Readers Say Romance Novels Empower, Promote Feminist Values


The romance novel has a reputation for being escapist and low brow. As a romance reader and author, I call it entertaining and accessible. Now you can add empowering and feminist to that description, according to survey results published in Maya Rodale’s book, “Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels.”

Sixty-one percent of those who participated in the survey said they were empowered by romance novels. No surprise there since romance books have a singular focus: a woman’s thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Sixty percent said they consider themselves feminists and 62 percent said romance novels promote feminist values. Indeed most romantic heroines are strong and in-charge of their lives.

Rodale surveyed 815 romance readers in 2014 for her book. Here are the highlights of the survey:

  • Eighty-eight percent read the genre for entertainment. Others said they read it for relaxation (82 percent) and escape (also 82 percent).
  • Fifty-three percent said romance heroines are great role models.
  • Asked if they have unrealistic expectations of men because of romantic heroes, 52 percent said they can separate real life from fiction.

Who Reads Romance?

The total sales value of romance books reached $1.08 billion in 2013, according to the Romance Writers of America. The majority of readers (84 percent) are women.

Here are Rodale’s survey findings about the demographics of romance readers.

  • Gender: Ninety-eight percent of those who answered the survey were women
  • Education: Thirty-six percent have a bachelor’s degree; 28 percent have a master’s degree
  • Income: Twenty-eight percent earn $51,000 to $99,000 a year; 20 percent earn $26,000 to $50,000 a year
  • Marital Status: Fifty-one percent are married; 33 percent are single
  • Employment: Fifty-nine percent work full time
  • Location: Twenty-three percent live in the South ; 21 percent live in the Northeast (both refer to the United States)
  • Age: Thirty-two percent, ages 25 to 34; 23 percent, ages 35 to 44

You can read more about Rodale’s survey here.

You can read more about Rodale’s book here.

Read a related story:7 Classics that Belong to the Romance Genre: Why I Started Reading Romance Novels