There was a whir of controversy in the romance community over Utah’s KSL.com posting a short article entitled “Romance Novels Can Be as Addictive as Pornography,” By Kimberly Sayer-Giles. My Twitter feed has exploded in response with many outcries as well as humorous hashtag responses (i.e. RT @anawi Was kicked out of night classes for hitting on my hot professor, convinced he was a tortured vamp seeking redemption #romancekills)
This isn’t a new argument. What I found intriguing, however, was the assertion that “women are more stimulated by romance than sex.” It gave me pause. Really? I found myself wondering. Sure, the sexes are wired differently. Our inherent biological imperatives are coded into our genes, and we can’t physically help that we’re wired to ogle ( i.e. men are lured toward curvaceous women because they’re equipped to carry children; women are lured toward strong, buff men because they stand a better chance at survival). You know how it is…the whole caveman thing. The Darwin “survival of the fittest” thing.
What irritates me about this whole huff worthy argument is our continual hangup about sexuality, and the assumption that women are not inheritant sexual beings. Sexual desire is a masculine trait. Let us not forget the ever-pounded (*snicker*) Christian connotations associated with sex and sexuality. Christianity’s stance on sex has evolved over it’s 2,000 year history (sex and masturbation is sinful; sex before marriage is condemnable; sex between a man and a woman is only for making babies; sex should only be between a man and a woman). SEX SEX SEX AHHHHH!
Here are some stats. According to a Nielsen/NetRatings survey, in the first three months of 2007 one in three visitors to online porn sites were female; during that same time, nearly 13 million American women logged in at least once a month to pornographic web sites (CNN). Science has suggested that “women are at least as stimulated by porn as men.”
Here’s something even more interesting: “While the men responded more intensely to porn that mirrored their particular gender orientation, the women tended to like it all.” Ha HA, byatches! We. Like. It. All. Ah, the pleasures of being a woman. *snort*
I personally am not into same-sex erotica and/or romance. I’m not one to purposefully seek it out, but I won’t turn away from it either. There are fellow rombloggers out there that really enjoy reading male-male erotica, or have even cornered it as their genre. I’ve read a fair share of it – hell, I’m curious; I’d be lying if I said it didn’t do anything for me. Intrinsically there is some sort of base instinct in all of us that reacts to the attraction of two people, be it romantic or sexual. It’s chemical. It’s ingrained. We’re wired to react, otherwise we would have gone extinct loooong ago.
Women are sexual beings. We have sexual desire, and we can respond to sexuality just as much, if not more than, men. Romance is wonderful. So is sex. We need to ask ourselves why this is so difficult to a) accept and b) embrace? We’re also endowed with consciences and a sense of morality. Most of society is able to curb acting on our basest impulses at every turn. I say “most” because, having being a former New Yorker I’ve witnessed people without that sense of conscience do some pretty ridiculous things in public.
So what’s the difference between porn and romance novels? Here is what makes a good romance novel to me: the tupping, wanking, ravishing, fucking, making love-ing, shagging, banging…it’s rarely senseless. There’s a point to it. There are also consequences to it. I like best how Teresa Medieros explains it on her FAQ section of her blog: “…romances are actually incredibly moral books. The hero and heroine generally have a monogamous relationship that always ends in a lifelong commitment, usually marriage. I’ve probably become a MORE moral person by reading and writing romance. I also don’t feel like art is required to depict a perfect life. Every plot may not lend itself to marrying off the hero and heroine before they do the deed, but you’ll usually find that while they’re still basking in the afterglow, my heroes are already thinking, “Hey! I need to marry me that woman!”
Kimberly Sayer-Giles’ article goes on to imply, ““Some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography,” -Author Shaunti Feldhahn.” Do wha? So, because I’ve become “entranced” by the romantic ideals in a book I’m in danger of becoming unbalanced? Well SHHHIIIITTT! This statement is so condescending it defies comprehension.
If you are so engrossed in literary fiction you’re unable to function in day-to-day life: SEEK HELP. Edward Cullen isn’t real, ladies. If you’re depressed because your husband/wife or significant other isn’t made of stone-cold vampiric perfection, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Am I addicted to romance novels? It’d be more accurate to say I’m addicted to reading in general. I’m currently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals simultaneously with many other of my Raunch Dilettante assigned-reads (erotica, historical romance, YA). I’m also addicted to potato chips. And McDonald’s. And playing video games (my ass can attest to all of these, by the way). Do these things affect who I am and how I interact with those around me? Maybe. Does my love of romance novels affect my relationship with my husband? Yes, I think it has. My nose is practically almost always buried in a book when we’re not doing something together (watching TV, chatting, eating dinner, etc.). Does that bother him? Sometimes. He has to compete with a book to get my attention. On the flip side, I often have to compete with his iPhone. That said, however, he supports my hobby. He’s helped me with my blog and has even purchased books for me. We joke about the ridiculous covers and titles. We’ve even read snippets together. Hubs has his own hobbies, too, which I support. We generally, you know, talk to each other about our interests and ideas. Who’da thought?
What offended me most about the implications in the above mentioned article are that women are:
- At risk of being unable to distinguish between fiction and reality
- Are susceptible to romantic fantasy
- reading romance novels to escape their husbands
- lusting after fictitious characters (oh wait…I *may* be guilty of this one)
- Objectifying and romanticizing sex (I’m personally not threatened by this, but that’ s just me)
Are romance novels chick porn? Sure, why not. Are romance novels threatening? To a regularly functioning human being capable of reasoning between reality and fantasy, it’s a big, fat resounding NO.
Thoughts, my fellow Raunchers?