In Defense of Reading Romance and What the Fantasy Is
Updated: Nov 17, 2022
While most people, at one point or another, may long for a little romance in their life, it can get a bad rap. The romance genre is generally looked down upon, especially by anyone who reads "litfic." If a dreary, depressing book has even the slightest whiff of sex in it, people go crazy and start recommending books that are like that. Do you know what they never recommend though? Actual romance novels. As a genre, we're over here focusing on building relationships, forging community, and creating spaces where women get as much respect and attention as men. But we're still scoffed at. I've found though, if a reader gets connected with the right book, you'll fall in love the way you will with any good story. Because that's what it's all about, right? A good story.
Romance stories tend to focus on the beginning. The meet-cute, the misunderstandings, the electricity at the first touch, the longing, the foundation to the happily ever after. Because of that, our stories can be labeled as wish fulfillment, fantasy, the equivalent of literary trash, or even the highly-inaccurate and super ick "mommy porn." Maybe that's true. Maybe, for a lot of women, being pursued, being seen for who you are and still wanted, having your needs put above everyone else's, being given permission to love and experience life and bang without restraint or judgement is a total fantasy. But it shouldn't be. Let me say that again: IT SHOULDN'T BE.
I recently read a thread from Reddit that talked about this idea so perfectly I shared it in my facebook group and on instagram. In it the author (user/catsandquilts) says "Women who read romance novels just want to read about men loving women the way women are expected to love everyone else -- with a nurturing and protective form of unswerving loyalty." I mean, how true is that?! The true fantasy is being in a relationship where your partner is not only willing but actively doing the emotional heavy lifting. It doesn't even matter when they do it badly! It's the trying, putting in the time and work to show that you're invested, that you value her, that you want more for her than she's allowed herself to believe she deserves. So when it comes to romance, the sex part is AWESOME, but it's not the fantasy. And when it comes to supporting, marketing, and even just talking about this genre, who isn't going to be invested? Men who feel uncomfortable or emasculated by the mere suggestion that they should be doing more. It can feel like anything in a romance novel is as much fantasy as dragons and the fae.
But having a partner who is willing to do the emotional heavy lifting shouldn't be a fantasy. And writing stories about such things isn't trash.