Why Toxic Masculinity in YA Fiction Can Do One

Or any fiction, really, because let’s face it—toxic masculinity is a particularly horrid head cold that’s long over stayed its welcome.

Now, as you will know if you’ve ever encountered me in real life, I have some opinions on this. And by ‘some’ I mean freaking millions. So strap in, ladies, gents, and non-binary folks, we’re diving in.

What I find bizarre right now in the world of fandom is how romanticised abuse seems to be. Despite the Me Too and Times Up campaigns, still readers fantasise about villains who lock up their damsels in distress, hurt them, and cause irreversible psychological damage. But it’s okay! Because they love them and it’s all because of their own distressing past. They just need fixing. (And did you see those *insert jewel here* eyes smouldering beneath that sexy emo fringe? Beat me up, Scotty…)

Let me say this only once: If they hit you, belittle you, lock you in a tower, or want to use your magical powers to take over the world for their own evil gains even though it might kill you, DO NOT DATE THEM. Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and don’t look back. And if you use the ‘but he’s so hot’ or ‘he’s just misunderstood’ excuse you can go sit in the corner.

A jawline so chiselled it could slice up your heart does not excuse psychopathic behaviour.

Okay? Okay.

I’m not just speaking of magical and/or physical abuse, either. A partner controlling where you are, what you do, who you see, or belittling you in any way is also toxic and should not be romanticised. They are not doing it because of love, or because they care, they are doing it out of their own need for manipulation and control.

As a society we’ve been made to believe this is just how men are. That nice men, kind men, are a fiction (except they’re not in books, either!). If they do exist it’s as the side-kick, the best friend, the punch line to a joke. And so I ask, when did respect and kindness become unattractive? What twisted, backward steps led us here?

Good guys are sexy too—louder for the people in the back!

To complete this post, I put out a call on Twitter for recommendations of books with healthy relationships and/or non-toxic men because my mind was completely blank. Especially when it came to hetro relationships. (Gay book characters seem to know what consent is, go them!) The overwhelming response by errant tumbleweeds proved all my points. However, I did eventually manage to squeeze a few recommendations out… (Note: I’ve not read two of these. I’m relying on the good natured Twitter user here. If you disagree with any of them feel free to type a respectful comment below.)

  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Witch Child by Celia Rees
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The fact it was so difficult to get these recommendations is evidence we desperately need some respectful relationships up in here. YA is aimed towards teenagers and so responsibility comes with writing in that genre. We are failing our audience by teaching them toxic masculinity is okay. Not even okay, but sexy. Views will not change overnight, but small changes lead to big results, and books are an excellent place to start.

[This blog was originally posted on http://postapocalypticplayground.com/]

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