The Absolute Worst Trope In Science Fiction Romance Novels

Illustration for article titled The Absolute Worst Trope In Science Fiction Romance Novels

There's a lot to celebrate about science fiction romance novels — apart from anything else, they're one of the fastest-growing areas of the genre, and they're getting a lot of people reading science fiction. But there's one trope in the genre that writer C.E. Kilgore finds really repulsive: "dubious consent."


Top image: Manuhell on Deviant Art.

Kilgore writes a must-read blog post about "dubious consent" in science fiction romance, and the observations therein can apply way beyond romance novels. Here's a crucial section:

What I will do, is turn the spot light on my own main genre, Science Fiction Romance, and bring to discussion a subject matter that I find even worse than poorly-handled rape in fiction. It's called Dubious Consent, and for some reason I haven't been able to figure out, it has become a commonly used trope in our genre. This makes me sad and a bit angry. I think we sci-fi romance writers are smarter than this. I think we can do better.

What is dubious consent, exactly? It's any situation in which one person (99% if the time, it's a woman) is taken advantage of by another (usually a hunky male alien), but the author justifies it by trying to blur the lines between rape and consensual sex. Let me give you the most common scenario: Hunky male alien (who's race has a lack of females for some reason) steals an Earth Woman. He then uses mental manipulation, drugs, alcohol, pheromones, some sort of required physical bonding, or other alien-contrived reason to get between the woman's legs. The author then explains how much the woman enjoyed it, how much pleasure the alien gave her, how big his super-amazing cock was and how she probably wouldn't have resisted anyway. Right?

Wrong. This is rape. Period. It's like slipping the Earthling a date-rape drug.

And predictably, after being basically roofied by the alien mojo, the woman always falls in love with the alien, and this is somehow the start of a healthy relationship. Read more over at Kilgore's site, for why this isn't really a good way to think about romance. So much no. [Tracing The Stars via Galaxy Express]


This trope exists in the romance genre as a whole. However, yes it is completely vile and should be done away with immediately. Authors should ask themselves every step of the way how they're contributing to the culture of sexism and misogyny and change accordingly.