Hot Takes by Holly, Smut Reporting

Sexy Smirking

I’m here to talk (briefly! I promise!) about a pet peeve of mine. 

Sometimes, I read romance novels, and the protagonists do a lot of smirking. Like, a lot. And I have to wonder: am I missing something? Is there such a thing as a sexy smirk?

Smut Readers! Help me out here:

When our Romantic Hero **smirks** at the heroine all the time, I have this visceral reaction. The first time it happens, I roll my eyes. The second time it happens, I highlight it. The third time it happens, I clench my teeth a little bit. Until every time the word “smirk” appears on the page, I am annotating my book in all caps while grinding my teeth: THIS IS NOT SEXY.

Because I know what words mean, and how to use a dictionary, I decided that I should investigate this a bit. Merriam Webster defines “to smirk” as “to smile in a smug or condescending way.” The very first example they give is from Harry Potter – and guess who’s smirking.** (Hint: it’s not Hermione Granger, who is definitely too cool for Ron and Harry, but I digress.)

Smugness is not sexy. Condescension is not sexy. Both imply a feeling of superiority in the smirker towards the smirkee. What is the appeal of a romantic pairing where one party clearly feels superior to the other? 

I’m not talking about alpha-holes. These guys aren’t alpha-holes. Alpha-holes might be smug and condescending, but they are too above it all to smirk. Smirking is what small-minded, irritating people do. And small-minded, irritating heroes are the very worst heroes of all. 

*If you chose this answer, please explain it to me in the comments! 

**Malfoy. It’s Malfoy.

12 thoughts on “Sexy Smirking”

  1. There are some authors who repeat certain visual cues all the time, like biting lips, playing with hair, smirking, winking – I don’t think they realize how often they use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get that – reminds me of when I first started reading romance, and there were LOTS of sardonic brows being raised left and right.

      I think the smirking – to me – is extra annoying because it is not only a repeated visual cue, but because it is frequently used in such a way where I’m like, “Is that supposed to make me like you? Because smirking is not attractive.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! If someone would smirk at me all the time my hand might start itching. It’s not attractive when someone uses smirking as a sexually invitation.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Huh. I never thought of fandom – thanks for the insight!

      But here’s the thing. It makes sense for Buffy to smirk as she’s sassing a vampire! (And I’m not annoyed by characters who smirk when they’re being antagonistic.) And it makes sense for Malfoy to smirk all the time because he’s supposed to be a jerk!

      I think I need a picture of that smile.


      1. When you said Malfoy something clicked—I used to read HP fics before featuring Draco & Hermione or Draco & Harry and he’s definitely smirking a lot at the beginning, but only because he’s putting on a show of hating someone.

        Personally I’ve never been put off by mentions of smirking (maybe I’ve become immune after reading all those fics??) but recently I tried starting Sarah J Maas’s House of Earth & Blood and there was just too much smirking in the first pages, though unrelated to romance. It was so IRRITATING that I stopped specifically because of it. So, I kind of get you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s the whole thing! Smirking to show disdain (or to cover up feelings) works for me – I can accept some smirking in an emenies-to-lovers romance, for example. But when the hero smirks and the heroine’s panties immediately melt…questionable.


  2. A hero may grin, half-grin (my favourite!), beam, even twinkle, but he can never never smirk … UNLESS, he’s smirking at a rival for the heroine’s love after beating him at chess or something.

    Liked by 1 person

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