kay, let’s be honest here. How many of us would feel confident opening up a paperback romance novel in a public space? You’d be right if you guessed that the majority of us would be a little more than shy to do so. Now let’s take the question a little further…what about admitting at a dinner party that your favorite romance genre is M/M? Or reverse harem? Or…never mind. The reality is that for many romance readers, admitting to their favorites does not induce a friendly welcome in the public space. Being on the receiving end of comments such as: “So you read Mommy porn?” or “Romance novels are not real books” is something that most of us have experienced firsthand. Sometimes, it’s not even a rude comment. It can be just a little side eye or a disapproving turn of the head. Honestly, no matter what the reaction is, there’s a good chance it’s not a positive one. Sadly, this is all too common and this type of judgement is not just doled out by men but by other women too. So how do we deal with it?
Well, the arrival of e-readers has been helpful! Since they first flooded the market, romance readers everywhere have been able to switch over to e-books and feel at ease, knowing that their secrets are safe. On one hand, this has been a great solution but the flip side of that is concerning. Why should we have to hide our enjoyment of romance novels? After all, no one seems to care if you enjoy romantic movies. So why is it different when the story is in printed form? This is definitely a question worth investigating.
According to the multitude of mocking memes and even SNL skits, it was definitely seen as shameful to have been reading FSOG. However, as soon as it was a movie, everyone and their grandmas were flocking to the theatres! Not to mention the difference in the market for rom-com movies versus rom-com books. Perhaps this dichotomy stems from some age -old myths about who exactly is reading these romance novels? Could we also venture to say that our old friend patriarchy has something to do with it too? Because based on history, there’s a solid chance that if romance books were geared to men, they would not only be acceptable reading material but most probably a highly revered one.
Let’s have a look at the Top 5 Myths About Romance Readers to gain a better understanding of this book-shaming practice.
Myth #1: Romance readers are uneducated and/or unintelligent
Sadly, those of us who read romance are often seen as uneducated or unintelligent. People will assume we read romance because we simply can’t read anything else. As if enjoying reading stories of human relationships, love and yes, sex -somehow make us less than! What we read has absolutely zero correlation with our I.Q or our education. Plenty of romance readers are highly educated and qualified individuals who spend their days managing companies, leading teams and much more.
Myth #2: Romance readers only read in one genre
Here again, we encounter a myth that is meant to perpetuate the shaming cycle. Often, romance readers are assumed to only be interested in this genre and none other. This is equivalent to saying that if you like horror films, you only like horror films and never watch anything else! We all have our preferences of course but come on people! Comments such as “Is that all you read?” are simply offensive. They are damaging, judgmental and perpetuate a culture of shame. Romance readers are just like anyone else. Some of us read only romance, others read multiple genres and everything in-between.
Myth #3: Romance readers are just reading for the sex
Now let’s be real here-romance books do have sex. Very simply put, you can’t talk about love and relationships without acknowledging sex. However, some romance novels are fade to black while others are explicit. The extent to which the details are spelled out are a matter of personal choice on the part of the author. Sex is a romance novel is not gratuitous but rather an important moment in the characters relationship that helps moves the story forward. No matter how hot the sex may be, readers don’t open a romance novel for just the sex. We read to feel joy and hope, as we watch love overcome all obstacles.
Myth #4: Romance readers don’t know the difference fact and fiction
This myth is always surprising. Because by this logic, all films would be considered documentaries, just as all songs would be considered true confessions by the singer. Romance readers do indeed understand that their books of choice are fiction. We aren’t misled into thinking that life is like a fairytale. It is escapism. Yes, we want that HEA, however, we expect it because we know it’s fiction. We want to be entertained and uplifted. If we wanted real life, we would be reading the news.
Myth #5: Romance readers only watch romance movies
Yes, fans of romance books may have been some of the same people who went to see the Twilight series or FSOG in the theatres, but we weren’t the only ones. Just as people who don’t read romance enjoy rom-coms and other love-interest type films, romance readers also watch everything from thrillers to sci-fi and more. In fact, there are very few (if any) people out there who are so committed to one genre that they never stray to others. So, this is yet another myth that although often passed around, is completely false.
When it comes down to it, those who criticize romance genre, are usually the people who have never tried it. Like everything else in life, humans are critical of what they don’t know and don’t understand. The only way to counteract this is to read our romance novels with pride! Be loud and proud about what you love to read and don’t let anyone’s side eye affect you.