05 March 2013

Help! I'm... a feminist romance reader?

This post was written by guest writer Adrienne. She is attending Texas A&M for her Ph.D., where her specialty is detective fiction. She's also a reader of romance.

So so sorry for the long delay. I'm done with the move and have my life back!

Like many other women, I grew up reading romance novels. My family are all very heavy readers, and amidst all types of books, my mother read romances. One of my few fairly useless super powers is the ability to read way too quickly for my own good (my ability to resist mosquitoes is far far more useful). I never could check out enough books from the library, and so I started picking up my parent's books. Eventually my mother discovered and tried to stop my romance nabbing ways.

Now, I'm fairly sure that the reason my mother got upset that I was reading them was because of the *gasp* sexual content. And years later, I regret reading the novels and would never recommend most romances to young girls, but not for the same reason as my mother. These novels gave me a completely unrealistic and unhealthy outlook on sex, myself, and relationships. I do think that readers of romance have a far more complex relationship with the subject matter than previously imagined.1 Subject matter and ideology is not consumed uncritically. Women frequently twist and turn content to create a more realistic or more personal fantasy. I do not want to suggest that my experience was the same as all young girl's when reading romances, or that my experience was wholly naive, shallow, or one-leveled, and yet it was and probably still is a damaging experience. The romance novels reflect and create (in a nice circle as most literature does) cultural norms and expectations about love, relationships, and sex.

Let me summarize the romance: once upon a time, there was a very special woman who was going through some difficult problems, and she met a very special man who had something missing from his life. They met, gave each other what the other was lacking (for the woman- usually some type of fix to her problem, for the man- usually teaching him to love), they had sublime awesome sex, and lived happily ever after for the rest of their lives.

I'm being both mean and nice in my description, I think. I'm purposefully leaving out many of the most problematic and sexist aspects in order to describe as many types of romances as possible and in some delusional attempt to be fair. I'm also very aware that I'm leaving out many of the ways romance subvert or attempt to subvert gender roles, patriarchy, and traditional relationships.

The lessons that I learned from the hundreds of romances I read? 1) that an individual is incomplete, 2) I'm only important because I'm super special (a princess, a sad orphan abandoned by everyone and now chased by someone powerful and evil, a slave with super brain powers and the heart of gold, etc), 3) that sex is perfect and completely mind blowing (and man was I excited about this), 4) that love is only real if it's forever, and 5) that my future partner has to continually sweep me off my feet. If I wanted to be really and truly honest with myself, I would say that I still struggle with each and every one of these concepts even though my head understands that all of them are complete and utter bullshit. On the upside, I think contemporary romance novels (specifically certain types like chick lit and paranormal) are trying (keyword: trying) to combat a few of these: specifically 1, 2, and 4.

I'm going to use Sandra Booth's sub-genre summaries to explore movements from the 70s onward. The traditional romance prominent in the 1970s and frequently returned to through the decades has an amoral stock hero and a virginal and virtuous heroine.2 This reinforces gender stereotypes and promotes a culture in which un-angelic women (adventurous, sexual, etc) are bad women and therefore undeserving of protection from rape (frequently "asking for it").3

Romance frequently makes force, coercion, or men's lack of sexual control sexy and romantic. And that's so dangerous. Obvious, right? Apparently not. Yes, it is a fantasy. And as many critics have said- it's important to think of this as a fantasy and to accept that women don't uncritically consume this. But these are published and consumed in a rape culture. We don't usually fantasize about things completely related OR completely unrelated to us.

Romance in the 80s began to more frequently lessen gender stereotypes and weaken these rape myths. The hero moved from being amoral to "following the heroine's moral 'norm'" (96). Paranormal romance and humorous feminist romance began to emerge in large numbers during the 90s. Originally (as Sandra Booth contends) the paranormal was a regressive return to angel/monster dichotomy4 and humorous romance was the successful feminist and anti-patriarchal romance sub-genre.

I'm happy to say, that I think paranormal is slowly becoming a sub-genre in which some of the most exciting queer or feminist romances can currently be found. One of the reasons that paranormal is such a hopeful and interesting place for progressive work is the desire (and semi-ability) to create a social structure outside of normal (aka heteronormative patriarchal) structure. Society can have totally different rules- e.g. it can be matriarchal or androgynous.

Although Lynn Coddington wants us to believe that romances aren't "formulaic" and are wrongly assumed to be "universally badly written," I only partially agree with her (62). As with most popular culture, there is an erroneous assumption that romance isn't art and therefore isn't well written. That's utter crap. And crap a lot of us believe. Our dear blog mistress (and my dear friend) Courtney recently told me how surprised she was to enjoy Gail Carriger's parasol series because she assumed most of "that type" of fiction was badly written. There are many romance authors that are beautiful writers. But not formulaic? I just don't buy it. I've read thousands. And while yes... there are some surprises, some diversity... publishers still pay very close attention to what is in demand and what formula is currently popular. There are formulas. And when we read that formula over and over again, surely we start to believe and internalize the formula. For Coddington, "Romances are not all the same. They do not construct gender relations in uniform way, and they do not tell trivial stories. They represent a range of possible gender constructions," and I call bullshit (66). That range of possibilities only cover a few feet on a mile long continuum of gender constructions. And the idea that we've created some possibilities for women so we can stop is a very damaging and complacent place.

But there are some romance novels that I applaud. Because this is long already, I'm going to pick three from paranormal detective/romance that I'm excited about. I'd love readers to respond with other genres, sub-genres, and/or specific authors which respond to the issues I've raised in this post.
Laurell K.Hamilton. I found Guilty Pleasures in the young adult section of my library when I was in jr. high . I've been a fan ever since. Although problematic in many ways (writing, editing, etc), I applaud her for creating a powerful female who has frequently focused on her job. They're decidedly non-monogamous, they definitely challenge concepts about the monster/angel dichotomy, and they're sexy. Packed full of all different sorts of sex. I actually wish reader response wouldn't jump so frequently on the "OMG she's a slut" bandwagon. I wish the books were more glbtia friendly (although there seems to be a nice move that way). And I hold my breath because the baby discussion has come up a few times now. Child free by choice... please don't leave me now.
One of my favorites is Charlaine Harris's works- all of them not just the Sookie Stackhouse series. The trend to not have one relationship, not be happily ever after, is one of the most successful and prevalent in recent work. In the Sookie series, she dates, it doesn't work, they break up. She's single sometimes, and she's in different relationships other times. It's a nice pattern, a realistic pattern. The Grave series deals with issues of incest, questions social stigmas in relationships, and plays with the concept of female community and female victimhood. The Shakespeare series very purposefully focuses on abuse.

Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series. This series deals with questions of class, race, gender, sexual orientation galore. Talk about novels that question authority, structural patriarchy, and male power. They also have interesting sexual dynamics, and create not just a strong heroine but a strong community of characters. There is continuously more of a focus on peer and friend relationships over romantic relationships.
These definitely fight misconceptions about love and relationships that I raised earlier including that love is forever and that an individual is incomplete without a partner. Paranormal romances are definitely not good at addressing the "special" problem (paranormal heroines are usually the only vampire/werewolf hybrid or the long lost fairie or the alien queen), but other types of romances have more successfully addressed this. I would also like to see more novels that portrays sex as realistic - less "holy crap mindblowing can't think of anything during sex but that sex is awesome." We all know that sometimes in the middle of sex we think "Oh shit, is the oven on?", and that's okay.

As I've been thinking about and reading up on romance, I've discovered that romances also helped me learn that 1) I can be an empowered woman, 2) I can be sex-positive, 3) women can be subjects and women-focused, and 4) women's bodies are beautiful. I'm excited and hopeful for a positive progression that leans towards these lessons with less of the negativity that for so long has accompanied the romance.

I also applaud romance for being a genre written by women for women. And romance is a wonderfully give and take process.5 Indeed, the few blogs of romance authors that I check out occasionally, have a far more interactive author/fan base than the general literature/fiction author has.

I want more out of the romance genre. And I want other fans and authors to understand and want more as well. We deserve it.

Further reading on being a feminist romance reader:

There are a number of resources about being a feminist and a romance reader like Kay Mussell's interview: Are Feminism & Romance Novels Incompatible , Catherine Asaro's response to the same question, College Candy's Defense of Romance Novels, and of course Smart Bitches Trashy Books has taken up this issue a number of times including Feminism is a Dirty Word and their book Beyond Heaving Bosoms.


1 This has been suggested in work on the romance genre by scholars such as Lynn Coddington, Janice Radway, and Laura Kinsale.
2 Sandra Booth explains that the traditional romance "acts as a vehicle to display the heroine's virtue... The hero [amoral and unstoppable] acts as a foil to the heroine who is presented as the moral 'norm.' Because she must assert and protect her virtue, the heroine in the traditional romance is often presented as passive, self-sacrificing, and virginal" (94-95).
3 Also Tania Modelski points out that "The myth that men are unable to control their sexual drive beyond a point and that women lead men on- and so deserve what they get- by accepting romantic or sexual overtures from them is a myth that has all too often proved lethal to women" (17).
4 The construct where the heroine is angelic and perfect, and the hero is monstrous and violent. Very Beauty and the Beast esque. Only we know that the Beast really is a monster and doesn't have this shining heart of gold.
5 Lee Tabin-McClain points out that "Romance formulae differ from earlier generic patterns in that they change based on intensive publisher research into reader preference... other aspects of romance fiction give it a sense of a collective authorship" (296).


Booth, Sandra. "Paradox in Popular Romances of the 1990s: The Paranormal Versus Feminist Humor." Paradoxa 3 (1997): 94-106.

Coddington, Lynn. "Wavering Between Worlds: Feminist Influences in the Romance Genre." Paradoxa 3 (1997): 58-77.

Modleski, Tania. "My Life as a Romance Reader." Paradoxa 3 (1997): 15-28.

Modleski, Tania. "My Life as a Romance Writer." Paradoxa 4 (1998): 134-147.

Tobin-McClain, Lee. "Paranormal Romance: Secrets of the Female Fantastic." Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 11 (2000): 294-306.


Robert Stackhouse said...

I love this line, "We all know that sometimes in the middle of sex we think 'Oh shit, is the oven on?', and that's okay." I caught another in a long string of sideways glances from my wife as I chortled reading it.

Thank you for the lesson on romance lit. It was as informative as it was entertaining. I think that it is important to address issues of self-esteem regarding relationships for all genders and sex preferences. You don't have to be in a relationship to matter in our society.

This came off sounding a little anti long term relationship though. I think it is more important to tell young people that if they want a life partner, it takes a crap ton of work to stay in a committed relationship, and that you should put in that work only if you want to, and not because society tells you to.

To me it seems, many young women have the unrealistic notion that getting married solves everything. Sorry lady, if your boyfriend is a horse's ass before you were married, he's still going to be one after you're married.

I personally recommend a long courtship and living together for at least a year before lawyers are required to dissolve your relationship.

My $0.002

Gemma said...

First of all, it's great to read a blog post about how romance, and in particular paranormal romance, doesn't have to be rammed full of problems. It makes a nice change to see recommendations and proper discussion of what is good rather than more stuff about how Twilight is bad. Awesome.

I also like Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris, for pretty much the same reasons you like them. They're not exactly perfect, but I see what they're trying to do and I appreciate attempts to write female protagonists who can have relationships without it being the main focus of their lives. Also, Eric Northman ;)

Adrienne said...


I'm glad it made you laugh and that you found my post informative. While I definitely don't want my post to come off as anti long term relationships- I do absolutely want to focus on problems that arise from a culture that only values long term relationships. Not just long term relationships but forever relationships. It breaks my heart when someone leaves a ten year plus (or however long) relationship and their mindset was "Well I guess I just really didn't love him/her or they didn't love me." or "It wasn't worth it since we broke up." or "That was a waste of my time." No! It could have been love, and things just changed. I hope you grew as a person and shared beautiful things while you were together. Cherish what you had and please move on. Also, (and probably more importantly) I think this mentality (and yes this is the same no divorce morality that is heavily tied to religion) keeps people in very unhappy and very unhealthy relationships. Yes, please work on your relationship. Even good relationships are hard and need work, but if it isn't working and you can't see how it will work then don't stay because that is what we're supposed to do.

I think women are more vulnerable to this because you're right- women are culturally taught that marriage will fix everything. Are you really surprised that women have that unrealistic notion? We've been shoving it down their throats culturally for quite a while now. Not just that but that marriage IS everything. Focus and dream about the ceremony that marks the beginning of your adult life. Ritually enter it in front of your friends and family and create your new identity around your husband Mrs. Robert Smith and rule that new household. And if Robert Smith is a horse's ass then that is better than nothing. Crazy cat lady? Old shriveled spinster? Horse's ass it is.

And yes- I'm all for very very long courtships. And for living together.

Gemma- so true! I'm always to find more LKH and Charlaine Harris fans. Eric Northman indeed.

Unknown said...

I have to disagree with "romance is for women by women" men have written, and do read romance. I believe an NFL linebacker--a 'manly' man to be sure. I also read, and am writing a romance and I am definitely NOT a female, at least physically but that's another story.

I think comments like that need to be reexamined in today's world. Otherwise, I really liked this blog entry and will go back through the archives to read others.

Robert Stackhouse said...


I went and saw Dr. Brene Brown talk at TEDxHouston. My main take-away from that talk was that we are all worthy of love, just the way we are, right now, today. I think that is what we should be teaching the younger generation. That love does not need to be but can be in the form of a committed relationship. That no amount of social pressure can make staying in an unloving or abusive relationship the "right thing to do". That love can be the love of a friend. And that if love is lost in one place, it can be found in another.

I left that talk realizing that I had been bending over backward for years trying to be a rock-star on the job because in some dark recess of my mind I thought, "If I try harder, if I do a better job, people will like me, and everything will be okay." The transitory uplift I got from each accolade never quite filled the gap in my soul. But I remembered the high from the last bit of praise, and that just fanned the fire of my hero complex. This personal neurosis has done a lot of damage to my relationship. I'll probably spend the rest of my life trying to make amends for it. I definitely felt fortunate to be in Houston that day. This is coming from a fairly self-confident man. Gender stereo-types aren't only damaging to women.

So I often wonder what emotional abuse young girls are subject to at the whim of our society. I can't say that I'll ever truly understand their plight, but I can at least try to sympathize. And try to keep myself and my friends from perpetuating BS gender stereotypes.

Meredith said...

Mmmm, Erik Northman...

Adrienne, you asked for more authors, and I have a few to recommend. I, too, have been reading romances for a long time - starting, like you, with my mom's - and struggling with how to reconcile a lot of what I read with my feminist ideals.

Linda Wisdom has a great series out that starts with "50 Ways to Hex Your Lover." I haven't read the others, but the basic premise is that there are all these witch-sisters from the 1300s who have been banished from their community. The first book follows one, Jazz, as she tries to make her way. The romantic leading man in the book is her on-again, off-again vampire lover.

What I liked about this book was that Jazz was most definitely not virtuous or virginal, she doesn't get "saved" by her boyfriend, and the ending is inconclusive rather than "happily ever after." These are characters who have lived for a very long time with a very long future ahead of them, and so long-term relationship has a whole different meaning for them.

Another author I like is Ilona Andrews. In her Kate Daniels novels we have a lot of what I just described above: heroines without virtues intact, inconclusive endings, and romantic interests that do not, necessarily, "save" our heroines.

Finally, Lori Devoti is working on a series of novels focused on the mythic Amazons in modern-day middle America. Talk about strong women who don't need men! The first of the books, Amazon Ink, has a great deal of focus on mothers and daughters, which I liked a lot.

What I liked about all three of the books/series I just mentioned is that the romantic interests are sort of an after-thought for the heroines. Like, "Ok, when I'm done saving my friend/my daughter/the world, I'll give him a call." And the men in these books all deeply respect and honor the strength and independence of the heroines. Hear, hear!

Adrienne said...


So... "in today's world" where women are still marginalized and disempowered in so many aspects of their lives... I need to reexamine male privilege and realize that men should be given attention and space in those fields which have been powerful and safer spaces for women? I'm still sticking with my original statement. Romance is by women and for women.

You're right, a man can swoop in and easily gain authority and access to this woman's world. Doesn't mean I want to give it that attention. The intended audience for romance is women. And the majority of fans and authors are women. And we should celebrate that. Having began perhaps in medieval days with the chivalric romance, a mightily misogynistic and male controlled field, shouldn't we celebrate Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and other female authors who found a place of power within sentimental fiction?

In a world still heavily sexist in which women live a material reality... it is important we still band together as women and build a community and celebrate places and positions for women.

This does not mean that I do not understand what you mean. And agree to a certain point. This could reinforce gender stereotypes that I actively try to break down. It's a careful line to walk. I don't think this should be a space that excludes men. And it isn't. While I want to focus on women here, and I do, I don't say no men allowed and would happily study and analyze different trends in the romance like men authors and men readership.

I appreciate and support a move (like queer theory) that focuses on stepping outside of these boundaries- thinking outside of gender stereotypes and gender differences. And yet, there is still a material reality in which men and women are put in different boxes. And pretending those boxes don't exist can only do so much. I think action needs to be taken in both directions.

I hope this made sense.


Sounds like a beautiful and powerful lesson. Gender stereotypes damage all of us, that's for sure. I'm definitely all for male feminists or male allies (whatever term you'd like to use).


I'm so excited for the new names and books! Thank you so much. I hadn't actually heard any of the names so extra exciting. I really love the inconclusive ending. Hear, hear indeed.

Clix said...

Okay, I'm thinking about a bazillion different things I want to respond to, so I apologize if this is a bit disjointed. ^.^

First? I really really love your blog. Like, really.

Second - your remark about OMG!SEX really struck a chord with me; I think that's a significant deficit in the genre. Some of the most delightful moments with my husband are when I do things like nibbling on his ear, only not delicately, but going OM NOM NOM NOM and making him laugh. I love his laugh. :)

Finally - I just... I'm kind of pro-HEA RL. I know that people change, but lasting change doesn't happen overnight (another fib spread by lots of fiction). The problem I have seen through my own experiences and those of people around me is that lots of folks either aren't sure of what they truly want or aren't honest about it when they begin a relationship.

OTOH, I am one person. And I know very well that what I've experienced and observed is limited and may be atypical.

Kara said...

This will sound strange, but I sometimes feel lucky that I grew up surrounded by abusive behavior.

I, too, read romance novels for a while. As a teenager, and a young adult, I was titillated by reading something that, according to my religious peers, was something scandalous and to be avoided. It wasn't much different from sneaking around reading the porn magazines I found under my father's bed when I was 10 years old.

In my case though, the more romance novels I read, the more disenchanted with them I became. I would compare what I was reading with the abusive behavior clearly performed by my various uncles upon my aunts (5 aunts, and a series of at least 13 uncles), or the abuses my step-father exercised upon my mother, and I would think, "This is unrealistic and stupid, and it's making me angry."

I came to hate most of the female leads in the romance novels. "Why would you accept that?" "How is that okay?" "Whatever physical pleasure you might be getting from that is not worth the degradation of your own independence and giving up your right to choose for yourself, or giving up your right to say what's okay for someone to do to you and what isn't."

I think my romance novel reading stint lasted for maybe a year before I got so disgusted with the entire genre that I simply stopped reading anything that qualified for the genre.

It's very very scary how many women subscribe to the ideas that are presented and supported by those unrealistic 'fantasy' romance novels.

It's very sad how many people, both men and women, cling to relationships that don't work, or even abusive relationships, because our culture, their religion, (and romance novels), have taught them that the only way to be a 'good' woman is to stay with your man, no matter what.

I've been married. I'm now divorced. I don't see my marriage as a waste of time, a mistake, or 'I guess I never loved him'. It was a good relationship, while it lasted, and though we weren't able to make it work, we each came away from it having learned valuable lessons, grown as individuals, and a bit better than we were before that relationship came along.

So, it sounds strange, but sometimes I'm glad that the environment I grew up in kept me from succumbing to the fairy tale notions of romance, love, and sex that are so prevalent in mainstream romance novels.

We don't need relationships to be complete.
Companionship need not always be in the form of a lover, or include sex.
It doesn't make you a better person to take abuse and not stand up for yourself.
There's no shame in being single.
Feelings grow and evolve, change and dissolve - that's natural.

And loving someone isn't about how perfect they are... overlooking all their faults, or how they solve everything for you. It's about accepting and acknowledging that we all have faults, and not judging one another based on our weaknesses, but admiring our strengths, and helping one another in our struggles to overcome the weaknesses we have.

It was a hell of a childhood, but it definitely helped me keep things in perspective...

Anonymous said...

lkh lost me...her anita series turned into an open discussion on her personal "issues"...and i could give a crap about her feelings about her current and ex-husband. she is the perfect example of when authors should NOT blog.

though u should ck out kelly armstrong (otherworld series) and patricia briggs (mercy series).

Adrienne said...

I know that LKH has lost a lot of people. I occasionally look at her blog and sometimes it interests me and sometimes it doesn't. Her story about helping an injured sea turtle totally turned my heart to mush though.

I do read and enjoy Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Brigs.

ohands said...

I do agree with your statement that there is not an endless variety inside the romance genre with regard to gender construct, or even just stepping outside of heteronormative roles, but I do think it's on its way there. E-books especially have helped the rise of polyamory stories, same-sex stories, multicultural stories, explorations of sexuality (like BDSM, though it does seem a little empty of romance with asexuals). It's also been changing what HEA means - it no longer ends in marriage, or even lasts more than a few books. And I think romance can do a very good job showing that relationships are incredibly hard work, especially in series books that have repeat characters.

I think it's really interesting that you see paranormal as the sub-genre fighting a lot of the rape culture tropes so prevalent in the 70s/80s books. I definitely agree that paranormal can fight the social structure, but I also think of paranormal as one of the sub-genres more likely to have the amoral hero, the virtuous heroine, and support of rape culture. A lot of supernatural - especially among the vampires/vampire-like, which seem to be the biggest component of paranormal romance these days - don't think consent is important, whether that's when heroes change heroines into creatures without their consent, when memories are violated and/or taken, when 'blood lust' means they can't control their bodies reactions (and almost kill heroines...or heck, don't even go for the metaphor and rape the heroines), when soulmates means the heroine (and sometimes hero) have no choice in who they end up with...and so on, and so forth.

For your realistic sex comment, I'd suggest Jennifer Crusie's Faking It and her Crazy for You (both of which you may have other issues with, and I'd add a trigger warning to Crazy for You.) [Spoilers: Faking It has two people who aren't very good at sex (the heroine has to keep pulling her mind back to the oral sex she is getting) until they're honest with each other (last sex scene). Crazy For You has something similar, in that the heroine keeps getting distracted until her climax in one sex scene.]


I debated about saying this...Your title really annoys me, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm reading it wrong or if you meant it the way it sounds to me. As if you can't be a feminist and enjoy things that aren't necessarily and never wholly feminist (basically all of TV and movies.) Or that being a feminist romance reader is so obviously a contradiction in terms.

I'm a feminist, and I'm a romance reader, and society likes to place me on the defensive on both these things, as opposed to looking at everyone who isn't and going "Why the fuck aren't you?" (It's not like romance isn't found in, oh, every other f-ing genre out there, so why when it becomes the dominate storyline is it suddenly "ew, cooties"? It's not like women aren't half the f-ing world population, so why do we really need to explain hey, we're people too?)This title just struck me as if you have to explain how you could possible be this, instead of expecting it as a natural starting off place to then critically examine the issues that come with this. (To be clear, I completely believe as a feminist romance reader I should be in the forefront of critically examining feminism, romance reading, and the intersection of the two, and the problems that come with these titles/institutions; I just don't think I should have to cater to the idea that the fact that I am is shocking.)

Adrienne said...

I agree that current e-book romance is an interesting place where romance is changing. In certain ways this does progress issues of heteronormativity and gender construction. However, it is also a place where these are turning horrifying too. There are polyamory stories and a surprising amount of m-m-f triangles in which the woman becomes a sexual object to be shared between two men. Her function is to allow a better bond and support their homosocial bonding. It's Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's theories on homosociality coming to life. On the flipside, these m-m-fs are also used to normalize homosexuality. If homosexual men add a woman to their relationship then they become more normal, can have a family, and live a fuller life. And race relations in many e-books (frequently ones about shapeshifters currently really popular) as worse as ever. I looked through a book last night actually where a white rich woman hires a poor half Native American/half white farm worker for sex. They fall in love and it "transcends" the prostitution but... umm... the race relations that are going on here... scary!!! And the only time the novel really discusses it is to say the woman picked the hero and turned down other Native American men so clearly it isn't anything about his race. I'm not discounting your point because I agree to a certain extent. But I have personally seen more upsetting things in e-books than positive.

I also agree with your second point. There is still a really large set of paranormal books that continues and emphasizes the rape culture structure from earlier. I see paranormal romances right now as a very split genre- those that are running back to tradition and those that are trying to run away from it. You're absolutely right- a lot of supernatural does rely on unconsentuality, violence, and "animalistic" nature.

Excellent for Jennifer Cruise. I haven't heard of her or the books so I look forward to checking them out. Sounds exactly like what I've been searching for to address the sex issue.

The title really is attempting to play on exactly what you're discussing about it. Although I do take a different stance than you. The title is asking and playing with how people think being a feminist and a romance reader is a contradiction. I'm a feminist and a romance reader too. And I'm clearly very much both. I have significantly more concern about being both than you however. I do feel like my being both (even when I critically examine them and use it as a starting point for interesting starting off points) should be questioned. If I am a minority activist and my favorite movie is Gone with the Wind... that's a contradiction and problematic. And the romance genre has been and still is primarily sexist (among other "ists"), and I began to be a fan when I was reading those sexist novels and enjoying certain sexist aspects. And that does shock and dismay me. *shrugs* So I'm still dealing with it.

Satan said...

check out:
Diana Gabaldon

she is amazing. she was shelved in "romance" section for years, but she is in fact historical fiction...with a twist. however, this doesn't lessen the fact that her books are chock-full of stuff about relationships - but not the stock ones, we're talking about following a family for years, and all that is involved therein, regarding all the relationships. they really are fantastic books, all of them, and i highly recommend them to pretty much everyone.
happy reading,