I read a ton of YA and NA romance, and I’ve noticed a trend for some time now that bothers me. For a long time, I ignored it and let it go, but it has gotten to a point that I feel I need to speak up.
Dear teen and adult readers: Jealousy, possessiveness and violence do not equal love.
I like an alpha male as much as anyone, but I find so many authors turn their male leads into brutes. If your hero punches a guy in the nose for having a perfectly innocent conversation with the heroine, he has anger and control issues. That’s not cool. If the girl can’t speak on the phone with the boy who has been her best friend since they were in diapers without lying to the hero about it for fear he will lash out, there is a problem. If the heroine is afraid of the hero’s violent, jealous outbursts, that is abuse.
I’m not talking about the normal every day jealousy within reason. If the girl has given the hero a reason to mistrust her, then I can see him being upset or cautious when he witnesses a situation that looks bad. But if an entire relationship is built around him controlling her that is wrong.
My concern here is that by romanticizing this bad behavior, authors are sending the wrong message to young women. I won’t say which books I’m talking about, because I’m sure you all have your own examples, but I finished a book this morning where the entire story revolved around the hero and his brothers being psychotically controlling over the girls in the book, including their (not so) little sister. While the guys were acting like bullies, the girls giggled and made excuses about how much the guys love them and want to protect them.
This is not normal behavior.
When I was in high school, my best friend was a boy. We each dated plenty of other people. Whenever a guy expressed an interest in me, I let him know up front the role that Phillip played in my life. If he had a problem with it, then he was free to move on to someone else. That said, most guys were cool with it and didn’t give me any grief. So if real guys can be reasonable and understanding, why can’t book boyfriends?
Oh, I know. The jealousy creates a conflict and thus adds to the plot. If this was happening in only a few books, I wouldn’t have an issue with it. If in the end the hero learns his lesson and grows from it, I’d be over-the-moon excited. But lately it seems to be the main plot point in most of the YA and NA romances I read, and it is always the heroine giving in to the hero’s ridiculous rules and demands in the end.
Authors, I’m pleading with you, please be a little more responsible about the messages you are sending. Be careful equating romance with things like possessiveness and control. Would you want your daughter dating a guy who treated her in this way? If not, don’t do it to your heroines.