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Is Romance “just fantasy?”

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

I was having a conversation the other day.

Other Person: Isn’t Romance, you know, all fantasy and stuff? Me: The only fantastical thing about Romance is that every woman is sexually satisfied!

Now I admit I sometimes find it hard to tell people I write romance novels, because as much as we all hate it, there is a stigma.  It’s hard, sometimes, especially when talking to men, to admit you write romance.

But I’m trying to be better about it - and this conversation was one such moment.

Yeah, there’s fantasy in romance - the fantasy that everyone gets a happy ending, that all women are sexually satisfied, that love does, in fact, conquer all.  (Obviously, paranormal romance has more, but, you know, paranormal and fantasy romance has, well, fantasy.)

But the thing is, there’s fantasy in every genre.

In mystery/thriller?  The detective always solves the mystery, the guilty person always gets caught, and the victim always gets vindicated and often revenged.

In science fiction?  Aliens will be interesting and good and able to communicate with us - which we don’t know for certain!

In hero-centric fiction (Jack Ryan, Jason Bourne, James Bond)?  The hero saves the day, gets the girl, and lives happily ever after…just as much as in romance! Heck in the romance genre this even has a name… romantic suspense.  The only difference is the woman, not the man, is the main/central character.

In Christian fiction?  God and religion make all things possible, and our heroes come out the best due to their belief.

In fantasy?  Look, I don’t even have to go there.

The problem is the stigma which is perpetuated by mainstream reviewers and men looking to keep women subjugated. And women who’ve bought into the internalized misogyny that runs rampant in our society.  Romance is repeatedly poo-pooed and stigmatized because it features women in central roles and/or caters to a female audience.  Romance shows women being happy.  That happiness can exist for everyone.  You want a transgender romance?  They’re out there.  You want a romance featuring a neurodivergent computer programmer? I can name several. You want a romance featuring disabled heroes and heroines?  There’s a bunch.

Why shouldn’t romance imagine a better world? A world where everyone is deserving of love? A world that is an escape from the mundane and the banal.  Everyone else does - so why not us?  

Because we do.  So I’ll keep my happily ever afters and my sexually satisfied women, thank you very much.  Romance is awesome!

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