I’m sure this post is going to bring me quite a bit of accidental traffic, but oh well. Sometimes, things have to be said, even if they bring in the wrong sort of crowd!
We all know the truth. Romance is the Rodney Dangerfield of genre fiction: it just can’t get no respect. Those who write it and those who read it are regularly sneered at as having no talent (“anyone can write to a formula”) or no taste (“how can you read that trash?”). We do what we can to combat this sort of prejudice, of course, but in the final analysis, we all know it’s ultimately a waste of time and breath. People who are anti-romance aren’t going to change their minds no matter what we say any more than people who read Glenn Beck and watch Fox News are going to wake up tomorrow morning and think, “OMG, I was so WRONG about Obama!”
But the one charge against romance that is absolutely certain to raise both hackles and heated responses is to call it “porn” (with or without the phrase “for women” tacked on). The defenders of romance rush into the fray whenever this charge is raised, because, they insist, romance is not pornography. Romance novels do not exist for the sole purpose of exciting sexual arousal, even when they include explicit sex scenes, and there are plenty of romances that aren’t explicit at all. Romance isn’t about sex, per se, but about romantic love, with sex as one of the many lenses through which that emotion can be explored.
The thing is, this is something you don’t have to tell people who read or write the genre. We know it already. I’m just not sure that arguing against it helps improve anything. Because as I said earlier, people who don’t like romance aren’t going to change their opinions no matter what we say. Moreover, I know plenty of romance writers out there who joke that they write “smut” or, yes, “porn.” I’ve been known to say it myself on occasion.
What it boils down to for me is this: I don’t care if people who don’t read romance consider it “porn.” I’m not ashamed to say that I write books that I hope will engender a whole range of emotions in my readers, up to and including sexual arousal. The sex isn’t the ONLY thing in the book, of course, but it’s a huge component of a romantic relationship, and if I can convey that part of my characters’ relationship well, I generally feel the rest will come along for the ride.
In other words, I’m all about word appropriation. You want to call my book “porn?” Fine, I’ll embrace that label the way some in the LGBTQI community have embraced the word “queer.” My books ARE intended to arouse my readers, and if they don’t, I’m not doing it right. And I’d rather spend my time doing it right than convincing the anti-romance crowd to use a different word. Because whether they do or not won’t change what I write and how I write it. Or, for that matter, what I love to read.
Now, go ahead…tell me why I’m all wet!