Bookish Musings: Feminism and Double Standards in Books – Love Triangles

Time for another discussion post!

But I decided to dive in deeper this time. This one is a lot more opinionated than the last because the topic is something that has been bothering me for quite some time.

That being said, I still love hearing different opinions because that's what discussion is all about! So whether you agree and want to go on a whole rant or disagree and want to explain why, I can't wait to hear what you think!

*Note: This post was originally titled: A Feminist Gripe about Love Triangles (and Why We Should Stop Blaming the Girls)*

First of all, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to triangles involving a girl and two guys, but I fully support and recognize triangles of all genders and orientations.

Second, I have have no problem with love triangles in and of themselves when they’re done well. I like them because they have the potential to add a lot of heart-wrenching emotion to a book, and I’m all about the emotion. But that’s not what this post is about; I just want it to be clear that I am in no way hating on love triangles.

I’ve noticed something though.

Almost every time there’s a love triangle in a book, people immediately start talking about how selfish the girl is because she just needs to make a decision already!

Ok, but…

The guys involved are absolutely, 100% just as capable of making decisions, too.

At any point, they can decide they’re done waiting and be done with the girl. No one is forcing them to sit around and wait. And most of the time, they know exactly what they’re getting into and choose to go after a girl who they know has feelings for someone else.

Yeah, but that’s unfair to the poor guys because they can’t help it that they have feelings for the girl. They can’t just shut their feelings off!

You’re right. That is a valid point.

But here’s another valid point: Neither can the girl.

So why is it that the blame always gets put on the girl?

As long as the guys are aware of what’s going on and the girl is being honest with them, they’re not mindless victims, and to treat them as such seems disrespectful to them too.

I’d like to say this applies to all genders, that the tip of the triangle is always the one who gets blamed, but, for example, I haven’t seen people calling Thomas selfish in The Maze Runner books. Instead, I’ve basically seen people arguing over which girl was more bitchy and untrustworthy. I’ve also read some M-M-M love triangles and have not seen people complaining. So I’m not really sure what the problem is here, but I would love for you to chime in, especially if you’ve ever noticed any times when the guy DID get blamed (or when the girl didn’t).

Even I feel there is a limit when it eventually just gets selfish, regardless of gender. But, for the most part, as someone who takes relationships seriously and has never liked to rush into them, I love when I see characters standing up for themselves and their choices in love triangles rather than being pushed and manipulated into making a decision before they’re ready.


More Feminism and Double Standards in Books Posts:

Love Triangles
Sexual Promiscuity
Strong Characters


Talk to me!

What are your thoughts on love triangles?
Are the girls selfish for not choosing?
Should the guys be held to same level of responsibility as the girl for their part?
Or do you just hate all love triangles and blame everyone equally for being involved period? :-P


Your Thoughts


34 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Feminism and Double Standards in Books – Love Triangles

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  1. Daniela Ark

    LOL I LOVE THIS POST Kristen!!! 🙂
    I’m a 100% feminist! I even have a feminist page “XX Factor 🙂
    Yup people do rant about love triangles a lot! I think it is funny because well…
    1) it is soooooo normal! reality is like that people often have more than one crush at the same time! especial young adults
    2) you are totally 100% right about.. why blaming the girl??? HELLOOOO??? guys have a brain too!
    My only issue with love triangles is that it has been overused. Way too many books sometimes one after the other! But… well books needs to be marketed and if that is the trend authors and publishers will follow it

    1. Kristen Burns

      YAY! I didn’t know you had a feminist page—that’s awesome!

      I completely agree that it IS normal and possible, especially since, as you said, they’re often just crushes in books, not really LOVE, despite the name. And you have made me feel validated by agreeing with me lol. They have become kinda overused, but I don’t mind unless the love triangle is just plain unnecessary and clearly only included for the sake of being included.

      Thanks for joining in!

  2. Greg

    I vote for D) they all suck and it’s everyone’s fault. 🙂

    Okay, seriously though love triangles seem like a YA trope but not in other kinds of books, so much. If done well I don’t really care, but I’m not really a fan of them either. I get your point though, it does seem like it’s all about “decide, girl” and Team A or Team B, when in reality yeah you can’t just always “decide” when there’s feeling involved. Especially teenage feelings LOL (after all some of these people are 16)!

    Now I’m sorta thinking about triangles I’ve read about, and which ones worked. Most have irritated me but some have worked. What I want to see is when neither one gets picked! Sorry guys (or girls, or whatever) movin’ on! After all not everyone meets their OTP (did I just use that?) when they’re a teen…

    Fun topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha your comment is cracking me up. I do seem to be in the minority when it comes to liking love triangles. I’m actually reading a series that might end with the girl choosing neither guy. In the last book, she said she was done with them both, but we’ll see. Knowing that author, it’s probably more likely everyone will just end up dead and there won’t even be anyone left to choose lol.

      Seriously though! I do get annoyed that all the relationships are so sudden and serious when the characters are so young. I think we should start a thing, #NOTP 😛

  3. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    Wahoo let it all out Kristen! I generally don’t like love triangles, because I hate how authors can manipulate your emotions like that. I just want a definitive coupling!

    Regardless, you’re right. The female characters are expected to do the deciding. I would LOVE for a male character to just say “eff it.” But then we have to whole, “oh I just chose you because X wasn’t an option anymore.” Which I feel is a major cop out.

    I’m rambling. Excellent topic and thanks for sharing!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha I’m usually not so opinionated right? (Well, I am, I just keep it to myself most of the time lol.) I guess I like when authors manipulate my emotions since I love the angst and heart-wrenching-ness.

      It would be so fun to read about a male character doing that! But having the girl choose the other guy because he’s the only one left in the running would be the worst. I guess I just feel it’s ok for all of them to stay in the triangle, but it’d be nice if readers could just not attack the female character for it.

      Thanks for joining in!

  4. Zoe @ Stories on Stage

    This is such a well-written and thought-provoking discussion Kristen! I’m not the biggest fan of love triangles, but I suppose I can grudgingly accept them if they’re done well and if they’re necessary to the plot. If the author simply throws one in for no reason, simply to try to appeal more to a YA audience, that’s when I get a little frustrated. I don’t think the girl is selfish for not choosing though. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! I know a lot of people aren’t fans. Even I get bothered by them if they’re there only for the sake of being there. But it’s good to know there are other readers out there who don’t immediately think the girl selfish since I see that complaint so much!

  5. Bookworm Brandee

    This is a fantastic topic for discussion, Kristen! I adore love triangles – when they’re done well. They don’t bother me at all. And I get a little cranky over the blame the girl takes when in this particular situation. 😉 First of all, I completely agree with you in that the guys should equally be shouldering any ‘blame’ for a love triangle. As long as it’s all out in the open, yeah, they know what they’re getting themselves into and if at any time they decide the girl isn’t worth it, they can exit. I think one thing that bothers me most is the double-standard that women complain about and then perpetrate against ourselves. I think most women don’t bat an eye at two girls fighting for the same guy – certainly not the guy’s fault. Right? But turn it around and we’re slamming on the girl.
    Since I’m older, by *ahem* at least 20 years in most cases, I tend to give characters leeway. I know I didn’t have all my sh*t together when I was in my 20’s…didn’t always make the best decisions. So when I’m reading about characters in their teens and early 20’s, I take that into consideration.
    You mentioned some M-M-M reads and was wondering if you’d offer some suggestions. I’d be interested in checking them out.
    Great post, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      “I think one thing that bothers me most is the double-standard that women complain about and then perpetrate against ourselves.” Yes! I see this SO MUCH, and it honestly bothers me too. The love triangle blame is definitely one example of it. It’s good to know you agree with me that everyone in the triangle is equally responsible.

      I try to give characters leeway too though. That’s another thing I’ve noticed, too! Many people expect teenage characters to make perfect decisions and have the maturity of someone who’s lived an entire life, but young adults DO make mistakes because they’re still learning.

      I may have been overexcited with my use of the word “some” because I can only think of one M-M-M book right now lol, and fair warning that it was NOT young adult, but, if you are still interested, it was In Darkness Bound by Christine Price, and I really liked it.

      Thanks for joining in!

  6. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I never really thought of this from this angle before. I’m not always a huge fan of love triangles, but I do like them when they’re done right. And you’re right that it’s a real thing – people often have conflicted feelings in real life – why are we so hard on our characters when they’re not sure who to choose? I KNOW I’ve read some books with one guy choosing between two girls before, but now I can’t think of any. I’m really curious to see if I can hunt one down and check out the response – to see if the guys get the same flak we give the girls.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I like getting people to think about things from different angles 🙂 People definitely have conflicting feelings in real life! I’d also be curious to know about those m-f-f triangles, let me know if you find them!

  7. Lola

    Most love triangle I read about are one girl and tow boys at leats in books. In anime’s for example the harem type relationships are quite common where you have on boy and lots of girls who are potential love inrerest and he usually picks one in the end, but all are possible candidates. But in books that doesn’t happen as often. I also like love triangles as long as they are done well.

    I see your point, everyone is involved in the triangle because of their own decision and feelings aren’t easy to shut off. Then again there are some love triangles where the girl is lying to the boys and I do think it would be ncie if she’s honest about it.

    It seems weird many people put the blame on the girl, maybe because that’s the point of view we get as a reader, so we see her more as an active participant? Just thinking aloud. As I do agree with you that everyone makes their own decisions and for the boys it’s their choice to keep waiting.

    When reading a love triangle I do prefer it if eventually the girl does make a decision and picks one of them. Then again I do agree with you that they shouldn’t rush into anything and if they aren’t ready to make the decision that should be okay. I think the most important thinh is to be clear and honest about it. If she isn’t ready to decide yet, I would like it if she is able to comminucate that so the boys know as well.

    Great post! I never thought of this topic in this way, but it’s curious to realize that it’s often the girl who get’s blamed.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I’ve never read anything in books like what you described in the anime, so I guess it’s not done often.

      If the girl is lying to the guys, or they don’t even know there’s another guy, then that’s definitely unfair and that girl deserves to be blamed! Lol.

      I never thought about it that way, that we see her as the most active participant. You might be right, that it has something to do with not being in the POV of the guys. Except I know of at least one series in which we get the POV of every person in the triangle, and people still yell at the girl that she’s being selfish. (Ok, she was kind of hopping around quite a bit, so maybe that one was a bit justified lol.)

      I also like for them to eventually decide, and again, I COMPLETELY agree with the honesty thing. I’m glad I could help you see things in a different light 🙂

  8. Laura

    Awesome post! I’ve never really looked at it this way before, but when i think about it, people do always tend to blame the girl.
    However, I’m not really a massive fan of love triangles in the first place to be honest, just because I find them so frustrating. I do find myself thinking ‘PICK ALREADY!’, as I’m reading, but that’s more for my own sanity than because I think the girl is being mean for stringing the guys along. As you say, the men in the triangle have their own mind, they don’t have to just sit there like they’re in a waiting room waiting to be picked or rejected. They can leave at any time!
    Plus I always think that if it’s that much of a dilemma and there’s no clear winner, does the girl actually like either of them all that much?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I get what you’re saying though, that you’re not accusing the girl of being selfish, you’re just tired of it period. I’m just picturing what you described now though, the men sitting in a waiting room lol. People do seem to forget that though, that the men are not mere victims.

      I see your point about whether the girl really likes either if she’s that undecided… but I don’t know if I completely agree? I kind of do because if you were truly in love with someone, would you fall in love with someone else? I feel like you wouldn’t. But I suppose anything is possible. Thanks for your thoughts!

  9. tonyalee

    I love this post!

    So as you know, I have no issues with love triangles. I think they are realistic in the sense that sometimes, we don’t know exactly what we need in our life and that is a big decision to make. Do I think the person is selfish? Nope. I think they need to take some time. big decision and all.

    I am trying to think of a book where the male is the one choosing, and I can’t. Honestly, with society how it is, the girl gets blamed for everything. That is changing, but it will take time.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! And right? I definitely have a hard time making decisions, so it’s believable that characters would too. I’m glad there are other people out there who don’t think the girl is selfish. It’s just unfortunate that our society does blame the girl in situations like these, though I also think it’s changing slowly.

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  11. Wendy

    The only book I can think off of the top of my head with a guy choosing between two girls is “Flash Burnout” by L. K. Madigan. And I just finished “The Truth Commission” by Susan Juby, in which the girl who’s the apex of a triangle (this is a side plot, not any main characters at all) decides that she loves BOTH the boys, and they can BOTH be her boyfriend.

    I cannot wrap my brain around being able to feel the way I feel about my husband about someone else simultaneously. I can barely wrap my mind around the idea that were he, God forbid, to drop dead, I might someday be able to feel like that about someone else. Two at once? Nope. Part of me wants to say, “But that’s just me and my experience,” and part of me wants to say, “Only teenagers could confuse having two crushes for being in love with two people.”

    Super interesting topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve never read those books, but I’ll look them up!

      I’ve actually read a couple books (and one whole series) with three-person relationships that started out as love triangles. I can’t imagine that ever working very well in real life, at least not how it does in books, but eh, I read fiction for a reason lol. So I think it can be fun to read about, regardless of how unrealistic it may be. But I do agree that the feelings in books are often called love when they’re really just crushes.

      Thanks for joining in!

  12. Heather

    I hate love triangles, especially ones revolving around a girl who doesn’t seem interesting enough to hold anyone’s attention. I’m waiting for the book where the guys involved forget about her and go off together.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha, I didn’t know I wanted that until now. But on occasion I do read books in which I can’t help but wonder what either of the guys even see in the girl, and that is irritating.

  13. Katy

    Yes! You are right about girls getting criticised unfairly. Now that I have read about and written on this topic I feel like I develop a new thought about love triangles about every ten minutes and here is the latest: I would guess that the majority of love triangles (or snowflakes..!) occur in YA, and it’s not like teenagers know what they’re doing or are capable of making decisions without asking all their friends. I teach them so I know this for a fact. So, for 17 year olds in a book to dither about who to pick is way more realistic than, say, if someone in their 30s was incapable of choosing, because the grown-up would just choose whoever didn’t live with his mum and had the ability to hold a conversation. So I agree. Let’s stop having a go at girls who don’t make a decision immediately. Sometimes I struggle deciding what cereal to eat, so a love triangle sounds very difficult to me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously, I can’t even make the simplest of decisions, so I completely understand how choosing in a love triangle would not be easy. But you’re right, it’s definitely more common in teens and even early 20s characters. Anyway, it’s hard enough finding one decent man let alone two (Doesn’t live with his mother and can hold a conversation? I’m in!) lol.

    2. Wendy

      *Snort* Yeah, a love triangle in a book about people in their 30s or older would have a very different feel–more like psychological issues than swoony romance.

  14. Andrea Berthot

    OMG I so agree with this post! I never really thought before about how we blame the girls and hold them to a different standard than we do the boys. (though of course I’m not surprised as we do this with everything else as well) I adore love triangles when they are well-done and don’t feel forced. I don’t blame anybody. Relationships are messy and making choices can be really hard, especially when you are a teenager. Fantastic post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can’t say it exactly surprises me either, but it disappoints me that things like this still happen! You’re right, no one needs to be blamed because it might seem like some simple, dream situation, but in reality it *would* be messy and difficult. Thank you!

  15. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    This is such a thoughtful, well-organised., cohesive post! 🙂 I actually never really thought about it until now, but yeah I DO blame the girl sometimes when reading books with love triangles, and it’s totally an attitude that HAS TO STOP. You’re right, the guys ARE capable of making decisions, and the blame hence, should not be solely on the girl! 🙂
    Awesome post, Kristen! 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m so glad you like it! I think it really is another one of those things pushed on us by society. I’m sure I’ve done it too at some point! But I’m glad I was actually able to help someone step back and think about it 🙂