Friday, March 25, 2011

A Feminist's Penchant for Romance Novels

Trashy romance novels, the naughtier the better, are a hidden pleasure of mine. I first started reading them as a young adult. But even at that tender age I knew that the stories I read were not emotionally healthy.  If I prescribed to set out to find a mate using what I found in those books, I would be setting myself up for a world of hurt and somehow I realized that.  Eventually I abandoned reading romance all together because it simply was not compatible with my feminist perspective. 

Decades later I find myself back secretly reading romance novels once again. As much as I hate the idea of liking these books, I simply cannot seem to get enough of them and that really bothers my feminist side. These books depict alpha-male bad boys that often dominate, abuse, neglect and otherwise disrespect the female until they realize, from a variety of catalysts, the error in their ways and pledge their undying love and devotion. Yippee!!! The feminist in me is about ready to stick her finger down her throat, or a poke fork in her eye....or both. Yet firing up my Kindle to read the latest J.R.Ward book is the equivalent for me to tapping a vein is for a heroin addict. It has really bothered me that I, a self-proclaimed feminist, was willingly reading such drivel and finding it so very fulfilling. A very disturbing situation.

Then, as I was reading Orson Scott Card's Xenocide today, there was a passage, spoken through his character Valentine, that describes the genetic programming of human males and females. In short, the author posits that male genetic programming is that of the proverbial alpha-male; to inseminate as many females as possible, and to use force if necessary. The genetic programming of females is to attract the strongest and most virile male as a means of securing the most viable offspring. Everything to this point sounds typical to me; however, the next part caught my attention. Those same females seeking out the alpha-males for procreation also have a drive to attract the most stable males so as to have the greatest chance of them sticking around to provide protection, assistance and sustenance for the mother and young child. But, you may conclude, as I do, that that alpha-male who wants to fuck everything in sight is probably not the same guy that wants to hang around and provide for a newborn baby and a stressed out mommy. Sounds like he'd be hightailing it outta there, right fast.

I don't know what kind of cruel joke mother nature is playing on us women, but these two directives, branded into the human female basic genetic operating procedures, are completely incompatible.  We are, by our very genetics, set up to be disappointed. If we follow our genetic predisposition to be attracted to the biggest, strongest, fiercest males, we will absolutely be the most unlikely to find men that are family-man types to settle down with. But in reality that is exactly what we want them to become ... after they've mated with us. Sad but true. These alpha-males are not likely to be neutered and become non-roaming docile monogamists and yet we delude ourselves into thinking we can tame the testosterone coursing through their veins. They will of course continue in their genetic programming which compels them to spread their seed far and wide, yes, while we're stuck home raising the kiddos. OR, if we are feminists, we chose our mates not based on our biological drives but instead with our minds, choosing those partners that are long-term relationship material. Of course this is a much wiser and more compatible choice for the long haul.

But there is something to be said about the lack of physical passion of a primal nature when you pick a mate using the cerebral criteria of stable, reliable, family man, instead of those used by our genetic encoding which lean toward that untamed rogue. It's a trade off we make willingly.

So is it any wonder that, when choosing our recreational reading material, feminists (often secretly) are drawn to those trashy romance novels with the big bad alpha-male, that dominates and conquers the enthralled, often independent, willful and defiant female in a heated erotic passion that's hot enough to melt your lipstick in its case, and then that same fella turns into the hopelessly in love, devoted and faithful family-man we want to settle down with? It's that alpha-male lover turned devoted family-man mate combination that completely rocks our female worlds. I could never figure out why it was such a pleasurable experience for me reading such silliness until now. I mean, I knew it was insane to think the alpha-male would behave this way. It made no logical sense at all. Looking at it using Card's genetic programming passage though, it makes total sense. These romance novels are pressing the two most basic and incompatible female genetic hot buttons in a very effective 1-2 sucker punch. My feminist me really doesn't stand much chance in stopping my genetically ingrained reaction to it, outside of simply refusing to allow myself to open such books and start reading. 

It's a fantasy world. And as long as I'm an adult that understands that this isn't something I'm likely to encounter in the real world, it's a safe enough pastime. My concern is in the young impressionable girls that read this stuff and think it's the ideal and something they can actually attain in a mate. It is the setup, then, for heartbreak, dysfunctional relationships, and ultimately divorce. I'm proud that the young girl in me saw these books for what they were at a young age. I'm also proud that I figured out why I'm back at it, reading these same books, all these years later. It's an innate female genetic predisposition that is better fed in the fantasy world of my head via the pages of a sizzling book than between the sheets with some hotty boy from the gym or off the football field. And maybe eventually our future female generations won't have this unnecessary genetic remnant that, if followed now with our monogamistic social pressures, can only break a young woman's heart.

1 comment:

  1. My goodness I know what you mean. I am so thoroughly impressed with how you captured the wrestling of my two inner beings. I'm happy the artist in you won because your words are very much what I needed to read.