When I finally got my hands on a copy of Betz's book, though, I found myself more than a little disappointed. One of Betz's primary goals is to "discover if lesbian romances differ from their straight counterparts" and "if they do alter the standard narrative, character, and thematic stresses, how are those changes made and how are they incorporated into the romantic fictional framework?" (13). In order to answer such questions, Betz first needs to define the "straight counterpart" against which she can set lesbian romance. The definition she provides, unfortunately, is more than a little dated.
Take this example, from Betz's discussion of the "language of love" in straight vs. lesbian romance:
In straight romances the control of the progression of the relationship generally belongs to the hero, and while the heroine does have the right of refusal, that position is quickly overturned as he uses words and actions to court her affection. His responses, whether gesture or verbal, provide the foundation for the heroine's desires and the impetus for her behavior. Even in the most contemporary romances the heroine still relinquishes final autonomy to him. (74)
While the outcome in lesbian romance stories remains the same, with the creation of the new entity, the couple, the balance of power is reconfigured. One partner in the relationship may be offered a dominant position, but generally she does not accept it; Diana, in Curious Wine, says, "You make love with the person, not to them, when it's equal"(159).... This establishment of shared control in defining the relationship may arise from so many of the characters leaving previous situations, lesbian or heterosexual, where they were not treated as equals. (75)
If a critic limits straight romance to romances with alpha heroes and submissive heroines, is it at all surprising to find that lesbian romances tend to provide a far different, far more progressive narrative than do heterosexual ones? If Betz had compared lesbian works to straight romances published concurrently, rather than general descriptions of the genre, might her conclusions have been different?
|Time for an updated version?|
Until such works are published, scholars from other fields who wish to make connections with, or comparisons to, the genre romance will, regrettably, be led astray by once groundbreaking, but now sadly dated, genre romance scholarship.