Monday, November 12, 2012

Are Romance Novels Just Porn for Women? by Guest, Steph


Today I have the pleasure of hosting a guest, Stephanie from over at  Stephsbookretreat  She's an avid reader and a wonderful lady.  If you have time be sure and cheek out her place! She'd love to hear from everyone.

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Most evenings you can find my husband and I cuddled up on  the couch, him watching Anthony Bourdain No Reservations or Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern; my husband will have his head in my lap and I will be reading some romance or romantic suspense novel (paperback usually). If you ever overheard what has become a joke between us, you would hear, “romance novels are just porn for women,” come from my husband, then you would see his loving wife glare over her novel and stop stroking his forehead and hair, lol. I have thought about this and you know what, I can see where he would think so. In some ways I do see the similarities, especially when you are comparing it to erotica and to some of the other harder core novels, yet, I do draw a line. I don’t think they are created equal.

When I think of pornography, I think of pictures or DVDs, when I think of erotica and other novels, I think of words and of having to use one’s imagination. Unlike ‘picture porn’ novels require the reader to fill in certain blanks and to imagine the scene being described come to life in their own mind, and not watching it or viewing it.

Maybe it’s just that most women prefer to read than to view things that get them aroused, yet, if you walk down any isle in the romance section, you will not find novels that are JUST hardcore people having sex, etc, most have a well written plot and the sex just adds to the plot and keeps the plot moving. There are some novels where they are inundated by sex sex sex, well, you generally know what you are getting when you read those; it only takes a few moments or reading the synopsis to find out what sort or novel you are going to get; other times, the sex/romance is almost secondary to the main plot line.

Growing up, I remember being told by some female family members and others, that Harlequin novels were ‘unacceptable’ for a ‘young lady’ to read, because they were full of ‘depravity’ and ‘nothing but sex;’ as an adult, I can say, from reading experience, that Harlequin novels are NOT like that, if anything, the ones I have read are great quick reads. I can read one in an afternoon or a weekend, unlike some other novels where they are a few hundred pages and mostly part of a series, so the author takes extra care to fill in newcomers to the series and to still not alienate their established readers.

Some novels are very steamy, and yes, a bit more erotic than others, sure they might turn the reader on, yet, I like to joke with my husband and my girl friends that, ‘I love the men in my novels but I am in love with my husband.’ Some of the men in the novels are very much fantasy reads, yet, I know that they are just that, fantasy.  I’ve read are I don’t read novels as a way to get turned on or ‘in the mood’, I read them because they are a way for me to relax and I enjoy the camaraderie that I get when sharing with other readers and authors about what I read.  

Pornography is usually kept in the ‘backroom’ or ‘behind the counter’ in many places, yet, I have never seen a romance novel or even a harder core novel hidden in such a way. Maybe it’s because romance novels are just more generally accepted. 

Unlike with pornography, women can share what we read in an ‘everyday setting’ for the most part. We share novels in public and even talk about them around our children with not a lot of editing; not that we get very graphic with our discussions, even when talking about the ‘hottest’ novels or latest erotic novel. A woman can have just about any novel sitting in her car on the seat or on the coffee table when guests come over [ok, maybe not your grandparents or pastor], but other than that, if your copy of the latest best selling romance is sitting out you won’t be embarrassed about it.

I can think of a few authors that yes, they do write some very steamy scenes, and of course if it’s a particularly great book or scene [one particular shower scene pops into mind], we share, we may even send the excerpt to a girl friend who might enjoy it and appreciate it, that is just because we love our girl friends so much that we are compelled to share. That’s what girl friends are for; and for those of us, who have reading blogs, it’s one of the things we enjoy is sharing with others a great romance or even a bad one.  

Based on what I have shared with girl friends and what I have heard when we spoke about this, I think it’s the general consensus that women have a better imagination that is more easily fostered by words than by images. I can get a better picture of something if it’s described to me in words than just by seeing a picture of something; my imagination takes over where the author leaves off and I basically personalize it to what I can imagine. A [romance] author gives their readers a starting point and guides them through a world that they have created and into a world where we can slip away for a while and then return to ‘reality’ the one where there are dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, preschoolers to be wrangled and school meetings to attend. For a few minutes we are transported to a world of Scottish highland warriors, rakish rogues, erotic vampires, and far away places that we may never get the opportunity to see in our lifetime.

So why not find a comfy chair or draw a hot bubble bath and lock the door and enjoy a novel on your Kindle/Nook or pull a paperback out of your purse or off the shelf and enjoy some ‘you’ time, ladies.  

4 comments:

Ren said...

Great post, Steph!
*steps on soapbox*
It really cheeses me off when I hear people say that romance novels are just porn in paperback. Really?
I love the idea of being sucked into a swashbuckling adventure with a roguish pirate or sitting on the edge of my seat when there's a super-sexy shifter making decisions between life and death. Aside from the glittery ones, I love a good Alpha Vampire love story. Oh and my all time favs are the SciFi Romance ones. Intergalactic action with a feel-good love story. Yeah baby!
Anyhoo, where was I? Oh yeah :)
The sex should be part of a great storyline, not the main focus. Sure, the sex can be steamy and outright "OMG!" and "WTH!" but when you have the two elements combined, there is no way it can be considered paperback porn. No way at all. Those who say so have NEVER sat down and read a romance novel.
Now, you have people screeching about the whole 50 Shades stuff and calling it "Mommy Porn" How tired is that term? Unfortunately, there will be people out there who will confuse Romance with Erotic Romance and ultimately put both genres under the tag of Paperback Porn. Romance and Erotic Romance are NOT pornographic.
The day that I hear of my favourite authors being sold in the XXX Adult Video stores as picture books and that "bow-chicka-bow-bow" music is the day I stop reading them. *steps off the soap box*

Celine said...

I agree, romance isn't just porn. A good romance is about both the emotional and sexual side of relationships. Erotica in my opinion really is just porn though. The fact that it's in book form doesn't change the fact that it's just written to get you aroused and nothing more.

Celine ~ Nyx Book Reviews

Lorraine Pearl said...

Great post, Stephanie. I couldn't agree more. Plus, men are visual and need the visual stimulation, and women are more intellectual and need the mental stimulation. That's why romance--even erotic romance--works for us. We need the emotional aspect and the plot.

Ren, got room on that soapbox for one more?

I think the biggest problem is we've been too sexually repressed for too long and it's been made to be such a bad thing for women. That, and people seem to think we're just looking for hot guys and sex in books and aren't smart enough to care about plot. Granted, I do want the hot guys and sex, but if there's no plot and emotion to it, what's the use? It's just plain ignorance on the part of the ones saying those things. Once they read real romance, they realize there's a heck of a lot more going on in the stories. But then again, some will always hold on to their prejudices.

Okay, you may have your soapbox back now, Ren.

You know, if men were smart, they'd read the novels just to find out what women really want from a man.

Diana MacArthur said...

Nice post! LOL Lorraine - I agree more men should read romance.

As a woman whose husband is a huge consumer of porn, I feel well-aquainted with the topic. He will often bring home "couples" porn in which the focus is much more about the story than the "guy" porn. That's what women want - a good story!

What I'm finding interesting is how much he likes my own "dirty f#@* books" (his words - not mine). He reads them because they have a lot of hot sex (think letters to Penthouse) but they also have enough of a story to keep him interested. Erotic romance is really just a great romance where the bedroom doors are left wide open instead of closed off. People who are in love have sex. We can have it in our books without calling them 'porn'.

IMHO, I think men need to spend more time reading romance and women more time watching porn. It might go a long way toward creating some understanding between the sexes.

Diana
http://dianamacarthur.com