A friend recently asked for comments on an idea she had for a romance novel. I gave it a thumbs-up, but suggested she give the hero normal abs.

Now, who in the world would say such a thing?  Except a guy who has normal abs.
Abs to a guy are like breasts—and every other body part—to a woman. Plenty of romance novels feature femmes who hate their “curves” or lack thereof; who snarl at their hair for being too dark, too light, too curly or too straight; who think their legs are too short, their butts too big or their breasts too small or too large or a little of both. The dudes, on the other hand, tend to resemble Greek gods.
I get it: Romances are fantasies. The heroine has to be normalish so that your typical reader will identify with her. And the hero has to have Olympian qualities because, face it, who fantasizes about a normalish guy? But, apart from the Presidential Physical Fitness Awards, I don’t get how the measure of a man could be how many sit-ups he can do.
My hasty and ridiculously incomplete Internet research revealed that zero percent of the five lists of what women look for in men listed ripped abs or six pack abs—or abs of any kind. I further found that in one hundred percent of the only Yahoo Answers conversation I checked, gfhfhgv said, “They aren’t important but they’re nice. :)”
So, abs aren’t essential, but you wouldn’t kick them out of bed for eating crackers.
I also found an advocate in—of all people—Six Pack Abs.com co-founder James S. Fell, who, after matter-of-factly noting how blown away lady doctors are when they see his washboard torso, says, “Maybe there are some women for whom the only requirement for seeing them naked is you sporting a visible rectus abdominus, but not only are they in the minority, these Snookis of the world should not be high on your list of people you wish to impress.”
His highly unscientific survey found that when asked how important rock-hard abs are in making women lose their ability to resist a night of unbridled sin (a slight paraphrase on my part), about three-fourths echoed gfhfhgv, and the rest said they didn’t give a rip.
Hell, 10 percent of the respondents said they didn’t care about a man’s body at all, which indicates there are actually women in the tribe of “men who would sleep with anything as long as it has a pulse.” On the other hand, the most popular responses were, “As long as his belly doesn’t stick out, I’m good,” and, “He must at least have a flat belly.”
So abs snuck in through the back door.
Compare that to Arabia MSN.com’s Lifestyle blog, where writer May Rostom tells men that what matters are teeth, nails, feet, facial hair and “your back.” “As sexy as your abs may seem and as hard as it is to get those six packs at the gym, the minute you turn around we take a long hard look at your back,” she says. “What we’re hoping to see there are muscles, no hair or just a few, and soft shiny skin.”
Finally, an article at Ask Men.com says that what a woman looks for has nothing to do with shoulders, teeth or midsection protrusions, but whether the man looks like he has a job, if it’s a good one and if he’ll be able to hold it long enough for her to benefit.
Always good to include the cynical point of view.
That same article, though, makes one very good point. What a man thinks when he spots a woman in a nightclub—or anywhere else—says writer Rodney Battles, is, “What would she look like naked?” and “What would she be like in bed?” Having been a man for the last forty years, I can say with great confidence that this guy is on to something.
The good news for all women is that even when a man does get to see you au naturel, he never really stops imagining what you might look like naked. So if you, like the heroines in your favorite romance novels, curse your “curves,” hate your hair or belittle your breasts for being whatever they aren’t, chances are, in your man’s head, all that stuff is perfect.
As are his abs. Because, if he’s managed to get a naked woman beneath him, sit ups aren’t at issue. It’s all about how many pushups he can do.
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