot of feminized men, masculinity is derided, men not doing as well as women in the economy or graduating college, and any kind of male authority is shrieked about as being “patriarchal.” There’s a reason why these books are so popular among college women. From professors they hear about the evils men do, ad infinitum about the rape culture, patriarchy, hetereosexism, blah blah blah…so women (and men) are taught that being a man means one is instrinsically wrong , almost born wrong. Yet women still want men…..so we have these outsized male characters who are politically incorrect and VERY VERY WRONG, according to the current ideology present on college. It’s a way for young women to like what they are told is VERY VERY WRONG. And a safe way for them to explore outsize masculine behavior. A form of rebellion from the thought police in charge of college campuses. That’s my take on it anyway.

    • MEK says:

      I think you make some excellent points here. I’ve seen this on college campus myself, and its observable in the dress and behavior of the young men. They lack the confidence at this young age to say to themselves, “I’m becoming a MAN and I’m proud of it.” and so in dress and behavior I saw a definite feminization. Are we giving our young men societal permission to be men?

      I’m sorry to see the alpha become the alpha-douche, though. It can be pretty painful to read, and has kept me from reading many a contemporary romance for just that reason. Give an alpha hero any day!

    • leslie says:

      “a form of rebellion from the thought police in charge of college campuses”

      WTF??!! Please don’t generalize…..I find it hard to believe you are in tune to the “current ideology on ALL American college campuses. Sheesh!

    • Too many generalisations to be at all useful. Are all professors the same? Where do these thought police congregate to agree on their behavior? Can you point to many specific examples?
      It certainly isn’t true of the universities and colleges near me! The men have more swag than they know what to do with! And the average salary on leaving is still higher for men than for women, sadly.
      Also, assuming that novelists are writing “reality” or that readers neccessarily expect it, is a common mistake to make. Or that readers don’t know the difference.

    • Blackjack1 says:

      What is a “feminized man” though? That sounds sexist to me, and if I’m reading you correctly, that men raised with feminism and respectful of equality, are “feminized”? Can men who are feminists not still be masculine? My partner is a feminist male but I don’t view him as less than masculine because he believes in gender equality. Men that stay home to raise children while their wives or partners work do not seem “feminized” to me, nor do the women who live with them view them as such.

      If “these books” are popular among college women, maybe these college women need to take a Women’s Studies course in addition to having some healthy role models for what constitutes a respectful and loving relationship with men.

      • AAR Haley says:

        I’d like to add that I don’t inherently equate masculinity with the alpha-douche. The abusive ex I described was anything but masculine and has now come out as gay. As a 24 year old myself, I can’t say that I’ve seen that men my age are more likely to be “feminine” by any means.

        • Blackjack1 says:

          Well, I do think there needs to be clearer definitions around what constitutes “masculine” and “feminine.” These are tricky and complicated words that get tossed around, especially in our culture today when more men are raised with awareness and even acceptance of feminist principles, and more women feel free to compete in a range of occupations that have traditionally been defined as male dominated. Gender is blurrier than ever, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing, in my mind, though it can cause anxiety for some.

      • N/A says:

        I agree with there being “feminized” men. But not just on college campuses its across America. What I believe she means by feminized men is men who sit back and do nothing, they see a girl they like they do nothing but wait for her to come to him. A real man would have the back bone and the gumption to come up to said female and say something along the lines of, “hey I’m …. and I would like to get t know you, whats your name? Phone number? Anything? OR the fact it seems to me men seem to gossip and criticize just as much as women instead of being the laid back guys who didn’t much care for that stuff and did what ever it is men USED to do. Or how about letting their girlfriend/fiancee/wife walkdown the street showing all her goodies to the world? What he has is for her and what she has is for him not for everybody else. OR how about seeing something go wrong and they slink away like a girl and don’t say anything or do anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say something when the MEN refused to. No he shouldn’t be so dominating that she can’t even think for herself, but neither should she have to do everything. Which is what we do now! THAT is why females read about men who show that they are men, even if it is to the extreme, because that’s the ONLY place they seem to find them! Backing down at the hint of an argument like a girl, it makes me ill and angry.

        • Bex says:

          I was about to ignore your comment until that last line. “Backing down from an argument like a girl”. Wtf? Avoiding confrontation sure is hell is not a ‘feminine’ trait. Being a woman (or a man) does not make you any more likely to back down in the face of an argument, it has nothing to do with it. It’s mostly about your personality type + your level of confidence.

          I’m a woman. If someone wanted to argue a bloody point with me I sure as hell don’t back off, and many women don’t! Just like many men don’t. It’s not a trait that is specific to one gender.

          And if by argument you mean fight as in fists and bruises, then you need to reconsider what masculinity is. Is your ideal guy really someone who goes around solving arguments by hitting people? Mine sure as hell isn’t.

          And whike I’m here let’s discuss your other ‘points’.

          Laziness is not specific to one gender and guys are not responsible for being the one to ask the woman out. If you like a guy why should you have to wait for him to do the asking? And if he is offended by you a *gasp* woman asking him out and he feels demasculated then pat yourself on the back, because you just missed a bullet. A ‘real man’ is someone who is confident enough in who he is to not need a woman to cater to his masculinity.

          As for gossip. Don’t kid yourself. Men and women have always gossiped and it was never specific to one gender either. Men just used to gossip about different things because men used to work different jobs than women and thus they didn’t share quite so much common gossip that could be understood by all.

          And “letting”? HA. The day I let a man (or anyone) decide what I can wear is going to be a damn cold day in hell. It is none of your mother freaking business if I choose to walk around in a bikini if I want to (which I don’t, but the point is the same). Boyfriends/Girlfriends do not get to ‘let’ you do anything. If you are an adult hopefully you know how the hell to dress yourself the way you want.

          And yes, if you are in a committed relationship your bits and their bits should not be touching other people’s bits. But if both people are cool and comfortable with flaunting their bits at other people then your opinion means squat. A relationship between two other people is just that, a relationship between two other people. Don’t be sticking your nose in there.

          And as for the point when you had to say something when a man refused to? Pat yourself on the back for saying something but then take a fucking seat because your follow up comment “slinking away like a girl” was dumb as hell.

          Why is it that ‘like a girl’ is used to describe cowardly, weak, uncomplimetary behaviour? Dude slunk away like a coward. Don’t get coward and girl confused. Girls are just as capable of saying something when bad shit is going down as guys are. And all genders should be held accountable for not speaking up when they should.

          The main thing I am trying to say here is being feminine is not a weakness any more than being masculine is a strength. Both have their up and down sides.

          I think Lynne Connolly made the most sense with her arguments here. At least it rings true to me. Women aren’t after a macho douche of their own, the fantasy of having someone to make all of life’s stressful decisions and be there to support you is just enticing. Women can tell reality from fiction and what they want in reality is not necessarily the same as what they see on the pages of their favourite romance novels.

  4. Sorry, but none of these guys are heroes to me. Give me an easy-going Beta guy any day!

  5. I think it’s part of the general shift toward antiheroes in popular culture. If you look at some of the most popular TV shows– Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc., they are quite dark and sometimes people end up rooting for drug dealers or other criminals. Recently I started watching The Americans, a show in which the main characters are Soviet spies. The romance genre also has motorcycle club bad boys now, and Sons of Anarchy on television. I think Kristen Ashley even has one book in which the hero is a pimp. This seems to be the era of the antihero; it’s what in the cultural zeitgeist just now.

    • AAR Haley says:

      That’s actually an excellent point. Anti-heroes are very in right now.

      • HeatherS AAR says:

        I was popping in to say the same. I like the trend toward anti-heroes as I find them fascinating. But I have a certain point where I decide that one isn’t actually an anti-hero, just a douchecanoe or a psycho.

        I loved that KA book, Knight. That’s a good example of an anti-hero and one that worked for me.

        • > I have a certain point where I decide that one isn’t actually an anti-hero, just a douchecanoe or a psycho.

          Agreed. But one person’s antihero is another’s psycho, and vice versa. I think publishers used to limit hero behavior or (depending on your perspective) misbehavior more, but with the rise of self-publishing, the gates have opened.

  6. Blackjack1 says:

    I’m uncomfortable with some of the generalization here about what women feel about men. As a college campus teacher who does teach Women’s Studies as well as literature, more social awareness about feminism and respect for equality between the sexes does not always equate with “feminized men” or women having anxiety about feminized men. On the other hand, I do think we are living in a time when gender roles are shifting pretty dramatically, and as we try to process these changes, it isn’t surprising that some writers are trying to reassert hyper-masculine male characters as their fantasy, as I can imagine these might be reassuring to some readers. I think it’s a dangerous trend and one that I would want to be cautious about my child absorbing. And as AAR Haley posted, not all women are buying into it. I certainly am not!

  7. Lori Johnson says:

    I, also noticed this trend of the “alphadouche” and have not understood or liked it. I can’t get past the abusive nature of the relationship and end up disliking the hero, heroine and author along the way. I’m completely pulled out of the story by thoughts of – “Ugh! This is sexy?” I didn’t get the appeal of Twilight but struggled through the books and threw them away after. Now I don’t even finish books with this kind of relationship. I get mad at all the 5 star reviews I use to be able to rely on. AND, I’ve always liked a “bad” boy with a heart of gold story.

  8. maggie b. says:

    I’ve been reading romance for decades. Many decades. One of the first books I read was The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The hero rapes the heroine, who IIRC is in her early teens. This book was a best seller and credited for revitalizing the romance genre. The publication date on this historical is 1974. Since then (and perhaps before for all I know) the debate on what happens to the fragile female brain when it is exposed to such horror has been under way.

    I don’t know why the alpha-douche often outsells the beta heroes but I am not too concerned about it. I read Wolf and Dove in junior high and never once believed that it was okay to allow a man to control me, beat me or rape me. And I read a lot of other books with that theme. It was popular at the time and seems to have resurfaced today. Helen Hazen (Endless Rapture) and Nancy Friday have both discussed the rape/abuse fantasy and why it sells from a psychologists point of view. Tanya Modiste discussed romance and the rude alpha in a book as well so there is research available that attempts to explain the phenomena by people who have actually studied the issue. I found it interesting reading. Oh, and Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance is another book that touches on the subject.

    I’m not afraid of the trend. This is probably because I, like most people, was taught that reality and fantasy aren’t the same. It started at an early age – fun to make mud pies, never good to eat them. Great to watch Disney films but realize that dogs don’t talk, if you want a fancy dress don’t wait on a fairy godmother and police, not dwarves, are the people to turn to if you are being chased by a psychotic person.

    I have to add that if my friend had an abusive boyfriend I wouldn’t throw out her romances, I would get her to professional help. Research has shown that abusers don’t just stumble upon women who let them abuse them. They are looking for specific traits. And it is extremely helpful to speak to people who know how to help you reform your habits so that you no longer display those traits. They don’t, btw, target women with romance books in their hands.:-) There are other things they look for.

    • LeeF says:

      Thank you maggie b for saying what I am thinking about this article. Especially enjoy the Disney references.

      One reason I find I avoid NA/YA is it is the “flavor of the day” genre and some folks take it WAY too seriously.

  9. Blackjack1 says:

    While I don’t think that there is a simple and direct cause and effect relationship between an object consumed (i.e. abuse equated with romance) and an action committed (abuse or allowing oneself to be abused), I do think that there is a more complex relationship. The consumption and enjoyment of extremely unpleasant images is troubling and makes me wonder why people enjoy them. On the news not that long ago there was a segment about a graphic video game based on a serial rapist. The animated images depict a man in a ski mask sexually assaulting women as they walk down the street or try to get into their car in parking lot, and apparently this game is quite popular in Japan and catching on in the U.S. How can we account for this popularity? We could say that it is “just entertainment,” and people just know better, but something popular in a culture tends to have reasons for popularity, which is why pop culture is studied. Even if we say that something is just entertaining, there are characteristics that define the word “entertaining,” and there are cultural traits that make such trends popular and worthy of study. Educating young people on healthy relationships seems particularly crucial, which is why I worry if I see books described as they have been in the OP’s response selling well.

  10. HeatherS AAR says:

    Ugh. I do not find this trend of alpha douches to be appealing in the least. I can forgive a lot of alphole behavior, depending on the motive or how far he takes it. But for me there’s a line in the sand between garden variety alpha-@$$hole and the Alpha Douche. I find the AD to have more selfish motivations for his behavior. He wants what he wants (the heroine) and is willing to do anything to secure that. Then when he is thwarted, he throws a temper tantrum. I think some readers find this sexy and romantic. I just happen to not be among their ranks. For me, a good alpha is protective and in control of his reactions, if not his emotions (i.e. jealousy, cited above.) My favorite alphas are take-charge kind of guys that are secure enough to allow their heroines to be themselves. If a dude told me to dress a certain way? I’d probably crack a rib laughing at him.

    • AAR Haley says:

      Excellent point. I was thinking to myself about why I can love books with obviously alpha heroes that are pretty jerky but not these more modern alpha-douches and I think the selfishness is the key. I always use Prisoner of My Desire as an example because its one of my favorite books, in spite of how horrible the hero is to the heroine and in spite of the “forced seduction” issue. The difference might be that Warrick feels genuinely wronged by Rowena (as he should, she kidnapped him) and was raised to be a harsh person. That combines to result in some ill treatment of her, although he often feels guilt over it and pulls back. He’s not just throwing a tantrum because she wore her hair down or some crap like that.

  11. erika says:

    I love reading about over the top alpha douches. I find them mostly in the genre mentioned in this blog post. The darkness and edginess draws me in.
    I do like seeing these heroes become faithful and heroic and in love with the heroine that’s the ultimate draw.

  12. Sonya Heaney says:

    Adding to the Beautiful Disaster thing, the sequel is even worse. Sure, love the Alpha-Douche all you want. But why are women attracted to a “hero” who (and I quote from the sequel, Walking Disaster) says things like:

    She had the hair of a porn star.

    I nodded. “Ladies.”
    They hummed and sighed in harmony. Vultures. Half of them I’d bagged my freshman year, the other half had been on my couch well before fall break.

    She leaned forward on her elbows to make better eye contact. I felt the urge to shudder with disgust.

    No way was she a slut, though. Not even a reformed slut. I could spot them a mile away.

    However, if I took that whore home, bagged her, and released her strings-free, I was suddenly the bad guy. Nonsense.

    “First of all . . . I have standards. I’ve never been with an ugly woman. Ever.”

    The romance genre used to be quite misogynistic. It got better. But now the Twilight generation is growing up, it’s back to “nasty blonde sluts” all over again.

    • Sonya Heaney says:

      “When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was terrible to me.”

      Oh, and I made the same mistake when I was 19/20. Which might be why I find so many New Adult books disturbing rather than romantic.

      • HeatherS AAR says:

        Yes! This is why most NAs do not work for me. I look back on my romantic choices at that stage in my life and think “Really?! Boy, am I glad that didn’t work out!” :)

    • erika says:

      For me the genre got boring and forgettable with the perfect Beta heroes. So glad to see authors exploring the dark side of Heroes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why is there an equation between “darkness” and “douchery” (not just in NA/YA, but in romance in general)? It’s quite possible to have a “dark” and damaged hero who isn’t abusive, and in all honesty I think this equation is really insulting to people who have had traumatic pasts. Not all people with traumatic pasts — including not all alpha males — respond by becoming abusive.

        • erika says:

          this equation is really insulting to people who have had traumatic pasts. 


          Since this is about fictional heroes its not insulting at all.

          Not every romance reader rejects exploring a hero who is abusive. Seeing that kind of hero transform works for many and now there are authors willing to explore that darkness. Good for them.

  13. Fascinating post and conversation!

    As a reader and author, I too prefer the kind, gentle beta hero to an A-D and like Blackjack, find the idea of “feminized men” borderline offensive. So sad that we as a culture want to deride men who are kind, respectful and eschew violence as somehow less. Not only does this reflect poorly on our definition of masculinity, but also on femininity, which becomes synonymous with weakness.

    I see the appeal of the A-D not as a backlash to feminism, but more a reaction to transient relationships, casual sex, baby daddies who come and go, etc. I once asked my teenage niece who adored Twilight, what she loved about Edward Cullen. Her response? He really cared about Bella.

    Though I don’t share it, I think a lot of women, who are tired of being used and abandoned, love the fantasy of a man so in love with them, he’ll resort to borderline psycho behavior. For better or worse, these guys give a damn. I also think there’s appeal in the anti-hero right now, which accounts for the popularity of biker romances, Knight, etc.

    • AAR Haley says:

      That’s probably an excellent point. I think we’re willing to forgive a lot if it means the guy plans to stick around. The AD’s are so obsessive, they’re not going anywhere.
      I’ll admit that, at 17, when I first read Twilight I really liked Edward. Bella was always drab and obnoxious but Edward seemed so devoted. As I got older, things like him sneaking through her window seemed a lot less romantic and a lot more creepy.

  14. Minnis says:

    I see many über-Alpha characters as weak, as too lacking in confidence to cede control and too lacking in self-control to hide their insecurities. Throw in toddler-style tantrums, and my patience for flawed characters is exceeded.

    I wonder if the appeal of the AD is, paradoxically, as a child-husband to mother.

  15. There’s a lot of great discussion here. As a writer who enjoys reading and writing alpha male characters and beta characters, I find the alpha hole/ alpha douche character repugnant because I can’t relate to a heroine who allows herself to be treated like trash, raped, or stalked. I did read the historical romance novels of the 70′s where many of the heroes were complete douches and although I knew the difference between reality and fiction, I always felt there was something drastically wrong with “romance” being equated with men who are abuse and women willing to take that abuse. It is totally possible to write a strong alpha male who has a heart of gold, would never abuse, attempt to control or to harm the woman he loves in any way. Without naming novels, I’ll say one of the reasons why the alpha hole has become so popular is that authors have a tendency to write to trend. If one novel sells thousands of copies or millions of copies, other authors out there will do the same and attempt to replicate that popularity for monetary success. As for men feeling marginalized by feminism and that’s why these books are being written (because women want “real” men who treat them like crap?), I have to respectfully disagree. I don’t advocate censorship in any way, so these books will continue to be written until something breaks the cycle. There are a lot of other cycles being written in genre fiction that have nothing to do with abusive hero types, and eventually those fade into the woodwork and are overtaken by another trend. In the meantime, those of us who don’t like the type of heroes being written will just have to keep on writing heroes we want to write. :)

  16. P.S. Reread my entry and realized I might have made it sound like women allow themselves to be raped and stalked. Wrong wording. I mean women/heroines who think it is OKAY to be raped and stalked and that somehow that constitutes love and romance.

  17. I love this blog post! A friend of mine directed me here, because she said as she read it, she thought about me, because you echo so many things I’ve said.

    All the comments are spot on as well.

    I think creative freedom is wonderful, and we are truly fortunate to live in countries were we can express these freedoms. However, if a book features a protagonist (I won’t call him hero, because hero’s don’t abuse women) who rapes, or kidnaps women and sells them as sex slaves, or commits murder just for the sake of being labeled a hot bad ass, then those books needed to be labeled differently, as they are not romantic. Stalking, obsessive behavior and all the things listed above are not romantic.

    Alpha men hold themselves proud, as they are fierce protectors, are confident and don’t need to abuse a women to prove their masculinity.

    Thanks for a great blog post and discussion.

  18. Elinor Aspen says:

    I think the popularity of AD “heroes” in New Adult romance has less to do with feminism than with modern American parents who put a lot of effort into making their children feel like special snowflakes. When young women leave the cocoon of their childhood home to become insignificant cogs in the big bad world, they may enjoy reading romance novels with Alpha-douches because the heroine is special enough to inspire his jealousy and bad temper, and therefore she has the power to affect the world around her (if innocent bystanders get beat up or their stuff trashed, she is even more powerful). The book is a fantasy, and the reader can put it down whenever she wants to (and knowing that makes it enjoyable, unlike a real-life abusive boyfriend). Just as rapey Old Skool romances were popular at a time when women were gaining autonomy and responsibility for which our parents had not prepared us, so the Alpha Douche novel is helping some of today’s young women to work through a new set of emotional challenges left by another generation of parents. They’ll grow out of it.

    • Interesting take on the idea. I hadn’t thought of this, but I can see your point.

    • Blackjack1 says:

      I can see how a belief in “exceptionalism” when raising children can produce children with an inflated sense of privilege and entitlement. I don’t though necessarily think it means that parents are raising girls and young women to believe they can only achieve recognition by becoming the object of an obsession man. Also, parents are bestowing the “special snowflake” mentality onto male offspring just as they are female. There is a gender issue going on in these books with hyper-masculine male characters and passive females that needs some hefty evaluation. How are parents raising boys today as opposed to how they are raising girls? So much conditioning in gender roles occurs at very young ages.

      • Elinor Aspen says:

        The effect on boys is a separate issue, since the novels under discussion are marketed primarily to young women. We could talk about the appeal of videogames like Grand Theft Auto, but that is a different discussion. Obviously, there are many other ways to feel special. Not all young women (not even all of those suffering from special snowflake syndrome) enjoy romance novels with Alpha Douches. I am just pointing out one possible source of their appeal to the young women who do enjoy them. It’s not something that appeals to me at all, but I can say the same about body piercing and neck tattoos.

        • Blackjack1 says:

          I still think though that the “special snowflake” theory doesn’t really account from why authors are constructing abusive and/or domineering men in abundance as a response to a feeling of female entitlement. I tend to see the issue more as a sign or female lack of self-esteem and social fear of male loss of power as women gain more inroads into a traditional male-dominated society. I do though think that American parenting needs to be cautious about creating entitlement among children today.

  19. Emily A. says:

    Can I just I adore this post? I agree with you Haley although I haven’t read many of the books in question. I think it’s combo of many thing. The anti-hero gaining popularity. The scared emerging adults. The special snowflakes who arguably aren’t just the heroine but the alphadouche is also a special snowflake.
    I disagree with the feminized men argument. I knew plenty of guy guys in college. Several friends dated them.
    I think more than gender roles are changing in the world. Climate change. New diseases or outbursts like e-bola. Terrorism and globalization. I think too we are more aware of crime (like serial killers and sexual assualt) than say in my grandma’s time. Young women are more afraid of the world which seems to be coming at them.They want some “big and strong” to protect. People in general would rather action than passivity and seemed to prefer violence over peaceful means of change. Maybe like animals they prefer to let fear out as aggression.

    I appreciate Haley that you are young like me and read romance. So many of my friends don’t. I’m a little older than you, but around the same age and unmarried.

  20. Elinor Aspen says:

    I think I need to clarify my argument. I do not believe it is a feeling of entitlement that draws readers to romances with alpha-douche heroes. Rather, I believe that some young people experience anxiety when they realize that they are not as special and talented as their parents told them. The alpha-douche represents the scary, uncaring world. The fantasy of a heroine who is special enough to throw the AD off-balance and cause him to suffer feelings of anger, frustration and anxiety brings some vicarious satisfaction. If my hypothesis is correct, the young women who enjoy these novels are unlikely to be attracted to abusive assholes in real life because, unlike in a romance novel, a happy ending is not guaranteed. Therefore, such a relationship is a source of anxiety rather than a temporary respite from it.

  21. Helen says:

    I would never want one of the alpha douche guys in real life, but I like them in books–within limits. I found my limit in Aleatha Romig’s Consequences series. When I read the first book, I thought it was a thriller, a great story with a truly creepy and evil bad guy, Tony, who stalks, kidnaps, rapes and beats the heroine while holding her captive.Then in the second book, I was shocked to find out this was a romance novel and he was supposed to be the romantic hero. Some things just aren’t forgivable.

    • N/A says:

      I agree I hated that book Aleatha Romig’s Consequences! (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!) (DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK UNLESS YOU WANT TO!) I couldn’t figure out how the VICTIM wound up in jail and not that evil man in the first book so I refused to read the second after skimming it!

  22. Pingback: Trends in Romance - Aubrey Gross

  23. Katie says:

    Ummm, lol, I actually read Hopeless and you kind of portrayed wrong. I didn’t really care for that book, and while it was weird for her to chase after and ask to see her ID, once you read the story it maked complete sense (still weird though lol). And she was out running, and coincidentally (stupid clichés) stopped for a breather outside of his house and he offered her water. I can’t remember if he offered some of his water because he was running as well, or went inside to get some for her.

  24. Katie says:

    Unfortunately, this trend is pretty scary. I frequent wattpad a lot, which is comprised of many teenage readers and writers. Two books in particular, the relationships were EXTREMELY toxic. Like I don’t even know how these young authors could make their heroines and especially the heroes so horrible. They were fictional but they seemed extreme, probably even for people who have real life experience. The worst part is the fact you comment on each paragraph your thoughts. O. M. G. when the heroine (high school in one and college in the other) would have enough, tell the hero what’s up, and leavr him, these girls would comment the most horrible and disgusting things. Mind you, the hero was despicable, but when the girl would leave, the readers would be mad at her and not the behavior of the boy. Obviously, there were some sane ones, but they hated when their “ship” wouldn’t be together no matter the reason. I left a comment of my own once telling these girls who were idolizing these relationships that they aren’t healthy and not something you should root for, and boy did they attack worse than the Beehive if you say something even neutral about Beyonce lol. These are young impressionable girls and they chalk this behavior (even the violence) up to passion and love. I’m 23, and I’m worried about these girls and what kind of relationships they will go for and think are healthy. Sorry for the rambling lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>