Bad boys finish last: Abuse in Fiction

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The trouble with so much of the “edgier” romance fiction I’m seeing is relationships.

This morning I gave up on a book that will remain nameless. I left a review, said my piece and got out of Dodge. There were in that novel moments of consent issues, misogyny and what I would call pretty clear abusive behavior that just left me cold.

Our Anti-heroes are moving more to ANTI than hero. My standard statement as a reader is that I get this kind of Noncon fiction has a readership, and to each his own. It’s just not for me. That’s my standard line. It extricates me quite often from hurt feelings and an ugly forum post where I’m too intolerant to live as an author.

Okay, but this is my world.

Abuse is wrong. There’s no heroism left once that cat is out of the bag. There’s no going back. Your male or female protagonist is now officially an asshole and you’re marketing to the segment of society who either sees that as normal or strength. Either one of those options plays a role in an abusive relationship. Am I saying that the entire market is in abusive relationships? No, what I am saying is that these are ideas that perpetuate societal norms, and that holding these beliefs put you at risk of building a relationship with these tendencies and continuing the cycle.

There is the fatasy bad boy, and then there is the real kind. Let’s be honest here, they aren’t the same thing. Your typical kind of romance novel bad boy has issues. He’s made the only choices he could usually. He’s not by nature cruel, or he wouldn’t be in the book. Real bad guys kill without remorse and never give a damn about a woman’s feelings. They don’t form healthy emotional attachments and are as likely to kiss you as throw you out a window.

The trend of blurring those lines has me worried, not just about where literature is going, but for my daughter. How will her generation define bad boys? My hope is they will be the ones to understand what abuse is and change the standard. That’s where I stand for society. Forced sex, non-con, has variations, and I hope we begin to see those as wrong. It’s a readership that could stand to shrink a little in my estimation, Yea though, I may pay for this admission in the form of hate mail.

As a writer, I miss the old romance norms. I miss the reformed rakes that were so easy to find that you couldn’t swing a purse in a B&N without hitting one (and getting thrown out). I miss the hearts of gold hidden in leather jackets and target practice. I miss the real Anti-heroes.

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