(Note: Some of my readers might want to disagree with this post because of politics. However, consent—and lack of consent—should not be politicized, and consent is the topic of this post, not the politics or candidates of the U.S. election. Please try to keep that in mind while reading. Thanks!)
Over this past weekend, the insanity of the current U.S. presidential election increased. While I don’t delve into politics here on my blog, some of the statements excusing the latest escalation dragged in romance authors and readers. Uh, wait, what?
And yeah… That issue I feel like I need to address. *smile*
If you happened to be lucky enough to avoid the news since last Friday, a recording that captured Donald Trump’s words between official interview segments revealed him saying that he…:
- attempted to have sex with a woman he knew was married, even though he didn’t indicate that she’d ever shown interest
- kisses and gropes women’s genitals without their consent
I don’t want to get into the debate of whether he really sexually assaults women because Google exists, and those who want to know whether he’s been credibly accused of engaging in problematic behavior can conduct their own research.
What I do want to focus on are some of the Facebook memes and Twitter posts that tried to excuse and pass blame on the outcry over the recording. The gist of these posts is that women shouldn’t be mad about the words used in Trump’s bragging because…Fifty Shades of Grey.
*sigh* Where do I start?
“It’s Just Words”
Actually, before we start, I should make clear that I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey—at all. I’ve never read the book or seen the movie, and I have no plans to do so. My reasons for that dislike are many, but I’m definitely not jumping into this topic because I’m defending that specific book.
However, yes, sexy stories can use words like:
- and many, many more.
It’s up to each romance author and reader to decide what words they’re comfortable with for descriptions of the development of the characters’ relationship. But there’s no sex-related word that could be used in a fiction book that should determine whether an author or reader deserves respect.
Words vs. Context
Depending on context, we might call someone a jerk out of anger or playfully. Context matters.
In this case, the memes are trying to conflate the use of words used in a fiction book and the use of words used to describe actions in a real-world, work-related setting, involving actual people. These are not the same context, and it’s disturbing that anyone would need to have this fact pointed out.
Would we ever say:
- “Don’t be shocked by that gruesome real-life murder when you read murder mysteries”?
- “Don’t treat real-world political scandals as a big deal because you read political thrillers”?
- “Don’t get upset that your car was stolen when you play Grand Theft Auto“?
No and no and no.
So why do romance stories, their authors, and their readers receive this treatment? Why are the readers of Fifty Shades of Grey or any story of the romance genre subjected to the idea that if we read about something we must want it for real?
“That a woman who choses to read fictional words on a page has abdicated her right to not like men who talk about sexully assaulting them.”
And spoiler alert: Even Christian Grey—as much of an a****** as many find him to be—never brags about grabbing a stranger’s genitals. So even if we ignore the fiction vs. real-world aspect, the context of how any words were used is not the same. Not even close.
As many have pointed out online, the word people most have issues with isn’t p**** but grab. It’s the description of a sexual assault—because there’s no consent.
The stereotype of the romance genre is about 30 years out-of-date from the reality of most current stories. Long ago, many romances did fit the “bodice ripper” stereotype, where consent was fuzzy, but most of the genre has grown and matured along with modern culture.
Now, most authors and readers demand that consent exists in the story. The heroines in romances often inspire women in the real world to feel more comfortable with expressing their likes and dislikes, and sex-positive relationships are good for everyone.
One of my favorite parts of a romance story is seeing the characters banter and parry, as they exchange information, power, and vulnerability. That’s how they negotiate the aspects of their relationship, and that’s sexual tension in a nutshell. In other words, consent is sexy.
Romance writers usually try to make the characters’ power equal on some level, no matter their circumstances. Even with a billionaire hero, he might fall in love first or fall harder, his desperation to win her heart making him vulnerable. In my story Treasured Claim, the billionaire falls for a shapeshifting dragon who’s stronger—as she demonstrates on him. *smile*
And not that I’m calling Fifty Shades of Grey a paragon example of consent, but even there, he verbally expresses his intentions and she has opportunities to say no before anything happens.
Without an equality of power on some level, consent is much harder to prove to the reader. And if the reader doesn’t believe there’s consent, they’re less likely to support the more powerful character or the relationship.
Consent Matters in Fiction…
and It Shouldn’t Matter Less in the Real World
In other words, for all the insults that assume romance readers can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality, it seems like the accusers are the ones who don’t understand reality:
- They’re the ones conflating the words in a fiction book with a real-world description of actions.
- They’re the ones who don’t understand that the issue is the implication of potentially hundreds of real-world sexual assaults and not the individual words chosen to express that potential.
- They’re the ones struggling to understand what consent means—or what the lack of consent means—legally and ethically.
I’m proud to write stories where consent matters. In my next novel, the hero has been asleep for a couple of hundred years (and is therefore behind the times) and kisses the heroine without her consent. So she punches him. *grin* (And he learns to be much better—and enjoys many consensual kisses later on. *wink*)
If anything, romance authors and readers are some of the biggest experts in consent. Or at least they should be. I know many authors and readers who are disheartened by other romance fans sharing this meme.
But as I said at the outset, the issue is sexual assault and consent, and that topic should never be politicized. If you’ve shared that meme, I encourage you to rethink that decision.
Too many women (and some men) have been victimized by sexual assault. Victims don’t need anyone—especially not fellow romance fans—turning what could be an important conversation about consent into a “gotcha” for political purposes. We all should be able to agree that fiction and reality aren’t equivalent and that non-consensual sexual contact is assault.
Those supporting the romance genre aren’t the ones creating a culture that demeans people in the real world. So people need to stop dragging us into their issues to make excuses for real-world problems and bad behavior, whether we’re talking about politics or not. *smile*
Note: This post is not about the candidate himself but about the excuses for his words that somehow decided to focus on the romance genre. Therefore, please refrain from comments about any candidate. My blog is not a platform for anyone to make political arguments or recommendations, and I’m not endorsing any candidate here either. I also won’t tolerate any comments implying that sexual assault is unimportant compared to the stakes of this election. The reality and trauma of sexual assault don’t belong on a political scale of importance at all. Violators will be deleted or edited. Thank you!
Have you seen this meme on Facebook or Twitter? What did you think of it? Did this post change your mind? Do you disagree with my statement for non-political reasons, and if so, why? What are your thoughts on consent in the romance genre versus in real life?Pin It