Used and Abused: The Rise of Domestic Un-Bliss in New Adult Fiction

Beautiful Disaster Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

It’s not hard to go onto Amazon these days and find New Adult soaring up the best-seller list. Titles such as Ignite and Raw, along with very sexy covers that have become an identifying mark of the genre (generally a couple in the middle of a half-kiss or a dark, handsome man looking sullen) have made a home for themselves as bestsellers. It’s become a huge moneymaker not only for self-published authors that have made the genre into a powerhouse, but also publishers who rode the waves of Fifty Shades of Grey (not exactly a new adult book) to pick up other titles that have made collective millions.

At the same time, the genre has also earned a reputation for unhealthy romances portrayed as romantic, a problem long-suffered since the Twilight-era of young adult fiction crested and spilled into a world of pulled-to-publish fan fiction and romance seemingly inspired by tales of domestic violence taken straight from the headlines and morphed into tales of undying love, passion, and hot sex.

Let’s take Beautiful Disaster, for example. Girl meets boy, boy gets mad possessive of girl, girl swoons, boy tears apart girl’s room having a meltdown, girl falls in love, sequels ensue. The success of one book leads to imitators, copycats, and knockoffs with more domestic violence, more jealousy, and more lines like, “If I can’t have you, nobody will,” and, “I don’t let go of what’s mine.”

Even beyond this, you can check Goodreads to find multiple shelves titled ‘Domestic Violence’ and ‘Domestic Abuse‘. The lists are full of romance novels where the hero is an abuser portrayed romantically.

Raw Raw by Belle Aurora

Since when is domestic abuse – a bad boy controlling, using, and abusing his meek yet love struck girlfriend – supposed to be romantic? In the great scheme of life, what many of these men do in new adult novels is not only creepy but also illegal. Tearing apart her room in a rage? Illegal. Hiding her ‘for her own protection’ in a locked basement? Illegal. Threatening to kill her or anyone that tries to ‘steal her’? Illegal.

But some of the bestsellers of new adult fiction have fallen squarely into this category. By some, I obviously mean a lot. Authors have made hundreds of thousands of dollars on abuse, and have staked their claims to fame on bad boys and their prey.

Psychologists have found that 25-40% of women admit to having rape fantasies. In fact, psychologist David Ley writes, “Our society romanticizes rape and violence, in complex and disturbing ways, from the Beast pounding on Beauty’s door in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, to the contents of thousands of romance novels, where women “swoon” and “succumb” to male passions and dominance.”

New adult is still a strong market, even if some of the allure has worn off and the tide has stopped. Abuse, though, remains a growing theme as heroines “succumb” to the passion of a man dominating them. Time will only tell how much further it will go, and if maybe women one day will get their turn to teach the men a lesson.


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