Top 5 Things That Annoy Me In Romance Novels

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While this post is aimed at romance novels, many of these themes present themselves in other works of fiction, especially in the young adult and new adult categories. Basically, almost any book that revolves around a relationship or has some romance is almost guaranteed to have at least one of these five annoyances.

To read more about how books lack consent and healthy sexual relationships, check out my other blog Consensual Fiction.



1. The Possessive Man

Why is it whenever there is a sex scene, writers often focus on the man “owning” or “claiming” the woman? Why can’t the woman ever be the one with power?

Example 1:

You are mine,” he grunts out, pumping into me, the length and level of his arousal brutal. “Mine,” he swears, as he releases my mouth and turns me around, pushing me forward as he yanks my legs back, one hand hard on my back, the other gripping my ass. He doesn’t slow the movement, giving me full, hard thrusts, my breasts bouncing from the top of my dress, the mirror above the sink giving me a full view of my slutdom.

Alessandra Torre, Sex Love Repeat


This pretty much sounds like a rape scene. The man pushes her and fucks her without any consideration for her. It’s so harsh and not gentle. He never once asks if she is okay with it and from her viewpoint, it’s hard to tell, but just reading this paragraph makes me cringe.


Example 2:

Down they went, hard and fast onto the floor, over they rolled; he spread her legs wide instantly, mounted her, and drove his shaft home.

The pain bolted through the swirling eddies of pleasure like lightning.

She stiffened again, pushed against his chest, tried to get out from under him and the jutting poker hardness that he had embedded so unceremoniously into her.

He felt the primitive triumph of possession.

There was nothing like a hot, squirming, virgin hole. So tight. So wet. So deep and unplumbed. So rare when it was coupled with such an unexpected carnal nature that loved a good nipple fuck, a good finger fuck.

Lord of the fates -to have given him such a succulent virgin for his house wife-he stopped his frantic pumping and lifted his body from the hips so he could feel the thick, deep connection of his possession, and he howled silently in exultation.

- Thea Devine, Satisfaction


Again this reads like a rape scene. The man sees her as his possession and he can do to her whatever he wants.


Example 3:

His hips slammed into mine, and the way I was held there, all I could do was whatever he demanded. I held on as the frothy water foamed and bubbled violently around us. Each thrust of his hips felt as greedy as the strokes of my tongue against his. Every plunge of his hips felt more like an act of possession than the one before. My head fell back but never reached the rock because of his hand, and the world was a kaleidoscope of broken sunlight, slate-colored walls, and vibrant petals. I tightened—everything in me tightened as his head dropped to my shoulder, his body grinding into mine.

- Jennifer L. Armentrout, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire


Both characters consented to the sex in this scene, but even the woman describes the man as possessing her, taking her as his. Yes, she is enjoying it, but why can’t she be the one claiming him?

In the three examples above, each time it’s the man in “possession,” showing the male has power. Why can’t the woman have power? Why is it so hard to find a romance novel where the girl is greedy, where she is the one claiming him?

I will admit as a teen, this was the kind of stuff I desired. What girl wouldn’t want a hunky guy to take her as his? That’s what society taught us after all: The male hero saves the damsel in distress.

Now, as an adult with more knowledge on sex and relationships than I have ever received in school, these scenes irritate me. Both partners should have equal power during sex, so when it comes to sex scenes in novels, I would love to see less “possessive” words used to describe the act or at least an equal amount from the participants, regardless of their sex/gender. Let’s give the women power too! Not just the man.


2. Not Using Anatomical Terminology

We know what the characters are doing. There is no need, in my opinion, to use euphemisms like his “throbbing member” or her “bundle of nerves.” Just say penis and clitoris. If you are going to write sex, then write it! It just comes across silly and I find myself rolling my eyes rather than enjoying the steamy scenes. Plus I feel it is important to normalize body parts, and using the correct terms in books is one way to do that.

Example 1:

My back arched as I grasped the sheets fitted to the bed. His lips moved against me, his tongue inside me, and the sharp graze of his teeth scraped the bundle of nerves.

- Jennifer L. Armentrout, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire


I see “inside me” or “inside her” used a lot by authors whenever referencing a woman’s vagina. This does not bother me as much, but I don’t think it would hurt either to say “inside her vagina” instead. It’s implied, but it feels like by using “me” instead of vagina, the authors and readers view vagina as a dirty word. This goes for all body parts. Hardly does a romance author ever use “penis,” yet they will come up with every other clever word for the male organ: member, length, cock, dick, shaft, manhood, or simply just he or him.

It’s also a shame some writers avoid the word nipple. Referring to it as “sensitive area” or if bold, “nub.” Body parts are not dirty words, use them! Penis, clitoris, vagina, vulva, scrotum, nipple, etc are all good words to use to describe the act.


Example 2:

“Ooh,” she whispered. “Ooh! Oh, oh, oh,” she sighed, as he worked his fingers against the slick seam . . . and then she forgot to pose, forgot about trying to look good, and lost herself inside her own pleasure

***

Before she could recover, he’d rolled her onto her back and slipped inside her. After the first thrust he had to hold still, knowing that if he kept moving, if he gave himself up to the exquisite tightness, the heat, he would explode.

- Jennifer Weiner, Who Do You Love


Some probably think this is artistic writing as authors come up with many different ways to imply the act of sex without saying directly: “He inserted his penis into her vagina,” but at the same time it feels like they are trying to sugarcoat sex, as if it’s a dirty thing that needs to be covered up, but there is nothing wrong with having sex! I feel if we truly want to normalize sex and pleasure, authors need to be bolder and write using the proper terminology.

Others have argued on Reddit that these terms sound "clinical," but I think that's a result of society making the words so taboo that you only hear them in a clinical setting. As a kid, I remember that there was a game played to see who was brave enough to say "penis" really loud. It's a perfect example of how society has shamed us into being afraid to speak penis, vagina, vulva, nipple, etc. 

Somehow breast has avoided this issue, and no one ever writes boob, which is the slang term.


3. Hot Guy & The Virgin Trope

Jennifer L. Armentrout uses this trope in her From Blood and Ash series. Hawke is the super attractive guard that all the ladies fawn over. Poppy has scars on her face, so she is insecure and thinks she’s not beautiful. Plus she’s a virgin, so Armentrout’s series is worse as it has both tropes: The hot experience guy and the insecure virgin girl.

Satisfaction by Thea Devine is another example of this trope, where Lujan has previous sexual encounters, but he marries Jancie, a virgin. It avoids the “average girl” trope by making Jancie beautiful and coveted by other men, but yet she’s still a virgin.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James also does this with Christian and Anastasia. Christian is this super attractive man who does BDSM with select partners and Anastasia is an insecure virgin. Somehow they fall for each other.

Twilight even follows this trope with Edward and Bella. Edward is this handsome sparkling vampire that attracts all the girls, but he falls for “average” Bella. Twilight is a little different as both Edward and Bella are virgins when they marry, but it still has the hot guy and insecure girl trope, so I felt it was worth including.

I personally hate this trope and it instantly ruins a good story for me.

Why do the women in fiction almost always focus on their appearance and why is the guy also so attractive to everyone? Why can’t this trope ever be flipped? What about an insecure man who ends up with a confident attractive woman? What about a virgin male who gets with a sexually experienced female? Or better yet, why can’t there be a romance between two people that are both confident in their appearances and have had sexual experiences?


4. No Contraception

A lot of romance novels or sex scenes in novels (and media in general) fail to remember contraception. However, it seems more modern writers have addressed this and started including it or mentioning it in their books. 

Some Examples:

“Are you—?”

“Protected?” His thoughts obviously following the same path as mine. “I take the monthly aid.”

He was talking about the herb that rendered both males and females temporarily infertile. It could be drunk or chewed, and I heard that it tasted like sour milk.

Jennifer L. Armentrout, From Blood and Ash 

*****

Reason chose that moment to show its face, and he groaned. “I don’t have any protection,” he whispered, penetrating her haze of heavy breathing.

“I’m on the pill.”

“I’m clean, I swear to you. I’ve always used condoms. Always.” He waited for her nod, then thanked the Lord for birth control.

- Weston Parker, Worth The Risk


I am glad this has finally been noticed, at least by some contemporary writers. However, there are many authors that still fail to mention contraception, and movies and TV shows still have a long way to go.


5. Everyone Orgasms

I have not read a sex scene in any book where one of the participants did not reach orgasm, despite studies finding that most women do not have an orgasm every single time during intercourse:

For women, having an orgasm from intercourse is much less guaranteed than it is for men. In 2015, 46% of women said that they always or nearly always had an orgasm when having intercourse, with only 6% of women reporting always having an orgasm (Source).


Only 6% of women do so consistently, so why do authors insist on the woman always orgasming, and often multiple times in their novels? Not only that, the man and woman have miraculous timing and climax at the same time! This is so unrealistic, especially if it is a new relationship where you do not know what turns each other on. 

Example 1:

He couldn’t get enough of her. Thrusting into her, over and over, he saw that her climax made her shake, filling her face with such ecstasy that he lost the tenuous hold on his control.

He became a beast, thrusting into her, harder, faster, unable to hold himself back. She cried out, tensing and reaching her climax again.

She gripped him so tightly that he yelled as his seed rushed out, and he crushed her to him, shuddering as he came down from the pinnacle of pleasure. Breathing heavily, he opened his eyes and gazed into hers. “You’re incredible.”

- Weston Parker, Worth the Risk


Somehow he manages to make her orgasm twice during intercourse, and the second time they do so together.

Jennifer L. Armentrout is especially guilty of this in her series as Poppy orgasms every time she and Casteel have sex. Armentrout does often have Poppy climax first, but Casteel always follows quickly, so it’s very close to the same time. There’s no awkward in-between moment.

Example 2:

Under me, he moved his magnificent body at a furious rhythm. My entire body stiffened and then lightning flew through my veins. My muscles clamped down on him, spasming. My cry mixed with his rough shout as his hips pumped furiously, and he followed me into the wild, mindless bliss that wracked my entire body. Slowly, the tension poured out of me, turning my muscles to liquid.

- Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Crown of Gilded Bones

This scene follows shortly after:

I broke apart, shattering into a thousand tiny pieces as my release crashed through me with such force that a growl rumbled from his chest. His arms tightened around me. One more deep thrust, and he came, shouting my name.

- Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Crown of Gilded Bones 


Not only does Poppy orgasm during intercourse, but she also manages to do so twice in a row, and so does her partner. One can argue that it is fantasy and they are both not mortal so maybe they have some really special sexual abilities (even though it’s not mentioned that they do), but it just feels over the top in my opinion.

Also in all three examples above, someone is crying out, yelling, or shouting when they orgasm. I find this common in many of the books I read, but not everyone screams when they orgasm. Sometimes there’s no sound, sometimes it is a moan or a groan. 

To sum up: Sex can be great even if one does not orgasm and orgasms do not always happen during intercourse. Orgasms also do not have to involve someone screaming or shouting.


What are some things that annoy you about romance in novels?



Post a Comment

13 Comments

  1. I haven't read a romance novel in awhile but I do enjoy them time to time. I DO wish they were more realistic. Something I personally don't like is that my body type is never represented!

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  2. Well it has been years since I've read a romantic book but the examples you gave really are wow. They take all of the fun out of a steamy love making session.

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  3. I don't generally read romance novels, but I agree with all of your points listed above!

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  4. Romance novels and movies are so unrealistic for sure. But it's pure entertainment so I don't expect anything else.

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  5. I haven't read a romance novel in ages ( maybe since my teenage days) but I do agree with all your points.

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  6. This is an interesting read. I read a couple of romance novels and didn’t notice these things until now. And yes, all of these are true.

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  7. I completely agree with all of these!

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  8. Have you considering writing one yourself? You could spark change!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I am actually currently working on a few novels. It's my dream to be published one day.

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  9. It's always interesting to read romance novels, but you're right. Some do go over the top.

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  10. It's been a while since I read a romance book and I remember thinking how unrealistic they are but some of them are fun to read. I agree with you points though.

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  11. These are all great points! Books can be so unrealistic!

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  12. My genre for books would be more of a thriller kind of stuff although romantic books seem interesting. Will try reading some though to get more ideas of its usual plot.

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