Monday 31 August 2020

Why Don't More Men Read Romance Novels?

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

My husband is an avid reader. He's frequently asked whether or not he reads my novels and the answer is a resounding ‘No.’ Now, he’s a pretty romantic guy who has penned me quite a bit of verse over the last 30+ years for special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day) and they’ve been better than any Hallmark Card he could’ve bought.

I have never asked him to read my contemporary romances because I know if he did he’d simply shake his head at them—wouldn’t be able to relate to all the emotional push-pull and would probably have a very cut and dried unemotional way to get the hero and heroine together on page 1. (Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus!!)

I insisted he read my medieval romances (after all the first is dedicated to him and he is the Knight of My Heart!) and his comments were that it was ‘pretty good’, that I wrote ‘hot sex scenes’ and that ‘there was way too much introspection’. He explained that men don’t think like that—they don’t ‘go back and forward and think about all the things that could be’ they just ‘pick a course of action and go for it’!! Well, there’s one male perspective.

According to the Romance Writers of America, 18% of romance readers who took one of their recent surveys identified as male. Of course it may be that an even greater percentage of romance readers are men and aren’t RWA members. Maybe there are some who do read romance and don’t admit it?

                                                      (Below image courtesy of Pixabay)

I know I have male readers and reviewers. I also know that there are many women who would never pick up a romance novel just as I know there are plenty of male romance authors and that there have even been romance books written by a husband and wife team. But why don’t more men read romance?
Here are a few reasons that have been suggested in a plethora of articles on the topic ...

1.   Some may be afraid of censure for reading romance because romance is stigmatised and many believe the novels are associated with femininity or they simply don’t understand what romance novels are about. This may tie in with societal conditioning with subconscious conditioning that they shouldn’t read romances?

2.     They may be daunted by the fabulous qualities of the hero in romance novels and believe it is too much to live up to?

3.    They may feel that the female protagonists are too strong and too independent?  

4.    The majority of romance books are written by women and so men may feel that the male POV is skewed?   
                                                              (Below image courtesy of Giphy)

5.    Reading may be too cerebral  and not visceral enough for some men?

6.     Fewer men than women read novels regardless of the genre?

7.     They may feel that romance novels are unrealistic?

It’s funny to me, though, that so many other genres have romantic elements to them. Tom Clancy’s character Jack Ryan developed a romance with a doctor who became his wife and there’s plenty of romance in Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I wonder if male readers skipped over the development of the romances in these novels? To my mind the developing romances made them much more interesting and realistic!

Love to Love: Men who are proud romance readers!

Love to Laugh: At some of the disparaging comments I’ve heard men (and women) make about romance novels. (Gotta laugh!)

Love to Learn: Why do you think that the number of female romance readers far outweighs the number of male romance readers?


  1. I can't answer your question, Alyssa, but I do know the men in my life tend to be more pragmatic, fix-it, black & white, move-on type of guys who don't wallow in emotions (like me!). Maybe it goes down to a chromosone/DNA level? And yet romance makes the world go round. Sigh. I find I *don't* laugh at disparaging comments about romance novels. I don't laugh at other people's choices. how dare they laugh at mine! (Soapbox stuff with me!) Keep writing wonderful novels and I'll keep reading them!

    1. Miranda, if I didn't laugh, I'd get too defensive! But you're right in that we wouldn't laugh at other people's choices. Must be because we're empathetic, kind romance readers!
      Yes, pragmatic, fix-it, black and white, move-on type of guys surround me as well but - as I said - my husband can write a better card than Hallmark!

  2. I think a lot of men would be one or most of your points when it comes to reading romance. If there is too much introspection about feelings I think they switch off and start thinking how they would fix the situation.

  3. Yes, and that would pull them out of the story and lessen their enjoyment, I guess. I know when I wrote the second medieval romance Knight of Her Dreams, I cut back on the introspection deliberately as I knew I had quite a few male readers in that genre.

  4. Great post Alyssa! It started an interesting discussion with my hubby last night. He's not a reader (except for sports biographies and autobiographies) but he reads my books and is always able to point out anything that doesn't sit well or make sense to him (for which I'm eternally grateful). After our talk, I came to the conclusion that men (or my man, anyway) are just not into the escapism that most romance reads provide.

    1. Yep! Escapism is out. They'd rather watch the footy!!

  5. Terrific post, Alyssa. Most men I know steer clear of emotions and rather than wallow in what just happened they get on with things. Romance novels are too 'schmaltzy' for them. What has always puzzled me, though, is songs about love. So many male singers in a variety of musical genres, including hard rock, sing songs about love and sing with great feeling. Example, The Moody Blues 'Nights in White Satin' and Bryan Adams 'Everything I Do, I Do It For You'. How is singing love songs accepted but reading romance novels is not?

    1. What a terrific point, Enisa. Yes, men do sing lots of love songs. It's an interesting comparison and yours is a question I can't answer.

  6. Thanks for a fascinating post Alyssa. I don't know the answer to your question, but I enjoyed reading the possibilities you discussed.

  7. Thanks for reading the post, Sharon. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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