I ran across an article recommendation on my browser yesterday, and it’s had me annoyed ever since. I intended to stay away from anything remotely political or controversial here. I also intend to continue to do so beyond this little rant.
The article in question was in The Atlantic recently and was titled “How to Write Consent in Romance Novels”. The article is essentially an interview of a feminist writer, and starts with an example from one of her latest books where the protagonist is taken to a Dodgers baseball game on a date. Her boyfriend is briefly described as essentially a clueless boor but good looking and an actor. They’ve been dating for a few months. He pops the question on the jumbo-tron and is supposedly so clueless after dating her for months that he can’t even spell her name correctly while doing so.
Quite understandably, given the short time of their relationship and the very public way the proposal was handled, she feels shocked, embarrassed and cornered. I think most people would if they’d only been dating a short time. She says no, he goes on a tirade yelling at her, and the stadium crowd turns on her also.
Long story short, this excerpt from her book was supposed to show how more traditional relationship roles are backwards and oppressive, society supports oppressing women, etc… I just want to bang my head against the wall when I see stuff like this.
Let’s be clear here: The protagonist had every right to say no. I would have in her shoes. What I object to is the broad brush strokes that the author and The Atlantic use to paint anyone who thinks differently about relationships and erotica as either a monster or a brainwashed clueless woman needing enlightenment from them. The author’s books sell, so more power to her for finding an audience. That does NOT mean hers is the only valid approach or opinion however.
First of all, there’s a huge difference between being clueless and over-eager as the boyfriend was in the story, and deliberately trying to oppress and devalue a partner and women in general. There’s also nothing wrong with a public proposal, so long as marriage has been previously talked about and it’s pretty clear that’s what both people want.
Much of what’s written as erotica is also pure fantasy. Just about everything I write here falls into that category. That meaning it’s something that you might imagine or role play with a partner for kinky fun, but it may very well be something you’d never want to happen in real life. Big difference between fantasizing about the boss calling you into his office and bending you over his desk, and actually having it pushed on you in real life. YES, contrary to extremist opinion, people ARE smart enough to know the difference also.
There’s also nothing wrong with men and women having more traditional relationship roles in terms of pursuing and being pursued. It can and IS done while still respecting the woman all the time, both in the real world and in fiction. I think my Power Girl’s Power Date story is a good example there. Marc pursues her strongly while engaging her on an intellectual level, giving her an out at the couple of times she feels uncertain, and never outright forces himself on her or coerces sex from her.
That kind of relationship is every bit as valid as the type the author who was written about in The Atlantic seems to prefer, which as best I can tell is just short of a cuckold one where the man must ask permission to do anything, and can’t even pull out a chair or hold a door for a woman lest it be seen as devaluing her as inferior somehow. No doubt that analysis is almost as off as the way more traditional roles are portrayed in the article. It’s sadly what happens when people get frustrated by that kind of lack of tolerance and perceived self righteousness from people who believe they know better than everyone else.
The reality of relationships in general SHOULD be that if it works for both people involved, and is mutually consensual then it’s valid. That goes for everything from traditional relationships to the ones pushed by the Atlantic to BDSM and other alternative relationships.
Oh and if somebody comes along and tries to negate all I said because of my Witchfire heroine peril stories… They’re an attempt to humanize stereotyped characters and the situations they’re put in, and it’s used as a way to push my growth as a writer. Everything there is pure fantasy and sometimes done to show the character’s strength as a survivor as opposed to glorifying what happened to them.
I encourage anyone reading who agrees to reblog or retweet this also.