Why are Romance Novels Perceived in a Negative Light?

Nicola of Alpha Heroes had a blog entry about guilt and reading romance novels earlier this year. As in, why would anyone feel guilty for reading romance novels--or reading, period? Amen. (See http://alphaheroes.blogspot.com/2009/01/what-guilt.html for the exact entry.)

Along those same lines, I want to know why reading romance novels has been considered so outside of the norm when they're actually the most popular fiction genre? Why are we almost expected to apologize for reading "trashy novels," "bodice rippers," etc., if not to actually hide that we read them? Is this an example of sexism in that the books focus on what is perceived as the venue of women--love, marriage, having/creating a family--and, consequently, from the perspective of a male-dominated society, they can't be worth reading?

Romance novels provide a safe, entertaining escape from daily reality for most readers--not unlike most personal reading. And they generally follow an expected path, ending in a certain kind of way (happily-ever-after, of course), with the differences between books in the specific details and the dialogue. There's comfort in having your expectations met every time!

Really, how is liking romance novels any different than rushing to get the latest mystery novel by your favorite author? Or enjoying a rich biography? They're all about windows into another world.

As a librarian, in particular, I get really shocked looks from some of my professional peers when I admit to reading romance novels. I think that's so ironic whenever an overtly or covertly negative reaction occurs because a librarian really should be the last to place judgment on what patrons, peers, or anyone else actually reads. And, frankly, as a librarian, I'm just glad that people are still reading books!

I would like to think all of the book blogs, many devoted to, or prominently featuring, romances, will make a difference in the future on the perception that the reader should feel guilt over her (or his--I certainly think my husband could benefit from reading some of them!) choice in reading romance novels. Indulge without shame, and know that you're in good company!


Thank you for keeping this topic alive.

I've lost track of how many times I've received the same response. "You read & write paranormal romance?"


The opportunity to escape into the world of romantic stories is what gave me the chance to see the world in a different light. As a young girl I explored unseen place with the passion of an explorer.

If I can give another Reader the same joyous experience then I count myself blessed.

~ Aithne
Nicola O. said…
Aww, thanks for the shout-out.

I do think that the romance genre is marginalized because the readership is primarily female, just as professions that are female-dominated are marginalized and underpaid (see: teaching, nursing).

I didn't really think about it much until I read Jenny Crusie's rant on the subject, which IMO, is a perfect nutshell of the topic:

Good point, Aithne! Be proud of being a paranormal romance author, too, and for just plain being published.

And thanks for the tip about the Jennifer Crusie rant, Nicola. Very interesting reading!

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