#MeToo is challenging mainstream society to critically examine long-held assumptions about sexual scripts and femme pleasure.By Michelle Carroll Lately it feels like it's nearly impossible to go a single day without hearing a viral story of sexual violence. And of course, this is a good thing. Finally the pain and shame that was previously whispered to friends and confidantes is being taken seriously by popular media. The #MeToo movement’s goal is to promote widespread culture change—from abolishing violent sexual scripts accepted by our cultural consciousness to deliberately creating space to talk openly about healthy sex, affirmative consent, and respecting boundaries. In the short term, their work is to make sure that survivors who come forward are not only believed, but supported. However, the engines of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements is the pain and trauma of women, and unfortunately there is nearly an infinite supply of sexual trauma in our communities. https://twitter.com/rachie_claire/status/929082629877624833 But what about the survivors and victims among us who want to read something else? The 24/7 news cycle focused on victimization does not help us feel sexy or safe. Even before #MeToo, dating and sex were fraught with minefields (especially if cisgender men are your jam). Healthy, fulfilling sex was a goal that one worked towards, not the inevitable conclusion of a Friday night at a local bar or dance club. We deserve fun, exciting, hot, steamy, sexy time too! In my experience, the only place to get consistently consensual sex with a diverse array of communicative people is from a romance novel.
Romance RenaissanceIt is a truth universally acknowledged that romance novels get a bad rap in popular culture. Literary critics and general readers imagine romance novel readers and writers as sexually repressed, white, suburban moms. But, in reality, romance writers and readers are a diverse group of critical thinkers. Without fanfare, a small legion of intersectional feminist romance novels has burst onto the market, reinvigorating a genre long grown stale by the domination of white, cisgender women authors. The romance novel genre is deceptively large and complex, with specific tropes and rules that challenge authors to realize unique characters within the strict confines of their chosen genre. And of course, every novel must end with a happily ever after for the characters. There are subgenres for all preferences: contemporary romance novels, cowboy romance novels, regency romance novels, historical romance novels, sci-fi romance novels, fantasy romance novels. And there are tropes within each of these subgenres that define how the author will tell the story of falling in love. Some popular examples in the genre are: the “(white) alpha hero” who uses his masculinity and white privilege to control the world around him, including, in some ways, his love interest; the “disguise” trope is when either one or both of the main characters pretends to be something they aren’t; “the fake engagement” trope is when the love interests agree to a fake engagement to circumvent some external problem but ultimately fall in love for real. Although a majority of romance novel subgenres are not predicated on violence against women or the attitudes that lead to violence against marginalized peoples and identities, it’s easy to replicate real world inequalities in romance novels if the author is not fully conscious of these lived realities.
As sexist and misogynistic as it is heteronormative, this inordinate value placed on romance and marriage is consistently used to devalue single and unmarried women, painting us as inherently unworthy and pathetic, too difficult and too picky.Romance is not universal, or necessary. However, due to the way that romance has been heralded as a fundamental part of human experience (and even non-human animal experience in some instances), this is something that many people will disagree with. So, I will say it again. Romance is not universal, or necessary. The idea that it is necessary is one that is deeply embedded among societal expectations and permissions about relationships (and sex), and it is imperative for us to understand that our experiences with romance are not universal and that all orientations are valid. To many people, romance is a necessary part of their lives, and that is fair. For others, however, romance is a foreign and sometimes impossible concept. For some, romantic entanglements easily become toxic. For some, romantic involvements easily trigger many anxieties. For some, romantic situations are traumatic. The term amatonormativity, coined by Elizabeth Blake, refers to the “widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.” It constructs romantic relationships as inherently superior and more necessary than non-romantic ones. This pervasive idea is damaging for everyone, as Elizabeth Brake details in her scholarships on marriage and policy, but especially so for those on the aromantic spectrum and others who fall outside of the heteronormative monogamous model of romance. Amatonormativity erases the significance of familial, platonic, and queerplatonic friendships/relationships. So much so, that we refer to romantic partners as “significant other.” As a largely heteronormative concept, it is one of the driving forces behind mind-boggling and widely accepted cultural myths like "men and women can't be friends,” because it assumes that romance, and by extension, sex are the default in relationships between men and women. It's also why so many people abandon friendships and neglect other people when they start dating someone new. And why the contemporary concept of marriage is viewed as the end goal of dating, despite the fact that marriage is neither wanted or needed by many people for legitimate reasons.
Related: OUR IDEAS OF ROMANCE ARE ABUSIVE
We are not allowed to hold someone emotionally hostage until they give us what we want, forcing them to swallow their own feelings, desires, and needs in order to satisfy our own. That's not romance. That's abuse.This year, Vulture declared that the grand romantic gesture will never die. It's become such a popular trope in “chick flicks” and the like, including John Cusack and his boom box. Movies like Say Anything (1989) gave rise to Ted Mosby, who grated on our nerves throughout nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother with this type of dramatic display to win the hearts of several women, none of whom turned out to be the mother. As an industry staple, I don't see it disappearing from rom-coms and related narratives any time soon, but these sort of public pity parties that play on people's empathy in order to achieve an end are not as romantic as television, movies, and music would have us believe. In fact, they are more akin to abuse. Many of the tunes that we consider to be our favorite love songs have lyrics that are nothing short of harassment and stalking. I happen to be a big fan of The Script’s “The Man Who Can't Be Moved” and I listen to it often, fully aware of its implications and its failures. The song intends to tell a story about a lost love and what one man is willing to do to have this woman back in his life, but the story that it ends up telling is about an attempt to manipulate her into rekindling a relationship with a very public display because he cannot handle their separation.
It’s an ableist assumption that people with mental health struggles can’t be together -- it suggests that only neurotypical people are “good” at relationships. Welcome to Crazy Talk: a mental health advice column written by yours truly, a mentally ill and queer
Venus will be retrograde this time in Aries, making us particularly restless, quick-tempered and hasty. We may be want to explore where the “grass is greener." Venus, the planet that astrologically rules love, beauty and money, will be retrograde until April 15.