I need to get something off my chest. I’m sick and tired of the way people talk about romance novels and the romance genre. Here are five things we need to stop doing immediately:
- Stop treating romance like “writing for dummies.” I can’t count the number of times someone in one of my writing groups has said the equivalent of, “I could be published by now, if I were just writing smut,” or “I’d write romance, but I want to write real stories.” Just because something ends happily doesn’t make it less real, and just because people have sex, doesn’t mean it’s not challenging to write.
- Stop calling them “mommy porn.” This is the most infantilizing, insulting term, and thanks to the Book That Shall Not Be Named, it’s become a household phrase. The word “mommy” itself is juvenile, intended to demean women. By linking it with “porn,” it’s saying that A) women don’t appreciate pornograpy and B) all sexual content IS pornography. I like my porn the old-fashioned way, thanks, and I’m nobody’s mommy.
- Stop calling them formulaic. The only requirement for romance is that it ends in a “happily ever after” or a “happy for now.” How is this any different than the genre standards for mystery, or westerns, science fiction or fantasy? Some romance novels deal with heavy topics, some light, but when you read a romance, you know it’s going to end happily. Why is that such a bad thing?
- Stop saying “bodice rippers.” Seriously, the 1970s called and they want their slang back. A “bodice ripper” is a pretty accurate term for a type of romance popular, like, 40 years ago. Bodice rippers were pretty rapey overall, and by calling all romance novels bodice rippers, you’re making them all sound rapey, and you’re acting like the genre hasn’t changed in 40 years. Have you changed in the last 40 years? Well, so have romance novels.
- Stop limiting romance novels to a white heterosexual couple. Romance is for everyone, not just cisgendered heterosexual white people. Romance novels are getting more diverse, but that road is slow and uphill, and we aren’t helping by assuming all romance novels need to be M/F, or white, or cis. It’s time for diverse romances to become the norm, not the exception relegated to specialized publishing lines and segregated shelves. Diversity is not a trend and shouldn’t be treated as one. Everyone deserves their happily ever after.
In the immortal words of Gordon Ramsay…
What did I miss, readers? What are your personal pet peeves when people talk about romance novels?