Writing romance in the #MeToo era

This is not a political article.

I stumbled upon a Twitter feed yesterday that made me think… Are books, TV and movies giving men the wrong ideas about how to approach women? How does it usually go? The hero meets cute girl at the grocery store/park/gallery/whatever, is immediately attracted and pursues with great (creepy) enthusiasm. He is relentless and she finally acquiesces to his charm. Sigh… True love!

Here’s what happened to the young woman on Twitter. She’s walking her dog in the park. Dog stops to sniff near a bench where Man is sitting. He makes friendly gestures, offers dog one of the pretzels he’s eating, smiles at Girl.

“Beautiful dog.” Man

“Thanks!” Girl

“Haven’t seen you around here before. You live nearby?” Man

“Um, yeah. Not too far.” Girl

“Nice, me too.” Man

Blah, blah, conversation about the weather….

“Are you single?” Man

At this point girl is getting nervous. He has left the bench and stands nearby. He’s waaay too familiar. Touches her arm. Moving closer, invading her space.

Still she tells the truth. “Yes, I’m single.”

“We should get together sometime…” Man

“Ummm” Girl. “I have to go.”

Girl leaves, walks along park pathway, stops to answer a text from a friend. Finds Man behind her. Now she’s scared.

“Hey, I thought you had to go.” Man says with a grin.

“Just answering a text.” Girl

Anyway, she got away safe. Was a little freaked out and plans on taking the dog on another route for their daily walk. My point is, isn’t this a typical scenario for a romantic comedy and/or romantic novel? The woman is reluctant, the man is relentless and in the end they fall madly in love. What we, as writers/film makers, are reinforcing is this idea that creepy behavior wins the girl! Now believe me, I love the idea of instant attraction and that intial spark of chemistry that transmutes into life-long love. But… How do we write that without sending the wrong message?

Isn’t this the exact same formula that romance writers and film makers repeatedly use? It never occurred to me that it was a ‘thing’ until I read the experience of this young woman. Even though I’ve never used a scenario like this in any of my stories, I still feel like I need to reevaluate the way I approach romance in my writing. As a woman and an author I feel like I have a responsibility to write creatively but with conscience. If we women write this kind of story, aren’t we telling men that this is what we want? What say you, fellow writers? This is important stuff….