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Romance DOES give women unrealistic expectations of men. Men in romance novels don't spend a good chunk of their day watching women get brutalized in porn. They don't hang around subreddits like r/PussyPassDenied and follow twitter accounts like women posting their Ls, that gleefully revel in women's humiliation. They don't worship men like Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson who wax nonstop about how everything wrong with Western society can be traced back to women having rights. They don't form paraphilias around grossly oversexualized/underage anime girls leaving them with nothing but contempt for any woman who fails to live up to their standards.

Honestly, in my opinion, every romance novel marketed at teens should be prefaced with a big fat disclaimer warning their audience that men like Prince Charming don't exist beyond words written by women and to not forget that in the midst of one of the most intense backlash periods against women's rights, misogyny is at a fever pitch amongst real ones.

Romance DOES give women unrealistic expectations of men. Men in romance novels don't spend a good chunk of their day watching women get brutalized in porn. They don't hang around subreddits like r/PussyPassDenied and follow twitter accounts like women posting their Ls, that gleefully revel in women's humiliation. They don't worship men like Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson who wax nonstop about how everything wrong with Western society can be traced back to women having rights. They don't form paraphilias around grossly oversexualized/underage anime girls leaving them with nothing but contempt for any woman who fails to live up to their standards. Honestly, in my opinion, every romance novel marketed at teens should be prefaced with a big fat disclaimer warning their audience that men like Prince Charming don't exist beyond words written by women and to not forget that in the midst of one of the most intense backlash periods against women's rights, misogyny is at a fever pitch amongst real ones.

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There's a really great book about why women read romances, and what we get out of them:

https://uncpress.org/book/9780807843499/reading-the-romance/

The short version is that contrary to what we typically think romances are most popular with married women, and the 'story' these plots are telling them is 'your husband may be dismissive and neglectful, or even cruel and mocking, but this all disguises deep and passionate love, as you'll discover when you get to the end of the story.'

"We read books so we won't cry" is the poignant explanation one woman offers for her reading habit.

Almost made me cry...

That's interesting.

Perhaps it explains why I dislike so many romance novels - the fact that they've been written to make women feel better about horrid relationships, when I want to dream of a good relationship.

I never fell for the fairy tale. I simply watched my parents and other adult couples and I could see the difference between fantasy and reality.

In fact, I used to roll my eyes and groan at romance novels and rom coms.

It actually helped that I had three brothers too so I could easily see that males were a pain in the ass.

However, even then I was still woefully unprepared for the reality of today’s pornsick, manosphere-influenced, red pilled pieces of crap walking amongst us today.

Romance has NEVER been more dead than any other time in history.

Most men don’t even seem to bother playing a lip service to romance anymore, they’re just unabashed assholes and believe they’re entitled to be that way because they have greater physical strength than us.

[–] penelopekitty 7 points Edited

However, even then I was still woefully unprepared for the reality of today’s pornsick, manosphere-influenced, red pilled pieces of crap walking amongst us today.

Romance has NEVER been more dead than any other time in history.

Most men don’t even seem to bother playing a lip service to romance anymore, they’re just unabashed assholes and believe they’re entitled to be that way because they have greater physical strength than us.>

I will second this statement. I'm in my 50s and have been divorced for ten years. There have always been jerks out there and I encountered my fair share before I married in 1994 but I have NEVER seen anything like how things are today. It is shocking and repulsive to the point I've completely given up on dating. When I first divorced I thought it had to do with being older but then I started hearing women much younger than me experiencing the same and worse than me. I believe as a society we are at a crisis point. It can't continue like this.

You aren’t the only one. I pretty much avoid men as much as I can due to the current nuclear level backlash, my own experiences and hearing what younger women say about current dating. Women don’t seem to gain anything and moreover loses a lot in the current climate.

At this point I would only give one man a chance, ever again.

And he stays off social media, mostly keeps to himself, and doesn't get tangled up in all this nonsense.

Course, like as not I'll still find out he has a nasty porn habit or has raped prostituted women or something. Can't win. So I'm not getting my hopes up.

Men should come with a warning label… My first boyfriend was knee-deep in RedPill (before it was called “RedPill”). Christ… 3 years of my young life that I’ll never get back!

[–] carpetplaydohx2 14 points Edited

Books were an escape for me when I was a little girl in an oppressive, abusive, unstable household. I lost myself in the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and so on. I read those books and reread them, sometimes until the covers cracked and the pages became loose.

Why? Because they offered me a glimpse of a different world -- a better world. Hope. Possibility.

I don't read romance novels and never really have, but I suspect a lot of women are reading them for the same reason I was immersing myself in stories of girls who overcame unimaginable odds to find joy and peace and love: because many of them (obviously not all of them) are fucking miserable and want to see that a happy ending is possible.

Edit: And you know what? Agatha Christie, too. Talk about the queen of happily-ever-after and romance. I suppose I can't say I don't read romance when I love Christie so very very much! She's so well-known for her murders but no one ever talks about the little love stories she so skillfully weaves into each of her tales -- and every bad guy gets exactly what's coming to him/her in the end. My g-d, I love Christie with my whole heart.

Hail fellow reader sister. I never would have survived my childhood without immersive reading. Even now books take me to different worlds.

Yes, and to me, a good book is like an old friend -- it feels like home.

I call them comfort reads. Books that will always make me feel better or take me away or bring memories of the first time I read them.

My opinion on unrealistic fiction ... let me quote Tolkien:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

“Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer's or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery .... Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the "quisling" to the resistance of the patriot.”

Real men are shit, but ... so what? Can we not dream of a better world?

My firm belief that good men exist, somewhere out there, has never made me settle for a shitty man. Quite the opposite, actually.

When you know what a real unicorn ought to look like, you don't fall for a surgically altered horse.

Girls, if they grow up with normal female socialisation, do not learn "All men are shit, hence you should never associate with them, much less get into a sexual relationship or even marry one", they learn "All men are like this, and they're good how they are, so marry one and don't complain"

So, I see good romance as an antidote to that message. Girls who read romance might at least be spared a youth ruined by shitty men while waiting for Prince Charming. When they turn 30 and realize Prince Charming isn't going to make an appearance, they at least have the experience to be wise about their settling.

(And, girls want to read romance and dream of a better world. They are desperate for it, desperate enough to read something as romance that isn't one, if they aren't given the real thing. I had someone explain to me that she thought Edward Cullen from Twilight was a good guy because he didn't pressure Bella into having sex. Twilight is arguably a realistic tale about abusive relationships, but ... it does not serve as warning to girls, nor does the blatant copy, Fifty Shades of Grey, fulfill that purpose. Girls see a boy who is better in ONE single thing than their male peers, and decide he's their best option.)

Excuse my tangent, but:

I just want to point out Edward Cullen's a vampire. English majors and the like desperately want us all to see him as a metaphor for real men, but he's not even a man. He's a predator, and predators are going to behave in predatory ways. He, not some random human guy from Bella's class, is the one watching Bella sleep. And a lot of his aBuSiVe BeHaViOr is him resisting the predatory urges because unlike a human man who has mental health issues from wherever and is refusing to get help for them, Edward has the wiring of a completely different species that he has to contend with in order to blend in with a species not his own. And he can remember enough of his former humanity to find that all terribly frustrating, especially as he hasn't hunted people in years, if ever.

Libfems could have spent all those years after the release of the "Twilight saga" actually explaining this to teenage girls instead of trying to scare them off from the books, and it would have actually been a public service. We need to respect differences where they are instead of trying to force The Different to fit into a wrong-shaped box.

[–] LovelyJubbly 4 points Edited

You can't even escape the shitty men in romance honestly. I've noticed how much they get away with if they're the male lead, especially in certain sub genres.

There's a book called The Highway Man that is apparently well received.

~~This man kidnaps her, forces her to wash in front of her and tells her she has to marry him. It's a sort of mutually beneficial relationship, a cover for them both and not based on love. She agrees based she'd get out of it (protection, and her fortune back), but it's clear she didn't have the option to refuse. He is constantly threatening and gruff and swears to kill any man who touches her. Despite his insane jealousy, he doesn't want to make the relationship real in the end because he feels he is too traumatised and says capable of forcing himself on her.

She begs him to stay in this marriage (that he forced her into) for God knows how many pages, and I simply couldn't finish it after that. He lied the entire time about who he was, hey ho, but she doesn't seem to care a jot. Not even one ounce of anger was expressed, it was instant forgiveness.

Constant rejection and bickering, punctuated with a few spicy moments is what did it for her. She's willing to chase him down and prostrate herself in front of him still. ~~

Even in fantasy, much more emotional labour is required from the female characters. She has to gain respect from him, heal him from his past, free him from his cynicism etc.

He's this tragically flawed (usually hot) character who needs to be "fixed" in some way. It's not always so obvious but it's nearly always there.

Some swoonworthy moments and some bit of grovelling is often enough to look past all the fuckery. Even in the case of coercive/abusive behaviour and sexual assault. No such leniency is shown to the FL from the audience despite her being generally more decent and not you know, using her trauma as an excuse to lash out.

In E2L situations, it's always him that initiates the enmity. He was just mean from the start because he couldn't handle his feelings, because he was threatened by her competence or jealous of the cards she was dealt in life, until he realises that she was just soldiering on like he was. Or theres some ridiculous misunderstanding.

It's insane to me that men think these stories are the man doing all the work.

Omg I've actually read the highwayman, too. I picked it up in high school because I thought it might be fun to hate read (i was in an edgy Not-like-other-girls phase and found it amusing to read about how wimpy,/ swoony/ lacking any real personality (beyond being sexually repressed and having mommy milkers large enough to make even the blackest-hearted of scoundrels see the light) the leading ladys were, but I couldn't even make it halfway through the book because of how rapey the "love story" was.

As someone who grew up reading romance (fan-)fiction.... actually it's still a guilty pleasure of mine..and also as someone who has never been in a relationship before.. Hearing this sucks so much. Like I'm already aware of how shitty men are and I avoid them like the plague but god damn there is a part of me that is still waiting for my Prince Charming like some sort of huge idiot. I so desperately want to know what it's like to be in love and to be loved.. but it's never going to happen now is it...

This really struck me because the lovliest, kindest, and one of the very best men I have ever known died yesterday, yet no one would have ever written a romance novel about his life.

That just really, really pisses me off.

I have thought a LOT about this, but in the other direction. I find that modern teen romances in literature are pretty toxic, and gives crappy expectations to girls AND boys on how relationships should be. I prefer if romance that have high expectations on the man than the opposite!!! If romances in books are crappy, then teen will thinks a romance is EXPECTED to be toxic and will tolerate intolerable things by partner. If romances are "not realistic" but the boy is a "prince charming", than maybe the dating standards will improve? For my part, I grew up on the Disney movies, which made me ULTRA picky for the kind of partners I am looking for.

After reading Jane Austen and tons of smutty regency romance novels, I can never lower my standards. Some romance novels are really crappy and have terrible male leads but I usually don't finish those. There are some authors who write cleaner romance like 'no cheating, no abuse...' or christian romance and some of them become very popular because that's exactly what a lot of readers love to read.

I think people loving Bridgerton and Jane Austen is a good thing because more women are less embarrassed and more vocal about wanting positive attention from men. I for sure don't want to read a turbulent teen romance when I'm feeling down about being single. Maybe we need a new genre like 'anti-romance' when writing about realistic relationships and relationships without a happily ever after.

Yeah. I read Austen, and some select few other romance novels, and ... well, yes, I expect men to treat me with basic human decency.

I expect an Edward Ferrars, not an Edward Cullen. :P

If that means my standards are too high, then, well, I will stay single rather than lower them.

It's interesting, you know, thinking about the difference between Austen and the Bronte sisters ... Austen wrote more realistic in that there were zero supernatural phenomenons in her writing, and rarely did anything unusual happen, but on the other hand, you could say the men in the Bronte novels are more realistic ... by which I mean shittier.

(To be honest, I can't think of a Bronte novel I'd classify as romance, while I classify all Austen novels as such. Austen does have the feel good factor, with the happy endings and the implausibly decent men. The Bronte's novels, I am not sure if any of them ever were intended to be what the modern romance genre is. Jane Eyre, for example, does not really meet the criteria, imho.)

Exactly. Instead of asking "are the standards set by romance novels too high?" we should ask "how lower can the standards be while keeping the relation a net positive for us?". If supposedly no men fits our standards, better to stay single forever than to lower it.

But of course, let's not forget the amount of historical romance book featuring men that existed and did all those big romantic gestures or the books where the guy is your average John Doe provided with empathy and the desire to make his partner happy. I really don't think these kind of books set the expectation as high as the average misogynyst claims.

I only like historical romances, ie bodice rippers. I like the melodrama, the settings, the descriptions of the clothes, and reading about balls and things like that.

When I was young the sex excited me, now, weirdly, I skip the sex scenes in favor of the cheesy plots.

You might enjoy Victoria Holt. I inherited my mom's library when she died, and that included her Holt collection. I am not a fan of romance, but the books were well-written and interesting, with twists and suspense and history and, of course, romance.

Same! Though I haven't picked up a romance in years, I loved how "exotic" the world presented was. It didn't matter what century or continent was used.

Wait, correct that. I read Holt's The Pride of the Peacock on a friend's suggestion during a group chat, and picked up Shanna used because I remember it was huge deal back in its day.