Reading Trash (aka Romance)


Sometimes a woman just wants to read trash, you know? Or at least something considered trash.

I am speaking of Romance novels, naturally. While I’ve yet to read anything hotter than Rhiannon Paille or Erica Stevens, if you ask most literature professors…yeah, it’s trash.

Then again, what makes a book trash? Poor mechanics? Cheesy euphemisms? Bad spelling? Crappy dialogue? While Romance novels have been guilty of all this and more, so has every other genre. It begs the question, do we assume Romance novels are trash because they are Romance novels?

While the Harlequin section at Book People can still make me avert my eyes, I don’t think steamy content makes books trash. I mean, plenty of what we consider “great literature” now was borderline porn back in the day.

I personally fluctuate between the purist “I am an Epic Fantasy reader who only wants romance as a side plot” and “give me all the abs.” It depends on my mood and mindset at the time.

Image result for i am a woman mary i can be as contrary as i choose gif

I had the great fortune of a literature professor who doesn’t believe in “high” and “low” art. Something she said in class got me thinking: what makes literature “worthwhile”? If you really think about it, all the qualifiers (besides obvious mechanics) for “worthwhile” literature are based in some form of prejudice, be it classism, racism, or sexism.

Shakespeare was once not worth studying because his audience was the peasantry. For the longest time, all the “universally relatable” works of literature were written by and about white guys because it was white guys in academia making the call. Meanwhile, Romance is considered garbage because it caters to women’s fantasies and no “great works” EVER did that for men.

What do you think makes a book trash? 


  1. An interesting point! “…do we assume Romance novels are trash because they are Romance novels?” This is definitely food for thought. Because now that I think of it this idea is fairly misogynistic, and it’s something that a lot of people agree with without thinking about. Reading Romance books is a “guilty pleasure” but why should it be? And why aren’t we normalizing the reading of these books for all people, I bet there are more men reading Romance than we think. I mean they do write it. Nicholas Sparks is a good example. So why is it defined as a woman’s genre?
    I know that I have often judged Romance books, though not usually for the sexy scenes, but because they aren’t well written. But I’m a harsh judge of all books, I think a lot of books aren’t written well, so I don’t think my opinion should count for much. But this is a good reminder for me to not judge people for reading anything they want to read!

    1. Well, to be honest, a lot of them are written badly. Still, I do agree it shouldn’t be an automatic association. We’ve got to work on our assumptions!

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