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Getting Consent Right in Romance by Deana Birch

Posted by Claire Siemaszkiewicz on 25th February 2019

 

It is often said that “art imitates life”. As an author of steamy romance, I tend to deny this idea to any of my personal friends who have read my books. I don’t need them side-eyeing me and my husband at our next dinner party. I’m already the foreign wife with the horrible grammar and cringe-worthy accent. No more social awkwardness required for this couple, thank you very much.

But, what if the opposite is possible? What if, “life can imitate art?” Before you wide-eyed dreamers get too excited, I’m sorry to say that the chances of your book boyfriends coming to life and bumping into us thus spilling the contents of our bags (usually tampons – why are they so embarrassing anyway?) on the floor are slim. But I’m a glass-is-half-full kinda lady, so let’s pretend that is still in the realm of possibility. At the very least they can show up in our dreams and yummy fantasies.

What I do mean is, what if, by regularly writing consent as it should be in Romance, we somehow make it the new normal. Readers could be inspired to demand and expect it in their daily lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way inferring that unwanted advances are not objected to. All people need to respect the word no.

I am suggesting, however, that I know too many stories—real and fictional,—where there were blurred or crossed lines. And I truly believe Alpha characters can be just as hot without forcing their will on their lovers. Trust and teasing can be a heady aphrodisiac. And opening a dialogue with your partner, or partners, about desire goes both ways. What would you like to have happen? Is the other party involved okay with that? And the more we experience this, insist on this, the more we make it normal and expected, the stronger and more respectful we are.

My nine- year-old is in competitive sports. Most of the other kids on her team blaze through practice and push themselves at a very impressive rate. Not Little Miss Sassy pants made from the fibers of my being. She’s cautious, calculated. Hesitant to try new and challenging things. I had a sit-down with her coach recently where he was encouraging us to push her to try more advanced moves.

As my husband rolled his eyes next to me (I may have thrown in my feminist tendencies in the explanation), I smiled to the coach and said that I loved that she said no to him. That she decides when she’s ready. She does with her body what she wants when she wants. She’s worried about her own happiness before his approval. It’s a powerful lesson she’s learning in life. And we needed to support her in it.

I don’t know any mind readers. Thank heavens! And just like the squeaky wheel getting the oil, if we don’t talk about what we need, what we want, chances are we won’t get it. So authors, I encourage you to make consent as normal as nudity. Readers, I hope we inspire you to make it real.

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