I think we need to make this point a little more often. Romance novels are often derisively called “porn for women” and, while this is inaccurate in a lot of ways, it does make a point about unrealistic fantasies. Both porn and romance/fairytales offer a fantasy version of the opposite sex and depict sex and relationships in a very unrealistic way.
Interestingly, there isn’t the same moral panic about girls reading teenage romance novels as there is about boys looking at porn. But maybe it’s something we need to talk about more.
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Just speaking from personal experience, I used to love Sweet Dreams and similar girly romance books when I was 14 and it led to plenty of confusing experiences when I finally got boys to pay attention to me. I expected them to act a certain way and floundered when they didn’t. I wouldn’t say it was a major problem, really, but it meant I was somewhat deluded about how this whole “love” thing was supposed to work.
Thankfully, it all worked out OK for me in the end and I did marry my Prince Charming. I just had to get used to the fact that he farts.*
Still, it’s a question worth asking: do romance novels encourage girls to have a warped view of men? Of relationships? Of sex? And does it feed into the general world view that sells Men Are From Mars-type books? Does it encourage the Cosmo-style idea that men are mysterious creatures who are afraid of committment and must be seduced with feminine wiles?
Or is this another case of not giving young women enough credit? Are romance novels, like porn, just a bit of easy entertainment?
And since I’m asking questions, here’s one: why don’t boys (in general) read romance? Is it because, like porn for women, there are no books that actually dare to offer male-friendly stories that focus mainly on love and relationships?
It’s an intriguing idea, romance for men. I’m now wondering what it would look like. Excuse me while I go away and see if I can find anything like it on the net.
* As do I!