Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why Most Romance Novels Make Me Blush

Among my favorite books as a teenager were Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon, Thames Doesn't Rhyme with James by Paula Danziger, and The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer. All of these were romance novels, but they also offered more than romance: believable friendships, quirky family members, festive holiday celebrations, reflections on life, change, and growing up. The romantic storyline in each book ends happily, of course, as this is a convention of the genre, but there were reasons to re-read the books beyond the love story.

As an adult, though I would still very much like to read stories about two well-developed characters with well-developed lives falling in love, I can't seem to find very many titles that I can enjoy without turning red in the face with discomfort and embarrassment. Today, in response to Top Ten Tuesday's Love Freebie topic for this week, and also in response to Blog All About It's February prompt of "Red" I want to share the reasons many of the romance novels I have encountered have made me blush. (I will also be sharing this post in a link-up for the Book Bloggers Discussion Challenge.)


Explicit descriptions of sex.

The biggest issue I have with certain romance novels is the long and specific descriptions of sexual activity. At least if the scenes fade to black, I can quickly gloss over the sex scene and get back to the interesting secondary characters and the life events that have to be overcome before the happy ending. But when an author spends several paragraphs describing actions in detail, I can't help but catch a few key words and phrases as I try to skim past them. And inevitably these scenes are so vividly detailed they make me squirm. I wish it was easier to tell before reading 100 pages of a book that these kinds of scenes would be in there!


Sexual behavior of teens.

While I do like YA books, I am also squeamish about sexual scenes involving characters who are minors, or even young characters who are technically consenting adults. It just feels inappropriate to me, particularly now that I'm a mom, to find entertainment in reading about kids in sexual situations. So when sex pops up in a teen book, even if it's mostly just implied, I always find myself frantically flipping through that section to avoid feeling creepy.


Male commentary about how women look/dress. 

Another thing that weirds me out is when a male character in a romance novel comments either aloud or in an internal monologue about a specific part of a woman's body (aside from eyes or hair), or a particular article of clothing. I read a book last year in which the male lead was constantly talking about how the heroine looked in high heels. His obsession with this felt uncomfortable to me, and I didn't feel like I knew anything about why this man liked this woman except for the way she looked in certain shoes. Even though there wasn't as much explicit sexual content in that book, the focus on the shoes when they did have a sex scene made me really uncomfortable. I also feel like some romance novels tend to diminish their male characters, making them appear to be driven by only one thing.

Half-naked people on book covers.

There are some romance novels - especially listed on NetGalley, it seems - that make me uncomfortable even just to look at because of the suggestive images on their front covers. In some ways, I am thankful that these covers exist because they make it easy to identify which books are definitely going to be too much for me, and they save me the trouble of getting attached to characters only to find myself totally blindsided by explicit content halfway through a book. But even if they do warn me away from the books I don't like, they still instinctively make me want to shield my eyes!

Sexual jokes and crude language.

This last one is probably tied to my overall hatred of using topics that are controversial or provocative to get an easy reaction out of readers. In kids' books, this usually manifests itself as toilet humor; in some romance novels, it comes out in sexual jokes. Surely it is possible to portray a character as funny or fun-loving without resorting to the most base level of humor. I'd take witty banter over dirty jokes any day.

So there you have them: my issues with finding a romance novel that doesn't make me cringe. I realize that sex scenes are considered a convention of the romance genre, so I know better than to go into a book expecting no sex at all, but I still can't help but be shocked by some of what is contained in books that otherwise look completely innocent.  I read books primarily for their characters, so I care much more about the emotional and mental connections between two personalities and much less about their physical connections. It's frustrating not to be able to find many books that focus more on love and less on lust.

What about you? Does anything in romance novels (or another genre) make you uncomfortable to the point of blushing? Which love stories would you recommend to a reader like me who likes her romance novels as sex-free as possible? Share your thoughts below! 


5 comments:

  1. I totally agreed with. I do avoid reading romance novels with half-naked men, those are easily to avoid. sometimes there are books that talk about the men thinking about his male organ and how tight his pants is when he sees the suppose love interest. I really don't care for that.

    I think the hardest to avoid are YA books especially how they just portray sex like it's so normal for teenagers to have sex, blah, I try to avoid reading teen romance books.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. I used to read teen books because they didn't have as much sex, but that doesn't seem to the be case anymore! And yes the descriptions of tightening pants also bother me. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Yes! I'm so glad there's someone else who feels like this. I hate numbers 1 and 5 most, and definitely avoid No. 4 - but the other two aren't fun either. Let's see... one romance I've really enjoyed that doesn't have anything along those lines is The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery.

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    1. I have heard such great things about The Blue Castle! I think I need to move it up on my TBR. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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  3. I also prefer fade to black sexual content. If it has to be in there, I much prefer using actual names for body parts instead of stupid, flowery euphemisms. That's really uncomfortable to read.

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