Slate recently had a portrait gallery of erotic romance authors photographed in real life. The comments section (note to everyone: Don't read the comments) included some posts by people who thought that these ladies write erotic romance because they can't get a date in real life.
As if comments like that aren't frustrating enough, there's the fact that female authors often get asked questions in interviews that male authors would never get asked. In Whack Magazine, the double standard is exposed when the interviewer asks male authors Chuck Wendig and Stephen Blackmoore questions normally reserved for female authors:
Do you think you are living a vicariously slutty life through your characters?
How do you balance writing and touring without feeling like you are abandoning your family?
You are known for your potty mouth and books that feature characters that are, well, I’ll just say “easy” and lots of violence. What do you think your children will say about that?
Do you feel pressure to have children before it’s too late?
Ideal relaxation day?
Let's switch that up for a moment, shall we? What if we're talking about male authors? Would they get the same interview questions? Would comments at Slate be the same if it were, say, George R.R. Martin pictured in a portrait gallery?
Do you think GRRM writes what a great swordsman (not a euphemism) Jaime Lannister is because he can't really swing a sword in real life? How about Vladimir Nabokov? Would people say he wrote Lolita because he couldn't get a twelve year-old girl to fall in love with him? Did Ian Fleming create James Bond because he wasn't able to be a spy in real life?
To bring it back to erotic romance, specifically to comments on the Slate piece, would people suggest that male erotic authors write what they do because they can't find a real partner?
The Wendig/Blackmoore questions show the same inequality, positing that female authors are living the lives of their characters, that they should be their characters in some way, and that their writing is deleterious to or a reflection of their own characters in some way, and their choice of profession might somehow compromise their personal lives.
We can't add anything to the discussion that hasn't already been said ad nauseam, but romance readers have had the same double standards applied to them and their choice of genre as well—questions that pry into a reader's personal life, either about their amped-up sexual drive or their lack of a real sex life, how their family feels about their choice of reading, and what the characters they read about reflect on their own morality.
What kinds of prejudice have you encountered about the genre you like to read? What's the worst thing anyone has said? How do you combat those kinds of comments? Help our community out!
Megan Frampton is the Community Manager for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site as well as an author. Female in gender. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son and puts bacon on the table both literally and figuratively.