As I have observed the #ME TOO movement this past year, and as a woman who was catcalled and even assaulted in my youth, I have been struck while reading when heroes pursue/coerce the heroine even when she says no, even when she is into someone else, even when she wants to pursue a lifestyle that doesn’t include marriage. “Heroes” still wear the reluctant woman down through persistence, mansplaining and even by gas lighting their heroines. The heroine may have expressed attraction so that gives the hero the green light, right?
I read a great number of steamy and erotic romance novels; a genre with a greatly female demographic, written and edited more often than not by women.
I sometimes want to scream – she said no asshole, leave her alone! As romance novels often encourage transference in the reader, a novel with a coercive man, determined to get his woman, usually into the marital bed, can leave me feeling used and a little angry.
I recently read a book where the hero is hired to prevent a woman from running off with a man simply after her money. Somehow it transpires that he will have to ruin her and get her to marry him to protect her. Please, save us from men who know what’s best for us.
When the coercion is not necessarily full-court press, it is still sometimes the male character seducing a woman because he knows what she wants. He wears her down like an obnoxious boss. And, then of course she realizes her is right: she does want him! Lucky girl finding a man who knows her better than she knows herself.
Is it the “Me Too” of publishing. But it’s not the male producer, the boss, or the President whose doing wrong; female characters are being sexually abused by their creators via their love interests.
I am not going to call anyone in particular out. It is likely the writers are, in most cases, just writing to a societal norm. But that’s the excuse we see often: Everyone does it. If “everyone” does it, if they really don’t realize it, is it wrong. What if it is part of the culture, or a sub-set thereof, what if it is inadvertent? When we read it in all these books, does it influence how women, feel about how we are treated, approached, objectified, exploited? Does it influence reporting or even how we feel about being coerced?
I get that anything can be, should be written about, but when the book ends is the coercive guy the hero or the anti-hero?
Some of my questions are:
Does what a one love-interest does to another love-interest in a romance novel matter?
Should we ask more of our authors than portraying a coercive relationship as okay?
Does it influence reporting or even how we feel about being coerced?
When does “No” mean no for us? Why can it be sexy to read about it in a book, but cause problems for men in real life.
In general, what do you think about this? Do you notice it, does it bug you?