The first time I saw a variation of this question was about seven years ago. Fifty Shades of Grey had become a phenomenon, I was reading romance, but nothing like I do today, and one of my friends told me I had to read this book. Now, this IS NOT a debate on the merit of Fifty Shades of Grey. Like every other book in the history of the world, some people love it, and some people hate it. I have a point, so stay with me here. I read the book and loved it, shared it with a friend who shared it with a friend, and BOOM! A mini-book club of sorts formed. We never really met, just texting back and forth and gossiping about how hot Christian Grey was, though he was just an imaginary man in our minds. Then one day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I see post after post from people on my friend’s list talking about this horrible book. Bet you can’t guess? Yep, Fifty Shades of Grey. We were going to burn in hell, ruining our children, promoting abuse against women, and (this one is my favorite) our husbands were going to leave us because of our unrealistic expectations of sex.
Now, if you ask my husband, he would tell you Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t change anything in our sex life except maybe the frequency of which we had it. Hence, baby girl #2, or as my friends and I tease, my Fifty Shades baby. She is going to hate me for that one day. Maybe somewhere in the world, some women read that book and decided that they needed a different husband. I think, with pretty good accuracy, I could guess that the majority of women were not affected to the point of having an affair and leaving their partners.
So the question again, are romance books changing the standards and expectations of sex. My opinion? No. But I’m not an expert, and I don’t have any data to prove anything. Do you feel like after reading romance books that you expect more from your partner? Flip the script. What if your partner was the one reading romance? Would they have a right to expect more from you? If my husband expected me to be at the ready like most of the heroines in romance books, we’d be in trouble.
For most of us, books are an escape — a story of two people falling in love that is condensed down into mere pages. The author isn’t going to keep you in engaged if half of the book is arguing over money, or who is going to pick the kids up, or the night you both got food poisoning and had to share one bathroom while you barfed. Let’s not forget that most love stories start when the two people meet and end when they get their HEA. What was it like when you were first in love? I’m sure there were butterflies, excitement, anticipation? How I feel about my husband now is different than when we first met. We’re fifteen years older, know almost everything about each other, and we have three girls and jobs and life. Marriage and love are hard because they don’t end after the HEA. You have to wake up every day and work at it.
So no, I don’t think romance books change standards or expectations. I think it’s very easy to read a book and start questioning what you are getting from your partner. What’s harder is looking in the mirror and asking yourself if you are giving the same in return?