note: credit for the title goes to ali the wonder room-mate
so yeah, i read romance novels. YOU KNOW THAT ALREADY. and the more i read, the more this one particular trope makes me nervous. i’m not a finger pointer by nature, so i’m just going to paraphrase/reinterpret for you. the trope i am referring to comes in several guises, such as:
- punishing kisses (which gave rise to this short-lived project)
- he would pleasure her ruthlessly
- he loomed over her, trapping her between his powerful thighs
and you guys, THOSE ARE REAL WORDS FROM REAL NOVELS, but the point is that there’s this weird unacknowledged dominance/violence trope. unacknowledged being the operative word — it’s never actually addressed, and we are otherwise to believe that this is a potentially loving and entirely consensual relationship. and yes, these are current novels! not some crazy written in the ’80s women-can-only-be-submissive bodice-rippers! sure, some of them are set in historical time periods, but now that i’m looking for it i’m finding it across the board — paranormal, contemporary, regency, you name it.
why does this bother me? because i can’t help but hear “she was asking for it” in the subtext every time i read these kinds of scenes. acknowledged and consensual dominance/violence is one thing (for this done right, see also: Coin Operated and that episode of Buffy where she and Spike have sex for the first time, you know the one i am talking about). but the kind of dominance/violence apparent in the examples above is a vague, “manly”, she-is-so-beatiful-that-she-is-driving-me-to-this impulse that is, i guess, supposed to be sexy but ends up just feeling creepy. if you are punishing a woman with kisses (however laughable that might seem), you are saying that she needs punishing for … being desirable? if you want a woman “helpless with desire, begging for mercy” in your bed, you’re saying that she needs to be … controlled until she submits? are you creeped out yet? because i sure am.
i don’t know. maybe i am unreasonably obsessed with sexual politics of late. what i’m trying to figure out is why an author would use such a loaded, misogynist trope. is it just careless writing? or is it a deliberate choice? and if it is a deliberate choice, why not have your characters acknowledge and/or examine the inherent violence in their feelings? as it is, the second i hit one of these i stop reading the book. because if i’m going to be a smart bitch reading trashy books, to borrow a phrase, then the books sure as shit better be smart too.
nota bene: any romance novel i have reviewed on this site is guaranteed to be “punishing kisses” free, btw. i don’t blurb the ones i throw at walls.