Musings

In Defense Of Romance

I sit here trying to be serious and write another thoughtful post with a dog in my lap (“LapDOG Mama, not lapTOP”). Angel is not a small dog. She’s 45 pounds of cuddly canine. God love her. So as I sit here balancing my computer precariously on my knees so that she’s comfortable (I’m a sucker for puppy cuddles, I admit it), I have been thinking about today’s post on Romance Worth Killing For, which discusses how the author had someone who is her biggest fan other than her DH in terms of being proud of her accomplishment, referred to romantic literature as “trash”. This is something I’ve heard before–generally from people who don’t read it. But I’ll one up you on that one Elisabeth. I know someone who thinks of romantic literature as porn for women. :Blinks: Yeah, you heard me. As a writer AND reader of romance and romantic suspense, I find myself massively offended by this because I do not support pornography in any guise. I heard some Washington politician say once that pornography was “that thing everyone knows what it is and no one can define”. Which isn’t to say the dictionary doesn’t try. :Hops on over to dictionary.com: Okay according to the first entry pornography is noun obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit. How…unenlightening. To my mind, this definition leaves out the very important component of exploitation. It has always been my understanding and belief that pornography exploits the children, women, and men it uses as its subjects. Doesn’t it stand to reason those people have to be real? Can you exploit a character? In any event, I can perhaps see his point when it comes to the erotica subset of romance as sex is a considerably stronger component of the plot. But he applies this same definition to ANY romance (well presumably not the ones without sex–he probably doesn’t know those exist). This is such a narrow-minded and offensive view that I’ve never responded. The fact of the matter is that I do not write trash or pornography, and I do not read it. It is a reality that most adult relationships have sex as a component. It’s unsurprising, then, that books about adult relationships–be they romances or NOT–generally have some love scenes. That doesn’t make them pornography. It doesn’t make them lewd. It doesn’t make them trash. It doesn’t remove all their artistic merit. By his definition, I wonder if he thinks all regular movies with love scenes are pornography as well? By that token we’d never be able to watch anything other than Disney. And while I’m a great fan of Disney, that would be a great loss to cinema.

3 thoughts on “In Defense Of Romance

  1. As you know, I’ve got no problem with what people above the age of consent consentingly do. Child porn, of course, being a whole different ball game involving those who are powerless to give consent. That’s just a whole category of horror that defies description.

    My personal view on what is or is not pornography does have to do with, I suppose, artistic merit in some way. Pornography is made, in words, photographs, or moving pictures, for the sole purpose of titilation. Although it could be claimed that there are emotions present in any sexual act, and that these are displayed to some degree, the emotional state of the participants is not the focus of pornography, but rather it is aimed more at the physical sensations, both those experienced (or badly portrayed) by the participants, and those it aims to generate in its audience.

    Romance, on the other hand, in whatever form of media, deals with emotions. It’s primary focus is on the emotions that the characters experience, how those direct their actions, change them as people, etc. While there are scenes, and sometimes explicitly described scenes of physical relationships, in a well-written romance those scenes happen as a result of a series of emotional encounters, and in a good love scene ever act is the result of an emotions and engenders and emotional response.

    As written romance becomes ever more explicit with regard to sexual content, those who say Porn will probably say it louder. And perhaps my mutterings of Moron will also increase in volume. When someone who knows nothing about a subject feels compelled to put their expert label on it, it should speak more clearly about the someone than the subject.

    I think the fact that we as writers, myself included, tend to become upset by this label has a lot to do with our own embarrassment and struggle for acceptance. It’s like the boy on the playground who says you smell. Do you smell? Then don’t worry about people who have to put down others and others’ pleasures to feel better about themselves.

    I sure your friend’s husband gets all the intellectual stimulation he needs from sitting in front of ESPN for hours and doesn’t need to read our romance novels anyway.

  2. FWIW, in legal terms (heh), I’ve found that “little or no artistic merit” implies that exploitation is occurring.

    Obviously, children lack the ability to control what’s going on around them, but as far as women/men are concerned… If they’re able to make informed decisions about their participation…that’s on them. It’s sad, yes… but dang it, I can’t do anything about the people who drink themselves to death every day, nor the people who smoke their way into a wooden box. The only thing I _can_ do is not encourage or buy into the industry myself.

    And, yanno what? Screw those romance naysayers. They exist — always have, always will. A lot of mainstream novels have MUCH more explicit sex than a lot of romance… then again, a lot of romance is very raunchy these days. As they say, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” To generalize all romance as porn or as nice, romantic stories is simply incorrect. It’s an individual assessment that should be made from book to book…generalizations never help — on either side.

    Jen

  3. I actually took workshop about what to say when people, specifically reporters, refer to romance work as trash or smut or porn. The lesson was to be careful…if you argue, you get their back up and then they have to PROVE it’s trash. So they’re right and you’re wrong.

    I figure it’s porn when it’s only about putting peg A into slot B (and sometimes C!) but not WHY said peg is being put into said slot. It’s like the old joke about sex: Women need a reason, men just need a place.

    I also figure it would be a lot easier to write porn. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with all that pesky goal, motivation and conflict stuff.

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