>Too Much Of A Good Thing?

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In the last year, the RWR (Romance Writers Report) has published letters to the editor with complaints of romance books having too much sex and foul language. Critics have said they don’t want to see beyond the bedroom door, and they consider authors who use foul language as being challenged individuals when it comes to finding words that better convey emotions.

Reality

For those individuals who prefer a more sedate book, please note that the market drives the demand for certain types of books. To make a living one MUST make accommodations based on what’s driving sales. Instead of sniping at fellow authors, sit thee down and write the good book as my friend Claire says. The same to protesters of foul language.

Writing romance isn’t something we can do in a vacuum. We need to either incorporate our reality into a book, or at least present an accurate picture of the past. We need to write what readers believe is realistic, and there are many romance readers who believe that sex, foul language and/or both is a vital component of a romance. With all that in mind, I do think some of the protesters have a valid point. There can be too much sex and too much foul language. Now before you tackle me on that, please note that I write erotic romance. I write carnal sex scenes in my romance works. I also use “foul” language. But here’s what some writers and readers don’t understand. Too much of something is a bad thing.

Repetitive Versus Not Too Much

When writing sex, the writer needs to understand that it’s the sexual tension the reader wants. They want build up or at the very least a really good reason for the culmination of sex. Readers on the other hand need to understand that what they see as “too much sex in romance” is really a sign of poorly developed sexual tension and/or characterization. So instead of ranting about there’s too much sex in romance, start ranting about the lack of characterization or sexual tension. There is a big difference. In this humble writer’s opinion, it’s not that there’s too much sex in romance, it’s that the sex in a lot of romance is simply underdeveloped sexual tension and/or character development.

I applaud sex and foul language in romance when used appropriately and not repeatedly. And I believe that’s the biggest part of the problem. I think it’s the repetitiveness in so many romances that irritates readers. They just don’t realize it. The issue of foul language can be viewed the same way. For a character or scene the use of “foul” language can be quite appropriate, but too much makes for repetition and the words lose their impact. There’s nothing more powerful than the F-word used at a point in the story where that’s the only word that will do. But using it every other line reduces the word’s impact. The same goes for using words like clit, clitoris, penis, etc. These throw me out of the read. (I’m continuously asking myself if the majority of women really use those words when they’re making love to their significant others? Maybe some do, but I’m willing to bet a lot of women don’t. In fact, they’re more apt to be a little more base. *grin*) For me those words don’t ring true. They don’t sound realistic in the context they’re placed..

And that’s what this post is really about. Realism. Is the sex realistic, appropriate and written into the story at the right point in time for the characters drawn on the page? Is the language used appropriate for the specific moment in the story? Has the writer avoided the issue of repetitiveness with both the sex and the foul words. Sex and foul language are integral to many good books. But when it’s overdone, it’s like overcooked beef — it’s dry and far from tasty.

>The Age of Sex

>This is the second time I’ve opted out of my halfway finished “other” post and started a new topic. I doubt I’ll be around until the weekend to respond to comments, but I’ll definitely be interested in those that are posted. This might not come across as well-thought out, but work with me here. I did try to be logical about it. *grin*

Sex, Sex, Sex

As a writer of erotic romance, part of my work revolves around writing sex. So that sort of brings me to my topic for the day. Premartial sex among middle schoolers. Recently in the news, a Portland, Maine school board voted 7 to 2 to allow contraceptives be given to middle schoolers without parental consent. Personally, I’m for handing out contraceptives, although I wish they’d promoted the use of condoms because it’s a way to prevent STDs. While I don’t condone sex in the realm of middle school or high school, I don’t bury my head in the sand to reality. Kids will find a way to have sex, and I personally don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for the health and welfare of kids with unwanted pregnancies or the care of their offspring. Don’t even get me started on parents who can’t teach their kids that sex should only happen when you’re mature enough to know what the responsibilities of the act entails.

Parenting – What a Concept

Now that the mini-left-wing rant is over, I’d like to address it from the point of view of an erotic romance writer with two daughters

  • Kids should know what sex entails from the age of nine in simple, plain language
  • Kids should know that abstinence is the best policy at least until old enough to understand that with the act comes great responsibility
  • Kids should be watched like a hawk. Letting a middle schooler (10-13) roam the mall on a Saturday is sheer stupidity, dangerous and irresponsible on the part of a parent. Letting them go places without knowing where they are or who they’re with is ridiculous.
  • Kids don’t need to be dressed up as Britney Spears wannabes or Bratz dolls – kids dressed up like little adults tend to take on the mannerisms of adults. Too many parents treat their kids like dress up dolls. Why not just let kids be kids.
  • Kids shouldn’t read erotic romance

Scrrreeeeeechh!! Yep, you read that right. Kids shouldn’t read erotic romance. My books, for all their “lush and romantic” love scenes, aren’t meant for kids under 18. Let’s face it, few kids under the age of 18 are mature enough to figure out that romance books aren’t always the same thing in real life. Then there’s the “stunt performed under controlled conditions” factor. You know what I mean…the stunt (sexual act) comes out of my mind, onto the page and it’s for readers who understand my work is fiction, not for experimentation.

I have a 17-year-old, and I’m glad she doesn’t like to read romance, because it means she won’t touch my books. But then I’ve also told her that she can’t have sex until she’s 35, and if she has sex before then without being married, she’s on her own if she gets pregnant. This has been made QUITE clear to her. The really ironic thing is that this same daughter has never been kissed and she’s mortified by it. She thinks there’s something really wrong with her because no boy has kissed her yet. Makes me worried that she might get herself into a spot of trouble in the future. I can only pray that she’ll meet a nice young man who’ll be good to her.

Personally, I think our society “sets our kids up for failure” when it comes to having sex. They’re predisposed toward it because a large segment of the American population thinks sex should be kept under cover and behind closed doors. It’s not something one is supposed to talk about. I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing I went for as a kid (and still do as an adult) is the forbidden fruit. My mother had a book called Caravan that I wanted to read. She said no, it was inappropriate for me. So what did I do??? I waited until she was out of the house, and I stood at the damn bookcase to read the book. It had ONE sex scene in it, that by today’s standards bordered on SWEET.

So that’s it for today’s topic…this might be muddled, but then that makes it a good post because everyone will have something to post dissent or approval on. What do you think?

Should middle schoolers be given contraceptives without parent permission? Should kids under 18 be allowed to read erotic romance/erotica?

Until next time.

Monica

>I’ll Take Erotica for 100, Alex

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Contest talk has been all the rage this week, and I thought I’d carry over a discussion I’m having with my chapter mates about why an erotica/erotic romance category should be added to the RITA and GH. This is a complicated subject so naturally I’ll pontificate even though I seriously tried not too.

Erotica / Erotic Romance Defined

Erotica is a work of fiction in which the sexual journey of the characters and the emotional impact of that journey on the characters’ development is the primary focus of the work as the relationship between two or more characters is developed. The story may or may not depict the development and resolution of a romantic relationship between the characters.

Erotic Romance is a work of fiction with intense sexual scenes between characters who in a love relationship. Love is the primary focus of the story, and the sex scenes must advance character development with a HEA required to qualify it as erotic romance.

Reader Comfort Level

A reader’s comfort level is an important thing to consider in this issue. Erotica is not everyone’s cup of tea. Its one thing to ask a judge to score a romance that has explicit sex in it, as opposed to handing an unsuspecting judge an erotica book. And if you’re thinking that covers and blurbs can clue a reader in, that’s not always the case. Three by Nicole Mack has a beautiful cover, an interesting blurb on the back and I would place it in the erotica subgenre. Even if one were to disagree with my classification, I firmly believe that the sex in the book would really test the comfort level of a lot of people.

Its one thing when a reader says, “oh good grief this is such a ridiculous concept, why on earth do people go gaga over this “name a subgenre.” But it’s entirely different when a reader is exposed to a book where the sex isn’t between a hero/heroine or the sex in the book is based on emotions outside of love. There are many who would find that type of book offensive. In many instances, the “oh good grief” reaction of now becomes an “OMIGOD, this isn’t romance, this is porn. It’s nothing but trash.”

I don’t agree with people who say that, but there are judges who wouldn’t be able to move past the sex scenes to see the elements of erotica in the book. Let’s face it, not everyone is comfortable reading sex in their books. Some outright despise it. Yes, I know judges can return books they don’t want to judge, but how many returns does National ever get? I’d love to see numbers for comparative sake (no sarcasm in this statement, simply curiosity). Personally, I think most judges find it more convenient to just grit one’s teeth and plow through a book and score it low than go through the hassle of sending it back in. Few people are comfortable showing that they might have a bias against a particular subgenre.

For Wont of Understanding Erotica

There’s a distinct lack of understanding about the erotica subgenre with readers. I don’t read man-love stories. I don’t enjoy them. (Wish I did, because if I did, I’d write them, and they sell hot and fast!) If I were to receive an man-love work for the RITA or GH (even a chapter contest) I would have to send it back. I do this because I doubt my ability to be impartial with this type of work. Not everyone is me though. Not everyone is willing to open themselves up and look at their prejudices and accept them. And please understand the specific way I use the word prejudice here.

My prejudice about man-love can be likened to someone who doesn’t like paranormals. How others live their lives is their choice, and I don’t have the right to sit in judgment on them. Nor do the morality police for that matter. Essentially it boils down to the idea that if I don’t understand man-love or its components, it’s certainly not fair of me to judge it. And while I might not be able to judge a particular subgenre, I’ll firmly stand beside any writer whose subgenre is challenged or censored in any way, which has been happening with man-love.

Impartiality—Is It Possible For Everyone?

Many judges really do believe they can be impartial and put aside their prejudices and read anything and judge it fairly. And I know there are some who actually achieve this, but I question someone’s ability to remain completely impartial when they’re confronted by something that goes against they’re inner belief structures. I don’t believe it is. Questioning one’s prejudicial tendencies is not something most people do comfortably. It’s human nature to want to rise above one’s prejudices (or at least it is for most people), but how well can people really rise above something if it flies in the face of everything they believe about romance or their personal belief structures. Inspy’s aren’t a particular favorite subgenre of mine either. I’m not sure I could be completely impartial judging them given my viewpoint on religion and its context in Inspirational romance. Again, I will support anyone’s right to write whatever they want. I’m simply expressing my own personal preferences to prove a point. It’s difficult to be impartial, particularly if you don’t have a clue as to what some of the components are in a particular subgenre.

Some Might Respond

Most RWA members will say that erotica/erotic romance writers can throw their hat into the ring in all categories, which is why we don’t need an erotica/erotic romance category. I can somewhat buy this with regard to Erotic Romance, but not with erotica.

Not even the novel with strong romantic elements category will work. Why? Because erotica doesn’t have to focus on a romance within the story, it wouldn’t fit under this category, unless we decide to consider sex as a romantic element. Remember, not all erotica has to have romance, BUT some erotica DOES have romance.

We All Agree It’s Subjective

I truly believe there is a large segment of RWA that doesn’t like graphic sex in romance books. My impression is that they view graphic sex scenes as not only a detractor from the story, but as an insult to other sweeter romance books. I respect their decision to view sex in a book that way, despite the fact that when written properly, sex can be quite beautiful. And don’t get me started on that whole procreation-only stuff. He didn’t just give us sexual organs he gave us brains too, although most of us know at least one man who is fortunate to have two brains, although one of them limps along most of the time.

Sex can move a story forward. It can reshape and/or change a character. True, there are books out there where the sex is gratuitous, but an ER/Erotica reader will know the difference and score it accordingly. But an inexperience and/or biased judge will not be able to do so. I respect the viewpoint of readers who don’t like sex in a book; I just don’t think their viewpoint should affect those of us who do understand the genre.

For me, it’s all about trying to be fair and equitable. My biggest issue is not what authors write, but with how their works are judged. People want to believe themselves impartial, but I question their ability to do so. Personally, I’m willing to take my chances in an Erotica category over any other category.