There are sooo many books that start off with some asshole who only has casual sex because he’s “damaged,” and is also, coincidentally, a sexist dickbag who doesn’t respect women. Of course, this all changes through the power of loooove.
Excuse me while I barf.
The number of times a hero has made sweeping generalizations about the clingy, manipulative and whiny traits of all women is the worst. Of course, the protagonist is the exception to the rule. (“You’re not like other girls.” *barfbarfbarfbarfbarf*). She’s also typically shy and victimized by all vicious, manipulative harpies that are all the other women in the world. On the rare occasion that there is another “good woman” she is either a relative or a married friend of the hero that he introduces the protagonist to, usually for a makeover of some kind. That way, he not only gets to provide her with his love and hard-won respect, but also her first female friend and the ugly duckling gets transformed into a swan *tear*.
I’m reading a book where the male literally says the tattoos are tacky on women. Not that tattoos are tacky, no, they’re only tacky on women. Our shy and inexperienced, yet also sexy and adventurous, protagonist decides to get one and he laments that she has decided to mar her body. Of course when it ends up turning him on, it’s because she’s the exception, not because his sweeping generalization was sexist bullshit and he’s a dick.
In theory, I get why people enjoy this dynamic. If someone is an asshole to everyone but you, it makes you feel special: their one exception. As a cat person, I get it. Reading is supposed to be about wish fulfillment. And yet, who wishes to be debased by an sexist dickface until he realizes she’s worthy of respect because she’s a virgin and he loves her?? Any self-confident woman who also respects other people doesn’t want someone like that because at the end of the day, not only are they still an asshole, they also hate every other woman.
The acceptable compromise, of course, is the love interest who has safe, consensually casual sex with women he treats with dignity and respect, not scorn and disdain. That way, the protagonist still gets to be special, but to someone who isn’t an emotionally stunted, sexist jackhole. Victory.
*Here’s my disclaimer: Yes, plenty of protagonist make equally awful generalizations about men, and it’s just as annoying. Either way, the point stands.