I wish people — especially cisgendered straight men — would quit slamming on romance as a genre based on ideas about that genre that are DECADES OUT OF DATE. It doesn’t make you look perceptive, edgy, and feminist. It makes you look clueless, fogeyish, and like a big ol’ drippy sexist asshole.
I don’t read much romance, but what romance I’ve read that was written in the last several years has been utterly unlike the shitty, shitty romance novels I and other girls tried to make sense of at the lunch room table in junior high in NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FUCKING-NINE. Like, not even really recognizable as part of a continuum. Words like cock and pussy get used. There’s finger-fucking. There’s lots of oral sex. The women are not swooning left and right like fainting goats, they have as much depth and agency as characters from any other genre.
Yeah, some of it’s crap. Utter crap. Some of it’s problematic. So is a lot of “real” fiction. So is a lot of sci-fi. So is a lot of fantasy. But romance (and erotica) is mostly written by women, for women, and that apparently makes it fair game for criticism. One BAD book (50 Shades) is suddenly an example of how romance/erotica is really BAD. But what about the really, really good books romance has produced? Why aren’t they being held up as examples of why the genre is GOOD?
Answer: because it’s more fun to shame women for reading stupid books and having “stupid” fantasies than it is to admit the validity of a genre that does not personally appeal to you.
I’m all for demanding better quality through all genres, but that’s not what happens with romance (and with erotica). What happens is targeted bullying. I don’t even fucking read romance as a fucking Thing, okay, and that fucking enrages me. And it enrages me more when it comes from men, because that’s part of the same fucking power dynamic that has driven women to hide their fantasies, or couch them in the most ridiculous possible language, to avoid further criticism and censure.
I bitched about romance novels for many years. Notably, at the time, I was a sexist fucking dickbag jerk. I needed a kick in the cunt, okay? I still don’t enjoy the genre as a whole, but I am not a romantic person. I will watch romantic movies, because I can sustain interest for a couple of hours, but novel-length interest is not usually possible for me to maintain. On the most fundamental level, romance novels do not work for me. Therefore, the genre is not aimed at me.
General rule of Entertainment: If it’s not aimed at you, shut the fucking fuckhell bloody fucking fuck up about it! You CANNOT accurately criticize books/films/music/art from a genre that you don’t have any interest in. Your opinion is literally useless to consumers who do like that genre.
Criticizing and dismissing an entire genre is a stupid, shitty thing to do.
All of this goes for country and rap music, too. Not my thing, but people need to STFU about what’s “wrong” with it unless they are also capable of naming examples of what’s “right” with it. If criticism of romance as a genre often has more to do with sexism than actual criticism, criticism of rap is often racist, and criticism of country is often classist. You can’t help a genre change by calling all of it crap. You can’t help a genre change by hating it. You have to care about it to change it. Leave that to the people who care.