Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Romance or erotica?

I’m a reader of many genres, and many a non-fiction subject.
I have been a longtime romance reader. Depending upon my mood, I will read romances with sexuality explicit content. And, some times I won’t. But, that doesn’t make me a fan of erotica.
Let me explain…
Within publishing- and library-land, romance novels – ie ‘category romances’ – are about characters and their relationships and Happily Ever Afters (HEAs).
Erotica, conversely, is about sex. (Feel free to dispute this.)
In fiction, as in real life, I’m not a fan of sex for sex’s sake. Therefore, erotica, sans romance, is not my cup of tea. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand its appeal to others – both in fiction, and in real life.
I prefer to read character-driven well-plotted books – and that includes romances – in which sex (present or not, explicit or not) adds to the characters’ relationship and on-going story. I am not fond of books with lots of explicit sex scenes which have characters and plot thrown in, only to kill time, or so it seems, until the next sex scene.
(Therefore, I’m at a lost to explain the appeal of Elizabeth Amber’s Lords of Satyr series, but I’m not the only romance reader confounded by the compulsion to read them all. That said, the author makes a good attempt at world-building, and deals with characters’ and emotions, and not just the sex. I’ll keep telling myself that.)
Recently, I’ve found myself defending the inclusion of ménage books in the romance section of the library. Humans are weird. Emotions are weirder. Relationship, weirder still. So, along as it works and makes sense – in fiction and in real life – I can believe in romance between more than two people.
Isn’t limiting love to a couple just as discriminatory as denying a same-sex relationship? (Don’t misunderstand me, that doesn’t mean I support polygamy or polyandry when it is not based on mutual love, respect and trust. I do not defend any relationship not based on these.)
Now, does reading romance novels – explicit or not – affect my relationships? Am I just waiting for Mr Right to sweep me away? No. And I never have. I know that they are fantasies. Just like my reading of crime (novels and true-crime non-fiction) doesn’t make me a serial killer. (Nor, I hasten to add, a criminal of any description.)
I knew there was a disconnect between what you read and enjoy, and what you do and believe, early in my life. I might have hoped that my wardrobe was magical, but I didn’t spend hours inside it, hoping to travel somewhere else. I didn’t read scary or horror stories as a child, but there were still monsters under my bed. (They were there before I started watching the creepy and scary Sapphire and Steel TV series. A show that was so scary my parents were afraid to watch it, leaving me – about 10 – watching it by myself, after they’d gone to bed. And, yes, I had permission.)
When a teacher at my secondary school realised I was reading romances, she commented to my mother (who was on the staff). I overheard my mother say ‘I don’t care what she’s reading, I know she’s not going to go out and do it.’ (That’s because none of my older siblings had turned into Satanists, even if they had been reading Mum’s Dennis Wheatley’s Duke de Richleau books.)
Where does this leave me?
  • Still reading romance, when the mood strikes, after 30(ish) years
  • Although I do still feel defensive library staff look at me sideways, or make comments, when I request said romance.
  • Which leads to point three: in my not-terribly-grown-up head saying ‘I have a Masters degree in English lit. Take that, and stop judging me by my reading’.
In searching the Oxford English Dictionary for help with the definitions, I find:
Romance: A story of romantic love, esp. one which deals with love in a sentimental or idealized way; a book, film, etc., with a narrative or story of this kind. Also as mass noun: literature of this kind.
Erotica: Matters of love; erotic literature or art (freq. as a heading in catalogues).
Pornography: The explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this. A distinction is often made between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ pornography, on the basis of how explicit or taboo the material in question is held to be.

~ Editorial by Aud Selene.