No matter how many times I try to tell myself that it's ridiculous to argue with idiots on Twitter and Facebook, I still do it occasionally. I recently had to block a few folks on Twitter when their asshattery just got to be more painful than I could handle. It occurred to me, though, that maybe these folks weren't intentionally trying to piss me off. Maybe they just didn't understand how what they said could've been perceived as offensive. With that in mind, I've put together a few guidelines for how NOT to piss off romance authors and readers on social media. You know, for the sake of education. Because, believe me, y'all, you do not want to piss off Romancelandia. They will come for you and it will HURT. Lots of folks have taken them on and lost HARD. So, here it goes...
No, romance novels are NOT "trashy"
The two most recent folks that I blocked on Twitter were a clueless man (shocking, I know) and a romance author who were arguing, to the DEATH, that some romance novels were "trashy." The Clueless Man's argument was a book that had naked man chest on the cover. He compared it to another romance novel that he deemed "not trashy" because it had an illustrated cover. Even when, oh, about a million romance readers and authors pointed out that, a) Judging a book by its cover is stupid, and b) The book with a man chest cover and the illustrated cover book actually had the exact same heat level, he maintained his cluelessness and got ratio-ed into oblivion by a crap ton of really smart women. The replies were hilarious, but the fact that women had to explain to this dude how the word "trashy" could be perceived as derogatory (even though he kept desperately adding, "But there's nothing wrong with that!!") was sad.
The romance author who came to Clueless Man's defense was more troubling for me. The fact that she writes romance novels and still insists that some of her colleague's work is "trashy" reeked of hypocrisy to me. It also made me wonder if her comments were really just a not-so-clever way to self-promote. It was almost like she was saying, "Well, sure, some romance novels are trashy, but not mine. My romance novels are super classy. Here's a link so that you can buy my book..."
So, the moral of the story is threefold:
1. Romance novels aren't trashy. Just because a book has sex scenes doesn't make it trashy. Sex between two (or more...whatever) adult, consenting partners is normal and healthy and there isn't anything trashy about it. And think about it this way: There are tons of sci fi, horror, and dystopian novels out there that include sex scenes. Does anyone ever use the word "trashy" to describe any of those genres? No. Why? Well, I have to think it's because romance is a genre written mostly by women for women. (Note I said "mostly". Yes, I realize that men read romance, too. This is strictly a numbers argument.) If you think a genre is "trashy" because it's written mostly by women for women and features women seeking and receiving pleasure...well, maybe you better check your misogyny, because it's showing. I suggest you tuck that shit in where no one can see it.
2. If you write romance novels, how about you don't knock your own genre, huh? It's tasteless. Some people might even says it's "trashy." (It's me. I'm some people.)
3. If you don't read or write romance, don't chime in with an opinion on it, because you don't know what you're talking about and you'll get your ass handed to you by really smart people who DO know what the hell they're talking about.
Leave Fabio out of it
Yes, Fabio graced a lot of book covers. No, he hasn't been on any since, I dunno, the very early 90s. Fabio jokes are the lowest form of romance novel criticism because they're totally irrelevant to today's romance novels. And didn't we all agree as a people that judging books by their covers was bad? (Except for Clueless Man, obvs. He missed the boat on that one.)
Same goes for "bodice rippers"
Again, "bodice rippers" is an old-timey derogatory term that has nothing to do with today's romance novels. Knocking the genre for it's early origins is like knocking the entire music industry because of disco. (And honestly, a lot of those old-timey romances were GREAT. It was the pearl clutchers and the morality police that came up with that term.)
There's nothing guilty about enjoying a good book. Saying that romance is your "guilty pleasure" sounds like you're apologizing for being literate and liking a book with a happy ending. Don't apologize for your reading choices. Be proud of them!
Why don't you read a REAL book?
First of all, who gets to decide what a "real" book is? How about we all just read what we want to read and not be dicks to each other about it?
Besides, in case anyone wasn't aware, romance novels are a BILLION dollar industry. It's the sale of romance novels that allows most publishers to keep their doors open and their lights on. Romance has been carrying the publishing industry on its back for decades and they catch hell for it. I think it's time that romance authors and romance novels get the mad respect they deserve.
Well, those books aren't realistic
Neither are zombies and robots that enslave humanity or alien invasions, but I've read a bunch of those. Since when is realism the bar that we judge fiction by?
And what kind of sad, hopeless folks think that happy endings can't happen in real life? Anyone who feels that way should read MORE romance novels, in my opinion.
Romance novels aren't porn. Porn is porn. No one is on Porn Hub searching for video of women reading aloud from romance novels. And to insinuate that all romance readers are mommies is just...idiotic. Romance readers and authors come from all walks of life, all economic and social backgrounds. We're a really diverse group. Some of us are mommies, some of us aren't. Mommy porn is insulting and just plain wrong. It'd be like me calling the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue "daddy porn." I'm guessing that sports fans might get irritated with me for making that kind of stupid, erroneous claim. Heh? Get it? See what I did there?
Those books set unrealistic expectations for women
So, women shouldn't have agency? They shouldn't be allowed to seek their own pleasure? They shouldn't expect their chosen sexual partner to give them orgasms? Hmm...that sounds like something men who can't, um, perform would say...
I'm gonna use the shout-y caps on this one: REAL MEN AREN'T THREATENED BY ROMANCE NOVEL HEROES.
For all the pearl clutchers out there who can't handle sex in books, there are a slew of sexless romance novels out there. If you can't find them, ask me. I'll provide directions.
Avoid the non-apology
If you slip up and do say something stupid online that offends people (hey, it happens), don't offer a non-apology. A non-apology is, "I'm sorry you were offended." The fact of the matter is, you said something that offended someone. If you really are sorry they were offended, say, "I'm sorry that I offended you." If you really want to be a great person, try adding, "That wasn't my intention. I'll try and do better going forward." A real apology will go a long way towards appeasing an angry mob. I'm not even saying you have to admit wrongdoing--just say that you're sorry you offended someone. And if you're not sorry you offended someone, don't insult their intelligence by offering up a completely disingenuous non-apology.
Like so many things in life, all this advice can be boiled down to this: Don't be a dick. Judging people based on their choice in reading material and slamming books you know nothing about is a dick move.