Romance novels… pornography for women?

Romance novels… pornography for women?

I just about threw the book across the room when I read this claim. I won’t mention the name of the book but if you’ve guessed the author is a man, you’d be correct. So where does he get off comparing my much-beloved sexy paranormals with pornography? Granted he’s got a Ph.D. but does that mean he knows what he’s talking about?

Then I calmed down a bit and thought about it. In terms of romance I mainly read paranormal, fantasy, chick-lit, historicals and a bit of romantica – a la Ellora’s Cave rather than straight erotica. That’s just my choice – I’m not making any judgements, here. And since the majority of romances are called such because their stories are driven by the romance between the male and female protagonists, men being men and women being women there’s usually sex involved – from bedroom-door-closed-so-use-your-imagination allusions to quite graphically sexy descriptions that are truly an art form to successfully write in themselves (see October’s Passionate Ink post). Heck, I’ve even written a trio of really sexy paranormals from the first person POV and… they were helluva fun to write, what can I say?

But are these books – and what I wrote, too – pornography designed for women? Well, my husband might disagree with the ‘for women’ part because he’s obviously male and he really likes Angela Knight’s writing. And I’m told some of the Clendon readers who voted one of my aforementioned hot-stuff paranormals into the 2006 competition final were men. So obviously some men appreciated the naughty stuff, too. I don’t think they’d term it pornography, though. And frankly, neither would I.

For me, it’s escapism, pure and simple. Our heros are our ideal men, ranging from hunky musclemutts to slightly built sensitive darlings and everything inbetween. No matter what their physical attributes, they have one thing in common: they see beyond the outer shell to the real woman underneath. And they want her. Our heroines – or mine, anyway – are imperfect and headstrong. Regardless of anything else, the sex naturally follows on from her innate belief in love. If I close my eyes and ignore any physical descriptions, she could be me.

And that’s the whole point of reading romance: it’s based on the journey towards a happy ending – or the possibility of one – no matter how graphic the sex. It’s about overcoming the odds and finding true love – or the possibility of it.  It’s not about getting off while you’re reading and using the prose as a substitute for ‘the real thing’. It’s the feeling of reaching the end of the book, thinking about your significant other and feeling damn lucky to have them in your life. It’s about possibilities and the joy of sex with someone you care about, not jerking off.

And that’s another thing: why waste energy getting hung up on the increasing amount of increasingly graphic sex portrayed in some genres today? It’s purely a response to market forces – writers are writing what readers want to read. Same with tv and the movies. The storylines, the current style of filming, the breakneck pace… all are giving people what they want and expect. It’s a trend that may or may not continue. If you don’t like it, then vote with your feet… or pocket, or remote. Don’t see the movie, don’t buy the book, don’t watch the tv program. Your choice. The very popularity of inspirational romance is an indicator to me that many people are voting with their pockets and driving the market. Good on them!

Oops! Slightly off track, here. Sorry. So anyway, I’ll finish reading this book because it’s interesting and makes many valid points about the male/female dynamic. And (as I always do) I’ll take away from it only those portions that make sense to me. One thing I won’t be taking away or taking on board is this idea that I read – and write! – pornography for women. I write romance. End of story. Period.



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