1:00 pm EDT, June 1, 2017

Stop trying to shame women for reading romance

Romance novels have been around for ages, and yet women are still having to defend themselves for enjoying them.

Since the dawn of time (I’m estimating) women have been bullied about what they should be doing and how they should be acting. One some level, they just get used to and learn to deal with it. On another level, we get really fed up. I could list out some examples of this but it would honestly be a mile long and I’m currently feeling rage over one particular subject: women being told what to read.

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I’ve always been an avid reader, starting from a very young range. As I got older, though, my interests would always shift. I read a lot of classics at a young age, and then as I became a teenager I became more interested in fantasy, and finally when I started college I stumbled upon paranormal romance which led to a broader interest in romance novels in general.

You’d think a book would be a book and no one would really care what you’re reading right? Well you’d be wrong. For a very long time I felt like I had to basically hide the fact that I was interested in reading romance novels.

I didn’t proudly show them off on my bookshelves with the rest of my beloved novels, I didn’t talk about it with friends, and I never read them around boyfriends. Even going to the book store (R.I.P. Borders) felt like a secret mission. I always looped around different aisles before heading to the one I really wanted to go to and then would get my book and go pretty quickly.

Sometime after getting married and having kids I stopped worrying so much about this. Yeah, that’s right world, I’m not a chaste creature. Plus, e-books made consuming my favorite authors much easier and social media made the romance community available at my fingertips. I could see just how many other women were reading and loving the same romance novels that I was.

But all that has only made me all the more aware of the shaming that goes on towards women that read romance. That internal feeling that I’m doing something wrong, for just being myself and doing what I like to do, is now a much more real feeling when it’s exposed to the world and open to reactions from others.

The romance community is great, they’re fun, loving, intelligent women who like stories about love, passion, and heroines overcoming obstacles. And yet, they’re constantly under ridicule from those around them, men and women included.

Some of those that are inflicting the shame upon us don’t even realize they’re doing it, I think, but comments that suggest our favorite genre is somehow beneath your own also belittles the reader. Not everyone is going to like the same book genres and that’s totally fine, I can’t get through sci-fi books to save my life. Yet, I’m not suggesting that any book genre I don’t like isn’t as good as romance, it’s simply not my cup of tea.

The heroines that I love in romance novels are kickass women just trying to get through the issues in life that are thrown their way while trying to find Mr. Right. They’re strong, independent, funny, and loving. Some have dealt with sexual assault, some are dealing with their own judgmental peers, others are literally fighting to stay alive (paranormal romance is fun). They’re all characters to admire in one way or another and they’re just as good as the female characters in other genres.

The other big aspect that romance readers get shamed about is the simple fact that there is sex in the books. Depending on the specific novel, sex might be a big or small part of the novel itself. Either way, that doesn’t reduce the quality of of the novel itself. Sex scenes in novels are just part of the larger story being told, much like in TV. With the exception that in romance novels they’re written for the female gaze which means they’re actually good and not just to show off some actress’s boobs.

Regardless of how much sex there may or may not be in romance novels, women shouldn’t be getting judged for having a sexuality. That’s some real suppressive, sexism right there. It’s perfectly normal and accepted in our society that men are sexual creatures and are naturally interested in sex. Just look at how comic book heroines are drawn, all of the full frontal female nudity on TV and the lack of male nudity on TV, any and all types of advertisement. Sex sells, but it’s only okay when it’s for dudes.

If you believe that women should be treated as equals to men, then you need to stop being judgmental about romance novels. More than ever we need to be able to go to our happy place and get lost in the worlds of our favorite romance authors, and we don’t need others making us feel bad about it.

How do you deal with others judging your reading choices?

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