I have often wondered– to anyone who will listen– why more men don’t read women’s romance novels to get some pointers. I mean, really, men are always complaining about how incomprehensible women are and how they never know what women are thinking or what women want. To that I say, “Poppycock!”  There is mountain of information out there for anyone who cares to look for it. And I’m not just talking about studies and scholarly works, although many of those exist as well. I’m talking about the myriad books written by women, for women about women. Women know what women want. And we are exceptionally willing to share that information with anyone willing to make the effort to pay attention.

An excellent, though fictional, example of a man who takes his research seriously and then applies it with heart-stopping efficacy is Judd Lauren in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. His story is called Caressed by Ice (and yes, I totally realize that these ridiculous titles are a massive deterrent to men ever picking up these books!). But I loved the fact that although he was a virgin (most Psy are, as they have eschewed emotion and passion, so sex is definitely out of the equation) but he has taken the time to learn about how to pleasure a woman. I like that in a man. Diana Gabaldon once wrote in her Outlander series that virginity in men was underrated as what they lacked in experience or technique they more than made up for in enthusiasm. I’ve always remembered that reference and smiled. And I smiled even more when I read Judd’s story. There is a lot of material in that book for men who are looking for useful tips.

Anyhoo, back to the subject at hand, what women want and why men are so generally reluctant or incapable of giving it to them. In my travels, I’ve spoken to hundreds of women, most of whom sing the same refrain– their men are fairly clueless about how to make them happy– romantically, sexually, domestically and even professionally. As far as I can tell, most men have no idea how to make love or seduce a woman.  Have men never wondered why so many women have learned to emulate Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally?  Why is this a necessary skill for savvy women?  For a couple of reasons, all of which have to do with protecting the male ego and/or ending the tedium of sex as soon as possible.

From my perspective, it is never OK to fake an orgasm, for a variety of sound reasons. Firstly, if you fake it, he’ll never learn. Secondly, it rewards poor performance and who wants to do that?  And lastly, it is a big fat lie that corrodes intimacy between two people. So just say no, not, “Yes, yes, oh, God, yes,” unless you really mean it. 

So what might men learn if they picked up the same books I love to read?  First, they will learn that Ms. Gabaldon was onto something when she extolled the virtues of enthusiasm. Every woman loves a man who is totally into her body with genuine enthusiasm– defined as intense and eager enjoyment, interest and approval. Women want you to notice all of them–not just the high points. But those as well. And we’d like a little more specificity in your comments other than, “great rack.”

Every woman I’ve ever met, even the least vain or self-absorbed ones, are proud or pleased with some part or parts of their bodies. We have studied ourselves in mirrors and inspected the parts we can see without one.  We want men to appreciate the parts of ourselves we think are pretty–or at least adequate. It could be our hair, our skin, our eyes, or our cheekbones, our shoulders or the way our hipbones meet our thighs. But there is something. Or more than one thing. And that’s what we want you to notice and celebrate.

My beloved fantasy books also tell me that women want to be appreciated for more than their physical attributes. They want men to notice, comment on and engage them about their interests, accomplishments, aspirations and ambitions. Women want men to appreciate them for who they are in terms of the positive aspects of their personalities, and to feel confident that our men can tolerate and cope with the more challenging aspects that make up the complete, real woman—not some video game avatar or mail-order bride who submits to a man’s every whim.  Real women have imperfections, just like Gerry Bartlett’s vampires.  To communicate a willingness and ability to do this, however, men need to notice these things first. Which involves observation, analysis and research. We want you to ask questions. And actually listen to and process the answers.

Women want you to learn about their particular erogenous zones. In every single paranormal romance I read, the men lavish endless attention on necks, calves, hip bones, jaw lines and the small of a woman’s back, among other places. I’ve not heard about a lot of real men who do the same, have you? Real men tend to go straight for the good stuff, so to speak. We want our bodies to be wonderlands for our men. Not amusement parks or the local drive through. 

Women want to feel like our men are barely hanging onto any semblance of control with us. Women want to live in Rihanna’s song that tells men we want you to make us feel like we’re “the only girl in the world for you, like we’re the only ones who you’ll ever love, the only ones who know your heart, the only ones who make you feel like a man.” Getting the picture here?

We want men to act as if the passion they feel for us is threatening to overwhelm them at any moment. We women want to be responsible for driving our men absolutely wild. And when we don’t, when sex becomes an exercise similar to watching the Karate Kid (wax on, wax off), or worse, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, most of us start going over the grocery list while they finish up.

But men don’t read these books, and therefore remain clueless about what women want. Silly boys, these tricks are most definitely not for kids.

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