If you happen to be one of those MAGA types, you should leave NOW. This post will probably offend you.
In the almost-decade I’ve been writing erotic romance, I have heard a plethora of reasons why “guys shouldn’t read/write romance.” A lot of these reasons boil down to nothing more than insecurity about oneself, as evidenced by:
- “Romance novels are gay.” Well, yes, many of them have LGBTQ characters and storylines. Oh…wait! You meant romance as a genre is gay. Sorry, but no. Your peepee won’t fall off, you won’t suddenly develop a fetish for lavender, you won’t discover a latent love for Broadway musicals, etc. Unless, you know, they were already there, in which case, you’re welcome.
- “It’s all the same stuff.” Well…maybe, if all you read is Harlequin Silhouette romances. Nothing inherently wrong with that; they found a formula which worked for them and they’ve stuck with it, because Harlequin first and foremost is a business, and a predictable product is the hallmark of good, sustainable business. Get out of the Harlequin wormhole, though, and hold on to your hat!
- “There aren’t any romance books for me specifically.” Are you a cop? A bricklayer? A model? An office manager? A fast-food worker? Whatever you do, I promise you someone, somewhere has written a book with YOU in mind!
Now, granted, a lot of these guys had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman (raises hand guiltily, but admit once I saw it I loved it!), or What Women Want with Mel Gibson, or The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep. (On the last one, I kinda get it. I’ve been through my fair share of nightmarish bosses, and have no desire to pay to see these same people on screen.) Maybe you groused your way through A Walk to Remember, rolled your eyes at Titanic (but hey, thanks, Kate Winslet!) or stoically endured Mamma Mia! knowing some bright, shining day, Deadpool would come to the big screen and you’d get your sweet, sweet revenge.
What IS Romance?
The Romance Writers of America, the trade group for romance authors, defines romance as follows:
“1: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
“2: An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”
If you’re paying a shred of attention, you can see this covers a LOT of ground. Basically, it’s saying, as long as these specific criteria are met, ANYTHING IN ANY GENRE can be a romance.
With this in mind, let’s talk about why guys should be reading romance.
Romance can be ANYTHING.
Did you like Die Hard? Roadhouse? The Terminator? Most guys do. I happen to be one of them. None of these are romances, because they don’t place a love story front and center and they don’t end with a “happily ever after.” Patrick Swayze throating a motherfucker is a great tonic for a bad day…but it’s not a happy ending. Bruce Willis laying waste to entire skyscraper full of terrorists is fun…but it doesn’t have a love story. The Terminator has a love story, but the heroine ends up raising the hero’s son alone because he went and got hisself [sic] all KINDS of dead.
In a romance novel, that shit doesn’t happen. There can be blood, gore and cussing. There can be a body count which would make the director of The Boondock Saints swoon with envy. As long as the people involved in the love story, and yes, there can be more than two, ride off into the sunset together, you’ve got a romance.
2. There’s no genre restriction.
Go ahead. Pick your favorite genre. Doesn’t matter what it is. Let me throw out a few movies.
- Lord of the Rings
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Night of the Living Dead
- Die Hard
- Last Knight
- Conan the Barbarian
- The Dark Knight Rises (because Heath Ledger as the Joker; go ahead, fight me on this)
In romance, there are only two rules, which we discussed above. As long as those two boxes are checked, romance writers can and do write whatever the hell they like…and we tend to be somewhat fluid about our definitions, as well! Pick a genre.
Now pick your favorite kind of character. May be hetero, bi or gay. May be any color. May be demure or assertive, dominant or submissive. This world is literally your oyster; if you can imagine it, I promise you someone, probably more than one someone, has written it! A quick search online will take you to AT LEAST a dozen iterations of whatever it is you’re looking for.
3. “Grab her by the pussy” is for amateurs (and idiots who don’t understand consent).
Oh, yeah, didn’t I mention?
A LOT of romance authors, especially of the erotic variety, really, really like writing about sex. And we don’t pull punches, either. If you’re squeamish reading about sex, you don’t have to. Just look for “sweet” romance, which usually doesn’t go any further than kissing and some heavy petting on the page.
But if you like sex, and most people do, watch the fuck out! Romance writers are, in our own way, as horny and kinky and freaky and pervy as your most twisted imagination will allow for. This means you find A LOT of women, and more than a handful of men, talking about what they find hot. You can pick up some new “moves” and get an intimate look into the minds and hearts of the sort of people you want to pair up with, whatever that might mean to you. Believe it or not, some people LIKE being grabbed by the junk, if it’s being done by the right person, in the right circumstances, with their enthusiastic consent and participation. (Trump apparently never missed the part about “right circumstances” and “consent,” which is cool. I wasn’t talking to him anyway.)
Which means, if you’re paying attention, you can get the answer to that age-old question:
4: What DO women want?
This really isn’t that complicated, no matter what incels want you to believe.
Just like every human being on the planet, women want to be accepted *gasp* FOR THEMSELVES! They don’t necessarily NEED a knight in shining armor to slay their dragons. Most of them would settle for someone who can pick their goddamn underwear up off the floor without nagging and remember what day the recycling goes out without getting it tattooed on their forearm. If you can do these things AND slay their dragons, that’s wonderful, but most women want to do their own slaying, skinning, butchering, cooking and eating. It’s nice that YOU want to, but when they’re looking for their own romance hero, they’re looking for someone who complements their strengths and covers their weaknesses while still recognizing them as strong and capable in their own right.
And isn’t that what we ALL want, regardless of age, color, gender, orientation, etc.?
5. Broaden your mind, without dynamite!
In reading, writing and hanging out with people who write romance, I learned to expand my worldview beyond my own circumstances and relative “place” in this world. Romance has long been held to be a subversive genre, because the people who write it tend to be the vanguard of social trends. From embracing the right of gay people to BE gay and in love, to interracial relationships and marriages, romance writers tend to play well ahead of the curve.
But it’s not just about seeing the world through someone else’s eyes! There is room for EVERYONE under the romance umbrella, if they choose to be there. I didn’t stutter. When I say “EVERYONE,” I mean if you’re a black Latvian transgender amputee furry biker whose favorite fantasy kink is gay zombie werechickens, you should damned be able to find a romance story which reflects your inner reality. If you can’t FIND that story, you are certainly be able to WRITE that story if you choose.
And you’ll find a whole community of people waiting to tell the world about you, your story and your journey.
6. We’re WAY kinkier than you would ever imagine.
There’s this cultural stigma that romance writers are all single women with poor eyesight and an apartment full of cats, who keep life-sized cardboard cutouts of Fabio and Jimmy Thomas in their bedrooms to do unspeakable things in front of when the lights go out. Like most stereotypes, there’s a grain of truth and a pile of unmitigated bullshit associated with it. All X are not Y!
Since I play in the erotic romance sandbox, I know a bit about the “sweeter” side of romance, even if it’s not my preferred space. And let me assure you, most the writers I hang out with are, without exception, certified FREAKS! (And that’s a very, VERY good thing!)
Between managing kids, partners, full-time jobs, writing and their daily lives, they spend their time dreaming up hot things to write about. And let me tell you, pick your favorite legal kink. (Except watersports; most publishers don’t accept stories about scat and piss, but if you look hard enough and in the right places, trust me, you can find it.) You can find a hundred writers without breaking a sweat who write about your fetish or kink, and easily a dozen who write it exactly the way you want it. Handcuffs, whips, chains, threesomes, whipped cream, sailor’s hats and tubs full of Pepto-Bismol? Yeah…we got you.
7. Get in their head.
This sounds like it ties in with #4, but this is a bit different. Hear me out.
So, your girlfriend, spouse, partner, whatever likes romance. Cool! If they have favorites, a book NEVER goes out of style as a gift, no matter the format. This can also give you some useful insight into your partner’s inner reality.
If they read about cowboys, you may want to surprise them by dressing the part, taking them out to a chuckwagon dinner and singalong and then taking them back home and “saddling up” wearing just a hat and a smile. (Don’t EVEN fucking act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Do they read stuff like Fifty Shades? Surprise them with some light bondage play. If you go this route, PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFOREHAND! Nothing kills the mood faster than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing injuring their partner in a way they didn’t agree to! They like bikers? Get them some leather. And so on. (Just don’t go the full armor and mace route, unless you’re both in the SCA. This probably won’t end well otherwise. And no, I’m not going to comment on whether I speak from experience, thanks.)
When you know what they want, and you go out of your way to give it to them, you will become the romance hero they always dreamed of.
8. Reading (together) is sexy.
If you think bedtime stories are kid stuff, man oh man oh man did YOU miss a memo! Picking out a sexy read for you and your lover to read together can be a terrific bonding experience, to say nothing of some pretty amazing foreplay if you pick the right book. Of course, to do that, you and your lover need to agree on what sort of story you want to read. But once you do, bedtime doesn’t have to be the end of your day. It could be the start of some really hot playtime, bringing both of you closer mentally, emotionally and physically!
So, there you have it. If these eight reasons don’t convince you that romance is a pretty cool genre, I don’t know what else to tell you, except:
TRY IT! YOU MIGHT LIKE IT!!!