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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

In 2022, romance novels were the most lucrative and highest selling genre of fiction. Infatuation over Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry’s books has exploded over the past year, growing between 100% and 300% in sales. Clearly, these books are good, right? They’re interesting, can’t-put-down, romantic love stories. But do they portray realistic relationships? Are they even healthy for our brains? What are the possible implications of reading unrealistic romance stories?

Romance novels are commonly seen as written for women, by women. For the most part, this is true: over 80% of romance novels have been written by women. But women can still perpetuate stereotypes of other women and ideals of the patriarchy. Romance novels are riddled with gender roles and the trope of a man coming in and saving the day. Any author can craft characters with no imperfections, or skillfully written ones. These are both overarching issues in literature for young women.

Romance is written with an emphasis on the wrong things: infatuation, miscommunication, arguing and longing. But it completely cuts out the little things, like awkwardness and uncomfortable communication that can come early in a relationship, ruining the hope for a realistic and healthy portrayal. This can cause poor choices in relationships for women and perpetuation of feeling like we need to act a certain way in front of men. A scene often portrayed in romance novels is sex without the use of a condom or birth control or any discussion of safety in that regard. This is not sex-positive, nor does it portray anything worth emulating for women reading. 

Romance has become inclusive in the sense of bringing in topics of domestic violence, single-parenting or other struggles that are realistic in a sense. But they are still heavily idealized and unhealthy portrayals of love. The solution to this for individuals is to consume romance that is inclusive and realistic — uplift those authors instead. Read queer romance stories written by people who understand how to represent their characters. Read romance that prioritizes discussions of consent. Find authors that romanticize healthy communication and respect. Don’t always go for the trending romance novel. Women and the way we love and who we are does not need to be commoditized. There is a certain line being crossed within the genre of romance that has been excused under the guise of fiction. But our literature needs to match our views and respect for women in the world if romance novels are truly going to be for us.

Grace is a UNH Philosophy major she loves reading, writing, poetry & philosophy