Now, I’m not a prude or anything – I mean, have you READ my books? But, I still have some very strong opinions on what makes something romantic, and our job as authors to influence people (another blog post all its own). I think the one thing that bothers me the most in “romance” stories of any length/genre is that NO should always mean NO!
No shouldn’t mean “Throw me against the wall and tear my clothes off until I submit.” See, in today’s world, that’s called rape. Granted, it can be pretty hot to have a man who wants the woman so bad he can’t help himself, but work around it! Make him seduce, taunt, hold her there, drive her crazy without ever touching her… because no means… no.
This has nothing to do with non-con erotica. That’s a specific genre that has its own rules, and I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is getting hooked on a book, making it to chapter 3 in seconds – and then my heroine gets raped while the author struggles to make it sound “sexy”. Things like, “she couldn’t understand why she liked it so much.” No. Just no. Tease, taunt, seduce, add in some sexual tension, give your heroines a little respect.
I love me a good romance book. It’s taken me a long time to figure out why this genre has a cloud of disrespect hanging over it, and I think this is it. We women publically are wanting respect, equality, and such crazy things as the right to vote, but turn around and write a fantasy where we have none of that, where some man makes all of our decisions for us. Seriously. Do what?
Now, I’m a strong-willed woman, and I love the idea of dominant men in the bedroom, but I honestly believe that respect doesn’t need to be tossed out the window. I mean, it’s tropish for the hero to keep a secret and the heroine to leave him when she finds out. But if he rapes her, she’ll fall in love? Problem? Anyone besides me seeing this?
And I don’t know how anyone else feels, but as soon as a man starts degrading the heroine – physically, verbally, emotionally, or any other -ly – I’m out. If you want to sell me on a hate to love story, then you’d better be a master at showing the shifting emotions. If the woman isn’t pissed as hell when the guy treats her like crap, I just closed your book.
I love authors who can write a hot male who respects his girl. Diemme Black’s book Rocking Me is a great example. She takes a normal, everyday girl (with normal everyday problems and looks) and has a rockstar who worships her. A guy who refuses to accept when others call her fat, or anything else. Oh yeah. Using his fame and power to protect his girl? HOT! And that’s just one example in that book. (Seriously, if you like Romance, I recommend Diemme Black’s stuff).
I’m just saying that as authors, we need to realize that some fantasies have to be tweaked before they make a great story. Commanders should never use their rank and/or physical strength to abuse subordinates. Dominants do not degrade their submissives, they protect them. Now, the specific details of the moment might be hard to define, but it’s the situations that lead up to naked time that make all the difference. If the military guy gets off on having his girl call him sir? Sure, I can go with that. If the dom spanks his sub? Duh! But if the commander GETS the girl by saying “screw me or your career is over” or the Dom grabs a girl from the grocery store and chains her in his basement until she relents? People, that’s terrifying. That’s a horror novel, not romance.
Again, non-con doesn’t count. That’s a specific genre where we expect these sorts of things, and thus have already let our natural disbelief go. It’s no different than accepting that dragons can fly in a fantasy novel. We don’t work out the physics of the wingspan to body mass. We say, “ok, I’m gonna go with this.” But a love story? Not so much.
And Romance should be love stories. This is the genre for falling in love. It’s not about the sex (that’s erotica). Romance is where we follow a couple’s struggles to find their place in a happy relationship that works for them where they can live happily ever after. By trying to convince me that this medieval women’s torture is hot or sexy, you’re basically saying that men have an innate right to a woman’s body. To MY body. And I call bullshit.
You see, these draconian ideas are so entrenched in our heads that it takes a major news story to snap us out of it – and we’re perpetuating them! We’re teaching our pre-teen boys that this is what women want. Every young man who reads these books gets the impression that this behavior is acceptable. Every woman who grows up on these is struggling to find a man who will be like her favorite book boyfriend. If we want rape culture to go away, we have got to stop romanticizing them. We have got to stop portraying the idea that men have any inherent right to us as women. We have got to stop believing it ourselves.
Now, if anyone has some suggestions for romance novels that break this mold? I’m shopping for a good book to read! Please leave it in the comments below, or on my facebook page.