Thursday, February 19, 2015
GUEST POST - Annette Larsen
Hello everyone, I want to welcome Annette Larsen as a Guest Contributor to my blog today. I am interested in the dialogue that has been generated by this topic.
How Romance Novels are Contributing to Rape Culture
Before I was lucky enough to find blogs and other resources that I could rely on for book recommendations, I would troll Amazon. If a description caught my eye, I would look at the sample pages. In doing so I discovered a disturbing trend in romance novel plots. Two books still stick out in my mind. One started with a drunken man stumbling into what he thinks is his room at an Inn. He then assumes that the girl sleeping in the bed must be a prostitute and he treats her as such. The second book started with a 'gentleman' (it was a regency, I believe) coming upon a lady in a garden. He only sees her from behind and mistakes her for someone he was supposed to be meeting for a romantic rendezvous. He ends up assaulting the poor girl before realizing she's not who he thought she was. When he does realize, there is no apology. He just turns on the charm, brushes it off as no big deal, and they part ways. Later, during the social gathering they are attending, he winks at her from across the room.
I went back and read the descriptions of these books and realized that, yes, in both cases I had just met the hero and heroine of the book. These were the two people that were going to fall in love and live happily ever after.
What the crap??!! Are you kidding me?
I'm supposed to root for a relationship that started with the 'hero' sexually assaulting the heroine?? Because it was an 'innocent mistake' and 'no harm was done.' Is that what we want to teach our daughters? Is that what we want to reinforce in our sisters' and friends' minds? Setting aside the fact that the first guy was happy to stumble onto a prostitute and take advantage of her, I'm sure he's still a good guy. He just needs someone to tame him, right? His violent aggression is really just passion, I'm sure. Let's justify his behavior, make excuses for him and reinforce the idea that his choices don't have consequences and he should never feel shame for acting on his baser instincts. He's a man; that's just the way they are.
Am I supposed to believe that the girls in these narratives weren't hurt and traumatized by the situation? Am I to assume that they actually enjoyed it and these men just helped them realize that they should free their sexuality and just enjoy, regardless of whether or not they consented to it?
No. No.no.no.no.NO.NO. NO!
Let me be clear. I write romance novels. There are many authors who write wonderful, heart warming, love filled stories. I applaud and commend them. But this trend in other romances feeds into the idea that aggression is the same as passion, that lust is the same as love, that force is the same as persuasion, that dominance is the same as protection.
I've had reviews of my books that said it was ok, but they couldn't love the hero because they prefer their men arrogant and dominant. If that's what you're looking for, you will have to look somewhere else because I won't do it. I will continue to write about the kind of men that I will want my daughters to marry. Yes, they will have flaws, but they will have respect, they will know the importance of backing away and keeping their hands to themselves when asked. They will apologize if they ever overstep their bounds, regardless of whether they understand.
I believe in redemption. I believe in second chances. But this corrosive idea that a woman should just give in and let a man show her what she really wants is damning and dangerous.
So let's all do ourselves a favor. Let's reject those plots. Let's reject those ideas. Because if we don't, where does that leave us?
We could all take a lesson from Jane Eyre. When Mr. Rochester tried to assign the blame for his choices to her, she wouldn't allow it:
"Then you condemn me to live wretched, and to die accursed?" His voice rose.
"I advise you to live sinless; and I wish you to die tranquil."
"Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion—vice for an occupation?"
"Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure—you as well as I: do so." -Jane Eyre
Or there's this gem:
About Annette Larsen:
Annette K. Larsen fell in love with Jane Eyre in high school and later decided that if she wanted more clean, worthwhile romance novels, she might as well write few of her own. She is the wife of one handsome husband, the mother and four adorable children, and the author of Just Ella and Missing Lily. Her third book, Saving Marilee will be coming out in a few months, barring any catastrophes.
Thank you, Annette for sharing with us today. I look forward to having a review for one of your novels up in the near future.