Decency, Integrity, and Respect in Romance Scenes

dead-reds-1317346-1279x885The #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.

16 thoughts on “Decency, Integrity, and Respect in Romance Scenes”

  1. Thanks, Morgan! I think its vital to recognize the behavior messages our stories send. I love James Bond films, but would never view him as a role model for romance. But so many writers are influenced by popular characters like this that they assume that’s the only way to create a strong and interesting hero. We need to create heroes that we would admire in real life, not just fictional characters that entertain us with rude antics.

  2. There is an old Italian fairy tale called “Sola, Luna, et Talia.” I will warn now, it’s not a nice story. I believe it was designed by a very wise storyteller to challenge young adults (11-14 years old, both boys and girls) to consider the ethics of consent and their civic responsibility in public, private, and home life. Every controversial part of this story was removed (probably by milquetoastes), and the plotless, antagonistless “safe” story is now known as Sleeping Beauty.
    But that original story is the blueprint for modern romances. Many publishing houses will not accept a story with a romantic element if the romance deviates from this formula. We live in a fallen world, and this fallen world would tell us that manly equals aggressive; that consent is not necessary as long as she has a good time; that it is natural for a woman’s lust to mold her to suit an abuser’s world; and that secrets are not sinful, so long as the abuser stays loyal to his victim.
    (Sorry, I have some really strong opinions about this.)
    As writers, especially as ones who espouse faith and inspiration, I believe we have a responsibility to tell a new story. One that doesn’t follow this blueprint. One that empowers health and hope. There are so many other stories in the world. Let’s find better ones on which to base our writing.

  3. Amen to that, Morgan. I heartily agree. There is so much more that I could add to this comment, but I’ll leave it there for now. 🙂

  4. I wish more authors shared your thoughts on this subject. To me , a story is more interesting if more is left to the imagination. I’m not saying it should go so far as to be prudish. But there is a fine line between decency and smut. Keep up the good work. Congratulations on your recent award.

  5. Absolutely true!
    I’ve long been severely uncomfortable with the way “romance” is portrayed in romances… and would advise almost every one of the modern heroines to punch ’em in the nose when they behave to inappropriately.
    Or else turn them in to the local ‘enforcers’ whatever they may be. 😉

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