The #MeToo movement is a very politically charged conversation and I don’t debate politics or religion on social media. However, the relevance of #MeToo in romance novels is a valuable conversation to have without getting into any of the nitty gritty details. If you want to learn more about what the heck #MeToo is, you can check out this site.
For the purposes of the blog post and our tasteful discussion in the comments (no trolling, please), I’ll be framing #MeToo in this way:
[#MeToo is a movement] to support survivors and end sexual violence.
So, what exactly does that have to do with being a contemporary romance author and why is considering #MeToo in romance novels so critical? Well, the issue of consent is something authors can’t ignore (unless you’re writing a dark romance that features dubious consent, kidnapping or other tropes that readers are expecting, such as in these novels: Captive in the Dark, Monsters in the Dark, and King).
#MeToo in romance novels
Here are some things to consider when you’re writing romance:
Reader expectations. All genres come with expectations and romance is no exception. We have a guaranteed Happily Ever After (HEA) or Happy For Now (HFN), so we are often criticized for writing formulaic novels. However, imagine a murder mystery without a murder or an FBI novel without figuring out whodunit. Ridiculous, right?
So consider what your readers want when they pick up your novel. There are so many subgenres in romance, so if I pick up your book expecting one thing and receive another, it will likely be the last book of yours I read.
In a contemporary romance like Twist of Fate, readers don’t want dubious consent, so I needed to make it clear throughout all sex scenes that all parties were willing participants. In my opinion, this needs to be written on the page.
Reader triggers. According to #MeToo, 17,700,000 women have reported a sexual assault since 1998. We obviously have no idea how many women don’t speak up, but needless to say, sexual assault has touched many of us.
Be mindful of triggers when you’re drafting your book and building your platform that could take your readers to a bad place, and also consider that some publishers won’t accept your book if you write them in anyway (and some won’t consider certain fetishes either). Two examples include choking and sex while intoxicated. Make it clear that everyone is willing and able to consent to playing ball.
Sexy consent. I know, I know, you’re writing a romance novel about fictional people who you know have consented because you made them up. You don’t want to kill their vibe by having the hero ask the heroine, “may I please put my penis in your vagina?” because talk about a buzz kill. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way because you can make consent sexy (and I’ve pulled an example from Twist of Fate to prove it).
It’s also worth mentioning that while a lot of media attention is on women consenting, men also need to consent. We can’t just assume that all men are raring to go all the time because that’s also a loaded stereotype.
In The List, I wrote in a consent scene from the heroine’s perspective when she wanted to try something new with the hero that tested his boundaries. It is an unfair double standard to assume your hero has to ask to do anything whereas your heroine has free reign.
In my books, that’s not the case.
Safe sex. While it’s not strictly in the #MeToo box, it’s also worth mentioning that many publishers want to ensure your characters are having sex safe. This can be a quick line referencing being on the pill or including sliding a condom on in a sexy way. In our current sociopolitical climate, these are considerations you can’t afford to ignore.
What are some of the considerations you keep in mind when writing, whether in romance or otherwise? What do you wish authors were more mindful of?
To see bonus pictures of our boxer, Buster, and get a sneak peek into my life with James, head over to Instagram. Don’t forget to follow our hashtag #authoropwrites, turn our post notifications on, and show us some love with a like or follow! You can also join my street team through a private Facebook group with direct access to me (and exclusive content)! This is where my readers become my friends.
Note: I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full legal page here.