The #metoo movement and recent exposure of sexual harassment and more in the Christian publishing world has made me take a closer look at how romance is portrayed in stories. What I’ve discovered has given me pause. The very things and situations we are condemning in the real world have quietly slip into books and perhaps it’s time to take a look at these situations and ask are we feeding into the very thing we want to abolish?
I’ll give two examples. In a recent webcomic I’ve been reading, the female main character has clearly shown her heart to be attached to one character. But another male character continues to intrude into her space (pinning her to the wall, making suggestive comments, and trying to kiss her). It’s the usual love triangle, but I can’t help but think if this was going on in the real world, this character is crossing lines when it comes to this woman. She’s told him no, and he’s not respecting her words, or her space, or her being. It might seem romantic since he’s a hot, muscly, sexy guy, which hormones can make it seem like the woman is being pulled toward him (and she is, because hormones), but she doesn’t like the guy.
Another example is from the manga/anime Seven Deadly Sins. The main character repeatedly looks up the female character’s skirt. At first she doesn’t know what to think, then she shyly tells him no. And she keeps telling him now, but he keeps on doing it. It’s a running joke and one that is disrespectful, rude, and definitely crossing lines. And he’s the hero of the story!
These are just two examples I see in stories (I won’t even talk about Fifty Shades of you know what). Situations and scenes where a man is using his power, influence, and ability to seduce a woman. This is not romantic, my friends. This is predatory and not how I would want my daughters pursued by a man!
The strongest, most romantic man is the one who looks beyond his desires and wants to do what’s best for the woman he loves. He shows her respect. He listens to her words. He acts with integrity. Does this mean he’s a prude? Not at all! It means he keeps his heart and his actions in check even when he is longing for her.
As writers, one way we can help the readers in our sphere of influence is to show what real romance looks like, and to shun scenes where a man is taking advantage of a woman (and vice versa). If we want to help stop this predatory view of love, it starts with the love scenes in our books. Let us create male characters who are passionate, but keep their hearts in check and show respect and decency toward female characters. And female characters who stand up for themselves and tell a man firmly no (and that is perfectly okay for a woman to say no to a man, and for a man to listen). Perhaps by doing this, we can help usher in a real world of decency, integrity, and respect for both men and women.