So earlier this week, Twitter gave a certain author a pretty thorough dragging on what was supposed to be a Q&A set up by her PR to promote her new book. I watched the debacle unfold in classic Twitter fashion with unrestrained glee, but there came a point when it stopped being funny and shit just got weird.
Now I have no pity or sympathy for James. This antagonistic environment is created and fostered by herself and her readers. And, to be honest, most of those #AskELJames responses were just truth bombs blowing up her timeline. But as the day wore on, I began to see more tweets blaming her for perpetuating rape culture and glorifiying an abusive relationship and misogyny and wait, wait, wait. Just hold the fuck up.
Isn’t that a lot of romance novels?
Yes, I know romance is a genre made up of women writers. Yes, this is the 21st century and yes, we are womanists and feminists and we run the world with Beyonce as our queen bae. But let’s just be honest. Let’s just be real here. Some of the best-selling romance novels are based in misogyny.
Rescue fantasy. Hero fantasy. Tie-me-up-and-make-me fantasy. Kidnap-me-and-pretend-rape-me fantasy. Ladies, we want to be taken, swept up, done in by a man.
Is that wrong?
Isn’t that what FSOG is at its core? A rescue+tie-me-up-and-make-me fantasy?
I think yes.
Now don’t get me wrong. I get that FSOG has hugely problematic themes and a lot of those tweets called her out on that and with good reason. She misrepresented BDSM. Her hero was a crazy stalker, abusive, borderline serial killer. I get that. And every-blessed-body was calling her out on it. But I found myself wondering…where does entertainment end and education begin? I don’t believe authors have any duty to educate, only to entertain. Some of us may choose to do both, but it should never be a requirement. So why doesn’t that same courtesy extend to James? Does she have a responsibility to make sure her readership knows that they shouldn’t try that shit at home? I don’t think so. Common sense ain’t common, but it’s not her fault people are stupid or abusive or rapey.
Almost every romance novel has a problematic theme. Women getting involved with dangerous men, bad boys that they are certain they can change which–HELLO–doesn’t work at all in real life at all ever. Or maybe she is just not ready for romance. Maybe she’s broken and needs to fix herself and instead gets dickmatized and thinks that is the fix. I’m just saying, if we started evaluating every romance in the same way that we have scrutinized FSOG, we would see a lot of those same themes in our work.
I know this may sound like I’m rethinking my position on FSOG and maybe I am. This doesn’t mean I like the books. This doesn’t mean I will ever recommend the books. It doesn’t mean I condone her bad author behavior or support her in any way. What it does mean is that I will no longer be involved in any sort of mob behavior concerning her books. To be honest, I have bigger issues than FSOG to conquer when it comes to getting my books read by more mainstream readers. And maybe that would all be easier if I swallowed my opinions and started promoting my books as the POC version of FSOG, but I can’t and I won’t do that. All I can do is pull back from the fray and that’s what I’m doing.
So I’m done whining about those books and that author and her poor characterization and repetitive text and generally shitty plot.
Okay…NOW I’m really done. LOL.