Recently I was reviewing a romance novel that had a violent and frankly douche bag of a love interest. It isn't the first and I doubt the last of this kind of book.
I always thought romance was feminist. I mean it often deals with issues that women seem to face. They will often deal with issues the main stream won't even touch like surrogacy or single parents and how to integrate someone new into a family unit. I even think genre's like erotica even have their place even though I think they are lazy writing mostly and the problematic issue of 'mommy porn'. But I won't go into that instead erotica were the first to foray into mass self publishing and the trad publishers wouldn't touch them. This lead to them making a place for their voice and it has made it easier for female publishers of any genre to now have a voice of their own.
But the violent men in romance really bugs me. I know this isn't new. In fact that kind of romance is old as Zeus. My mom used to call them bodice rippers. But I grew up in an age where romance was more about woman power and our control over our own sexuality. I hadn't realized there was another kind until I read Sharon Green and her Terrillian series. Apparently it got some fame because it was similar to a male writer John Gor. (I'll be honest and say I've never heard of him) But I was horrified because the main character a strong powerful woman with a dedication to a career just gives it up for a guy that rapes her and hands her around like a bit of candy. What really bugged me about this series was by the end of it you wondered if she didn't have it right to stay with the violent man who she claimed to love.
From what I've gathered is during the 70s and 80s this kind of novel was common. I got the feeling that female authors wrote in this style to compete with male writers. This just makes me angry when I think of it. Sadly enough this violent relationship was already in the romance genre. A genre I thought sacrosanct to women. Okay, I know 16% of romance readers are men but romance is almost entirely for women written by mostly women. So the existence of this kind of story isn't something that bothers me as much as the idea that most people think this part of a feminist movement.
Just look at 50 shades and all that hoopla. There is nothing feminist about that series and harks back to the books that should have stayed in the past. I should say that Sharon Green's more recent books and much more enlightened though they all have very controversial relationships. At least I can understand them even if I don't agree with them. Which makes me think this is more her true feelings on the issue. So if an author who used to write those violent relationship can change her tune then why should we still read about men who force themselves on men and pat ourselves on our backs and say we are reading romance which can arguably be considered feminist in many ways.
The problem is that people keep buying books with violent men. The psychology behind these kinds of fantasies is more about women wanting to be super desired rather than an actual need to be forced. But when we read books like this it changes the way we view men. It also changes the way men view what the ideal is because in the short term women flock to the violent possessive man because they superficially appear like a man fantasized about in books we've read. Only to find that over time that isn't sustainable or healthy but too late men see these men being successful with women so start to mimic them. Of course this leads to men becoming players and idolized and we get the good guy finishing last concept.