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The Romance Stigma

When someone discovers I’m a writer, I find myself  bracing for the inevitable question.

“What do you write?”

If you haven’t realized this by now, I write romance. Is this a bad thing? No, I certainly don’t think so. But I get the feeling sometimes people frown upon my choice of writing stories that slide neatly into the romance genre.

Romance itself isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’m aware of this. I don’t judge those who prefer literary, non-fiction, fantasy, or horror, so why all the negativity toward my preference for romance.

“Oh, it’s unrealistic.”

“You must be so lonely you need to read romance to make up for not having a boyfriend.”

“You like reading all that smut.”

Seriously, we’re going to go down that road?

First of all, I’m happily married. Reading romance does NOT give me a delusional image of what a relationship should be like. It does NOT make me wish for something outside of my marriage. It doesn’t make me love my husband less, in fact, it makes me love my husband MORE.

As an avid reader of romance, I’ve become aware of several things.

1. Communication is the very cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

How many times have I read a romance where the only thing stopping the heroine and hero from finally achieving their goals is communication. I’ll give you a hint. It’s a lot.

Reading romance also gives you insight into things you’d never think to search for in your own relationship, things you should discuss openly with your spouse or partner. There is nothing wrong with being open about your dreams and desires, especially when it’s with someone you are sharing your life, body, and future. It may be the push you need to unleash the sensual self within.

2. Sex is NOT a bad thing, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

Whether it’s sweet inspirational romance or hot and steamy erotica, chemistry and sex play a huge role in the story. The same is true with reality and our own personal love stories. So often are we shamed for our enjoyment of sex with the person we love that we find ourselves not enjoying the intimacy that binds us as a couple.

As a writer of what I consider mainstream romance, I often have people call what I write porn or smut. Many of them have never even picked up a romance novel, let alone read one. All they see is that “clincher cover” (you know EXACTLY what cover I’m talking about) and suddenly I’m indulging in my lustful fantasies.

Honestly…most of the books I read only have a love scene if it pushes the story forward. That’s how I write, and that’s what I prefer to read. Does reading romance turn me on? Yes, it does.

I love the idea of love. I’m obsessed with the concept of romance. I’m addicted to sexual tension and the chemistry that pulls two people together. I find it fascinating and beautiful. I am unashamed of my passion for romance novels, both in writing them and reading them. Love and sex are wonderful things, and there should be no shame in exploring them in prose.

I may never write literary prose or the next great American novel. But I don’t care.

I write romance because I adore it, and because the world could always use a little more LOVE.

Feel free to leave your comments below…Thanks for stopping by.

@–/— Kirsten

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29 thoughts on “The Romance Stigma

  1. I get kinda miffed when people assume i write erotic or romantic fiction just because i am a woman. Apparently women don’t write anything else. I read romance and erotica, but i don’t write it because i prefer to write something else. It seems ridiculous to me that people should assume that all women write certain genres, and then bad-mouth those genres. “You are a woman so you must write romance. romance is unrealistic and stupid. Ergo, you must write unrealistic and stupid stuff because you are a woman.” (I might be going a little OTT there but that’s how it seems sometimes.)

    • I get upset when people assume what I write is stupid, unrealistic romance. I put a lot of research and time into my story, plot and characters alike. To assume “oh it’s just a romance, it’s stupid” is quite frustrating considering how much time and energy I put into my books. Assumptions are just belittling and rude.

  2. It’s interesting. I feel the same stigma, but because I don’t write romance. I write sci-fi and fantasy, but every time someone asks what I write, I cringe. After I answer, without fail, they’ll tell me they don’t read that, but LOVE a good romance. Then go on to ask if I’ve ever written one. Or have plans to write one. Or know someone who does. There are times I want to scream, ‘NO, I don’t write romance! There are other genres and people, let’s just be clear about this, there are millions of us on the planet, we all like different things!’ Not that I have anything against romance, I just feel shamed because I don’t write it. Perhaps there’s a Murphy’s Law for genre that follows authors around? Whatever genre you write in, the people around you will belittle that one and want you to write a different one.

  3. I’ve had it both ways. If I say I write romance, they smile/giggle and ask me if it’s like 50 Shades. If I say I write scifi, the reactions is often ‘but you’re a girl’. Or they just look at me like I said I’m clinically insane or something, and don’t say a word. Mind you, sometimes I get told ‘good for you!’, so it’s not all bad.

  4. There is such a stigma against romance that one of the groups I’m in – Ozarks Romance Authors actually considered changing their name because of it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But, we did change our logo to include other genres. Even if you write other things there is usually a romantic element of some sort.

    • This group in particular, the Sarcastic Muse, is a great example of coming together as writers and not judging based off of genre preference. Everyone here reads what I write and offers me feedback. They also come to me when they need the “relationships” in their books to have that extra spark. I think writers should help each other, no matter what their genre preference. ❤

    • It’s almost laughable there’s that stigma floating around for the one genre that outsells every other genre hands down. Romance OWNS the market on ebook and in most paperback. It’s the most popular genre.

  5. Kirsten – I have two published author/friends in my weekly critique group who both used to write for Harlequin, who feel the same frustrations as you. The next time someone tries to shame you for writing romance, I suggest you inform them of 2 facts:

    1. Romance is still the #1 most-read genre.
    2. Many romance authors make enough $ to stay home and write full time. They’re laughing themselves all the way to the bank.

    Go purple!

    • Exactly! I should have read one more comment before replying to Wanda (glad I did, though 🙂 ) and folks need to understand romance isn’t all that easy to do well and some of us really suck at it. Good romance is an advanced skill set.

  6. I have another pen name that I use for romance, and I definitely feel a bit shy telling real life people about it. I think every genre is valuable, though. Entertainment is a noble pursuit, even if it doesn’t feel like society values it so much.

  7. I think that regardless of what you write, there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with your choice. But, therein lies the crux of truth, your choice. When we ask ourselves who we write for, what is our answer? Do we write for our readers or do we write for ourselves? I suppose many (maybe most) would say that they write for their readers. However, I would suggest that we should write for ourselves. It is only through the portrayal of our authentic selves that we will remain true to that which is burning inside. We may not attract the people we “want”, but we will attract the readers that “matter”, the ones who we share a common bond with. Personally, I know that I am in the minority as a man who enjoys a good romance or love story. However, being in the minority would never keep me from writing what makes me come alive, and neither should anyone else whether your chosen genre is horror, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or romance. Keep writing, your faithful readers are waiting 🙂

    • Amen. Thank you for such a wonderful, insightful comment.

      Personally, I write for myself, because the story needs to be told. And bravo to you for knowing what you enjoy. There’s no shame in the enjoyment of ANY genre. ❤

      Thanks again for the comforting words. 🙂

  8. I actually believe there is a stigma against writers in general. If we are successful, to some people, it is not deserved. If we are not successful, then we need to go get a “real job” or we need to write stuff like Stephen King does.
    I think romance gets stigmatized the worst, then the science fiction and fantasy, all due to stereotyping.
    I understand it, trust me!

  9. I write about my journey through life as an amputee and how profoundly God impacts my life every day. I get the “pat on the back – your writing isn’t educational and doesn’t count” thing too. But honestly romance is my pleasure reading and hearing all the ways that people come together and love and enjoy passion of relationship is exciting to me! Don’t stop! 🙂

  10. I really enjoy reading a good romance novel; those people who criticize them have often never even read one.

    Always remember a line from Star Trek when someone makes a ‘humourous’ comment abou what I’m reading/writing. Q asks Worf if he’s ‘ate any good books recently’ and this is pretty much the way I feel about people who make baseless judgements on something they know nothing about.

    Be proud of being a romance writer! 🙂

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