This week I came across one of many book promotions in my Facebook feed and it struck me as wildly inappropriate. Then it hit me that I see a lot of book promotions that basically say the same thing, just not necessarily as candidly: "He won't take 'No' for an answer." Then I realized that I'm guilty of this, too.
That's supposed to make potential readers all tingly and excited, but I just went cold because it's a blatant endorsement of rape. You've heard the justifications: If she has an orgasm, is isn't really rape. She said "No," but she really meant yes.
With the ridiculously light sentence handed to a college student in California after being convicted of "twenty minutes of action," one might think that we'd take the absence of consent more seriously. Granted, acting provocatively and teasing to suddenly withdraw the invitation isn't fair to the poor guy you got all hot and bothered. But just as a woman who dresses to draw attention isn't asking to be assaulted, a man who's any sort of man at all should have have the self-control to stop when the answer is anything but a clear affirmation to continue.
The Thames Valley Police in the United Kingdom put together this beautifully clear, animated video on the issue of consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZwvrxVavnQ. I strongly recommend that everyone watch, listen, and take it to heart.
What also bothers me about the whole rape fantasy romance thing is that much of it's being written and published by young women whose formative years were likely inundated by public safety messages stating that no one has the right to touch you without your consent. Young women growing up these days cannot escape safety messages warning them to stay aware of the environment, not to walk alone in the dark, not to answer the door to strangers, and so forth. Today's adult women 35 years and younger have been raised in a culture of fear that also tells them they can do and be whatever they want to do and be.
A woman can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, but she better not invite the cute guy next door for dinner because he's a sexual predator in disguise.
As romance writers, our work is read by impressionable young women and maybe a few men. So, to the guys, here's a word of advice: These stories are fantasies that usually end in happily ever after, not prison sentences. To women, here's a word of advice: If your guy doesn't treat you with respect, then dump him. To fellow authors: Let's raise the bar and show our heroes treating our heroines with respect.
What a concept.