Rant on Contemporary Romance Novels

33-01-06/54This is a rant on contemporary romance novels and the many reasons why I hate them. It is, also, about this disgusting new trend of mainstreaming rape and abuse of women and trying to make it appear like it’s a normal – even healthy – thing.

I’m including a vast swath of romantic fiction here, but first let’s discuss the difference between two things that are often confused: The Romantic Period of English Literature and contemporary Romantic fiction.

The Romantic Period of English Literature grew out of the earlier Gothic period. Romance, at that time, was a word used to describe adventures that took place in a fanciful, sometimes even paranormal settings – often a forest and often in a foreign country (not England).  In these stories, there might be some interest between a man and a woman interwoven as a single thread in the story, but it was not the purpose of the entire story.

Now, we have contemporary Romance, in which the relationship or possible relationship between a couple (the kind I’m familiar with is a man and a woman, however, there are many variations) is the main focus of the story.

So, now we have established that contemporary Romance is not Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, (the former was a woman’s adventure and the second was a ghost story – although, the movies are different) but the kind of mind-numbing, pointless and usually very badly written prose that describes a relationship between a man and a woman. First she hates him, then he wins her over by behaving like some kind of asshole – sometimes even a violent asshole – and then, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

Who reads these things?

Well, if you listen to the people peddling it, they say they have a broad audience that includes affluent and well-educated women. But, if you go sample some of the books on the current best seller list, they immediately belie this claim.  It’s hard to understand how anyone with a brain larger than a mustard seed could stand to read more than a few paragraphs.

Of course, there exceptions to every rule and it may well be that a few educated women read such books. In fact, I find it entirely plausible that there are a relative few such readers. But, I have seen the kind of people who buy, read and request romance novels and they do, in fact, fit a certain stereotype.  (I used to own a brick and mortar bookstore.) Most look like the stereotypical housewife. A lot of them are older women, sometimes much older women! And, most probably don’t have more than a high school education. Some older women did not get to graduate from high school because not long ago it was considered that women didn’t really need an education since they were just going to marry and spawn, anyway.

This is why romance novels are written on a very non-challenging level. It may, also, be why they are so predictable. They were written for semi-literates.

Dame_Barbara_Cartland_Allan_Warren

Description
English: Dame Barbara Cartland
Date 1987
Source Own work
Author Allan warren
From Wikipedia Commons

Back in the days when Barbra Cartland was writing, her contemporary romances stopped at the bedroom door. But, this changed by, at least, the 1980s. It was in the 1980s that I first picked up a Harlequin romance novel. I remember that it had a couple of dirty scenes in it, but they weren’t overly graphic in any way. I tried to read a second one of these and that’s when I discovered that they were practically identical except for the change in scenery and names of the characters.  Interestingly, some publishers like Siren have a very specific number of dirty scenes and other specific actions that must take place in their novels. So, anyone who says there isn’t a formula to these things is full of it – there is.

I always considered those earlier contemporary Romance novels, at least into the 1980s,  to be trashy and I’ve long thought that people who read them are a little on the trashy side.  Mostly, those books used to be silly, but not really too smutty or disturbing – but lately that has changed.

I am out of touch…

It’s true. I haven’t seen television in a couple of years. I never watched it much before that. I used to work all the time and I travelled a lot. In other words, I had a life and an education – one I had to work long and hard for. I went through things to get a college education that no one should ever have to.  And, in all of that time, I missed out on a lot of things to do with the popular culture over the course of the past 20 or so years.

I don’t mind that I missed these things, but I realize that it probably makes it hard for me to understand a lot of trends and things that are going on in the big cities or with the youth crowd.

I see some very big problems with the popular culture in fiction and movies right now – which may or may not be tied into this massive upswing in rape culture and the decline in the status of women in this country.

A few years ago, we got Twilight – or really the Twilight series. The first Twilight wasn’t too bad.  It was strange. It was written by a Mormon and that’s why it has some strange things about sexuality in it – Edward’s vampire temptations correlate with Mormon doctrine on pre-marital sex and spiritual death. As an ex-child cult member, I found that really disturbing. But, the series gets worse and it seems to encourage some very bad behaviors and bad decision-making. Edward is a stalker with an anger control problem. The wolf boy and his entire tribe has an anger control problem that they take out on women.  And, then there’s just the Bella character, who acts like a maid to her father and who is obsessed with Edward and finally impregnated by him – only after the wedding, of course, because they’re secretly Mormons. I found the normalization of all of this kind of drama and violence very disturbing.

But, then along came this Fifty Shades of Gray thing.

Back in the 1990s I sometimes went to the old meatpacking district in Manhattan late at night with a few friends – all lesbians, except me – and we used to go get our feet massaged. There were these foot fetish guys who hung out there. You had to beat them down – literally, like dogs – every so often when they started getting carried away, but they gave really great foot massages.  This place was like a dungeon, but not the kind where men go and pay someone to beat on them. At least, if money was being exchanged here, it was done very subtly. But, I saw men dressed as women and men dressed as men, chained up and whipped by men dressed as women. I don’t know if the men knew that the men were actually men or not. Clearly, some of the men there were confused about that, as I recall.

At any rate, it was all very interesting. I went a few times and I was introduced to the basics of the B&D role playing subculture… now, this is an anonymous rant, so I ‘m going to feel free to say what I think about this. Those people are very messed up. Normal people don’t engage in B&D or sexual role playing games in my experience.  And, people who participate in S&M are a whole other level of screwed up in the head. That’s the facts… That’s the truth. I know it’s unpopular – especially right now because I can see how they are trying to normalize this disturbing, aberrant, perverted behavior in the mainstream culture right now.

I am very bothered by it because I believe it leads men to abuse women and it puts women in situations to be abused. This is why I have a problem with Fifty Shades of Gray and all of the other books that try to make this lifestyle seem normal.  There’s nothing normal about it. And, I believe that is its purpose – or, at least, why it is being pushed so hard right now.

There is an effort underway to demean and humiliate women… It is being undertaken by the mainstream media in their news and on television. I don’t often visit mainstream news sites like NBC or CNN, but when I do, invariably I see headlines intended to undermine women and encourage men’s wrath against them.  These filthy books like Fifty Shades of Gray and the Twilight Series, which is intolerably disturbing by the third book… I read the first two out of curiosity, but couldn’t go any further… these books are part of the effort to undermine and destroy women’s status as human beings.

Now, who is writing this garbage?

Well, a lot of independent authors have found success with the Romance genre. But, I have begun to notice something else. Most of the squabbles and jealousy and stalking is directed at these authors. Furthermore, some of these authors seem to be not real bright. I have noticed just recently that a lot of the incidents of authors behaving badly involve Romance authors. This may be because you don’t have to be a Bronte sister to write one of these things – in fact, I think it would help to be slightly mentally defective. Of course, it may, also, be because the contemporary Romance genre is perhaps the largest and most popular one.

At any rate, there is a correlation between idiocy and contemporary Romance.

Below is an interesting video in which a young man explains why his mother reads trashy romance novels. I think it sums up not only the type of person who usually reads these books, buy why. Here it is:

Monkey read, monkey do.  Fifty Shades of Gray implicated in dangerous sex game trends:

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2 Responses to “Rant on Contemporary Romance Novels”

  1. Believe it or not, I had a doctor that read romance and “romantic erotica”. She was completely chained to gender role stereotypes and fairy tales. She was also homophobic as fuck – she was scared of me. I think that these books speak to women who are so sexually uptight that their only real “release” is to read these pieces of crap. Don’t even get me started on Fifty Shades. I can’t stomach it when women tell me that Christian was “taking care” of Ana, and Ana changed him. The guy was an abusive douche. Maybe if society stopped force feeding women bullshit about finding the perfect alpha male to mate with, slamming Western standards and beauty down their throats and ceased to tell them that their worth really comes from whether or not you can trap a man – the romance industry would die out.

  2. Thanks so much for writing this — I linked back from one of my website’s pages on the exact same topic (http://www.jessink.com/love.htm)

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