The Atlantic

How to Write Consent in Romance Novels

The genre has historically offered up plotlines that range from uncomfortable moments of pursuit to nos that imply yes. One author discusses her decision to go about it differently.
Source: Katie Martin / The Atlantic

The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory’s newest book, begins with a catastrophe. When the Los Angeles–based freelance writer Nikole Paterson agrees to attend a baseball game with Fisher, her dashing but dim-witted actor beau, she has no idea that the sentient man bun has made plans to propose to her. But suddenly, as she’s eating her Dodger Dog, Fisher pops the question—on the scoreboard. And has the nerve to misspell her name while doing it.

The JumboTron proposal causes Nik untold embarrassment, not just because she’s hardly prepared to spend the rest of her life with a man she’s been dating for only a few months, but also because of the pressure that comes with the public declaration. When she reacts with shock and not immediate enthusiasm, Fisher turns on her—and so does everyone in the stadium, along with thousands of viewers watching live footage, news coverage, and viral videos of the moment all around the country.

The swarm of public attention, paired with the intensity of Fisher’s rage, sends Nik into a spiral of fear. Guillory takes great care in writing the effects that Fisher’s calculated display, and his red-faced tantrum after she turns him down, have on Nikole. In the grand scheme of indignities that women suffer, an unwanted public proposal may not be the most dangerous, but it still constitutes a denial of agency. is as much a subtle indictment of

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