Romance and Real women: Why Do Only Perfect People Find Passion in Lesfic?

romance woman in bed

Stunning blondes, with breasts the size of mountains and waists I can get my hands around…and I have tiny hands. Sultry brunettes, with eyes that blaze with passion and fire and sex. Beautiful black women with attitude and an arse that just won’t quit. Luscious Latin lovers with curves that go on for days and a temper that will explode like Mount Vesuvius.

Drooling yet?

Thought so. Why not, hey? Descriptions of heroines like this are what we expect, right? What’s a proper romance novel without a beautiful protagonist? I mean that’s what the fantasy is all about. Isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

You see, romance stories have this stereotype, this expectation of all the beautiful women falling in love with each other and getting their happy ever after. It’s what readers want, right? That’s what we’re told. That’s what we expect. Sex sells, after all, but only if the people involved are beautiful. It’s all about the dream, the fantasy, the wish fulfilment that you get from the characters.

I get it, I’m a reader too. But here’s the part I don’t get…

I started reading lesbian fiction so that I could see myself represented in a media form that I love. Books. At the time, there were precious few other places I could find myself represented, so this was amazing. And I was nineteen and twenty years old at the time, so, damn right I was fantasising about stunning women. ALL THE TIME!

Now, I like to consider myself a more mature woman—a real woman. Maybe even a woman of the world. And I look at these books, read them, and yeah, I find lesbians, and bisexuals, and trans women, all over the place. But I still don’t see represented what I was looking for back then and missed the point of. What don’t I see?

Real women.

Now, please forgive me here but not all women are beautiful. Hold on, don’t shoot me. I know all women are beautiful. Every single one. Just not in the way the media would have us believe they’re—we’re—supposed to be.

I’ll use myself as an example here…I’m overweight. No question I’m carrying twenty pounds that I want to lose. My eyebrows have a tendency towards the Neanderthal mono-brow look that I don’t find very fetching. I get hairy toes…I call them hobbit’s feet and one is a whole size and a half bigger than the other. I have a number of scars all over me from different accidents and adventures, surgery, and what-not…you know, those things that happen in life.

But this isn’t really a pretty picture I paint, is it? If you read that description in a book, would you accept me as your romantic lead?

Somehow, I don’t think so.

I don’t fit the Hollywood stereotype of beautiful. And I’m okay with that, I don’t need to be. But, you see, here’s the thing…I’m my own romantic lead. I have a partner. We’ve been together for fourteen years. I have my happy ever after—well, most days I do.

When I read books now, I’m dissatisfied when I only see the beautiful finding love, and passion, and orgasms. What about the real women? The ones with bad hair days and hairy toes? The ones who have wrinkles and carry too much weight? Or those who can’t seem to gain an ounce no matter how much they eat? Wherever you are, please, for the love of God…share your secret with those of us who love cake!

Where was I? Oh, yes, real women and their lack of representation…

I get that many of us read to escape the drudgery of everyday life. I truly do. But don’t we need to see that the happy ever after happens to real women just as much, if not more, than to the pretty people? Isn’t that just as important? Wouldn’t that give us more hope? Seeing a woman who has the same real-life issues that I do, or you do, and finding her happiness…isn’t that a story worth reading?

I started writing so I could see the stories I wanted to read come to life. But it’s important to me now to see fiction, especially lesbian fiction, grow and evolve and truly begin to represent who we really are as women. Fierce and proud, battle scarred and fragile. Vulnerable and scared, with hairy toes, and double chins, and bony bums, from sixteen to a hundred, and everything in between. But most important of all…real. These are the characters that I want to create now. Beautiful in their reality and in their diversity.

Don’t you want to see that too?

When Andrea Bramhall isn’t busy running a campsite in Cumbria in the UK’s Lake District, she can be found scribbling down the stories that won’t let her sleep. She can also be found reading, walking the dogs up mountains while taking a few thousand photos, scuba diving while taking a few thousand photos, swimming, kayaking, playing the saxophone, or cycling. Andrea published Just My Luck and Collide-O-Scope with Ylva.


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  1. Sammy February 28, 2017 at 18:08 - Reply

    Yes, I’d love to read a novel with and about the real ones. So, please, go ahead and bestow such a one on us. 🙂

  2. Susie February 28, 2017 at 19:43 - Reply

    I agree with you entirely. I’m a late bloomer and so is my gf. She’s short of sixty and I’m over it. We are grey haired wrinklies and I have flabs, not abs. Cellulite? You bet! Though I do think that LL has a lovely bod for her age. Me, no way. But you know what, she loves me the way I am, with all my imperfections. And I love her back.
    So yes, all these beautiful and alluring women with curves and legs that go on for days – they get a bit boring. If you want to write about real women, I say go for it, Andrea.

  3. Carolyn McBride February 28, 2017 at 20:11 - Reply

    Absolutely, let’s read about someone who isn’t a drop-dead gorgeous model, who has scars and weird sleep habits. Let’s read about…us. There’s books like that out there somewhere, right?
    I’ll just wait over here.

  4. Mary Anne Frett February 28, 2017 at 20:56 - Reply

    Every once in a while you can find books with characters that are over fifty and not physically perfect but they are few and far between. Jane Waterton wrote a wonderful book about a lesbian retirement community, “Times of Our Lives”, but we could use a whole lot more books about that demographic. Lesbians in their 20’s and 30’s can be chubby and physically imperfect too and they are even less represented than older lesbians. Will women read books about those who are less than ideal? I think they will if the books have compelling characters and stories.

  5. flowerscat February 28, 2017 at 21:41 - Reply

    Well said! I hope more authors will take note!

  6. KD Williamson February 28, 2017 at 23:54 - Reply

    Ahhhhhh! This was fucking brilliant. As an author I struggle with this. I want my books to sell but I want the ladies I create to be relatable and down to earth as possible. That struggle is real.

  7. Lee Winter March 1, 2017 at 00:27 - Reply

    Maybe one solution is to write about the perfect-looking people who sell books, but include a second couple who find love, wrinkles, bumps and flab and all? Personally I do love the fantasy element of protagonists who are smoking hot amid all their other quirks. But I also love it when everyday people also fall in love. So…more than one couple?

  8. AW March 1, 2017 at 00:54 - Reply

    Yes! Yes! YES!!!! Thank you for writing this. I am working on my first novel and am intentionally writing my characters with physical “faults” to make them easier to identify with by the reader. I am thrilled to find an author that doesn’t feel every protagonist needs washboard abs and a perfect ass. I will be downloading your work. Great article!

  9. Annette Mori March 1, 2017 at 06:07 - Reply

    I could not agree more, but unfortunately that is what sells apparently. I’m a rebel and am pleased as punch that a short story I wrote made it into the GCLS anthology and guess what the main characters are a 100 pound overweight visually impaired woman and a middle aged woman with Down’s syndrome. I plan to write more books about people who do not fit the stereotypes.

  10. Dani March 1, 2017 at 16:03 - Reply

    It would be nice to read more stories with real women but I’m afraid that is only a wish. Somehow the women in stories are always beautiful, they fall in love with an equally beautiful woman and in the end, they’re happy together. Of course, happy endings are great and I don’t want to miss them, but some real women in stories would be nice. Rumor has it beautiful women don’t have to look like Victoria Secret models. My love is overweight, has glasses and doesn’t look like one of these women – and she’s much more beautiful than any one of the models.

  11. Cindy T. Rizzo March 1, 2017 at 18:41 - Reply

    Thanks for opening up this discussion, Andrea. Some lesfic books are written to take the reader on a fantasy trip. I’d group the Hollywood books in this category. So by necessity, those main characters are larger than life and I don’t begrudge all that exaggerated beauty. Where I think it gets complicated is in “girl next door” and particularly YA stories, where I think authors have much more latitude than they take to deal with body issues. I’m tired of reading that every MC is “trim” or “fit.” And if a character isn’t, she is upset about it and wants to be. This is why I wrote a short story for the GCLS Con anthology about a fat teenager who finds love. We need to mainstream diversity of all kinds into our fiction.

  12. SAOlsson March 30, 2017 at 19:29 - Reply

    Readers like me love fantasy-sometimes. The real world is not a kind place. It is good to escape in a romance novel. That being said, women desperately need to know that perfection lies in the soul, not the face or the body. Please bring us that kind of perfection. I would like to see a book about older women would do find love. I am 69 and I still want to find a woman who will love me with all my wrinkles, scars and other imperfections. There are enough lesbians in the world who will support that kind of story. By the way, older gals can still get hot (not just hot flashes)

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