Who decided the perfect man was an abusive, selfish stalker? Because I’d like to have a little talk with them…
I’m a big fan of both Romance and Young Adult, and I’ve noticed a recent (to me) movement towards emotional abuse in love stories. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? A love story, to me, should be the gradual evolving of a relationship from friends or foes to the sappy happily-ever-after. In each genre, the main characters make mistakes. Sometimes the guy comes off as a jerk. Sometimes the girl is painfully stupid. The issues are varied, usually not enough to have me turn my back on the romance, but occasionally enough to blur the line.
For the most part, I’m cool with that. The redemption of any hero can not happen without his having made mistakes. Lately, though, the mistakes feel less like episodes and more like his all-the-time personality.
What concerns me most, however, is the prevalence of abusive leads in novels with romance as the primary theme – especially when those stories are written for a younger audience. Do we want our daughters believing that their knight in shining armor must first belittle them? That rape is okay? That the greatest love stories involve physical and/or emotional abuse? When our youth swoon over territorial, paranoid, aggressive men – isn’t that a little scary?
I always knew my ideal mate would be a kind man with a sense of humor and the patience of a saint. Is that because those were the types of heroes I fell in love with in fiction? I don’t know. But I can’t say it isn’t. My fictional boyfriends were a different breed than Christian Grey. In fact, Peppa Winter’s lead in Destroyed (review to come) made me want to scream.
For grown women, have at it. We all have fantasies, secret longings we wouldn’t even share with a spouse, and that’s okay. What isn’t is the teaching of impressionable young women that pain equates to love, that controlling behavior is the definition of true commitment, and accepting abuse is a demonstration of our own devotion.
Don’t we want our children to be strong? I’ve focused here on the potential damage to girls, but there are plenty of works out there (both written and on television) in which boys are learning that meekness is preferable, respect is optional, and that the enlightened man is at the mercy of his wife.
I could be wrong here, but…in our efforts toward equality, I’m beginning to suspect we are only weakening both genders of our youth.