More on Romance and Porn

Because you are not tired of this topic yet, nope. 🙂

(Look, it was either this or complaining about how my dad can’t handle his banking any longer and now I have to pay his bills on top of all my other monumental burdens like, um, deciding whether to blog or hem my beige pants.)

So this Salon article, which was criticizing a hit piece targeting romance novels, purportedly set out to defend both porn and romance, but did neither very well. Sometimes I wonder why I visit Salon at all; so much of the writing is pure crap.

But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I followed the link to the KSL article warning women away from the potential addiction of romance novels, which I have to say was much better written than the Salon piece, even if you disagreed with it. I suppose there is a nugget of truth to the idea that if you spend all day every day reading about perfect alpha fantasy men you’ll eventually find your own normal lump of a husband not measuring up in comparison, but most women aren’t going to be consuming romance novels like the way they eat bags of Snickers bars in the closet for Pete’s sake.  (Not SAYIN’ anyone here does that with the Snickers bars, ahem.)

Never mind that in any case. I followed a sidebar link from the KSL piece to Moore to the Point’s romance novel bloggery. Obviously this is a religious dude with an agenda, but so what if he makes a good argument, I say. And I’m saying that.

Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the “work” of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

And in both cases, what the “market” wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are “real” men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.

Ooh. Interesting, no? I think so! Discuss. I have to get ready for work.

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35 responses to “More on Romance and Porn

  1. Oh dear. I’m afraid that whatever I say will show up taken “out of context” in my next campaign.

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  2. Sitemeter has pretty well confirmed that we get more hits on the “naughty” posts than the nice ones.

    Snickers. Based on sales (Snickers has an annual global sales of $2 billion, romance novels $12.2 billion), I’d say closet chocolate comes in second to closet bodice ripping.

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  3. This is very interesting and something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m way too painfully aware of how porn addiction can make it hard for men to relate to women who are not fictions, and how the insistence on maintaining the porn mindset just cancels out any chance a lot of women (well, me, anyway) have of feeling truly lusty.

    I don’t know a lot of women who spend much time steeping themselves in romance writing. It’s possible those who do could have the same problem of being unable to relate to “real” men. Only I don’t really see many women insisting on men acting upon the women’s “romantacies.” The lady magazines make it seem like that might happen for an occasional special interaction, like a birthday.

    I see the “you bitch/cunt/slut” thing as a lot more hurtful than the “you hot, studly, yet sensitive gardner” thing.

    Women can have resigned/accommodating/have it your way sex more easily than men can. Men go where their heads have to go to get it up. But in both cases, a lot of sex is going on that doesn’t really involve the two people doing it. Which seems like a waste.

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    • The men in romance novels …from the bits I’ve read, tend to be archetypes as Gekko said. They are strong. Good looking. Wealthy. Urgent. Like Charlton Heston they have strong hands, a strong grip. They look down at the lady and their gaze is raveled want. They just want to take her in their arms and have her, then, now, soon.

      Peacocks to their plumage, desire is to having, display is for the wandering female. A courtship in a hot urban jungle continues each night, the mystery of a dance which is without end, it seems.

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    • I’d broaden Chris.tine’s porn addiction comment to be a fiction addiction. Whether the fiction is sexually explicit video or a television shoot-em-up or a novel about a wounded jockey, the women of our imaginary lives are forever young and smooth and slim and the men forever Adonis and rich. Or vice versa.

      In the tale I just wove, the vicarious living going on doesn’t really involve the person doing it because that person thinks he or she will shortly end up with someone else. Someone better.

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  4. Ooohhhhh, my. I love, freakin’ love this topic.

    I have found – in the last two years – that I still desire (and get super turned on thinking about) the anon thing (or more to the point, NSA really…I mean I know the other dude, biblically) Even wrapped up in (and I guess despite of) 24 months of relationship and emotion and romance and all the gooey juju that comes with. Which is super good.

    But can’t shake the other, not entirely. Because THAT is not tied to whathethinkshowhefeels…it’s just the down and dirty. That really is, “…a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the ‘work’ of relational intimacy.”

    Now if he was just cool with it 😉

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  5. Mmmmm. Snickers.

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  6. ‘k, over the Snickers thing now.

    Dunno about what or how other women have seen Romance novels so much, because my exposure to other women is pretty much superficial, except for the few friendships I have. Those are with women who are a lot like me — smart professional women who work in a typically male environment. Of all my friends, only one likes to read romance novels. She likes all kinds of novels. Romance ones are her beach candy. Not addictive, but damned good to read quickly while on vacation.

    I read them when in middle school, and then very sporadically while on vacation where they were available and the only thing around to read.

    I would swoon to the situations, and enjoy the stories, but always considered the characters as fairly mythical, even two-dimensional. They were archtypes. Never confused them with real men and women.

    Far as I can tell, the men in my life never had the realistic expectation i’d be a porn princess. They seem to realize that if they titillate me the right way, I will be “on” for them. It’s pretty much a grand set of give-and-takes, from which I come away feeling as tho I am always taking. Which is as it should be on account of it’s all about me.

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    • Snickers as Dick Harper elucidated, are a chocolate bar with handsome world sales. Kinda like Mars bars.
      Going completely off topic, one is reminded of the time Stephen King, on a casual stroll …or was it a sturdy walk? … was run down by a careering half-truck. The driver hopped out and as they waited he mumbled about “Marsy bars”. Ruefully, King recounts he’d been run over by one of his own characters.

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  7. The Roger Zelazny short story I mentioned at my blog, “The Engine at Heartspring’s Center,” was a romantic tale. Hauntingly, beautifully, romantic. The fact that the male protagonist was an immortal cyborg added to it, in a strange way.
    The story’s only brief…yet it has stayed with me.

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  8. Oh sheesh, the story is not my blog; I really should have looked harder at what I wrote before I pressed the button. Erk…

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  9. I’ve read a ton of romance novels and even wrote a paper on them, so I feel qualified to generalize here. The hero is typically your basic alpha male (duke, pirate, CEO) who has suffered a loss and is dealing with it silently, plotting revenge, which will bring the heroine into his orbit somehow. He is or will become hugely financially successful. He is tough and ruthless; no woman ever gets to his heart, bla bla bla … except for our heroine, and when she does, he then becomes mush. Doesn’t show it at first, and they have several rounds of incredible amazing sex in interesting places while they are suspicious that the other one is a spy or whatever, but he has all the same falling in lurve forever and ever feelings she does and he will eventually express them all verbally.

    So, you know, if you read enough of these novels, and you do go for the alpha businessmen types, you might have these expectations that they will be like the dukes. I’m just saying…

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    • Man, am I glad I’m way down on the pecking order, Paula. All that gadding about and frolicking between the sheets –shoot, ya gotta be an athlete or something. And ya’ know working for the CIA takes it outta ya.
      Well, I’m safe. You couldn’t give me away in a chook raffle. I’ve tried, mind, but the girlie girls see this redhead with stumpy stout Welsh legs and say, no thanks. 😦

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  10. I want to write anti romance novels for the woman of the next generation who is going to have to settle for a beta or possibly omicron male, just because all the alpha males will have been supplanted by alpha females.

    I’m your honey bee, baby, but I’m not tall nor good looking nor, well, good at anything, but I can impregnate you with my inferior XY chromosomes.

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  11. Sorry, Erik, dude. We are holding out for a pin prick and parthenogenesis.

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    • Don’t sweat it, baby. My prick is of pin like proportions and I’m sure I can work out partho… parthognos… that thing while I lay on the couch at you swanky uptown apartment drinking beer all day.

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  12. Christine! The pin prick is by man or robot, parthenogenesis a sort of miracle, I’m thinkin’. There was this one time in the 80s I had the most perfect blowjob. Yes, true, it was a waste of swallowed seed but good Jesus it was worth it!

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  13. The religious dude is right, indeed. So much of what we do is wrapped up in ourselves. So many people go seeking someone that is really just them, only better at it (or worse at it) and of an appropriate gender.

    I’ve had my porn phases, but they seem to have faded out for good now, and I’m not sure I can recapture what the hell I thought I was looking for. Oh, well, fantasy to push reality out of mind, duh. Now I don’t have that need, duh again. But I would not expand the porn / romance gobbling mindset to fiction in general. Some literature feeds our need to believe in a “better” world — the religious dude should know all about that — but I read for the change of scene, to study styles and learn words, and most of all to give my imagination springboards. Not a vicarious oh-but-for-my-fucked-up-parents-goes-I thing.

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    • F’got I was going to say that religious dudes do understand some things better than many of us. Christianity is a lot more about humbling yourself before Nature and giving of yourself to your fellow men than a lot of moderns believe. Same with Islam. Both only really go nuts when they believe the spiritual life is significantly more important than the physical life. Crusaders and suicide bombers really do believe they are doing God’s will on a battleground of smoke and temporary suffering.

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      • Quite true, Don. Wonder what flashes through the mind of a suicide bomber just before s/he pulls the cord or pushes the button? Perhaps simply a fierce intoxication of adrenaline. Then, sadly, bits of human beings lying all about the place, and people still alive screaming. How bloody horrible.

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    • Don: “I would not expand the porn / romance gobbling mindset to fiction in general…”

      But doesn’t the best fiction gobble our mind and teach us something about ourselves or our world? I’m thinking there is a potential addiction in each genre for everyone. We each get that change of scene, different style, new vocabulary, and perhaps an imaginary springboard (nice imagery, that).

      You’re right, btw, that many people seek a (real) partner who mirrors them. Some mirrors may be cracked or wavy and some perfect but the the idea of that complementary mate is pervasive.

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      • Dick Harper wrote:
        “the idea of that complementary mate is pervasive.”

        In regard to older folk, many are left on their own after their partner dies or leaves. Because men die a bit earlier than women, usually they *are* women.
        Not long ago I was at McDonalds and I saw an elderly woman, very old, in an old woman’s long dress, sitting by herself reading the paper. She looked so alone that it was heart breaking.

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  14. I’m poasting again to add cheer after my two maudlin comments. Way to go, peeps!

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  15. I think the guy from the quote is mostly right, but I’m not sure it’s due to the straight-up arrogance of basically just wanting to be with yourself that he implies. I think the romance lovers just want a connection that’s genuine, and they think it can’t be genuine unless it’s the same for both parties. How many times have you heard a girlfriend lament about how she thought something was “real,” but it turned out he was just using her for sexytime, so it wasn’t real at all? Because she feels that if it was real for her, but not him, it doesn’t count. They’re satisfied by the romance novel because the alpha male’s gushiness validates the heroine’s.

    I enjoy romance novels, almost always historicals, and much less so than I did in my youth, but they’re fun. It’s that simple. There’s no need to go investing them with deeper more sinister meanings. Fun is good. It has an important place. People who never have any of it are invariably assholes. And while there are exceptions, most people who do have it don’t become delusional. They understand that novels, TV shows, sports, video games, are all entertainment. I have never once expected my husband to be a duke (I get the difference between fun and marriage, har har) and I imagine porn is similar for the healthy consumer of that product.

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    • teacake wrote
      “=but it turned out he was using her for seytime, so it wasn’t real at all?=”

      Guys do that, unfortunately. They pledge love, or hint at it, and they really only want to get the girl in the sack. It makes them sound like cads, and they are; Few women –perhaps–can appreciate the power of a man’s libido. For a man in his 20s or 30s it’s like a run away freight train. No excuse, however.

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  16. You don’t have to be old old to be a woman alone. Guys don’t just die on us. They also, when shifting partners, pick younger ones (on the whole). What we have to offer isn’t as highly valued as what they have to offer. That’s just how it is.

    Perhaps the woman you saw prefers to be alone and enjoys the company of her own fine thoughts. You ever see those bickering couples? Brrrrr. . .

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    • Christine wrote:
      “You ever see those bickering couples? Brrrrr…”
      Bickering or bantering? Arguing is the way some couples communicate. Once when a woman’s husband died, she lamented the fact that she would have no one to argue with.

      Point taken, though, Chris.

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