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)
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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