The Romance Novel – Women’s Porn?

by Keira G on January 28, 2010 · 8 comments

in About, Erotica, News, Sheik/Desert

This question has been asked in one form or another since romance novels went mainstream. Authors have been dismissed because they write romance instead of science fiction or crime books or other normal genres.  If the cover has bulging pectorals and swooning women then it must be girl porn. Shame on you, haven't you heard the advice never judge a book by its cover?

Romance has been dismissed and labeled by many derogatory terms such as trashy romance novel, bodice-rippers, girl porn, chick porn, chick-lit, virgin bibles, horny hystericals, etc. Some of these terms like trashy romance novel have become a badge of honor to declare with pride by readers. i.e. "I love trashy romance novels!" Similarly there are people out there who will tell you they are proud that they don't read them. Did you know that the romance industry sells over 50% of all paperback books? Looking at figures like those, it's hard to mock romance.

Writing a romance novel takes a lot of work. What happens if you start off with characters and can't make them come together romantically in a believable way? You'll wind up with the square pegs in round holes syndrome and a book you can't possibly sell. Just look at JKR's Harry Potter Saga - the best romance in the book is the only one she didn't attempt to show or explain and that was James and Lily Potter. Clearly writing romance is not Rowling's forte. So if a world renowned author can't write romance believably wouldn't that prove it's a tough quota to fill?

To be able to repeatedly produce quality heroes and heroines that fall in love, have sexual tension, and resolve all their issues is phenomenal and should be awarded not punished.

But the sex and the sin!

A lot of people are under the misapprehension that sex, marital or otherwise in a romance is sinful and shouldn't be read. Romance novels are only okay if you can read them to your grandmother. But what if you're grandmother is particularly savvy and cool? Wouldn't this test be disqualified?

On an interesting note the romance industry not too long ago, think 80s and earlier, thought premarital sex would turn readers away. This is where the term bodice-ripper is derived, specifically in conjunction with Desert and Sheik love.

Erotica writers take sex in romance to a new level - is this a bad thing? No, I say, it's not. Sex has its place, so does plot, dialogue, and deux ex machina. It's hard to write - just read the author interviews here on this website and you'll see what I mean.

So I say to the unenlightened, this is the new millennia. Get over it or please tell me you only watch Bollywood movies where even kissing is taboo in most cases. (Though Bollywood movies can easily pour on the heat - it's all that unrequited tension! Yum!)

Does that mean that all sex is good sex in a romance or in other words when is sex gratuitous like a bathroom scene in a movie? The answer again is no. I think sex is gratuitous when it serves to just be there as page filler just like the bathroom scene in a movie.

Conclusion:

Clearly, I think the issue lies with personal phobias. The idea of being caught with a romance novel is embarrassing to some. These are the people I feel should most definitely be introduced to romance novels. It's okay, we're here to hold your hand and if absolutely needed, you have our permission to read it under the covers with a flashlight.

In the end I must ask, who's out there demeaning men for watching dare I say it - man porn?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MarkusR December 9, 2008 at 9:19 AM

In the end I must ask, who’s out there demeaning men for watching dare I say it – man porn?

Umm, radfems and the religious right, not to mention numerous individualists who consider the act to be personally disgusting or breach of relationship (cheating). Man-porn outfits actually are considered such vices in society that laws have been made to curb their locations.

I would describe romance novel as porn, but since I don’t consider porn to be inherently negative, I’m not saying it to put it down. Just a description of the sexual fantasy needs in the society that it fills.

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2 Keira December 15, 2008 at 6:50 PM

But a man is consider “abnormal” if he hasn’t seen porn before or own it in some fashion. The stigma on porn for men is far less than it is for women. The industry is not out there to provide porn for women 90% of the time.

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3 Will August 1, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Keira,

Think of all the times you hear questions surface like “I caught my boyfriend looking at porn — does that mean I’m not enough for him?” While it’s generally accepted in the abstract that guys watch porn, it’s still not considered polite to acknowledge that regarding particular males in the room in any circles I’ve ever been in.

I would classify romance novels as being treated like comic books — there’s a good-sized segment of adult males that read comic books, and its easy to point to some high quality ones that are valid on anyone’s literature shelf, but there’s still a stigma attached to reading them as an adult. If your reaction is “hey, no fair making that comparison, comic books are cheap crap for kids” then you have just proved my point.

I think romance novels have the negative association they do because people who don’t read them think they embody gender roles that are considered outdated. You know, chaste Mary Sue tries heroically to resist the advances of Bolt (the ruggedly-handsome scoundrel) before finally consenting to be ravished, at which point she successfully tames his wild ways.

Is this a fair generalization about the genre? Of course not — though there are still elements of that storyline that get retold, because many “modern” women (even those with PhDs or high powered jobs) still find elements of that fantasy compelling. During the early years of the sexual revolution this kinds of fantasy was considered outdated and even politically dangerous. Nowadays, this censure is falling out of fashion as young feminists demand the right to be tied up in bed if that’s what floats their boats, so I imagine the time will be right for a reevaluation of romance before too long.

For now, romance fans need to just relax, have a thick skin, and be self confident. If someone makes a snide remark, just smile at them enigmatically and move on. It’s okay to like whatever you like, and anyone who’s going to be obnoious about it isn’t worth talking to anyway.

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4 EroticAmy January 2, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Sex is not sinful, you do need to rap up little jimmy but it’s normal to enjoy it.

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5 DorlaMoorehouse January 30, 2010 at 12:55 PM

I don’t consider romance novels to be pornographic, because in my personal (working, open to revision) definition of pornography, porn is something that is inherently degrading or objectifying. It’s primarily degrading/objectifying to women, but definitely can be towards men as well, in addition to people of other races, etc. (I realize that there is a movement for “feminist porn” out there, but as I have not seen any of it, I am not yet able to reconcile that with my personal views on porn.) While I don’t like that (hetero) romance novels tend to portray stereotypical ideas about gender and sexuality, I don’t find the same levels of degradation or objectification that I find in pornography.

A question – would our answers to this question be the same for lesbian romance or gay romance novels? I realize the focus of this blog is pretty much hetero romance/erotica, but I still think it’s a question worth asking.

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6 Aprilula July 10, 2010 at 11:18 PM

Don’t you even try that…J.K. Rowling couldn’t do romance? Please. Harry Potter is fantasy book that pulls the reader into an imaginative world with a history and complex scenerios and circumstances. Ten romance novel probably couldn’t match up – come close – to HP. So really, don’t even try it. Man and woman, attractive, different meet and are attracted. They run into an obstacle, a problem, and have issues but end up together.Mix in intimacy.It’s formulaic.

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7 Sabrina October 23, 2010 at 3:13 PM

There’s plenty of men getting slagged for reading pornography. Thing is, what I have a problem with in people criticizing women for reading romance as so-called ‘women’s porn’ is because they fail to think that women can distinguish between fantasy and reality. For some half-baked reason, the critics and haters think women readers are emotionally unstable that we’re gonna run out there and try to make the book into a reality. If that’s the case, then why aren’t more men out there trying to be James Bond or someting?

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8 David December 19, 2010 at 11:03 PM

Romance novels objectify Men the same way porn pictures and video
Objectifies women. Neither is okay as far as I’m concerned.
You can’t browbeat one and let the other slide. They’re both 10 billion plus
Industries. That should tell you something. Also, I’m tired of hearing feminist
Condemn male-consumed porn and when it comes to female-consumed
Porn they hold there tongue, or are oblivious. I can’t take your argument
Seriously if that is the case. If this is you don’t get it.

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