Much has been made about the “respectability” of the romance genre and how the presence of erotic or hot romance “demeans” that.
And I’ve been puzzling over this for a bit now because I find the perspective incomprehensible and yet fascinating. (much like someone who says they like freedom of speech but tells a moderator she should have reined people’s posts in)
Romance has problems with respectability for a host of reasons, most of them occurring before erotic became the newhotthing. The truth is (and wow, if this hasn’t occurred to people I don’t know what to think) women are marginalized every day in just about every way.
Romance is a predominantly woman fueled genre. We write it, we read it and we edit and sell it. Our fantasies and thoughts are always demeaned as less important than those literary pursuits of men. This is not new.
Romance is viewed as silly. And you know what? A lot of it is. And who fucking cares? Seriously. Like I need to make excuses because I want a little fluff after listening to my kids snipe at each other all day? Like it’s a crime to want something you don’t have to work too hard on at the end of a day? And you don’t think there’s fluff written for men? Come on! So he’s a detective instead of a bakery owner – and? Like the presence of a penis and a typewriter makes him more respectable? A small percentage of books that are written are important in the sense that they change the world. I like to read those too. But they’re not the only thing I want to read.
Women’s fantasies are often maligned. Should I feel bad that I write something that gives my readers a happy ending? A hero who wants to share the heroine’s troubles and doesn’t leave his beard hairs in the sink? If I’m supposed to, too bad. Because I don’t. My romance novels are supposed to be entertaining. Yes, I do hope to make people think, my books often contain larger social issues in some form, but escapism is important too.
And women’s sexual fantasies are co-opted and dismissed. Co-opted and twisted by a lot of sexually graphic material and aimed at men. And you know, I’m not dissing men, I love men and I live with three of them (okay, not like THAT, that’s a great idea for a book though!). But most sexual material is created for men. So the women are often props instead of participants and very rarely the focus.
But erotic romance puts the spotlight on the woman and her fantasies. It celebrates the sexually independent woman who isn’t afraid of pleasure. That is threatening on many levels. In romantica, she’s the center of the action.
So of course it’s maligned and dismissed. It’s the “achilles heel” of romance, it’s the end of the genre, it’s porn, it’s dragging down the respectability of the genre (which we’ve established already has a problem with being taken seriously so it’s not a valid argument anyway). The worst thing for me is when other female romance authors make these arguments because they always strike me as specious and defensive and hostile.
We in romance are like the Mary Kay ladies. People love to make fun of the Mary Kay ladies but hello, the Mary Kay corp makes a hella big profit every year. People may make fun of romance but we dominate the market, someone’s buying our books.
So you know, I’ll take my royalty statements over respectability. That’s just me. I’m a smart woman with lots of letters behind my name and I love to read and write romance. I’m not going to apologize for either and neither should anyone else. Regencies, Greek Tycoons, erotic romance, contemps about NASCAR – I don’t care, sod respectability, let’s just enjoy what we do and stop attacking each other.