Created By: KingZeal on February 27, 2012 Last Edited By: KingZeal on May 31, 2013

Vulnerability Is Sexy To Them

Because an invincible, infallible love interest is boring.

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Trope
Please feel free to add Pot Holes to the description as needed.

"Frollo might be the most overtly sexual Disney character period, and yet he's even more squeamish about sex than even girls are taught to be. So, he's kind of relatable. He's tortured by his physical desires... We like tortured, I guess. Even if it's attached to a decrepit old man with a gaunt French nose. Also, he kills people. He's a bad boy."
The Nostalgia Chick, on why Frollo managed to qualify for her democratically-elected "Top Ten 'Hottest' Animated Guys" list.

In this trope, a character is found attractive because they're vulnerable or flawed. To be listed here, this must occur In-Universe or be a Discussed Trope.

Vulnerabilities are attractive. Many times, people enjoy a "project"; they like a guy who seems like he has something good just under the surface and just requires that special someone to draw it outside, or they like a girl who depends upon them and makes them feel Rated M for Manly.

Maybe part of the appeal is trying to change them, maybe part of it is the desire to feel needed, and maybe part of it is being drawn by the allure or mystery. After all, if the other person seems like they'd do just as well (or even better) without you, what's the fun in that?

Another term for this is "accessibility".

Super Trope of All Girls Want Bad Boys, Tall, Dark and Handsome, Ugly Guy, Hot Wife, Hot Guy, Ugly Wife, Ill Girl, Distressed Damsel, No Guy Wants an Amazon, Weakness Turns Her On, Dating Catwoman, Defrosting Ice Queen, Moe and I Can Change My Beloved.

Sometimes overlaps with Women Are Delicate and Men Are Tough.

Examples

Literature
  • If I Pay Thee Not In Silver, by Mercedes Lackey and Piers Anthony, has the heroine fall for her love interest at long last when he, a very knowledgeable immortal, finally fails and takes it very personally. The text explicitly states that the vulnerability he was displaying made him more human and accessible.
  • Exploited by the Ixian faction in God Emperor of Dune: Hwi Noree is genetically engineered to be open, empathetic, and vulnerable individual, making her a perfect soulmate for the ancient scheming God-Emperor Leto II. Notably, Leto realizes the danger his personal attraction to Hwi poses to his plans but cannot do anything about it.

Live-Action TV

  • On an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Lois gets orthotics for her shoes, and starts feeling great because her posture is corrected, and she doesn't get the backaches and aching feet she used to after standing all day at work in the supermarket or doing housework. Her husband Hal, missing the intimate moments when he got to pamper her and rub her feet when she was aching, misshapes the orthotics with a blowtorch so that they no longer work properly.
    • Given the overall dynamics of Lois and Hal's marriage, it's possible that Lois finds Hal's vulnerability attractive. There were some episodes that showed Lois enjoying being protective of Hal, and although her being a Control Freak is an annoyance (or fear-inducing) to most of the family, Hal seems to adapt to it naturally and is happy with it, probably because his personality needs a dominant counterpart to his submissiveness. Lois, for her part, can be downright nurturing and tender to a vulnerable Hal sometimes. Their marriage epitomizes the Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy trope.

Videogames

Web Video

Western Animation
  • Parodied in Futurama.
    Romantic Test Robot: My two favorite things are commitment and changing myself.
    Leela: Does that robot have a brother?
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • February 27, 2012
    surgoshan
    • If I Pay Thee Not In Silver, by Mercedes Lackey and Piers Anthony, has the heroine fall for her love interest at long last when he, a very knowledgeable immortal, finally fails and takes it very personally. The text explicitly states that the vulnerability he was displaying made him more human and accessible.
  • February 27, 2012
    Koveras
    Suggesting a less bulky title: Vulnerability Attraction.

    • Exploited by the Ixian faction in God Emperor of Dune: Hwi Noree is genetically engineered to be open, empathetic, and vulnerable individual, making her a perfect soulmate for the ancient scheming God Emperor Leto II. Notably, Leto realizes the danger his personal attraction to Hwi poses to his plans but cannot do anything about it.
  • February 27, 2012
    KingZeal
    I'm all for conciseness in the title, but I'm intentionally trying to avert Pot Hole-bait. We don't need people using this for anything other than what it's intended as.
  • February 27, 2012
    Feather7603
    What keeps this from being People Sit On Chairs? It's like how wearing revealing clothes is sexy, but on an emotional level. Sexiness can be boiled down to four words: Vulnerability (makes us feel strong and useful), protection (we like safety), health (a healthy partner means healthy children), and fetishes (psychological fixation). Naturally, that's extremely simplified, but if it's just "vulnerability is sexy," I don't think it's a trope.
  • February 27, 2012
    KingZeal
    It's a trope because it's a characterization tactic and one that can be failed. Writers often intentionally try to put insecurities and vulnerabilities into their characters, and often write about how said vulnerabilities are attractive to other characters (we have two examples noted above).

    Besides, this isn't something that's obvious to everyone. Most people, on a surface level, have no idea why they're attracted to someone or what they find sexy about them. I personally had a girlfriend call me out for this when I asked her why girls always want guys they think they can change. She turned it around by telling me that I tend to date women who see me as a surrogate Daddy. My mind was blown.
  • February 27, 2012
    Feather7603
    In other words it needs to be explicitly pointed out? The description should include that, then. Otherwise you really can apply it to just about anything even remotely related. As it is, it's, "vulnerability is sexy," with no regard for if it's intentional characterisation or not, how it's seen by characters in-universe. Many flaws can be described as vulnerabilities, and also sexy. This isn't about all that, is it?
  • February 27, 2012
    Madrugada
    Feather: People Sit On Chairs doesn't mean "It's really common". It means "It conveys no additional meaning in the story." This is not Chairs.
  • February 27, 2012
    Feather7603
    I know that. However, there's nothing in the description that says it has to convey a meaning. It's like how Xander in Bt VS is insecure in the beginning, which is cute, or how Teela in He-Man needs to be saved, which is sexy since she's vulnerable, or how tsunderes are sexy because they have a vulnerable side, or how Peter Parker is sexier when he's not Spider-Man because he doesn't appear as strong and confident.
  • February 27, 2012
    KingZeal
    It doesn't say any of that because none of that is the point unless it's in-universe. I'll add to the description that this needs to be either a) about characters that find vulnerability in other characters entertaining b) an analysis of attractive vulnerability (like the NC post above) or c) other in-universe or invoked examples of the trope.

    Just saying, "Edward from Twilight is really vulnerable" doesn't mean jack for this trope, because otherwise, we'd have everyone listed from Tinkerbell to Braveheart to Jesus Christ.
  • February 27, 2012
    Feather7603
    Thank you. That was pretty much my point.
  • February 27, 2012
    KingZeal
    You're welcome. Incidentally, I'm interested in reading an analysis you have of this trope and perhaps adding insights of my own. I'd appreciate it if you P Med it to me.
  • February 27, 2012
    YouKeepUsingThatWord
    Pardon me, I don't quite get why you're handling this "in-universe" distinction the way you are.

    Is it a death-of-the-author thing, that we can't presume to know, for example, whether the author of Twilight was trying to make Edward attractive to the audience?
  • February 27, 2012
    Feather7603
    Those examples I mentioned would qualify without an in-universe distinction. Sure, they're examples, but they're not meaningful examples. Now, if you found a quote by the author saying she did exactly that, I wouldn't be against including it. That is dicussing the trope, at least, even if it's out-of-universe. Much like the The Nostalgia Chick example.
  • February 27, 2012
    KingZeal
    I'm honestly confused about the "meaningful" example thing. In my view, it's either an example or it isn't.

    The problem is, in order to stop this from being YMMV, it has to be acknowledged by a concrete source. Like mentioned before, otherwise anyone from Garfield to Zoolander to Zeus would qualify.
  • February 28, 2012
    Chabal2
    House often calls out Cameron because of this.
  • March 1, 2012
    YouKeepUsingThatWord
    Meaningful to whom?

    My own interest in tropes favours authors conveying meaning to the audience. ( And when I'm being really pedantic, that's kind of the definition of "trope." ) But the author and the audience are by definition not "in-universe" so ...

    I mean would we limit Dark Is Evil to works where the correlation is acknowledged in-universe, or Word Of God has said why they dressed their villain in black?
  • March 1, 2012
    lebrel
    Why is this described as the supertrope of Tall Dark And Handsome (the TD&H character doesn't have to have any vulnerabilities), Ugly Guy Hot Wife (it's not required that she fell for him because he was ugly), and Hot Guy Ugly Wife (ditto)?
  • April 22, 2013
    Misskitten
    Bump.
  • April 22, 2013
    willthiswork
    ^^^ I think the main thing to avoid is doing what Moe has done and creating a list of characters that _tropers_ think are hot because they are vunerable. You are not going to have something like Dark Is Evil turning into a bunch of characters tropers thought were evil because they wore black, but experiance has proven that the second you make a trope about attractivnesson any level you are going to get everyones PSL all over it.

  • April 22, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Would this fit?

    Live-Action TV

    On an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Lois gets orthotics for her shoes, and starts feeling great because her posture is corrected, and she doesn't get the backaches and aching feet she used to after standing all day at work in the supermarket or doing housework. Her husband Hal, missing the intimate moments when he got to pamper her and rub her feet when she was aching, misshapes the orthotics with a blowtorch so that they no longer work properly.

    [Not sure how well it fits, because overall, Lois can hardly be described as "vulnerable", at least in relation to Hal. But this was kind of his little chance to take care of her when she was in pain (and thus, in a sense, vulnerable) though, and he treasured it--although it was selfish on his part to do something that resumed her pain.]

  • April 22, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^ Actually, given the overall dynamics of Lois and Hal's marriage, it's possible that Lois finds Hal's vulnerability attractive. Without remembering specifics offhand, it seems there were some episodes that showed Lois enjoying being protective of Hal, and although her being a Control Freak is an annoyance (or fear-inducing) to most of the family, Hal seems to adapt to it naturally and is happy with it, probably because his personality needs a dominant counterpart to his submissiveness. Lois for her part can be downright nurturing and tender to a vulnerable Hal sometimes. Their marriage epitomizes the Masculine Girl Feminine Boy trope.
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