It seems like every time we turn around, there are half a dozen new voices proclaiming all of the reasons why reading and enjoying romance novels is "bad" for women. Upon closer analysis, the reasoning given is often misogynistic, not based in science, or just downright bizarre. The romance genre—and its readers—have been much maligned since the invention of romantic novels, but we are of the opinion that romance novels, particularly those being published now and in recent years, are some of the most empowering and uplifting entertainment someone of any gender can consume. So, do romance novels ruin relationships? Absolutely not. Here's why.
Romance Is Feminist
Romance novels being published these days are especially feminist, and it's exciting and empowering to read about women in a variety of situations dealing with real-life scenarios and relationship woes. And romance novels aren't just about the romance, either—they star women in a wide variety of situations and careers tackling every day issues that the average reader faces, too. Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner take on workplace harassment, The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel addresses toxic family situations and the importance of boundaries, and No Judgment by Meg Cabot stars a character grappling with the fallout of an attempted sexual assault. Each of these books offers feminist messages about hard stuff in life, and provide empowering and uplifting storylines.
Plus, centering women and their desires and giving them voices to speak up for themselves in their love lives, and other aspects of their everyday lives, demonstrates positive feminist messages to real readers, empowering them to be strong women.
Romance Novels Make Consent Sexy
We don't talk about consent in our society enough, and there's the false idea that checking in at various points throughout sexual encounters isn't sexy or takes you out of the moment. Allow us to disabuse you of this notion. Romance novelists are incredibly creative when it comes to writing those "yes!" scenes, and they demonstrate the importance of getting enthusiastic, ongoing consent during all sexual encounters. Reading positive depictions of this can help readers advocate for consent in their own romantic lives, help normalize healthy boundaries, and empower them to speak up when they're not 100% comfortable during sex.
Romance authors can take it a step further and show readers how consent can even be sexy. In The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, Stella is a woman who hired an escort to help her figure out how to date, so it's super important that when she finally sleeps with the entrancing Michael, both are upfront about consenting to the interaction—and it's very swoon-worthy. Similarly, Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston also demonstrates how sexy is can be when both parties consent to sex.
Romance Novels Promote Healthy Relationships
While it's true that you can't have a good romance novel without conflict, so many romance novels do a great job of displaying conflict that doesn't make the romantic relationship look questionable. The romance genre showcases so many different kinds of relationships, and promotes healthy models for the happily ever afters, both when the conflict is between the love interests and when it's external to the romance.
In Beach Read by Emily Henry, protagonists January and Gus are longtime rivals but their relationship, while rocky at the beginning, turns into a supportive one that enables January to heal from her father's betrayal and for Gus to heal from his divorce. In Get a Life, Chloe Brown! by Talia Hibbert, both Chloe and her love interest Red have been hurt in the past by friends and former lovers and it affect their ability to connect with each other. They must work together to communicate their emotional and physical needs, and when they do so it enables them to have a stronger relationship. This type of modeling can help readers figure out how to have healthy communication in their own relationships.
Do Romance Novels Ruin Relationships?
So, the million dollar question here: Do romance novels ruin relationships? Only if that relationship is toxic to begin with and a reader realizes that after reading some excellent romance novel, or if readers of romance start getting unrealistic expectations about romance and relationships. While we all love those heady days of first love, great romance novels teach us that love isn't always racing hearts and butterflies. It's communication and work and making yourself vulnerable and working with a person you love to be the best version of yourself, to be supported by and support your partner. And if readers of romance can take those important lessons about what makes romance work, then it will only serve to strengthen their relationships, not ruin them.
Are you convinced yet? Then check out some of our favorite romance novel recommendations!
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