The number one critique for romances I see when I check out Goodreads is “it was so unrealistic.” And usually when I see this statement, I want to break out a bowing down gif (but I can’t because I’m technologically incapable most of the time). However, there are certain times when I scoff, flick my hair behind my shoulder, and roll my eyes like I’m getting in a fight with Heidi Montag on The Hills (throwback, anyone?).
Let’s be real here for a second people, some romance novels are so over-the-top head-in-the-clouds dramatically unrealistic. Mutual orgasms for virgins, slutty girlfriends who get in the way of the heroine every time just because they have the evils, and rich billionaires who could pick any girl in the world and end up picking that one chick with the frizzy hair and glasses because she’s speshul, I’ve seen and read it all. Sure, these are frustrating, and I totally understand wanting a different story that emphasizes what real romance is like. But, and a big BUT here ladies and gents, sometimes being ‘real’ is unappealing and awful.
Most humans that read romance (because it’s not like I can account for all the aliens out there, geez), want to escape reality. They want to get away from the men and women in their lives that don’t bring them flowers just because or shower them in diamonds since they own luxury hotels all over the world and can’t think of a better way to spend their money. Most of us have partners that work hard, love sweetly, and fart in the middle of the night when they think we’re asleep. Not all spouses can be renowned cooks even after losing both arms to a pack of wolves while they lived on the streets growing up. Hell, most real partners leave their clothes lying around the house and use your towel after bathing, even after you specified that it was yours and did not magically climb onto the towel rack by itself to wait specifically for them after they washed the stench of their work day off.
So while I do think romance needs a much deserved dose of reality and needs to drop the charade of perfection and blind love, we have to draw the line somewhere. I have composed this article to emphasize the things that are okay to leave alone, unless you are Rachel Bloom or Lena Dunham or Amy Schumer or [insert other ballsy woman you, personally, love here].
1. It’s okay to make believe that all genitals taste like honey or chocolate or whatever writers use to describe sweaty balls. Reading a scene in which the heroine drops to her knees and attempts to bring her partner satisfaction only to stop and gag as she realizes he tastes like stale burgers and lemon juice would probably bring us out of an intense, erotic scene.
2. Pretending that money isn’t an issue unless someone’s dating a billionaire is fine. If I wanted to delve into financial issues, I’d work for the IRS. Giving characters a proper job if they’re going to be out throwing cash at cars and houses? Sure. But I don’t really care where they got those five dollars to buy their iced latte.
3. Orgasming every single time, let’s leave this alone. Scandalous, I know. Most people want real sex scenes, especially when there’s a virgin who gets off four times just by penetration. That’s extreme, but I don’t want a sex scene devoid of any orgasms. Those reading that are women, we know how hard it is to reach ‘completion’ (anyone else just cringe because I sound like a ninth grade bio teacher? Just me?). I don’t want to feel stressed out when I turn a page in a steamy scene and the protagonist just can’t quite get there. I don’t need four pages of her grunting and squinting her eyes, straining for release. Let her have the cookie, dammit! This would make me more frustrated than when I watched The Force Awakens and Han marched up to Kylo Ren like he could actually fix him.
4. The After Sex can stay sweet. I, for one, don’t know a single person that has had sex and immediately cuddled after. What about the condom? The mess? The sheets? The sweat? For the love of god, the UTIs?! But in a romance novel, I’ll take that short scene of cuddling as though there’s no clean up involved at all. I don’t need a description of the snap of the condom as the hero rips it off and flings it into a trash can or the sound of the trickle as the heroine prays for her bladder to stave off an infection.
5. Let’s keep our Jane’s plain, at least, in appearance. Look, writers make these heroines plain and boring because they represent the every-woman. Not all of us could relate if the character was a six foot leggy blonde with a natural tan and baby blue eyes. Making the women look normal makes it easier for an audience to believe “that could be me.” It’s not realistic, but it saves me from reading the reality that is a supermodel falling for a hotel mogul’s bank account.
This list wasn’t to say the romance world doesn’t need change. All things do. I would be thrilled if we added in some diversity, humor, acceptance, and nixed the freaking slut shaming. Seriously. It’s 2016; women enjoy sex. This does not make them evil. End it, authors. I hope this opinion hasn’t offended anyone. In PRUDE (est. debut, September), I tried to add some reality. Okay, I shoved in a lot of reality, but there are still some instances better left unwritten. So, if you want to write about the fully muscular hero that can use his twelve inches for at least three hours, go for it. We all need an escape from reality every now and again. But really, Romance World, get rid of the slut shaming and start accepting the diversity of this world. Cheers!
Jordan S Gray