Say, in your typical romance novel, both a male and female go through some sort of trauma that leaves them feeling unable to recover. Besides saying something weird about being broken, how else are they going to describe themselves?
9 times out of 10, the guy will say he “cannot love.”
There are variations of it, all absurd.
1) He can’t love
2) There is no such thing as love
and my favorite: 3) Love is just a series of chemicals/synapses in your brain.
It’s like they went through the scientific method to come to this conclusion. Some kind of if, then, therefore statement:
I have not loved in the past.
I can’t see myself changing in the future.
Therefore, I will not love in the future.
Therefore, I cannot love.
It sounds like the same bullshit rationalization that led scientists to only JUST NOW believe that dogs love their owners, now that they have proof.
These heroes have friends, relatives, and others that they love. But they do not Love and therefore can’t love.
This is the kind of catnip that is made for romance novels, because it is a problem that’s not a problem. It’s an easily disproven theory. A hero saying he “cannot love” is basically throwing down the gauntlet for the heroine and her magical love-creating hoohoo.
Have you ever noticed that romance heroines have a similar, but different problem? What they got is the dreaded F word, and I don’t mean fuck.
UGH. Guys who can’t love may be one of my favorite plot lines, and frigid women are my least favorite.
The word “frigid” in general smacks of all sort of patriarchal misogynistic nastiness. The word is so tightly wrapped up in negative connotations, it’s meaningless without them.
Not all stories that deal with a frigid woman use the word “frigid,” but you know that’s what they are talking about, when a woman says she is broken, and a man tries to convince her that it’s not true. This “convincing” is usually a consent minefield. Is he forcing her to come to terms with her sexuality? Is that moral? Is that kind? What if she really doesn’t have a sex drive? Would that be so bad?
In romances, women are afraid to feel sexually. They may even have blocked that part of them from themselves. Many books explore sexual discovery, but do the frigid storylines have to make the heroine to explore it so forcefully? It gets a little…icky.
The Can’t Love Heroes, on the other hand, have to deal with an emotional battlefield, which puts women on the offensive. These heroines are tearing down mental blocks like giant petticoated Hulks. Their message is “I will love you, dammit, until you figure it out. Or we die. Whichever comes first.”
I can’t help but notice how immediately and completely heroines internalize their frigidity, while men manage to readjust the world by their compartmentalization. I can’t love. It’s just not in me. versus I’m afraid to feel. What’s wrong with me?