Where did the romance go?
I’m not starting this post with a caveat along the lines of ‘sorry if I offend anyone blah blah blah’ because, I am so disappointed and angry that I don’t care. And frankly, it would gall me if this post offends you, yet the subject of the post has some how not pinged on your what-the-fuck radar. Because, for me, it’s not so much pinging as hammering down with all the finesse and force of an elephant doing an bungee jump wearing a harness made of string.
You’re probably wondering what has got me so worked up that I am leaving all pretence of English politeness and decorum behind me. Very few things have the power to get me truly angry and upset, but numbering in that short list is domestic abuse and coercive control and I’m sure I am not alone in that. However, it’s about context; when I’m listening to the news, or a true crime podcast or reading studies about the subject I know what to expect, I can gear myself up to listen dispassionately and learn. When I am chilling out at home and reading a romance, my heart and mind completely open, the last thing I expect to see is a book that reads like a case study of domestic abuse. It’s totally out of context. So, this week what got me climbing on my high horse was reading Taking the Fall by Alexa Riley. Whilst reading and even now, a question keeps revolving around and around in my mind, where did the romance go? Was someone going to come in and save this heroine from the idiot abusing her? No, I realise to my horror, this guy IS the hero.
It got me thinking back to those 80s and 90s books, you know the books, where the heroine is wearing a half torn dress supplicating the strong handsome hero and where “forced seduction” was running rampant. Have we regressed back to this? Where the number one courting technique for heroes was a bit of rape? Is this the modern day version of that? Will we look back in 20 years time and wonder what the hell we were thinking? I hope not, I hope it doesn’t take that long to realise that these heroes aren’t just “alpha a-holes” as I’ve seen them referred to, but abusers. They’re criminals. No woman should be subjected to their behaviour and authors romanticising these heinous relationships just adds to the problem. Trying to make a man controlling every aspect of a woman’s life from the clothes she wears to the food she eats and then threatening punishment isn’t romantic and caring. It’s coercive control, which is abuse even if it doesn’t leave a bruise. Is R.Kelly a romantic hero? No he’s a criminal, an abuser who grooms young girls and then proceeds to debase them and even worse most the girls don’t even realise it.
Which leads me to my next thought. These heroines, they are all so young. In the case of Taking the Fall the heroine was under 16 when the hero, who was ten years older, noticed her. She was under 16 when he stood outside her door listening to her masturbate. There’s just something wrong with this whole scenario. In general I have no issues with the whole younger woman, older man and vice versa romances. However, when the hero/heroine is so young that it’s ‘philia’ to be attracted to them then it’s just plain wrong. Do you want someone 10 years older than you’re 14-15 year old son or daughter to start taking a sexual interest in them?
Now, I want to talk about this weeks controversy regarding K. Webster. Normally, we don’t comment and like to stay neutral about any sudden scandal happening in the romance book world. But this, this offended all of us. I simply don’t understand how her book was okay. This book was chronicling the abuse of a child. I don’t care how “sexy” it was. Fucking Shakespeare could have written this book and no matter how finely crafted the words, how eloquently he would have put it, it’s still child sexual abuse. Once again I ask, where is the romance? How is this okay? Why are people supporting this? Would you like your child in the same situations as this “heroine”? The young girl sounds like she’s been through a horrible ordeal and yet people are toting how “hot” this book is. And, when I read the “warning” K Webster gave this book I was even more offended.
Apparently I am not open minded or brave enough to like this book. Well, if open minded means letting paedophiles near children then you’re damn straight I am not open minded enough for this book. As for brave? I believe to like this book it’s not bravery you need, it’s a strong stomach and a complete lack of empathy and understanding. And more food for thought; if this book was written by a man, perhaps a man with a young teenage daughter…would your feelings about it change? If this book was made into a film would you watch it? I doubt it because if this was made as a romance and not a harrowing tale of a young girls abuse at the hands of a parent then I imagine those involved would be arrested and jailed for making and distributing child sexual abuse images. Why is it okay just because it’s in book form? The images still get ingrained into my mind the same as if I were watching it on my TV.
This trend of turning victims into heroines and the abusers in to heroes is deeply disturbing and offensive to me. It upsets and angers me. Romanticising some of the horrible abuse against women, normalising it and glamourising it; this is not okay. If a woman who is in one of these despicable situations reads one of these books and recognises the behaviour, how is she supposed to feel? Like it’s okay? Like she’s lucky that she lives with one of these men that apparently we are toting as the heroes that women fantasise about? Of course not! But, by authors writing these books and by us reading them we are perpetuating and encouraging that behaviour and worse, telling these women that they should be enjoying it.
*takes deep breath* This is a subject I am very passionate about – as you can tell – so perhaps these trends don’t stick out in your mind like they do for me. But, for now I am climbing off of my high horse and asking that you give this some thought. We all love our alpha heroes, even when we know that in reality we couldn’t live with them. However, I believe at the moment far too many authors are crossing over that line from alpha to plain ol’ abusive and it makes me really uncomfortable. So, I felt like something had to be said, as women (for the most part) we should stick together and help those of us who need it, who are suffering either psychologically or physically, at the hands of another. What we shouldn’t do is make it into a romance.