Since I did a top 5 list, obviously I had to do a bottom 5. You had to have seen this coming. So, without further delay, here’s my 5 least favorite tropes of the romance genre! Enjoy!
(CW for mention of abuse)
I don’t mind insta-attraction, one-night-stand stories, insta-lust… but when I met you yesterday and today you’re saying we should get immortally married, I’m going to run far and fast in the other direction and expect any sane protagonist to do the same. Some exceptions can be made for star-crossed lovers who’ve met in previous lives and already know all about each other, but outside of that unusual situation, it’s just a bit… creepy. At least, it is to me.
4. The Virgin
I don’t mind main characters who are virgins, that’s not the issue. My issue with this trope is the fetishization of virginity and the slut-shaming of non-virgins. I can see from an author’s perspective that it might be easier not to write up a whole sexual history for a main character, but it’s also just not as realistic in a lot of cases. There’s also a certain judgement that often feels like it’s being cast not just on the ‘slutty’ characters who aren’t the virginal main character, but potentially on the reader. I get plenty of judgement from my mother, thank you very much. I don’t need to be told I’m impure or unclean for having touched more than one set of genitalia in my life.
3. Love Triangles
I think this is on a lot of people’s list. From my perspective, I just want everyone to be polyamorous like me! You like both love interests A and B? Have both! But this isn’t realistic for monogamous people, I understand. In the case of monogamous characters, I just get annoyed by the existence of two love interests. It’s usually obvious who’ll end up with the main character in the end, so it doesn’t create any suspense. It just makes the main character look like an idiot for not being able to make up their mind already.
Also, it’s never a real triangle. It’s a V, with the person at the point having the interest/being interested in two other people at the points. The people at the points are never interested in each other. Now a *proper* love triangle is something that would be interesting to read.
2. Forgiven Cheaters
Just because I’m polyamorous doesn’t mean I’m okay with cheaters. In fact, may polyamorous people hate cheaters *more* because in our relationships, you are allowed to be with more than one person, so choosing to instead lie to a partner to cheat makes the transgression so much more hurtful.
If someone cheats, they’re demonstrating that they’re okay with lying to and/or hurting their partner. In fiction, I want to be able to adore the love interest and desire them. Such a transgression is an instant turn-off, in my opinion. I want better for my main characters. And in the case of cheating main characters… I want to be able to root for them, and that kills it for me.
1. Abuse/”I Own You”/Alpha Men
And the winner for my least favorite trope ever… is kinda a few that are all related, so I’m putting them together all rolled into one under the category of “Abuse”.
Why are so many (usually cis/straight) romance genre male love interests just… abusive? It’s not cool to stalk people. To control when they see friends. To take them from their family. To imprison them. To demand that you never speak to members of the opposite sex. To me, the “I own you” attitude some romantic interests have towards their partners is an extension of the abusive partner. To claim ownership is to devalue someone as a person, to see them as an object that can be possessed.
You see this sort of thing a lot in paranormal romance, where so-called ‘Alpha Males’ get aggressive and possessive over their ‘mates’ to the point of violence, or at least threats. Somehow, we the readers (and the main characters) are meant to see this as endearing, that they care so much. It’s not endearing. It’s terrifying. In real life, the second any partner tries to claim actual ownership of me, I’m out. The only possible exception would be for a BDSM relationship, but even there’d be extensive discussions for consent, and for books I would want to read respectful aftercare and humanization outside of the BDSM scenes as well as a consent discussion scene.
So writers, please just stop making love interests abusive. There are better ways to stick two unlikely characters together in a location than to have one kidnap the other. Better ways to show devotion than to stalk someone. Possessive obsession is not love, it’s dangerous. Let’s stop romanticizing it, as people internalizing the idea that this is okay leads to real world problems of people putting up with bad situations because they believe it’s okay.
I know some people like this one, but it just makes me cringe when romantic partners in books refer to each other as “my mate”. Nothing inherently wrong with it, I just personally don’t like it.
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