I don’t like historical romance novels. Why? You ask, simple. I find the way they portray women extremely demeaning. Before you roll your eyes, take a moment to think of the ones you’ve read and if you haven’t read any, allow me to paint a picture for you.

There is most often an innocent, virginal young woman. She is inexperienced and well behaved, and there’s the Lord/Marquis/debaucher. There is the relentless pursuit, the unending seduction before the final, inevitable surrender. Part of my irritation stems from the fact that these women say no several times before the eventual torturous ‘yes’.

The fact that the female protagonist is always the weaker party only capable of surrender, and subject to the ‘wooing’ prowess of the masculine knight or wasteful scoundrel.

The fact that ‘feminine’ is equated to soft looks and sexual inferiority. The fact that ‘feminine’ is equated and reduced to often nonexistent autonomy, autonomy only to be determined by the male protagonist.

These novels clearly create a harmful patriarchal perception of heterosexual relationships and further romanticizes them, and this conditions young women who grow up reading these novels to fantasize about them, and eventually build their relationships around these faulty ideas. This pretty much explains why we have patriarchal princesses who do not even understand how a lot of patriarchal concepts affect their equality.

We have men who beg, whine and plead for sex, like toddler whining for candy. Even worse we have men who would most likely reject or shame a sexually expressive woman because to them this is unnatural, an aberration. The idea of a sexually unapologetic woman repulses them because it equals promiscuity in their eyes.

A great number of us grew up reading these novels and they have, in turn, shaped our approach to life, love and relationships. We have men who believe they are well within their right to pester a woman they are interested in because they grew up with that image firmly implanted in their brain, and this behaviour has even now transcended relationships and is often used in primarily sexual encounters.

We have men who beg, whine and plead for sex, like toddler whining for candy. Even worse we have men who would most likely reject or shame a sexually expressive woman because to them this is unnatural, an aberration. The idea of a sexually unapologetic woman repulses them because it equals promiscuity in their eyes.

Men who shamelessly say things like, ‘just the tip,’ and ‘just let me enter I won't move at all,’ failing to realize that anything you have to so relentlessly beg for obviously doesn’t want you.

Even worse is the fact that women have internalized, idealized and idolized these constructs and even go as far as ruthlessly defending them. This makes demolishing rape culture and reconstructing gender dynamics very difficult, as the faulty structure is not just defended by its own victims, but these victims also get placebo reinforcements for their loyalty in captivity.

It is imperative for us to unlearn the harmful preconceptions about our sexuality if gender equality is to be achieved. This is also fundamental in abolishing rape culture and patriarchal ideals.

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