A Positive Spin on Romance Books

I saw this comment from Marjorie Liu and just had to share because it is such a great definition of what romance books are to women and how they can empower readers.

This is from Making a Monstress: Lauren K. Alleyne interviews Marjorie Liu. Please read the full interview here on Guernica MagazineMarjorie is also creates comic book characters.

Guernica: I want to hear your thoughts on the romance novel as a genre, because on the one hand, they establish and perpetuate certain norms for women, but on the other hand, I think the way you write romances is quite transgressive. So why romance? What do you see as the value or potential of that particular genre?

Marjorie Liu: For the most part, romance novels are stories about women finding and taking up space for themselves. And not just taking up space, but daring to find happiness. And yes, romance novels are about the fantasy—the heterosexual fantasy—of having the perfect relationship with a man, but it’s also about women taking power over their sexuality, women taking control over their lives, women making themselves vulnerable to all the intimacies of love. Love can be devastating. It’s hard, actually, falling in love. It requires making yourself vulnerable, and romance novels are all about women making themselves vulnerable, and finding strength and happiness from that great act of courage.

The other thing is that women and their sexuality are often painted in a very negative light, not just in popular culture and other media, but on a societal and cultural level. In romance novels, though, a woman’s sexuality is always incredibly positive. There’s nothing more positive in a romance novel than a woman embracing her sexuality and being fulfilled sexually. There’s nothing shameful about it.

It would be a mistake to say that romance novels are perfect, but in these books, women are getting everything they want. They’re getting perfect love, in which they’re appreciated; they’re getting great sex that they’re not condemned for or made to feel ashamed of; they’re pursuing careers and adventure, and while they’re on their own adventures they’re coming alive to themselves. It’s beautiful, uplifting, escapist fantasy. As someone who had never read romance novels before I was in my early twenties, it was a revelation; I ate them up like crazy because I’d never seen such positive and uplifting messages around women’s sexuality. I’d never seen such a positive portrayal of this desire to be loved and to live a full, unapologetic life. I felt a lot of hope and constant reinforcement that sex is healthy and sex is good, and that we’re permitted this part of our lives in ways that have nothing to do with shame.

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