Is Hatred of Love Triangles Really Slut-Shaming?

Is Hatred of Love Triangles Really Slut-Shaming?

If you’re a part of the YA reviewing community, you’ll have noticed that there is a distinct, almost pathological, hatred of love triangles among the majority of our readers.

It’s so bad, that even a hint of a love triangle can send reviewers running screaming in the opposite direction.

It’s so bad that reviewers are really jumpy, and many see love triangles where there are not, in fact, any love triangles. Even a girl just LOOKING at more than one guy can have reviewers frothing at the mouth screaming hysterically “LOVE TRIANGLE! INSTA-LOVE! BURN THE BOOK!”

The definition of a love triangle is that the main character is in love with two other characters, and they reciprocate those feelings. If it so happens that our main character is the one competing for the love interest, not being competed for, then the competitor, often another female but not always, is almost certain to be slut-shamed.

I want to acknowledge that a lot of YA love triangle criticism comes from the belief that there are TOO MANY, and it is also a fallback for ‘lazy writing’, an easy way to inject conflict into a romance. But I think there is something more.

One of the best, most well-known and well hated instances of this is Bella, Edward and Jacob from the Twilight series. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give a spoiler-filled summary:

In this story, Bella is friends with Jacob while she is dating Edward, but Jacob has a crush on her. When Edward decides to leave Bella for her own safety (as he is a vampire and she is a human), she spends more time with Jacob and eventually they fall in love with each other, though they do not have a relationship, Bella still loves Edward, and they never really talk about being in love since they are best friends. When Edward returns, Bella goes back to him and Jacob pines after her and Bella still cares deeply for him. Eventually it is resolved, and Bella ends up with Edward while Jacob finds a romantic partner of his own.

It reached the point where many readers began to declare themselves either Team Edward or Team Jacob (I’m Team Jacob, by the way).

And boy, do other readers HATE Twilight!


Are we shaming these girls because they can’t ‘just pick one’?

Does it stem from jealousy from real-life readers who ‘can’t get a partner, and she gets multiple partners?’

Or is it really a form of slut-shaming because these girls are attracting the attention and favour of those in patriarchal power? I don’t mean that the girls are being sexually provocative (but there’s nothing wrong with that, anyway!), I mean that they are violating the patriarchal expected behaviour of girls who should be still and demure and quiet until they are ‘picked’ by their future husband, much like the idea of the girls who have to wait at prom to be asked to dance or even attend.

I mean, we’re monogamous, right? So aren’t girls in love triangle just giant sluts?


There’s a horrible, horrible sexual analogy comparing girls to padlocks and boys to keys, that says a key that open many locks is a master key, but a lock that is opened by many keys is worthless.

It’s disgusting, I know. But I think this is applied to girls in love triangles, too. A girl who has many partners is slut-shamed, whereas a guy who has many partners is the hero of a harem.

Most love triangles in YA literature are resolved by the end with the girl succumbing to the patriarchal expectation that she will ‘pick’ one mate, thereby redeeming herself. With the Team divide, many fans can be left unhappy with the choice she makes.

I can’t even imagine how readers would react if she refused to choose, and was ‘allowed’ to accept both love interests as her chosen mates.

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo specialises in reading and reviewing contemporary, paranormal, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She especially loves novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, healing, and assassins.

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4 thoughts on “Is Hatred of Love Triangles Really Slut-Shaming?

  1. Kara

    !!!! Yes, I’ve asked myself this question for a while now. When constantly hating on love triangles, it’s definitely something to consider. Most of the time I actually LIKE love triangles–I think it adds another layer to the plot (if done well.) “A girl who has many partners is slut-shamed, whereas a guy who has many partners is the hero of a harem.” Yes, yes, yes! I couldn’t have worded it better myself, and it’s that double standard that bothers me so much. I think maybe that before a reviewer criticises a love triangle so fiercely, they need to take a step back and ask themselves WHY.

    Great post!

  2. Eilonwy

    This is a really interesting post! (And I love the 30-second Twilight summary.)

    My dislike of love triangles tends to stem more from the time-wasting aspect of them — i.e., if I could be reading actual plot, but instead the heroine is going on and on about two different boys for 50 wordy but pointless pages, OR it’s so obvious which boy is the “winner/true love” that the love triangle just feels like fake tension instead of a genuine conflict. Also, for a while there it seemed like every single YA series had to have a love triangle, so it did feel really worn out.

    I never personally thought of the girls as being slutty, but I think you may be onto something here, since slut-shaming generally stems from a combination of jealousy and a belief that we all — male or female — need to and are allowed to control female sexuality, and some of the resentment of love triangles does seem to carry a whiff of all of that. I can remember, not proudly, my own jealousy of the popular girls who “all” the boys liked when I was in high school, and my wish to take that away from them if I could. And yet those girls were certainly in the position of having to “choose” between boys, and I’m wondering now what their lives would have seemed like as YA novels! (Also, now I realize that constant male attention is not all sunshine and roses, and I have more sympathy for girls/women who are being pestered all the time because of their bra size or superficial appearance, and not necessarily for their personalities and humanness.)

    Your post is making me want to write a college thesis on love triangles and social aspects now!

  3. Eilonwy

    P.S. As for I can’t even imagine how readers would react if she refused to choose, and was ‘allowed’ to accept both love interests as her chosen mates, that’s kind of how Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy works out, and apparently readers DID react with a ton of slut shaming and accusations about what a terrible person the heroine was. 🙁

  4. Vee @ Under The Mountain

    For me, nah. I can easily bullet point all the reasons I hate love triangles:

    ~ It gets in the way. If you have an amazing story like The Selection, the love triangle tends to overshadow the plot and you’re left with many pages of the main character thinking and thinking and thinking about what they should do even when…

    ~ Who she’ll pick is bloody obvious. I’ve never been surprised by a single love triangle. In fact I even rolled my eyes when I read Reign The Earth because I got who she was going to be with in the first couple of chapters. However at least with these two men they had…

    ~ Distinct personalities. Often with a love triangle, I get confused about which boy is which. They are often so similar I get whole backstories confused.

    Vee @ Under The Mountain

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