I write in two genres that get a lot of grief – romance and horror. Romance readers are far too often stereotyped as fat, lonely women out for a thrill between the pages with sexy heroes to make up for the lack of excitement and love in their lives. Horror readers are far too often seen as weird loners or losers who have psychological problems. Sadly, sometimes the people and businesses who are in a position to uplift these readers ridicule and bash them.
Case in point: The Kennett Library in Chester County, Pennsylvania. You’d think a library would want to attract readers, not bash them. That wasn’t how romance lovers were treated during a recent event entitled “Bad Romance 2020” event. What’s even more aggravating is that this was the third year this event was held.
An announcement by the Kennett Library described the event as highlighting some “remarkable ‘vintage’ book covers” in a way that made it sound less like describing romance books than the women who read them: “languishing in obscurity… Sad. Boohoo. Unloved.” There are plenty of books in other genres that languish in obscurity. Why not pick on unread mysteries, comedy, or science fiction? Why are romances and the women who love them so often dragged through the mud like this?
It wasn’t enough to quietly mock these books. The event consisted of reading aloud what the staff determined to be the most awful, cringe-inducing passages – all for a laugh. So, the library laughs at its patrons who enjoy romances. One notice even described the books as “debauched” and then went on to further mock romance readers by saying “hold [these books] to our pounding hearts, caress their soft pages”. The only stereotypical words left out of the descriptions were “turgid” and “throbbing”, but they might have been a little too risqué for library staff.
It’s no secret that the vast majority of romances are written by women and read by women. These books are very formulaic. There are numerous tropes eager readers lap up and the books must have either a Happily Ever After or Happy For Now ending. Plenty of people who aren’t fans of romance bring those facts up and ridicule women for enjoying their chosen authors and sub-genres. So what? Mysteries are just as formulaic. Action movies are downright predictable. Horror movies are so formulaic and predictable spoofs have been made of them. Why not make fun of all of them? Yes, some do, but not to the extent that romance books and the women who love them are ridiculed.
This lack of love for a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other genres comes down to not-so-thinly-veiled sexism. Women who read romances are seen by their critics as fluffy creatures who cannot stand up for themselves. They prefer to wait for a Handsome Prince to take their cares away. Rather than acknowledge that romance lovers are voracious readers who deserve respect, events like this discount their existence.
I write romance and I would not want to attend such an event. The ridicule has rubbed off on me. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to read my own works aloud, especially the sex scenes. I don’t have that kind of feeling when reading my horror aloud, even though my stories can be very violent. Violence is more acceptable in American society than sex. Some very violent movies are seen as masterpieces, yet show a nipple and some Americans squeal in horror. That’s so wrong I don’t know what else to say about it. We need more love and romance in this world.
Life is difficult enough. Reading is escapism. If a woman wants to escape into a sexy and thrilling romance, why make fun of her? If I want to write a romantic and erotic story about two bisexual werewolves looking for a third partner (“Full Moon Fever” will be released mid-2020), don’t mock me. If I want to write a sexy retelling of a fairy tale like “Trouble In Thigh High Boots” (Puss In Boots) or “Climbing Her Tower” (Rapunzel), don’t snicker at me under your breath. I’m reading J. R. Ward’s first book in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. A library should not be in the business of ridiculing its patrons. Remember – these women have money to burn on books, and if they want to read romance, leave them alone. Instead of making fun of them, lift up romance novels. Celebrate their optimism. Admire the complex characters and relationships. Relish that happily ever after ending especially when the world is in turmoil. Romance readers and writers deserve respect.
Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Her story “The Beautiful Move in Curves” appears in “Dangerous Curves Ahead”, an anthology of sexy stories about plus-sized women. Look for it at Amazon. Her new paranormal erotic shifter romance novel “Full Moon Fever” will be for sale in 2020.
Web site: http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethblack