What Romance Novels Got Wrong

Romance novels like 50 Shades, Crossfire, After, even the Twilight series got it all wrong. Poor innocent clumsy girl needs saving from a successful, often rich man who is usually reformed but still harboring some deep, dark past. Girl gives up said life to go willingly with successful man into his world and is thus swept off her feet into a mind-blowing happily ever after filled with nothing but sexcapades and riches. Even our beloved Disney sets us up to believe that we (the inexperienced woman) need to be rescued. 

So that’s what I thought life was supposed to be, how could I not? Bring on the princes!

By age 6, I wanted to be the princess. By 16, I was trying to be the damsel in distress. By 19, I was sure that every boy must be a secret millionaire or prince in hiding. And why not, that was what was constantly portrayed to me. Even Pretty Woman seemed glamorous! 

By the time I was married, 50 Shades was telling me that I was supposed to be having mind-blowing sex every day, multiple times a day, that lasted for hours at a time, and that I was supposed to always be at the ready. Wait…WHAT?? I have stuff to do!

Decades after I left the Disney image, and now I’m being sold a message that as a woman, I should be ready to get on my knees to please my man?! Not only please him, but I should be “salivating” for his manhood day and night—Ummm…huh uh.

May I also point out that last I checked there weren’t many cagilionaires just roaming the streets ready to sweep ladies off for dinner in Paris or shopping in Milan. Sadly, none of my friends are married to cabillionaires who own hotels or private islands! Clearly, I must not know the right people! And why aren’t there more trillionaires lying in wait?

So, after an off-balance upbringing wrapped in beautiful fantasy, I’m just what, dropped in real life? Yup. Left here to ponder my virility (I’m a busy woman, sexy time eight times a day? No thank you), my choice in life partner (only a hundredaire), and how to break this whole cycle before my daughter falls victim!

Don’t get me wrong, we watch Disney, live Disney, love Disney, and cruise Disney, BUT as we watch the movies and dote on the princesses, we have an open dialogue about what it actually means when Ariel chooses to change who she is and leave her family behind for her prince. We talk about why you don’t need to change in order for someone to love you. Yes, I let my little princess grow in the fantasies, and wear the dresses, but I won’t let her drink the Kool-Aid! When we ONLY live in the fantasies, they start to become reality and that’s not the reality I want my daughter to think is right. 

She’s far too young to read steamy romance novels, but there is enough lovey-ness in the tween shows she does watch. So I point out how Gabriella doesn’t change who she is to be with Troy Bolton (love me some HSM), and when he begins to act like a punk, she calls him out on it. We talk about how Merida likes fighting and riding and isn’t sitting around waiting for a prince to come marry her. And even though Rapunzel is stuck in a tower, we’ve talked at great length about how resourceful she was using that frying pan to protect herself—even though she then leaves with the stranger which is a whole other conversation!

The bottom line is this: fantasy becomes reality when that’s all you surround yourself with. I like romance novels just as much as the next person, but focusing on that fiction alone can distort reality. Walking around turned on every minute of every day, isn’t necessarily reality. You’re a woman who has a million things to do, or a mom who has to make more decisions in one day than should be legal. If you don’t immediately “quiver” at the sight of your partner’s “engorged member,” you for sure aren’t alone! And if you find yourself needing to be rescued, dust yourself and pull out your inner strength cause you are so much more than a damsel in distress!

Marsha Roth
“I’m Marsha, the devoted wife of a Nebraska Husker fan, mother to a sweet laid back 11-year-old boy named Kellen and a 9-year-old spunky know-it-all named Rowen. I am a Kansas City native, proud Northwest Bearcat Alumni, and enthusiastic 4th grade teacher! I enjoy stolen moments where I can read in peace, indulging in chocolate chip cookies whenever possible, tending to my vegetable garden and finding new ways to annoy my daughter! My goal in life is to be my authentic self, follow the motto of ‘She did what she could,’ and share that with other moms!”