Sunday, September 9, 2007

How much of romance is pure rubbish?

While googling some romance statistics for a post I’m working on, I found this really interesting article on why men should read romance novels. In spite of my suspicions that this was written by someone who clearly dislikes the romance genre, I decided to go ahead and read it, bearing in mind that I should take it all with a grain of salt.

I found myself surprised at how funny I found—for the most part—her commentaries, and even more shocked at how much I agree with some of what this Leanne Bell person has to say. Yes, a lot of it are mostly uneducated guesses about a literary (yes, Leanne, LITERARY) genre she doesn’t know, and another good portion is copy/pasting repetitive views of those who believe romance is trashy, badly written and formulaic. But while taking shots in the dark, she stumbled upon some truths that I believe most romance readers and authors try to pretend don’t exist.

Here’s the article (with some of my observations) for your consideration.

Romance Novels: Marriage Manuals

Any man who wants to know what women really want should read a romance novel. They are as close to a marriage manual for men as you’re never going to get. (Trollop: Quite agree!)

You only need to read one. They’re all the same. Go to any thrift or second hand store; you’ll see scores of them along the back wall, and each one will only set you back about a quarter. Buy one of the thin, discreet ones with the red covers, and if you’re too embarrassed, rip off the cover. No one will ever know. (Trollop: I could write pages on end about ignorant people that like to comment on things they know nothing about. *sigh* Wonder how many romances this woman has read to say they are all the same? And if they are indeed all the same, couldn’t we say something similar for murder mysteries, detective stories, holocaust and WWII themed books as well?)

If you do read one, you won’t be alone. If you sneak a glance at what the women on the rush-hour subway are reading, chances are you’ll catch sight of titles like “Passion’s Sweet Embrace”, “My Irish Love”, or “Donovan’s Bed”. That’s because in spite of what feminists would have you believe, romance novels are phenomenally popular, so much so, in fact, that they make up nearly half of all paperbacks sold worldwide every year—and net their publishers nearly $3 billion annually. (Trollop: “Donovan’s Bed”? JFC, I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read that! If any of you lovely bitches are reading books with names like these, I shall be forced to disown you! LOL)

Women’s fantasies? As much as some men would like to believe that women, like the ones they see depicted in pornos, fantasize about having sex with each other, the reality is that most women fantasize about three things: passionate lovemaking, marriage-worthy love, children by the men they adore. (Trollop: I thought this was so funny because that’s exactly what my BF thinks women do. LOL)

And that’s precisely what romance novels deliver. A gorgeous, sexy, intelligent and warm hearted man falls madly, hopelessly in love with an independent, fiesty, beautiful young woman. They flirt, tease, and eventually make explosive love to each other. The story ends with either a proposal or an actual wedding, and sometimes a pregnancy. And they live happily ever after. The end. (Trollop: Now, that she has down to a T. Romance novels are not the same in plots, themes, characters or the way they are written or developed but the truth is, that paragraph up there pretty much sums up the genre—and an even bigger truth is that that’s what we readers want and we do not want it to change.)

But here’s the rest of the story... Romance novels are sexually graphic, politically incorrect, and more often than not, describe seduction scenes in which the heroine is totally, helplessly submissive to a dominant, sexually experienced man. They describe everything from oral sex to full penetration, sometimes bondage, sometimes safe sex, sometimes wild abandon. The heroes are unashamed of their desire and the heroines are flattered by it, and the stories are held together by breathless, butterflies-in-your-stomach passionate love. If you want to step out of the reality of a feminist-controlled world and into a time where women are "taken" by their mad-with-desire lovers, and like it, then get your hands on one of these books. And if you see a woman reading one of them, believe me, this is someone you want to date. (Trollop: Yep, right again. I think this is slowly changing in newer contemporary romances but, for some reason, even if the heroine is experienced sexually in romance books, the hero is still the great dominant seducer. I like it, so authors can keep that story line coming. *g*)

These books are admittedly too simply written, too predictable and melodramatic, too one-dimensional even to ever be considered literature, but the sentiment behind them is admirable: the unapologetic pursuit of values like love, sex, marriage and children. Women want these things desperately. Given the plethora of reading material out there, they are drawn over and over again to these simple stories of passion and seduction, love and marriage, to the escapism of a world populated by women they want to emulate and men they can adore. (Trollop: Sadly, I have to agree on some of this. A good portion of romance novels ARE “too simply written, too predictable, too melodramatic, too one dimensional” to even be considered decent writing! I don’t know how some of these books get published, to tell you the truth. But, ladies, when a writer gets it right, in my humble opinion, there is NO better genre. I would say that 50-60% of the Rbooks I read are pure rubbish. Around 20-30% are entertaining and well written enough. And then, there’s the magic 10%; those are sitting in my keepers shelf.)

The sad thing is that the majority of romance novel readers are married women, women who, for whatever reason, get their fill of love and romance from the pages of pulp fiction rather than the arms of their husbands. Whether this is a failing on their part or on that of their husbands, I don’t know. Maybe more women need to acknowledge their true desires and seek out men who arouse these feelings in them, instead of curling up with a book while the man they’re married to slumbers on. Maybe more women need to admit that this is what they want from marriage and stop worrying whether they’re betraying so-called feminist ideals by fantasizing about tumbling into love. (Trollop: Now that’s just pure BS. Neither Harlot nor I are married and we love reading romance. And even if we were, what does that even mean? What about men reading biographies; does that mean they want to live the lives of the people they are reading about because something is lacking from theirs? Or if they like to read detective novels, are they all frustrated because they wanted to be a cop and never made it?)


21 comment(s):

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...

Fuck, that's a long post! Hate writing stuff that long. Actually I think this is the first time I've written anything half that long. I lose interest in writing when posts go on so long and I'm pretty sure readers get bored half way through. Sorry guys, didn't see where I could trim. Any suggestions are very welcome :)

9/09/2007 01:19:00 PM  

Blogger DumSpiroSpero said...

Hi, I just wanted to say I completely randomly stumbled across your blog (while doing a Google image search, no less!) and it's fabulously entertaining! I'm so glad I accidentally found it.

9/09/2007 03:14:00 PM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Good post babe. AND DO NOT TRIM IT! It's not that long anyway. I'd posted longer rubbish. :/ There is something wrong with you and trimming anyway... I say stick with bushes.

Can't honestly think LOL. Be back later for a better comment. :P

Dumspirospero, welcome. Hope you join us often. :)

9/09/2007 03:29:00 PM  

Blogger Petra said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/09/2007 04:04:00 PM  

Blogger Petra said...

Trollop, good commentary. I have to say I resent her implication that married women read romance novels because there is something lacking on their marriage and that they find their "fill of love and romance" from books.

I am married and I gloriously read romance because I ENJOY IT. I do not read to fill in some unfulfilled fantasy. Yes, in a way romance books are fantasy, an escape to another world, but I do not live through the lives of the heroines I find in books.

Come to think of it, romance books give the romance part of my life a little oomp, which I'm sure my husband is thankful of. If those heroines can do it, so can I. Be a little adventurous sexually and such things. It always strengthens my belief that true love exists and if you work on it, a heavenly relationship with a wonderful man is not just the stuff of girlhood dreams.

9/09/2007 04:15:00 PM  

Blogger Menchie said...

I agree with some of her points but like Petra, she is waaaaaay off the mark on a lot of things.

Why is there an implication that the romance novel genre is full of fluff and should not be taken seriously? I use book covers because I am sick of the smirks I get from complete strangers when they see the covers of the books I read. Especially from men. Grrrrrrr!

9/09/2007 07:58:00 PM  

Anonymous malicious strumpet said...

I love this post! Anyone - whether romance reader or romance author - who actually has experience in the genre KNOWS that there is no such thing as 'your average romance reader.' You're right that a lot of what is published is cheap junk, but that just encourages us to seek out that magical 10%.

As for the 'women who read romance are women who don't find romance in their own marriages' theory - that's total crap. Romance novels, like romantic movies or TV shows are a 'best of' scenario. You see only the best of the characters moments - the moments of extreme highs and extreme lows. You never have to read about the characters doing the laundry or standing in line at the grocery store. The stories are entertainment and reading them is fantasy and make-believe that helps us deal with the less-than-glamorous parts of life.

There is much to be learned from a well-written romance novel. Quite often they are stories of emotionally unhealthy people finding out how to become emotionally healthy people. SEP's books, especially, tend to deal with themes of reconciliation within families.

I think you can be feminist and still want the man to take the lead at times. The idea of a man who is interested in pleasing his woman is just DAMNED sexy! I don't think it's good for one gendre to be dominant over the other. Instead I seek balance: with each taking the lead in appropriate moments. Most of these stories also include the women finding their own strength in their sexuality and taking charge of the man in sexual encounters. And that is sexy, too.


9/09/2007 10:46:00 PM  

Anonymous Gabrielle said...

Great post!

Most of the books that I read are total crap but then are those fantastic ones that make you want to read more and more.

9/10/2007 02:56:00 AM  

Blogger Midas said...

Love the post. I can see that this person doesn't read much romance if she thinks they're all alike. True some are rubbish, and so are the "classics". Hello!

It's very unfortunate that people write and make opinion on something they know almost nothing about, and won't even admit that they don't know much about it.

9/10/2007 04:53:00 AM  

Blogger Danielle De Barbarac said...

Good post! Why is romance considered "trashy"? I think every woman, some time or another, must have read romance.

My boyfriend asked why I read romance novels and I said because I enjoy it, I love that the stories end happily ever after. For me the predictability of the plot is one of the appeals of romance novels. The details are all different, but the narrative arc and structure are the same. This gives women comfort and a guarantee in a world of chaos. I guess these books allow women to let their minds go and get out of reality for a while.

My BF reads a lot of horror fiction which is also very formulaic. That's what I think it comes down to, the comfort of a formula.

9/10/2007 09:27:00 AM  

Anonymous Adam said...

Porn is porn. Most use romance books as a means of escape from the real world for a short time. Don't be such a pussy. If you want to read porn, you would buy porn. I read romance books. I like porn.

9/10/2007 09:46:00 AM  

Blogger Sparkling Cipher said...

I've been in a serious, committed relationship for more than 10 years and have been reading romance novels for 20 years. I don't read those books because my life is lacking love and passion any more than I read Agatha Christie novel because I really want to stumble across a mysterious dead body in my living room.

I think your percentages are pretty close to what I've found also. Hope of finding another ten-percenter has lead me to read lots of dreck, but those gems are worth it.

9/10/2007 12:46:00 PM  

Blogger Ladybug said...

I don't see romance novels as porn, but as escape. (But don't people read to escape time, something or another?) The reason I read them is that I find them relaxing. After a long day with kids and my husband its nice to get away in a good story that is also an easy read. I do read alot of other things but sometimes you just needs a break and they are usually easy reads.

Now a lot of them suck. I must agree there. It is hard to find one that isn't the same cheesy crap I've already read. But sometimes there are those that are too good it makes you week.

9/10/2007 02:27:00 PM  

Blogger Ladybug said...


9/10/2007 02:28:00 PM  

Anonymous donna said...

this is so silly, it's called leisure time. how much of going fishing is pure rubbish? i used to love to fish, spent tons on gear and boats and all. threw almost all that i caught back. and i usually had a paperback w/me. (glorious napping too)

9/10/2007 03:43:00 PM  

Blogger Jordis Juice said...

I'm with Donna, but not on her boats. I don't like boats. :P

I don't read romance because there is something missing in my life. Why can't people just admit that they love romance books or better yet, that there are really GOOD romance books out there?

People love romance novels because it's good! It's enjoyable! Why the need to justify it with a stupid statement like something is lacking in these people's lives that's why they read it?

9/10/2007 04:40:00 PM  

Blogger Jolie said...

This only happens in romance. No one questions why people read mystery, sci fi or the genre they call "women's fiction". No one questions why suspense fans read suspense books. Heaven help us if there is something lacking in their lives and they need to get their fill of mystery from the pages of their books.

9/10/2007 04:45:00 PM  

Blogger Isabella said...

I agree with what Jolie said. They only wonder why people read when it's Romance.

9/10/2007 05:05:00 PM  

Blogger Lollie Rose said...

I have never understood what trashy novels are and why it refers to romance novels. Sigh.

Good post Trollop.

9/15/2007 11:08:00 AM  

Anonymous karamia said...

I love reading romance (as well as many other genres)- and have a fantastic marriage to an amazing man. If all I read was the "smart" fiction that is at the top of best sellers lists, I would most likely commit suicide; it can be quite depressing. So I mix up my reading with fun light and heavy serious reading. Everything requires a little balance.
And not all romance is porn. Some of the best romance contains no sex at all! And if you do think that the sex in romance novels is porn, I think you really haven't read much porn.

9/18/2007 11:27:00 AM  

Blogger Isabella said...

Yes, why do people say romance books are porn? Poor, poor misguided people... must be really frustrating being married to one of them. Yikes!

9/18/2007 01:04:00 PM