Movies and romantic novels which are targeted towards female audience often have an interesting plot twist, centering on a triangle where two men are in love with the same woman.
Why is this plot so common, and what does it say about women, men and romance in general? There is not one single reason, but many, and some of these reasons tap into the ways in which men and women fall in love, select mates and want to be desired….
Despite the fact that men’s minds and imagination might desire two women, the men’s bodies react to the cues of sperm competition, and the image of a single women being sexual with multiple men actually triggers greater sexual arousal in the man’s body. This might reflect our history of evolution, where sexual responses and behaviors developed in a nonmonogamous environment and men and women were competing (whether they knew it or not), not just for sex, but for control of conception.
Men react to these cues of sexual competition unconsciously, and it is likely that women do as well. Fascinating research has suggested that women in monogamous relationships are more likely to be tempted to be unfaithful, when they are ovulating. Further, they’re more likely to be orgasmic when they are with a man other than their primary partner, especially when this other man represents what is sometimes called the “cad” type, or the kind of man you might have a fling with, but never marry. The cad is that assertive, brash man who jumps from bed to bed, shows high levels of testosterone influence in his body and behaviors, as opposed to the “dad” type, that kind, caring man who is waiting at home, who can provide for a woman and (their) kids.
When the woman returns home, even that dad type is unconsciously motivated to compete, and if he has sex with her, it’s likely to be more vigorous and rough, in a way that might actually prevent, or even dislodge, a fertilized egg, from an unfaithful dalliance. But, women who have been sexually unfaithful often wait at least 24 hours before having sex with their primary partner. Why? To avoid detection is one reason, and out of respect for their partner is another reason given. But, it just so happens that 24 hours is also the length of time it takes for that fertilized egg, carrying the genes of that cad, to implant firmly, if it’s going to. …
Maryann Fisher has written a spectacular piece where she examines the ways in which romance novels “hit” onto themes that reflect female triggers for the selection and acquisition of high quality mates. Following this theme, it suggests that the competition of two men for a woman’s affections, dominant in romance plots, may trigger a woman’s desire for the best quality man she can get, and if two men are competing, by choosing the winner, she guarantees better quality.
Courtly love takes on a more literal meaning.
But, besides these mating dynamics, there are unconscious psychological issues at play as well. Being loved and desired by two men – is that perhaps more exciting, more stimulating than loved by a single man? In Insatiable Wives, I described the “Queenbee phenomenon,” and the powerful feelings of attractiveness, self-worth and confidence that some women get, from being desired by multiple men. …
Because female power is social, not sexual.
In the Greek legends, Hercules was put to seven impossible tasks, to prove his love. When a man competes with another, for a woman’s hand, does that similarly test and prove, the depths of his love? If he didn’t truly love her, would he work that hard?…
…But, whether consciously or unconsciously, Lucas also included a parallel female-focused arc, a subplot that triggers female interest and excitement, placing a woman at the apex of the attention and desire of multiple men. Not only does the woman increase her chances of “getting” a better mate, but she also increases her power, her confidence, and her own value, by having the ability to choose.
Everyone desires high status.
Here’s the paper on romance novels
Prior to the 1980s, romance covers contained few depictions of children, let alone an image
of a pregnant heroine. Increasingly, however, motherhood—once the implied purpose of a successful
romance—is becoming more explicit, perhaps partly in response to the increased number of single
mothers in American society. Today, a novel may focus on a pregnant woman’s search for a provider
for her unborn child. This plot, too, reflects women’s evolved preferences for a mate with good
genes and with the ability and willingness to invest. These traits do not necessarily come in the
same package, and the currently more permissive social environment may make women more open
to acquiring their respective benefits by exploiting the advantages of short-term and serial mating
opportunities. As Pamela Jaffee, director of publicity for Avon and William Morrow Books observes,
young readers (twenty to thirty years of age), “don’t need Mr. Right. They need Mr. Right-Now.”
“Mr. Right-Now” might be a short-term mate with good looks (i.e., good genes), while “Mr. Right”
might be a subsequent mate with status, financial security, kindness, and interest in children (i.e.,
ability and willingness to invest)
To all the manospherians, we knew all along.