1/11/15

Why I'm so Tough on Sex in Reviews

I feel like I spend a lot of time in my reviews critiquing and criticizing the relationships and sex in the books I review. So, I want to take a moment to explain why I do this. I'm afraid I come off like a crazed feminist or a prude or a strange hybrid of the two. In reality, I probably am.

I put a high value on sex as a Christian. I won't make any apologies about that. It's beautiful, sacred and important. Because of this, and living in the cultural we do and doing the reviews that I do I had a decision to make: to review books with sex or not. Ultimately I decided to go ahead and do it ((as long as it wasn't erotica or entirely centered on sex)) I had to evaluate myself and my reaction to the sex scenes in books, I'll be blunt with you, I'm okay with reading them because they usually just make me chuckle and think that it isn't really like that ((which is WHY it's written that way. It's fantasy)) instead of leading me into sin. So, that's why I'm okay with reading some of it even though I value sex a lot more than the casual way it's used in our society.

Secondly, I put a high value on women because I am one. I spend a lot of time talking to the young women in my life about what appropriate relationships should and should not look like. We talk about consent, abuse, and manipulation. So, I imagine for these two reasons the issues in the sex and relationships in these books stick out to me a lot more than they do others that don't think about/spend as much time talking about these issues as I do.

I do go into reading always with the understanding that the authors don't generally share my beliefs, and that's okay. I go into all contemporary romance expecting to see sex scenes. So it isn't that I'm offended by the fact that there is sex, it's that I'm worried about the message it sends and the way it comes off in certain cases.

There is a right and a wrong way to write sex scenes and alpha males. Unfortunately, I see a lot more of the wrong way than the right. Don't get me wrong, I've seen it done well several times. I've also seen it done wrong. When I see it done wrong, and by wrong I mean our alpha male is borderline abusive and the lines of consent are quite blurred, I will point it out.

Why? I think it's important. Especially if the women reading these books are young and/or new to relationships. Yes, it's fiction. But, you'd be surprised how much we retain from fiction.

A few of the red flag things I'm referencing are, but not limited to: stalker-like behavior, anger/outrage at the female lead's choice of friends/company, changing the way she dresses/talks/eats/lives, etc. without her consent and against her will ((she would never wear___ but he wanted her to, so he bullied her into it and it's played off as sweet)), taking her somewhere against her will ((different than a surprise)), being forceful/grabby, demeaning her thoughts/feelings on a specific matter, and pushing an issue that she's uncertain about even after she's expressed doubt ((could be sex, or something else)).

I actually feel terrible whenever I have to include something like this in a review, but I'm not going to stop doing it. First off, I feel I owe it to my readers to always be honest with them. Secondly, this portrayal of relationships is all too common, and something needs to be done to say that even though it is mainstream, it really shouldn't be.

I'm not one to pit author against author, so I'm not name-dropping, but there are a few I can think of off the top of my head that do alpha males well book after book, so it can be done.

I would also like to point out that if I include something like this in a review it isn't so much a criticism of the author as on our culture. I think 9.5/10 times the author and most of their readers didn't even realize it was an issue. That is what is most troubling.

So, if you see a review critiquing the relationships and sex, don't let it be a deterrent from the book or author, rather let it be an eye opener to our culture and what we can and should be doing better in this area. We should not be normalizing and romanticizing abusive tendencies.