As a young girl very interested in reading, I was always looking to expand my mind through the written works of others. A good friend of mine and I would often compare books and swap. As we entered the world of hormonal changes, she introduced me to the romance novel. As shocked as I was that my friend was reading these, I was also intrigued. Was this the way romance was supposed to be?
That became a very dangerous way of thinking as the rules for dating have changed and most of what I was reading was set in the scene of days gone by. Regardless of that fact, even the books set in modern times, I soon discovered a pattern. In both eras, there is a beauty beyond compare who is fiercely independent and sees nothing to admire in the boorish behaviour of the career playboy who decides she is the one he must have.
That is when the tone of the book changes. She turns him down, offends him deeply, angers him beyond what he is accustomed to yet he cannot stop thinking of her. He fails in his attempts to woo her or at least seduce her, he offends her sensibilities and ignores her body's response to him. It build to a cresendo where he can no longer control himself, his desire for her is so strong her takes her anyway. She fights, she struggles, then she gives in and allows herself to be free to enjoy him. In the end they marry and all is well.
The message being sent in all of these romance novels is that rape is the product of a man's lust for a woman that is too strong to control. It is suggested that his lust is a product of his deep love which is true and deep and strong enough to make him be loyal to her and her alone. Novelists are unwittingly perpetuating the very wrong stereotype that rape is, in some cases, not only acceptable, but a demonstration of a man's deepest desires for woman whom he cannot live without.
Rape is a product of power issues. It is about control. It is about an insecure, ignorant man saying to the world, and to the woman whom he usually knows, that he can take what he wants. In a way he is challenging the world to defy him, to see if they can make him pay for his crime. Rape is not about lust and it certainly is not about love. Love boasts respect and no man that respects a woman would violate her in the most intimate of ways.
Romance novels are just as much about fiction as any other novel but their words can make girls even more confused about what love and sex is all about. In today's society, where respect for women's rights are still under construction, this type of misinformation can have some very negative results. That is not to say that the romance novel should be permanently shelved, only that perhaps they should be revised to reflect the current social ideals. It is hard enough to convince women that what happened to them is wrong and to report it without this influence on them.