do and don't

Older men love younger women

Each week we get a few romances where an older male professor and younger female student get it on.

She’s either his grad student or in his class. They’re attracted to each other’s fiery wit, hot body, tutoring skills, etc. They shack up and fall in love (order is variable), his job and/or her scholarship is in danger, and true love wins in the end.

Two things: this story is old and over-done. And it’s problematic.

Romance novels do and should address forbidden love, but the old man/young woman pairing derives from a sexist view of women’s value. Power dynamics are already in play between prof and student, which are rarely addressed. Putting the man in power and valuing the woman for her youth and beauty doesn’t look favorable.

I say this not to blow up a genre, especially one I’m not a huge reader of. Some people love these books, and they publish forms of this story every year.

But when you don’t address the power and sexism, I’m likely to reject. You need to think about what you’re doing, not follow the social script. As writers, we have the power to change the script — or reinforce the status quo.

Done right, this story can blast a feminist hole through an old trope. Or, as always, you can break the rules so well I don’t care. Up to you.

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