Last night while browsing the internet, I read the most ridiculous comment on writing romance that I think I have ever read. I didn’t pay much attention to who actually made the comment or where it came from. Mostly because I immediately saw red.
The comment went something like this: “Romance writers, please make sure when you’re writing romance novels that you have your characters give consent.” It probably went on about why this is important, but by then, I was done reading.
For years there’s been this backlash against the strong, aggressive usually male character, throwing the heroine over his shoulder and taking her to his bed to make wild, passionate love. Because who would want that after all. Only a zillion housewives and other females. But I digress.
Consent in romance. Okay. I get it. We certainly don’t want to be writing novels where we glorify a guy (or girl for that matter) taking someone by force. There’s the word we need to focus on: “glorify.” I don’t think there are any (sane) writers out there who would “glorify” rape in the first place. Does it get mentioned? Yes. In the context of a scene, it definitely would be. If it were warranted. If I have a book where the villain is a rapist, well guess what? He’s gonna rape! Why he even might rape my main character. Or if I’m writing about an abusive husband, he is likewise going to act like a douche. Because that’s FICTION! Bad things happen; bad guys and girls exist in fiction. And, depending on your genre, time period, etc., sometimes even the GOOD guy or girl does terrible things.
Let’s take a for instance here: In my book, The Whisper of a Rose (which is currently being edited and will be republished in a second edition soon!!) my main male lead is Joe Larson. Joe is a rough, tough basic jerk at the beginning of the book. He is not a guy that goes looking for the good girl. He looks for a good time. And he drinks and gets drunk and carouses like the cad he is. He is also drop-dead gorgeous and suave and slick, he’s used to getting what he wants from any female he drops his baby blues on.
Now, some rather uptight people might think that Joe is “bad” because he has all these traits. In today’s world, he’d be your classic douche. But this is a historical novel set in the early 1920s. So Joe’s character traits, while not super great, are also not super bad. They’re expected and completely normal.
A guy like Joe Larson doesn’t politely ask a girl for a kiss. He doesn’t court her or gently hold her hand and act like Prince Charming. Because he’s not Prince Charming. He’s douche bag Joe. If he wants a kiss, he takes it. And the girls he kisses melt into a mushy puddle and can barely breathe when the kiss ends. They give consent with their bodies, not their words. Trust me, that consent comes, just during the act, not prior.
Is that bad? Well, if some guy walked up to you today and grabbed you and kissed you, probably yes (unless you knew him intimately already). Because that’s real life. In real life, that would be considered assault. But we’re not talking about real life in fiction. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume most people read books to escape, and they kind of get that this is a fantasy world. It’s a story, that’s all.
I am not saying there isn’t a problem with consent in real life. There is. We’ve seen it in Hollywood and other places. But unless you are writing a book set in modern times, then please keep your consent out of your fiction. (Even in modern fiction there might be times when the guy kisses a girl aggressively. If it fits the character and the plot, once again, it’s okay. Remember it’s YOUR story!)
How people saw things in the past is entirely different from how they see them now. I know the “PC” thing is to take an apologetic stance to the past, but I say bullshit! I won’t apologize for the history in my writing. I will write it as it happened, as my characters would see and react to it and behave in it. Anything else would be a farce.
Do not compromise your characters or your story just for the “political correctness.” Your readers will thank you for sticking to your guns.