Look, we’re usually the first people in the room to advocate for romance novels. We even wrote a pretty thorough defense of the genre as a whole a while back. The fact of the matter is that we LOVE romance novels, and we think they’ve come a long way from the old bodice rippers of the 70s and early 80s. But we’re also not blind. As much love as we have for romance (and it’s A LOT), there are still some lingering sexist tropes that we’d like to stomp out of existence—for the good of the genre, all readers, and all women, really. For example:
Damsels in distress
The best example of a damsel who pretty much lives in a constant state of distress is Bella Swan from the Twilight series. Exactly how many times did Edward (and Jacob) have to save Bella, who seemed all too eager to charge into any dangerous situation that came her way? Too many to count. Hell, in New Moon she actually threw herself off a cliff on purpose to see if Edward would come back to her and save her. She’s the human equivalent of a baby bunny: helpless, terrified, and completely incapable of saving herself. (Excuse me for a moment while I dry heave) And THIS was the heroine that hordes of young girls (and their moms, if I’m being honest) idolized and wanted to be like. Is that really what we want to teach our little girls? To aspire to find a man who can save you? Why not teach our little girls to aspire to save themselves?
Alternatives to damsels in distress
For some great romance reads about damsels who are anything BUT in distress (they’ve managed to save their men a time or two, as well), try these:
And for more suggestions, check out the 12 most bad-ass heroines in romance today. You can also check out our 5-star review of Semi-Broken and the Design Dude review of The Witness.
The 40-year-old virgin
OK, so virgins in romance novels usually aren’t 40. But I’ve seen 30-year-old virgins. I’m not sure what authors are trying to tell us with this trope. Are you trying to say that women need to be pure in order to be worthy of their HEA? And if that’s the case, why is the hero not held to the same standard? For example, in Fifty Shades of Grey, our heroine, Anastasia, is a virgin. The hero, Christian, is a manwhore of the highest order. (And apparently, all it took was Anastasia’s magical and pure vagina to reform the repugnant ass, er, I mean, the sexy bad boy alpha. But I digress…) Ugh! I don’t know about you, but I want women to realize that sex is healthy and fun, and EVERYONE, even those who have had lots of healthy fun sex in their lives, deserves love and their very own HEA.
Alternatives to virginal heroines
For some great reads about women who are not sexually closed off but who still manage to find their HEAs, try these:
The possessive or stalker-y a-hole hero
I will admit that I loved Travis in Beautiful Disaster. He was so complex as a character, and so utterly and profoundly messed up that I found myself really invested in his HEA. But that was mostly because of author Jamie McGuire and her gift for writing deeply fascinating characters. Because of her talent, I loved Travis DESPITE his tendency to act like a jealous, possessive, stalker-y ass with the heroine, Abby. He was super aggressive, and was often pretty scary when trying to chase off her other would-be suitors. That’s not exactly the type of behavior I think any young ladies in real life should EVER tolerate from their boyfriends.
Note: Don’t forget to check out or 5-star reviews of From This Moment, Unloved and Falling Into Right.
What about y’all? What sexism have you run across in romance novels lately? Let us know! We’d love to here from you.