One Sexy Daddy: Desirable Dad "Bods" and the Popular Romance Novel

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This chapter attends to one particular site of "traditional masculinity," namely, fatherhood. But in so doing, this chapter is also asking about different kinds of romance heroes. In particular, I argue that while the father is a paragon of patriarchy, he is also a vehicle through which to explore new masculinities. (83)


In this spirit of seeking alternative masculinities and recognizing that the genre actively responds to the shifting cultural dynamics, I sought to explore a fairly simple question: What did the romance novel think of the rise of the dad bod? [...] At its simplest [...] the dad bod is defined as "a man between the ages of 20 and 54, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9", which renders the body as being "overweight." If the dad bod is desirable, do we find representations of the dad bod in popular texts that explicitly think through desire? Unfortunately, it would seem that the dad bod does not readily appear in the genre - or perhaps I am looking in the wrong places. Admittedly, I am looking chiefly at mainstream romances - series or category (i.e., Harlequin Mills & Boon) and single-title romances - that are situated in the contemporary moment.  (84)