When I discovered romance at the age of fourteen, there were still very distinct roles for heroes and heroines. Men were men, women were women, and that was that.
Heroes often came across as strong, powerful - even aggressive with their shrinking virgins. They always handled the deflowering, and the heroine's willing permission was beside the point. It was an odd way to be introduced to sexuality. Only time and changing mores softened this harsh approach to a love that would last a lifetime.
The modern woman wanted and demanded more from her man, and romance had to adapt. Masculine dominance gave way to equal partnerships. Sullen brooding faded out, replaced by an emotional connection of the head, the heart, and the body.
Now we see teasing and playfulness between the sexes, and recognition that both bring something vital and unique to the equation. There's no longer an urgent need to get married, but rather, a mature wish to bond with the right person.
I see these changes as a good thing. Our longing for romance hasn't changed so much as it's evolved. So have our heroes. We've seen the emergence of more complex beta heroes, those secure enough in who they are they don't try to control the heroine, but rather instinctively support and protect her. He won't step over her to fight her battles, but he's got her back and he's gearing up for the fight, if, and when, she calls.
The beta males we see now can have their painful histories, but they're not emotionally crippled by them. They're survivors and lovers, parents and partners. They can be best friends too. They won't always agree with their heroines, but they will always support and respect them. Who wouldn't love that?