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7 Sexist Romance Novel Tropes That Need To Stop – ASAP!

The sappy romance novels can be infuriating to the opinionated reader. While most romance novels sell like hot cakes and people read and take it as lightly as the weekly Shounen manga; what they fail to realize is how they slowly and steadily normalize sexist ideas within the minds of a youth struggling to detach itself from the corpse of virulent conservatism and stifling gender roles. Here are a few overused romance novel tropes that you as a dutiful reader need to watch out for:

Suggested read: Sexist remarks women are tired of hearing

1. The damsel in distress

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Image source: Giphy

I wish I knew what’s up with romantic novel writers and their obsession with having complete control over their female lead’s free will and lack of personality. The most prominent and ‘pop’ female character who fits this trope and comes to mind is the infamous Bella from the Twilight franchise. Helpless and defenseless, she is arguably one of the most vulnerable characters to have graced the literary world, with Stephenie Meyer putting her fantasies from when she was a 9 year old to paper. To top it off, the author has the audacity to call it a ‘Saga.’ Someone kill me now!

2. Men are basically superheroes

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Image source: Giphy

Or they are supposed to be. If you thought romantic novels were sexist only towards women, think again. While the overt manly aspect of it may not be true for all, most romantic novels I’ve read so far have the subtle and prevalent undertone of how the male character proves his worth to his love  by doing something absolutely extraordinary, as if it were a test and upon passing it he’ll get exclusive rights to her emotions and her body. You’ll find this everywhere, annoyingly  enough even in sophisticated writers like John Green. Augustus goes out of his way to make ‘Hazel Grace’ happy, and while some people might think this was a friendly and sincere romantic gesture, this verily reinforces the idea of how men are ‘expected’ to do extraordinary things, while women cannot initiate any action on their own. What is doubly twisted with this trope is that these ‘virile’ and ‘manly’ archetypes easily morph into men who would chase women even after being aware of the fact that she’s betrothed/engaged or married to somebody else or ones who’d think that domination or abuse are rightful; tokens of virility or manhood.

3. One true love

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Image source: Giphy

Probably one of the most harmful ideas that romantic novels perpetuate is the idea of ‘one true love’; the idea that you will forsake the only genuine love in your life if you break up with your partner. Assigning importance to people for reasons is one thing, and burdening them to cater to your skewed views of life and love and expecting them to not ‘betray’ you by moving on is the worst mixup of narcissism, immaturity and even lack of self respect.

4. That popular ‘female’ indecisiveness in love

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Image source: Giphy

Again, dear old Twilight and Stephenie Meyer come to mind. A docile ‘uncool’ girl who happens to be the protagonist of the story meets a 100-odd-year-old vampire who happens to sparkle like Tinker Bell; Bella being underage at the time, and the average reader is so immersed in the toxic neediness between them that they forget it’s casual pedophilia, but it doesn’t matter as long as the man is mystical and attractive. One concrete evidence of Bella’s unhealthy emotional dependence and indecisiveness is how the Twilight fandom got split in two, #TeamJake and #TeamEdward, because Bella was ‘confused’ who she truly loved. This ended up becoming a huge plot device, because the ‘Saga’ has nothing else to boast about.

5. Men are defined by a singular twisted characteristic

Seriously, this is annoying. Most male characters in romantic novels are either rowdy ruffians who have the emotional range of a bodybuilder on steroids or they’re inhumanly classy and the textbook version of the ideal ‘gentlemen’. While this might come as a shock to some, and I can’t generalize, men aren’t inherently detached from emotions. But he’s a manly ‘man,’ so it’s okay, right? Pfff…BS!

It would be interesting to note that such lopsided archetypes can vary from being men who refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer to men who’d take no for an answer but continue to be ‘nice,’ so as to be rewarded for their nicety with the ‘fair maid’ in the end. Such depiction engenders a misguided sense of entitlement to women and their bodies- no matter what the case. Similarly, men who conform to a false ideal of ‘manliness’ as well as men who take to dangerous means such as stalking to win over their romantic interests breed notions that are best left to rot in hell- for no woman IRL would ever take kindly to a stalker or a rapist!

6. The virginal heroine

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Image source: Giphy

Yes, I went there. This isn’t just a trope in romantic novels, this is reality. Authors and people in general seem to dwell too much on a female character’s ‘purity’ than their qualities and their personality as a whole. So what if she’s a character completely devoid of personality, practically a blank slate, has zero character development, but at least she hasn’t had her ‘cherry popped,’ right? Pff…why can’t we expect a woman’s carnal instincts to be as normal as a man’s?

Suggested read: Why the world needs to accept women with beauty AND brains

7. Rape

Bodice rippers are probably one of the most disgusting sub genres under romantic novels. This trope goes back to the 60s and 70s; it’s the idea that a woman won’t want intercourse or intimate relations until men force it on her. It practically hints that it’s wrong for women in general to be receptive towards intimate relations, and that they should only begin to like it when it’s forced upon them.

There was a time when we romanticized such tropes and I’m glad fiction has come a long way since then. At least, some of it. Now we’re struggling with prevalent gender roles and small yet grave instances of sexism in novels, both romantic and unromantic. The best way to prevent it? Time, I suppose. Although it’s sad how there’ll always be a market for sexism, because it sells, but at least we, as readers, can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Featured image source: themarysue

Article Name
7 Sexist Romance Novel Tropes That Need To Stop
Romance novel tropes normalize sexist ideas within a youth struggling to detach itself from the corpse of virulent conservatism and stifling gender roles.
Siddhartha Bose

Siddhartha Bose

Contradictory solipsist who likes food and cuddles.