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Money Can’t Buy Me Love

This guy's tie is too skinny for him to be FILTHY rich. If he were filthy rich, he could afford a massive, sweeping ascot.

I’m all stuck on archetypes right now.

Is rich sexy?

Supposedly, humanity’s most common form of marriage in is polygyny. Rich guys could spread the wealth that way. Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines. That sort of thing.

I mean, would you rather be the one and only of a lowly chicken farmer, or #523 at the palace?

Polygamy is generally not acceptable these days. Even on Big Love you get shot for your harem-collecting hubris. And what I’ve seen of Sister Wives is, um, not selling an vision of class and romance. Modern rich dudes do occasionally still keep the old polygynous ideas thriving, though. Look at Hugh Hefner.

That, however, isn’t really the female version of the Rich Dude fantasy, right? That’s the male version.

In the female version, the riches afford certain advantages: shopping sprees, vacations, luxurious sensual feasts. Free time. Freedom from worry. Freedom in general.

You find a lot of Rich Guys in romance novels, despite the fact that marrying out of your income bracket is actually relatively rare. Romantic Rich Guys wear amazing custom suits, and they live in mansions and penthouses. They are usually clean cut. Manicured nails. Shiny shoes. An air of responsibility. The moneyed sexy is generally all wrapped up in power. He’s the one with the power, clearly, even if it’s not overtly about him displaying it. Sometimes, he solves all the Lady’s problems with his massive, throbbing wallet. Sometimes he’s got power over her in other ways–he’s the boss, the lawyer, a secret prince with a superyacht, etc. He puts her in his Money Buffer, and woos with creature comforts, novelty, and manufactured excitement. He’s a modern Prince Charming. I can see why the fantasy works for some women.

I’ve never had much of a Rich Guy fixation. I think I’d rather fantasize about winning the lottery myself.

I just don’t think that I would have much in common with A Rich Guy.

I imagine that A Rich Guy would be there, doing his Rich Guy thing, and I would be totally lost. He’d talk about his days at boarding school and his frat brothers and his master’s degree, and I would nod and sip top shelf spirits. He’d talk about tax shelters, and I would twitch a bit. He’d talk about the relative merits of leasing or owning a luxury automobile, or his helicopter maintenance, or how much he enjoys sailing, and there I would be, totally unable to relate.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine Rich Guys talking about. I could be way off base. Honestly, I don’t really even know what to do with Upper Middle Class Guys, besides, maybe, enviously stare at their teeth. And that’s not creepy at all.

I think that may be why so many Rich Guys in fiction are Self Made Rich Guys, preferably from the bleakest of circumstances. That way he won’t sneer at her love for convenience store guacamole and microwave taquitos.

This is in contrast to the Wrong Side of the Track Guys (WSotTG) that all smell like leather and manual labor and tobacco. These are the guys that cause the problems a throbbing wallet could solve. They are boyish and incorrigible. The sexy is generated via the tension between the possibility of taming or breaking him, and the possibility that he’ll actually turn her into Sandy at the end of Grease, I guess. It depends on how straight-laced and middle class she is at the beginning of the story.

The WSotTG is either going to keep her poor, or he’s going to make her poor. At the very least, he’s going to ruin her credit rating forever. WSotTG stories often also feature a well-off, mild-mannered, middle management type, vying for Our Lady’s affections. He’s milquetoast for maximum effect. He is safe and dependable. He does nothing for her tingly bits. WSotTG is always super hunky and beautiful (but never in a gym-rat way; he WORKS with his TORSO, rull rull hard, okay?) and he knows her lady lumps like no one else. His general Cloud of Intoxicating Man Danger is super hot, and she is all a-tingle.

I wonder if there are books out there where A Rich Guy and the WSotTG run off into the sunset together?

I sure hope so.

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  1. Lily
    Twitter: MsLilyLloyd
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    This was fascinating, I love this, MOAR PLZ.

    And having read this, I have to know, what do you think of the Taken in Hand stuff?

    • Joan
      Posted May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Well, above all, I think that website is impossible to effectively navigate.

      The concept is so broad, that some of it is more or less how my house works, and some of it is Biblical and LCDD, and some of it is douchey ev-psychers, and some of those people are out of their flipping gourds. I seem to recall they’ve got some “rape as a gifters” types running around.

      There’s sort of a running narrative with a lot of gender essentialists that men would be Manly Men, skilled in the Man Arts of Leadership, if only modern women would *let* them be Traditionally Manly (using whatever specific definition they’re fapping about that particular day.) And, I really think that’s bullshit.

      As it pertains to mass-market female fantasy, though?

      There are a lot of alpha male titles. There are whole lines that demand an “alpha hero.” A good chunk of them are “Mr. BigDeal meets his match” kind of stories. And, a lot of them are about the heroine being rescued from some threat. There just isn’t a lot of Taming of Shrews, that I’ve seen, though.

      There are also a lot of “sensitive” hero stories. Funnily, Christian titles, where you could probably get away with Biblical headship themes, tend to be sensitive guy stories. These are church ladies that just want someone to be gentle and wise like Jesus.

      I’ve been most surprised with the mainstreaming of “menage” stories in erotic romance. They aren’t *nearly* so into the alpha concept. They *almost* verge on fem-dom, sometimes, and if it’s *not* flirting with fem-dom, it’s absolutely topping from the bottom. The one’s I’ve read have been sort of cheesy, but I *love* that it’s even trending at all. I think it’s a step up from the m/m slash fic. More honest.

  2. Conina
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    My husband was actually a Shell brat, and his parents are fairly wealthy. Not multiple-mansion wealthy, but… very, very comfortable. He speaks of his time at a boarding house and his ski vacations in Switzerland and how they took all sorts of vacations to random European cities. They are European though, so for them it’s just like hopping over to the next state or something, I guess?

    His folks still take lots of vacations.

    But regardless of his upbringing, he’s just a geek like me. :) I can’t fathom most of his life, but the part where we’re together is amazing.

    Anyway, where’s the Rich parents Guy who also turned into Made His Own Self Middle Class Guy? Or aren’t those sexy enough to write books about?

    • Joan
      Posted May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I don’t have much truly rich people experience. I have occasional Trustafarian experience. That’s about it. LOL.

      Anyway, where’s the Rich parents Guy who also turned into Made His Own Self Middle Class Guy? Or aren’t those sexy enough to write books about?

      I am pretty sure that one only shows up if Rich Parents mightily disapprove of him leaving the fold, and then he proves them wrong.

  3. Jenny Lyn
    Twitter: jennylynwrites
    Posted May 22, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Well, in MY female version I’m the one with the harem. But that’s beside the point.

    I don’t get the appeal of the filthy rich hero in modern romance today. I just don’t. It lacks originality, it’s too easy. Easy for him, easy for her, easy for the writer. The struggle is always the same. It makes the female look like a bit of a sell-out. Harlequin has built an empire on this tired trope and, sadly, it just keeps growing.

    Give me class equality, or make them both lower class, or make HER the one with the money (which I have a tendancy to do when I write). Make him squirm for a change over the difference in their bottom lines.

    However, from a reader standpoint (and perhaps writer as well), I do like alpha-male in sex scenes. Not much on fem-dom there. It’s almost like that’s the equalizing factor for me, if that makes any sense at all.

    Great post, Joan. You always make me think.

    • Joan
      Posted May 22, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      I think the biggest part of the laziness is that independent wealth gives the reader a good excuse for why there’s all this free time for “romance.” I mean, one or both of them basically blows off work to fall in love. I think they may actually be more common in the more erotic romances, because who they heck can fit all that sex into a life with a real job?! Hee, hee, hee.

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