We all have that one friend (or we are that one friend) that’s obsessed with romance novels. When I say romance novels, I’m not talking about Nicholas Sparks or Natasha Solomons, whose works fall under the Literature category at your nearest book store, but those novels that are more like the incredibly popular 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. I’m talking about those books that usually have a male untamable beauty and a delicate woman who can’t fend for herself as their lead characters. The ones that aren’t widely read in public or admitted to being read, and for good reason: they’re embarrassing and quite frankly make women look bad.
When I had just about enough of hearing about my friend’s latest written infatuation, I decided to find out for myself what gets a girl hooked.
Here are some serious and not so serious things that I found after reading portions from 50 Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series:
- They make you believe that your life should turn out like a romance novel. It’s more than likely that it won’t. The most desirable man (unanimously decided by the female population in these novels) isn’t going to stroll up to you in his three-piece suit. You should be glad. Do you really want the extremely possessive Christian Grey or Gideon Cross to take care of you, taking away your independence in the process?
- You can lose some sense of reality in regards to male/female social dynamics after reading one or two of these things. These books generally create a mold for how the men and women carry themselves. The leading men (Christian and Gideon) in these books are powerful and express control over all things while the leading women (Anastasia and Eva) are vulnerable. This obviously isn’t the case in reality, and the fact that this is a trope of the genre is insulting to women who invalidate these notions on a daily basis.
- Women almost always appear to be in some kind of distress, whether it’s social, mental, or physical. In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian saves Anastasia from being potentially raped by her friend, Jose. In the Crossfire series, Gideon kills Eva’s rapist (her step-brother). In doing so, both Anastasia and Eva idolize these men and in most scenarios give them everything they ask for. Christian and Gideon’s heroic actions solidify any pre-conceived notions of affection for their female counterparts.
- The female lead is usually unable to care for herself or lacks confidence. (Enter male lead who will right your world and fix all your problems.)
- Men CRAVE to save you from one or more of these disasters, even though they’ve known you for just about a day. He’s looking to be your own personal hero. Christian Grey saves Anastasia from being run over by a bike on their first date. He later explains (and this is loosely recounted) that he feels an unexplainable need to protect her. I’ve yet to meet a modern man that would claim to admit this to a woman they’ve known for probably less than a year.
- You (as the female lead) can’t fix your problems yourself. Eva always wants to solve her problems through therapy, something Gideon feels strongly against. I’m assuming this has something to do with taking power away from him. Therapy provides a third party interpretation of their conflict and expands the situation beyond those personally involved. For Eva, this mediation is necessary because there is a fundamental lack of confidence in herself to bounce back from a problem that takes an emotional toll on her. It appears that she’s only able to fix problems herself successfully when they’re not her own.
- There is an unrealistic expectation of how men react to women in social situations. Men don’t approach you because you have some intensely fascinating look in your eyes. Get real.
- A good-looking man will probably be forgiven all his bad decisions purely because he’s so hot that a woman can’t think logically around him. Eva and Gideon usually avoid their problems by banging, for example.
- These men are said to be perfect (in their looks at least). A woman’s thoughts during their initial contact with these men don’t really go past the guys’ looks, if they do they remain on a superficial level. Images of a Ken doll come to my mind at moments like these, where’s the substance? Is that what a woman is concerned about?
- These books are telling you what your subconscious fantasies are. The reader can easily put themselves in the character’s shoes and live vicariously through them. In doing so it appears that, as stated by Palash Ghosh, “something is missing in the lives and experiences of tens of millions (maybe even hundreds or millions) of contemporary ladies.” By tricking the mind to feel fulfilled for a moment (or for however long it takes you to read a romance novel) the reader perpetuates a cycle of feelings that their actual lives are lacking.
I understand that these reads are probably for pure enjoyment, but it’s scary to think that it is almost always female authors who think up these fantasies of female submission rather than assertion. These narratives could be damaging to the female reader’s psyche and clearly undermine the independence and self-satisfaction that I hope most of us strive for in our daily lives.