Why Romance?

I adore reading romance yet the general reaction to it (at least in my experience) seems to be, “you’re reading it for the sex, aren’t you?” That romance is not taken seriously frustrates me. Romance novels tend to be labelled ‘trashy’, ‘smut’, etc. and people don’t consider them to be ‘real literature’ (what does that even mean?) It’s not uncommon for bits of romance novels to be taken out of context and an entire genre to be labelled because of the bad apples.

Why is it that the first thing that comes to people’s mind when thinking of romance novels is sex? And why is that a bad thing? We are still, sadly, part of a culture that condemns notions of female sexuality. Words like slut and whore are still commonly used to refer to women who have a lot of sex and aren’t afraid of embracing their sexuality. What does it mean when we condemn novels that tend to portray female sexuality in a more positive light than negative?

Sometimes romance novels can be unrealistic but a lot of what *I’ve* read tends to feature female leads who embrace their sexuality because why not? Pizza rolls not gender roles, people. (Now I’ve gone and made myself hungry)

Source

Romance, like most genres, features a wide array of novels. Some of them are not great and others are amazing. There are tropes, yes, but every single genre has their tropes, it isn’t something that  can be avoided. It’s how tropes are implemented that matters.

So, why romance? I read romance because I love reading about relationships. I love seeing interactions between couples and I love watching their relationship be developed over the course of a book. I love reading about awesome leads (especially in historical romance) that defy the conventions of their society and embrace themselves. Is that so bad? So no, I don’t read romance novels for the sex (although well-written sexy times are always appreciated).

Readers have a variety of backgrounds and a variety of stories and they are all valid! So as annoying and repetitive tropes might be, it is important to remember that someone can still relate to the story being told. Reading these stories might help people who struggle to open up, help those who are sexually active but are getting shamed/afraid of getting shamed feel more comfortable with their sexuality, etc. There are so many readers who *can* relate to issues presented in romance novels and to shame them for reading them, or to belittle their enjoyment of them is a horrible thing to do. There shouldn’t be a stigma surrounding any genre. As readers, we should be able to just sit back and let people read what they want to instead of labelling certain kinds of books the kind you want to read and others as trash.

What do you think of romance? Do you read it? Do you think that it is a genre to be condemned or celebrated? Do you think we should value every reader’s taste? Talk to me!

Shout out to Siiri for proof-reading this post and reassuring me that it is worth sharing :)

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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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  1. says

    LOVE this post, Rashika! You speak nothing but the truth. I hate how people are supposed to be ashamed because they read romance. It’s stupid and presumptuous. I don’t read romance for the sex (although I appreciate a good sexy times scenes), but for the feelings that it gives me. I know it might seem silly, but romance gives me hope and it puts me in a good mood. There’s NOTHING trashy about romance and I read whatever I want. No one has the right to shame me for it!! People need to stop with the unnecessary judging, yo!
    Nick @ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist recently posted…Mini Reviews: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart/First & ThenMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      I think we all appreciate good sexy times scenes ;) but yeah, I don’t seek out romance novels because sex, I love all the warm, mushy feelings they give me. SAME! My fav brain candy is stuff like HR and Rom Sus because they have a way of cheering me up and just generally making me feel exciting about books. EXACTLY. People can shove their judgement in a place where the sun don’t shine!

  2. says

    Can I like, give this post like a GAZILLION grande-sized heart confetti? I’m one of those romance readers too! But I’ve never been ashamed of it, in fact when someone asks me what I like to read I, without cringing, tell them romance, YA, etc. I’ve never once thought about being ashamed about it either. I mean, pfft, yes, the steamy parts ARE a plus, but it’s more about the characters, their relationship development, and YES, I’ll be honest here, the steamy scenes. <3

    Great post, lovely! xoxo
    Keionda @Keionda Hearts Books recently posted…☆☆TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.My Profile

    • Rashika says

      YAAAAAS <3 <3 It's not so much that I am ashamed of reading stuff than I am of stupid questions because I have a low tolerance and idk how to be patient and not yell at people :P It's funny because the other day I was asked what kind of stuff I liked to read and i was like "Nothing you read" and I was trying to sound obnoxious but apparently I did :P Steamy parts are always a plus but relationship development is my favv :))

      Thanks so much, Keionda! :)

  3. says

    What a great post! I recently started reading romance during this last year, and I love it! What is funny to me is the idea that romance novels aren’t considered literature, and then you read a piece of “literary fiction” and it is essentially the same type of interpersonal story. The only difference is what value literary critics and society at large places on it. It a man writes it, more often than not it becomes literary. If a woman writes it, well then we label it as lesser writing. Bah humbug!
    Anne @ Lovely Literature recently posted…Owl Crate Unboxed: November’s Myths and Legends (Plus Soundless Giveaway!)My Profile

    • Rashika says

      “It a man writes it, more often than not it becomes literary. If a woman writes it, well then we label it as lesser writing. ” AGREED.
      Your entire comment is so on point, like you said what I was trying to say even better than I did. It’s so annoying that we place literary value on something written by a man but not usually if it’s written by a woman. This is why Nicholas Sparks pisses me of sometimes because he gets so much credit for what female romance writers have been doing for decades!

  4. says

    It’s funny but I don’t love romance for the sex I love it for the, ready for it, *gasp* ROMANCE. Imagine that huh? :P

    Seriously I read for those first kisses and first dates and swoony men and sometimes cheesy lines. The butterfly feeling in your stomach and all the other such wonderful nonsense that goes with it. But if I did read it for the sex? So what?

    We are a funny society aren’t we?
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    • Rashika says

      *gasps* you are so scandalous, Ali! But yes, I am the same! AND YEAH. If someone is reading if for the sex, it don’t matter. I just hate the way people imply that doing that is a *bad* thing. *shakes head*

  5. says

    This is so true! I’m not a huge fan of romance myself, but I don’t hate on the genre or anything – it’s just my personal taste. I have to agree, people (and society in general) just hate women. It’s impossible! I read to escape this, so when people shame others for reading the books they want… I just hate it!

    I agree that most modern romance books (especially YA) celebrate female sexuality, but, there are a lot of romance books out there that are all about male dominance. It gives such a bad name for the genre – I find this tends to be mainly in adult romance books. I hate the way how the men are always portrayed as stronger too. This is one of the main reasons I tend to steer clear of romance!

    Thank-you so much for this, Rashika! It was very informative ♥
    Denise | The Bibliolater
    Denise recently posted…Why I Love Reading FantasyMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      SAME! No one should ever have to feel ashamed for what they read.

      Oh there are definitely some bad apple romances out there that do that. And the whole male dominance thing is one of the reasons why I usually avoid books featuring alpha males. My exception to that is when the female is also very alpha so it balances the power out.

      Thank you, Denise! :)

    • Rashika says

      Oh I’ve read one or two of those kind of romance novels and never enjoyed them since I enjoy development and plot. Novels like that can be found in so many genres though, ones where the plot is non-existent and there is no development because the focus is elsewhere, which is why we shouldn’t generalize! :D

      Thanks Eliza! :)

  6. says

    ooooo good topic! I honestly don’t care what people read. Like you said, there are tropes in every genre, and stigmas for that matter. I don’t read specifically romance books. But what I DO read, I almost always want there to be a romantic element to the story. I’m always really curious to see how a couple will develop, how real they seem, how much I’ll ship them…etc. So yeah, I don’t think you should condemn a person for what they read! Just value the person, and let them read what they want. You read romance; you’re a romantic. Mazle tov!

    Now the real outrage are the covers of romance books xD Maybe just having people on the cover of books in general makes me uncomfortable. Idk. I’ve just never cared for them. They deserve nicer, more elegant covers.
    SJ Bouquet recently posted…The Aches And Pains Of Being A Slow ReaderMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      Omg yeah. Romance covers make me cringe so much, like I cannot even. I am so done with humans on covers in general TBH. I don’t need to see an 8 pack to draw me to a romance novel *shakes head*

  7. says

    Preach! I only just started reading romance because I previously fell victim to the romance-shame. But now that I’ve actually read some, I really enjoy it! I prefer ones that are sex-lite, but I have nothing against those that enjoy that. A well written book is a well written book. It doesn’t matter where it’s shelved at the bookstore. It doesn’t matter what label people give it. Even if it’s not the best written book, if someone enjoys it, that’s all that matters! Let’s stop throwing shade on romance, people! Love this.
    Beth @ Fuelled By Fiction recently posted…Some YA Book Giveaways to get into the Holiday Spirit!My Profile

    • Rashika says

      “A well written book is a well written book. It doesn’t matter where it’s shelved at the bookstore.” THIS. IS. PERFECTION. And yeah, someone’s enjoyment of a book shouldn’t be belittled because you don’t think the genre is ‘literary’!

      Thank you, Beth!!! :)

  8. says

    I blame it on Harlequin. I think they’re the first ones who pushed the line a bit and started writing raunchy romances that weren’t necessarily erotica. Or at least that’s my theory.

    I love romances too, I’m a hopeless romantic and I’m a believer that love conquers all, love is more powerful than anything, blah blah blah. Ultimately, HOPE is best demonstrated in romance novels and that is one thing I will never tire of.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…A Shot of YA: The Falconer by Elizabeth MayMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      It’s okay, I am definitely a romantic too ;) Hope is definitely demonstrated in romance novels in a way it isn’t in various other genres, tbh. Although I do think MG does a fairly awesome job with hope because some MG novels just have a way of making me melt into a puddle.

    • Rashika says

      Same. Romance novels work like a charm when I am trying to get out of a slump. Yay! We should all embrace our inner romantic ;)

    • Rashika says

      I am the opposite! I love build-up but my fav is when the couple is actually together because then they can be cute (although in some cases, that does not always work out the way I want it to!)

    • Rashika says

      OMG, RACHEL! You’re too nice. You’re going to make me run off into the woods because of your niceness. Thank you SO SO much <3 *hugs*

  9. says

    I hate all the negativ stigmas against romance novels. There’s nothing wrong with them! They have a lot of merit, and they’re just so fun to read. If a book can make me be onboard with a romance, I am 100% impressed!

    I love reading romances because I’m a big romantic at heart, and I consider it my light reads because I’m able to breeze through them. Your reasons for reading romance = my reasons too! there’s something so satisfying about reading a developing relationship in romances. It’s just fun.

    Romance novels should always be celebrated.
    Cee recently posted…2015 YA Book Cover Choice Awards! · Semi-Final Round!My Profile

    • Rashika says

      Sameeee! Romance novels are just so much fun and a great palette cleanser for me! I breeze through them too and generally have a lot of fun! :D

      YAAS. Go romance novels *throws confetti*

  10. says

    This is interesting because I’m actually thinking of doing a discussion post on Thursday about romance and sex in novels! I personally don’t like the idea of sex in novels. And I definitely do not read novels for their moments of “sexy times”. Honestly I feel like that’s a private affair and having them in books is like the written version of porn (but probably much, much milder).
    Great discussion!
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  11. says

    Oh gosh, what have you done!? Now I want a pizza roll!

    But YES. JUST YES. THIS. ALL OF IT. As I’m growing older I find myself being more interested in reading romance novels — as a kid I’d totally turn my nose up at the genre and roll my eyes — and yeah, there’s definitely a stigma that surrounds it — especially when it’s females reading (or writing!) it. I don’t read them for the sex — and even if I did, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that — more than it’s just something I *like* to read about.

    • Rashika says

      Have I created a monster? Am I A MONSTER? *gasp*

      SAME. When my librarian recommended me anything with romance in it, I’d be like NO. I am TOO COOL for this shit but now that I am a lot older, I find romances satisfying in ways a lot different from books in other genres.

  12. says

    Wonderful post, Rashika! I agree with everything that you said and I also get annoyed with people thinking Romance novels are about sex or smut. I remember reading “Anna and the French Kiss” and my professor teased me about because the title has “french kiss” on it and thinks it’s like about…sex?. -___-

    I usually read romance novels because I find it realistic. Though some of them have insta-love or love triangle. I just love that giddy feeling whenever I read it or an emotional roller coaster.

    • Rashika says

      OMG, REALLY?!?! I cannot believe a professor would do that, TBH :( I am sorry that happened!

      YES. I love the giddy feeling I get from reading a romance. I am always giggling and just feel so happy whenever I finish one :’)

  13. says

    I couldn’t have said it better myself – you SHOW THEM, RASHIKA! I shall nod at EVERY sentence you have written, because it is all so true. How DARE they label romance as something “trashy” that doesn’t count as real literature? Its just so irritatingly stupid how a lot of people are willing to bash a whole genre of wonderful stories because a few books that one time that one summer kind of ruined their dinner or whatever. And YES, the beauty of love is a HUGE reason for romance, but SO WHAT if its for the sex as well? Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that – we be reading about two characters whom we have rooted for, for so long throughout the book. What gives?

    Brilliant post, Rashika, I LOVE how you tackled this issue ;)
    Madiha @ Paper Skies recently posted…Ode to the Shadowhunters + Freebies!My Profile

    • Rashika says

      “Its just so irritatingly stupid how a lot of people are willing to bash a whole genre of wonderful stories because a few books that one time that one summer kind of ruined their dinner or whatever.” This is beautiful, Madiha. Or there will be someone talking about that time they came across a badly written sex scene from a romance novel on the internet and assume that that is what romance as a genre is like. -.- I am just like, no? Excuse me?

      Thank you SO much, Madiha! :)) I was honestly worried but I am glad you liked the post!

    • Rashika says

      The thing is though, there is also well written erotica out there. I’ve only a handful and don’t go out of my way to seek out erotica but out of the handful I have read, there were 1-2 that were well written and had such a great plot.

      I do love me a good Urban Fantasy/ PNR novel so I totally understand. I’ve actually been looking for a new UF series to tackle since I feel like I’ve pretty much read everything that I would be interested in *sigh*

  14. says

    Fantastic post. A huge problem with the dismissal or shaming of the genre is indeed shaming women – the female writers who predominate in this genre, the majority female readers, and yes, female sexuality. I’m not a massive fan of the genre myself, but only because I prefer stories that have have a little more going on than the course of true love (but this is a personal gripe!), but I totally adore having romance as an element in my books.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali BenjaminMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      The thing is though that there are so many romance novels out there that have so much more than just a story about finding true love. One of my fav sub categories is rom sus which usually involves a mystery but also romance and I like it because while there is romance, the focus tends to be on a mystery and figuring out what the heck is going on. I get the swoons and all the fun in one go ;)

      Thanks so much, Hannah!!

  15. says

    Hi! This is interesting to me because in all honesty, I am generally not a fan of Romance novels. ALTHOUGH I must say I don’t hate on people who love reading them. My mom loves them. I think it is a preference thing for me. I actually wrote a blogpost about it if you want to check it out. Maybe you could recommend your top romance books for me to possibly try and read? https://paperspensandperidot.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/why-i-dont-read-romance/
    Also, I agree with you about how women are portrayed in these novels. I love a strong, bad ass woman. I disagree totally with condemning, and I now that my preferences and personal opinions might not reflect others. I honestly believe there are perfectly written romance novels out there.

    • Rashika says

      I love giving recs! My fav off the top of my head would be The Heiress Effect. It’s by Courtney Milan who always has such amazingly strong female leads! :)

  16. says

    I love this post Rashika, I remember talking to you and Allie a few weeks ago, about how people are quick to make judgements about the sort of book you’re reading based on the cover alone (Julie James books), but I’ve always been a fan of romance in the books I read, sometimes if its not there I’m okay with it, but romance which makes you a puddle of goo or brings your mood up for the day is what I long for and so I’m all for it!
    Jasprit recently posted…Mini review: Queen Song by Victoria AveyardMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      YAAS. One of the things that got me thinking about the post, TBH! :) Same. I love being turned into a puddle of goo because of all the warm, mushy feelings I get from reading a well-written romance novel! :)

  17. says

    Romance isn’t my go-to genre, but I do love a good PNR or historical romance often enough! I love the relationships, the discovery of two people coming together and how they make it work against all odds. Real life romance isn’t usually as excited as what you find in books so there’s that too XD And yeah, if there’s sex and it’s NON-sexist and free of too many common tropes and stereotypes, I’ll enjoy that too! And to me, a well-written romance is just as much ‘literary’ as any other genre! Fantastic post Rashika ♥
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: LiraelMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      LOL! Reading all the romance is probably why my expectations are so high from real life. I am just going to wither away and become an old lady, won’t I? “NON-sexist and free of too many common tropes and stereotypes” SAME!

      Thank you, Micheline <333

  18. says

    I love reading romance because it’s a wonderful alternative to the heavy stuff that I have to read for university. I love romance because it makes me feel all the emotions. Romance is not equivalent to sex, and I hate people for putting other people on their preference for romance. Just let me have my fun.
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  19. says

    I actually prefer fantasy books and don’t read a lot of straight romance novels (I am more after a strong plot or world building rather than the sex lol) BUT I agree, it definitely has it’s place even though it’s tropey! Sometimes a couple and what they’re going through can make you swoon, and it can be relatable as well. My problem with a lot of romance books is that they focus on the exciting falling in love bit which is all perfect and stuff, but often times there is also “after the big honeymoon phase” that is often skipped upon. But I like how your post breaks the stigma!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin Review: A fun funeral?!My Profile

  20. says

    I don’t ready romance, because romance storylines are my least favorite. It takes a lot to get me invested in a romance-heavy novel, so I steer clear of the genre. HOWEVER, I do not like all of the crap that romance readers take from other readers/society. Why should others feel bad for liking to read? I don’t understand why romance is trashed, but books like James Bond and other male-influences novels get a pass. It seriously pisses me off.
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  21. says

    This is fabulous! I don’t think that anyone should be hating on ANYONE’s choice of reading material. I mean, who cares? Like, I am not a huge romance novel reader, though I DO love romance in other books, and sometimes I am down for a straight up romance, but even if I didn’t like it, it isn’t my business to shame anyone else. Like, I don’t like books about say… model airplanes. Those bore me. But if I saw some old man at Barnes & Noble happily grabbing a copy of “Fake Planes and You”, I certainly wouldn’t start heckling him.

    The irony of the romance hate for me is that doesn’t pretty much everyone in the world hope for romance? For (gasp) sex? So what is the problem with reading about some people in love? It slays me! Now, I will be fully candid here and say that I have, and will continue to hate on 50 Shades. But not on the readers. I think the book is awful, and probably irresponsible, but that’s still no reason to judge anyone else!

    Basically, everyone should read whatever they want. And all the other people should keep their unnecessary opinions to themselves. And, probably take a hard look at WHY they care about what other people are reading to begin with.
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  22. says

    Romance is WHY I read. It’s why I enjoy books so much. I love seeing two characters fall in love. Hey, I’m a romantic at heart.
    But I have to admit that when people ask me what type of books I read, I get shy when I tell them I read romances, and I start to defend myself. Then I want to smack myself because it’s nothing to be ashamed of! At least I am reading, unlike the majority of the population lol. And I’m doing what makes me happy!
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  23. says

    I do have to admit that I used to luuuuuv reading Adult romance books, until people start coming to me and be like “aren’t you too young to be reading about sex?” “Isn’t it shameful to read about sex in public transport?”

    COME ON, I got so annoyed that I moved on to YA (which I never regretted), but sometimes I wished I had enough courage to show those people my middle finger. I agree with you, there’s nothing shameful about wanting to read romance, and it’s NOT about the sex. It’s about ROMANCE. LOVE. All those love stories that we wish we had in our lives. There’s nothing wrong in reading that, and I swear, people need to grow up. I mean, would you automatically assume that a couple is having sex just because they have romance?

    PS. Sorry for the rant ><
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  24. says

    Great post! I think many readers are closet “romance junkies” for reasons they only know. I personally love this genre not because of the sex scenes or what have you, but because of how the words are translated into magical feels…

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