The past few days I’ve been trying to get a little reading in, but can’t. I’m just sick of the sexism. Even worse, most of it comes from WOMEN. Gah. I love a good romance novel. I really do. The problem is finding one. All too often, the woman is portrayed as an idiot, a gold digger, or worse. The men are usually rich jerks, who treat their love interest as worse than crap, and we’re supposed to swoon over it.
This makes me wonder if women really find this sexy or if we’re so conditioned to a male dominated society that we simply THINK we should find it hot.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a strong man as much as the next girl. Confidence is sexy as hell. A guy willing to protect and care for his girl? Oh yeah. But enough with the rich thing already. Don’t make that his ONLY defining characteristic. Ok, rich with abs, sorry.
If I want erotica, then I want the woman to have at least as much control over the situation as the guy. Now, maybe they are both whisked away with hormonal passion and do stupid things — but don’t make her useless while he gets to be the smart, sensible, and powerful one. If you’re writing an uneven power scale into the story, you’re already halfway to domestic violence. This is NOT something we want to ingrain in the public as “perfectly ok”. It is NOT a turn-on to me.
Why not turn the tables? Why isn’t it sexy for a woman to decide she wants a guy, knock him off his feet with how much he “needs” her, and enjoy the conquest? Why not make it a power struggle between them? That’s some pretty good conflict, right there. Or how about a couple where the man is a feminist, and does everything to lift her up. THAT would be sexy as hell. (And yes, I’ve read a few of those. Thank you to the authors who write them).
Our society has ingrained some horrible things into our female brains, though. A few examples: there’s no male equivalent for mistress. Why can men have a piece on the side, and society makes that ok, but there isn’t even a word for when women do it. Lover? Uh, what if it’s just sex? Friends with benefits? What if it isn’t really a friend, just a relationship of mutual benefit, and she doesn’t want to TALK to him?
How about the whole “the man is always experienced, and the girl is always innocent, or nearly so” thing? In a very non-scientific poll of my male friends, they assure me that blushing and timid women are rarely a turn on. A woman in control, with her own power, who relinquishes a bit because she desires HIM is much hotter. Why are powerful women ugly, and powerless women lovely? Why is HE always the boss, and not her? If she is, she’s usually the villain.
Most of all, why is rape considered the shortcut to writing a woman with a dark past? Ugh! Stop it already! Men get raped, too, people. Consider how that might play out.
So, I’m challenging all authors to change this antiquated dynamic. Make some sexy women who aren’t as weak as a wet paper bag. Make strong women become something sexy, while keeping their feminism. Make men gentle and caring without emasculating them. Write something hot as hell with a little equality. Try it, and I bet you’ll see just how many sexist tropes we’ve all fallen into using because it’s just so damned easy.
Go ahead. Write it. I dare you. I double dog dare you.
(and to all those authors who have already done this, you are my inspiration. Yours are the books I don’t quit reading halfway through!)