As a thought experiment, author Jim C. Hines once attempted to pose like the ladies adorning the covers of fantasy books. The results were pretty amazing. Since then, Hines has hazarded another fashion show to test if male fantasy beefcake is subjected to similarly tortuous poses. This new series is just as delightful. Here are Hines' methodology and findings:
Given the number of books out there, you can find a cover to "prove" just about any point. I tried to pick representative examples of romance, paranormal/genre romance, and Conan covers for this post. These covers are all from larger publishers, and with the exception of the Conans, I believe they're all from relatively recent releases [...]
1.) Men on book covers are indeed posed shirtless in ways that show off their musculature. However…
2.) Male poses do not generally emphasize sexuality at the expense of all other considerations.
3.) Male poses do emphasize the character's power and strength in a way many (most?) female cover poses don't.
4.) When posed with a woman, the man will usually be in the dominant, more powerful posture.
5.) Male poses do not generally require a visit to the chiropractor afterward.
6.) See also ocelott's post comparing male and female poses. She comes to pretty much the same conclusions as I did.
Hines admits that he felt like he "should spend the rest of the day doing push-ups and sit-ups," but that's hogwash. Now I want to see Conan rocking denim cutoffs by the solemn decree of Crom. You can see his full photo shoot and commentary at his website.