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The Popularization of Romance Fiction on “Booktok”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tulane chapter.

The trend of hating on teenage girls for trend-setting is nothing new – it has been part of how the patriarchy has continued to demean women from a very young age. From making Uggs popular, and pumpkin spice lattes more than just a fad but an (almost) annual staple, to TikTok dancing and Squishmallows, teenage girls have a huge influence over the way pop culture “swings”. All of the things I listed above are commonplace hot topics, or were when first introduced. That being said, some have fallen into the Gen Z hands, and some have simply gone out of style to be replaced at the snap of someone’s fingers with a new comfy shoe (I’d argue Crocs are making a HUGE comeback, and I’m here for it. Just not here for low rise jeans). One constant, however, that has continued to captivate the teenage girl’s attention for years, since the invention of the genre, is the romance novel. The romance novel, a pivotal moment for some, and a never-ending journey into the depths of your local secondhand bookshop or your beloved Barnes & Nobles for others, is a key piece of pop culture that has had its market pushed by the 14 to 25-year-old consumer since its conception because of the way romance is largely marketed to young women. Compared to the toxic and ever-changing environment of the modern dating scene, young women crave an escape and distraction from the tomfoolery that young men continue to get away with. General disclaimer: I am very happily taken in an unexpected relationship that has generally changed my very negative opinion on young men. This man might just be the love of my life, but don’t tell anyone). That being said, as an outsider (currently) and previously an observer of the dating scene (since I was really bad at casually dating), I have some opinions on the positive influence and escape that romance novels provide for young women. 

To frame my argument in laymen’s terms, because I simply hate fancy speak for the sake of fancy speak, I’m providing bullet points: 

Thesis: Romance arguments are important for the young and developing woman. 


Please see my bulleted list below. 

  1. They provide an escape into a fictional universe of romance for the heartbroken, excited, and generally fanciful imaginations.
    1. Whether you’re a young woman looking for an escape into the fictious realms of medieval knights on white horses, a dystopian adventure-seeker with a hot cyborg, a cowboy romance for an elderly couple that reconnect after forty years apart, or any other classic romance novel trope you can think of, the romance genre has you covered. These favorite fictional escapes are perfect for hard-working women when they just need a f&*king break from the real world. Had your heart broken? Read a romance. Need a break from school? Read a romance. Do you have an unyielding desire to do nothing but still feel like you’re being productive? Read a romance. Picking up on the pattern here? While some may argue that escapism is a tool to avoid your problems, I am a firm believer that you should never force yourself to feel something until you’re ready to accept it as its whole. Therefore: Distraction is perfectly healthy if it is what feels happy to you. Complete avoidance of working through an issue, however? Now that is, unfortunately, an actual issue. Everyone would avoid their problems if they all reasonably could. 
  2. They foster a healthy relationship with a young woman’s sexuality and romantic attraction.
    1. Let’s say you come from a super conservative family and you get your hands on some online romance literature, or you go to your local library and unbeknownst to you, you pick up a book that has sex in it. At first, you might be confused, and feel like what you’re reading is wrong. But then after you get into it, maybe you learn a thing or two about sex! Maybe you learn what it is to be sexually awakened! Maybe you’re already experienced, and you’ve cultivated a new fantasy for yourself to keep your brain entertained. My point is this: There is some good sex education in erotic romance. It should be noted that when I say “sex education” I do not explicitly mean about contraceptives, STIs, and general healthcare, I mean education about what sex is, how it should feel, and the possibilities of sex. I think that fiction is a really great tool to spread the good word about enthusiastic consent, especially as it continues to pop up more and more in novels! Enthusiastic consent as portrayed in erotic romances allows a reader to picture how good sex should make you feel. 
  3. The field of romance novels of all types are dominated by female authors!
    1. Newsflash! The romantic fiction genre is #dominated by bada** female authors! In one study by Lois & Gregson, “Sneers and leers: Romance writers and gendered sexual stigma”, 2015, it was estimated that almost 99% of romance authors identify as female Crazy? No. Women are so cool. I love women (we should all love women). Why is it important that its dominated by women? Because I think that women need more female role models, and what better way to find a role model than to fall in love with the creativity and written musings of another woman? 
  4. They’re fun, and great for girly bosses to turn our brains off to.
    1. This point is summed up by reminding ourselves that we all need a break, and we all should find pleasure in something that isn’t related to your work/school/other obligations! 

While all of these points are strictly opinion based, I still feel that the importance of romance fiction is actually pretty high, especially for helping remove the stigma around sex and women enjoying sexual pleasure! Sure, it’s not the witch trials, but women are still persecuted for sexual freedom in our day in age, which is why I believe the popularization of romantic fiction is important for girls. In sum, girls are cool. Women are cool. And above all, romance novels? Yeah, they’re super cool. 

Just a bubbly blonde from rural Virginia who strives to contribute wholesome content and good vibes! When I'm not doing work for my triple major, you can find me writing and reading in some of my favorite local coffee shops, socializing literally anywhere I run into people I know, or walking the streets of New Orleans in the pursuit of my next "big" thing. An eternal optimist, and an inspired go-getter, I'm always ready to jump in to anything thrown my way. To quote Lady Gaga, I believe that we're all "on the edge of glory".