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:~: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 :~:

Pornography vs. Romance?


Picture the setting: Ninety five degrees, just starting to cool down with the sun setting, four couples (friends for many, many years) sitting around eating pizza and salad, all our kids, ranging in age from 18 to 8, in the pool.

There are about 3 different coversations going on at any one time, conversations that shift direction like the wind, drawing in different participants and tossing out others.

Something along the lines of..."That's great book material. Joan, you could write a story around...blah, blah, blah". Of course what always happens in this situation is that others piggyback onto the idea. "Oh, yeah, and then blah, blah, can blah, blah." Etc., etc.

Somewhere in the merry-go-round of ridiculous ideas my friend says, "blah, blah, like that porno scene in your first book, blah, blah...etc."

Whoa! I say, "Porno? I don't write porno. There is no porno in any of my books."

She laughs it off and says, "Well, pretty close."

And then the wind blows and the conversation shifts in a completely different direction.

Now, more than 24 hrs later, I'm still smarting from that completely unintentionally offensive comment. I know her, and I know it was just something that came out in relation to whatever bizzare, unimportant conversation we were having at the time in which nothing really mean anything. (Although I often wonder if "slips" like that mean more than not.)

And it got me thinking...I am rather descriptive in my love scenes. (I'm feeling the need for a little justification here -- is my insecurity showing?) Not more descriptive, mind you, than some of my peers. Definitely not more descriptive than some published RS authors I've read.

And that thought quickly digressed into, am I writing porno? When my friends read my books (when my books get published, of course) will they think it's porno? Will I be known around town as the woman who writes those porno suspense books? (That's going to be a new genre by the time I get published.)

I guess I never considered this topic because I don't write erotica -- and erotica novelists are typically the ones fighting the battle over perception of erotica vs. porn.

There's that typical argument among writers that "if the characters grow and change during a love scene, it has a purpose and is therefore not gatuitous sex (i.e. porn)". But what about a reader's perspective? They aren't pulling scenes apart and analyzing them for the character's emotional growth. They're seeing sex. They might think it's "meaningful" sex, but still...

I don't know. I'm a little confused on the topic.

What's your view? Have you ever had to justify the level of sexual content in your novels so you didn't look like some sex addict using writing as a hobby to fulfill your strange fantasies? Or is that something you've never even considered?

Labels:

7Comments:

Blogger MaryF said...

I would be stung, too! I've been rounding up votes for the Gather contest at school and have had a couple of "You write smut" comments, even though the chapter in question doesn't involve sex at all. Yeesh. And they say it so off-hand, like it's not an insult. I haven't been able to have a good comeback ready.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

I haven't really had anyone say anything yet (except one of my colleague's who remarked on my "unwed mother" in WMM). My friend Mary, our school counselor, teases me about writing "sex books" -- but there's no malice involved.

I'm sure I'll have to deal with it at some point. It's southwest Georgia, very conservative, and I write under my real name, after all.

I had a friend (she was killed in a car accident a few years ago) who had a Ph.D in literature and worked at a university. She wrote real, honest-to-God porn on the side (it pays well). Believe me, there is a difference.

Heh. Maybe we should make up brochures with samples of "porn" with samples of our love scenes to give people when they make asinine comments. We could have a little compare-contrast literature lesson.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I've never had anyone come out and say I write porn, though I have heard people refer to what I write, and romance in general, as "that trash". Even my mother, who is - next to DH - probably my biggest supporter. I think a lot of people don't see those comments as offensive because they think of it as fact. (And yes, I did set my mother straight.)

I do laugh though because though people claim they don't like to read "romance" (or trash or porn or what have you) almost every popular movie out there has a romance woven in. Even non-romance books that are made into movies end up having some kind of romantic thread because everyone relates to those relationships.

I don't have any pithy comebacks when people comment about the trash aspect of romance. You can't change everyone's opinions and the people who call romance "porn" aren't going to pick up a romance to see what the difference really is. The only thing you can do is smile and ignore them. And take heart in the fact 55% of all paperback novels sold are romances and it's an industry that brings in over 1.2 billion dollars a year. It's also the biggest genre in all of fiction.

I would venture to bet though, when you sell, those people - your friends - will be the first ones to run out and buy your book to see just what the heck you really are writing. And then, you'll have won because their purchases will be supporting your sell-through numbers. ;)

9:14 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Mary,

And they say it so off-hand, like it's not an insult.

That's exactly how the comment I mentioned sounded ... and it's hard to form a comeback for someone who wasn't intentionally trying to slam you, but did.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Lin,

I'm liking that brochure idea:

~ This is porn (not what I write):

~ This is romance (this is what I write):

LOL.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

you'll have won because their purchases will be supporting your sell-through numbers.

Good thinking, E!!! Lots of good points that put things into perspective.

9:01 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

LOL, I (or my pseudonym, I should say) doesn't worry about it. The distinction, I think, is mostly for the reader's sake. We all have our hang-ups, concerning sex.

I'm of the opinion that all art is in the eye of the beholder. How they label your work is more a reflection on them, than you.

The ones who trash it are really the ones who probably read the hardcore stuff, and who probably need to find self-acceptance concerning their sexuality. Sex can be a difficult, emotional and frightening journey for many people. If they need to call your stuff porn along the way, then so be it.

Besides, I've read romance, romantica, erotica, and (I think) porn. And I'm proud of it.

3:14 PM  

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