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Topic: Should Romance Novels Be Considered Pornography? (article)

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Subject: Should Romance Novels Be Considered Pornography? (article)
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 8:21 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2005
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Link: Should Romance Novels Be Considered Pornography?

What do you think? I think that romance, and even erotica, is different from pornography, and is much more acceptable. At least the characters in such writing have depth and you get to see them as actual human beings with thoughts and feelings. Actual pornography depicts women as little more than objects.

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 9:01 AM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
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It depends on the novel. Some I have read are basically pornography - that is the main purpose of the story is to provide opportunities for sexual interaction between the characters. I don't think one can make a general statement that romance novels should be considered pornography. Again, it totally depends on the particular book. BTW - I don't think pornography is bad but heck - I guess I'm a bit of a voyeur ;)

I really have issue with a number of the statement in the article. There can be lots of very intense, graphically described sex in some beautiful romance novels - Elizabeth Hoyt, Karen Ranney, Lisa Kleypas, Laura Kinsale etc.... They write incredibly beautiful love scenes that include much more than "ridiculous metaphors and euphemisms" and they are not considered erotica.

The author thinks that people lust after the actors in pornography and describes them as real people - ummm... hello they are actors and honestly the emotional investment one has in the hero and heroine of a great romance novel is much greater than the total lack of investment one has in watching pornography. I would think if either of the two were dangerous to a relationship, it would be the former. How often have women compared their husbands to fabulous heroes in novels and the husbands don't fare well?

The issue of women being objectified is certainly a real issue but most pornography I have been exposed to objectifies both parties. Its just about sex and imo can be used as a way to add spice to a relationship - assuming both parties are desiring of it.

I think the author is fairly prudish and has some misconceptions about both pornography AND romance novels - she makes HUGE generalizations about both.



Last Edited on: 11/1/09 9:24 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 9:17 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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Yeah, I don't think there's a blanket analogy that fits everything.  Some erotica is no different than the type of pornographic books - having zip to do with romance - that have been around for years. But I think you have to differentiate between that and erotica with main characters who do form some sort of emotional bond, but don't necessarily have an HEA, and erotic romance, which has the sex & the romance.  The purpose of pornography is altogether different than the purpose of romance.  It really just depends on what the payoff is.  If it's emotional, it's romance.  If it's physical, well...

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 9:28 AM ET
Member Since: 10/30/2006
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Last Edited on: 12/7/09 8:20 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 9:29 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
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Main Entry: por·nog·ra·phy
Pronunciation: \-fē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek pornographos, adjective, writing about prostitutes, from pornē prostitute + graphein to write; akin to Greek pernanai to sell, poros journey — more at fare, carve
Date: 1858

1 : the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2 : material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
3 : the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction <the pornography of violence>

Well according to this definition I found online I'd have to say that a lot of romance books do have passages that would fit the first and second definition though that varies from person to person. I've read erotic romance where the sex wasn't causing excitement(think it went too far S&M for me!) and I've read simpler sex scenes (like in Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi) that I found sexually exciting though it was nowhere near as graphic.

However, I like a good story with my 'porn' so I think while a lot of romance books have pornographic elements that it's not correct to label them strictly as porn and nothing else.

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
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Nancy W - good post! I think when it comes down to it for me - the difference between romance and porn lies only in whether or not the sex drives the plot or if the plot includes sex that enhances the relationships and the romance. Whether or not the sex is arousing is besides the point. As the previous poster mentioned - what is arousing to some isn't to others. Some novels that have very little specific descriptions of the sexual acts are highly arousing and would never be confused with pornography and others that are all about sex might not be arousing at all.

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
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Great post Nancy!

I think that there can be a lot of crossover between the genres.  I've bought Playgirls before, and in addition to photos, they include short stories about sex that really aren't any different from what is found in many romance novels, emotional attachment and all.  So it's hard to make the argument that one is porn and one is not just because the binding is different.  Same thing with movies/photos/story lines depicting pornography.  I'm not sure the delivery vehicle makes any difference, when the intent and result is the same.

I'll add that it can be pretty annoying to pick up a book because you think it'll have an interesting plot, only to find out that it's pornography packaged for people who don't want to admit to reading porn.  I don't have a problem with either porn/erotica or romance, but I would like a little truth in advertising when it comes to the contents. 

So - note to authors:  Don't promise me a plot if all you've got is sex.  Sex is not why I picked up your book, the plot is.  I'm and adult and I own porn/erotica.  I know where to go for a sex story - one that's generally better written than what you plug into your books. 

I also think that if the author of that article is choosing her books because they're "hot," then it would be hypocritical to have a problem with her husband/SO viewing porn.

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 4:36 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,167
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Nancy said  "I completely disagree with the author. What a crock of crap. Bad reasoning for trying to justify what she wants the end result to be..."  and "...However, that article? Pretty sanctimonious and holier than thou..." I'm agreeing with Nancy on these points.

I will however respectfully disagree with Nancy about what consititues Porn.  I've read alot of fiction, romance, romantica, and erotica.  I've read a few, that after the fact I would personally consider porn.  BUT erotica is NOT the same as porn, there's a definate difference.  I also believe each reader has an individual comfort level regarding erotic writings of any and all types, but that does not mean everything outside their personal comfort level is automatically porn.

Personally, any form of bdsm (even very mild forms) just doesn't do anything for me.  Not interesting, not exciting, just nothing.  Doesn't make it porn tho, just a sub-genre that I cannot emotionally bond with and prefer to avoid unless the rest of the storyline is exceptional.

ETA - IMO the author of the article came off as an ignorant prude.  These people usually have absolutely no problem watching movies that include elements I consider porn, or comercials so sexual I find them offensive.  Her hubby probably has a girly calendar hanging in their garage, and it's 'manly' vs. porn.  Which reminds me of the saying, 'there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see".



Last Edited on: 11/1/09 4:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 4:59 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
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Denise, how would you differentiate erotica from porn?

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 5:27 PM ET
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Last Edited on: 12/7/09 8:18 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 7:07 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
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Ideally I prefer smut with a plot also!.  Unfortunately, not all authors are that gifted lol! 

IMO the difference is the relationship.  For me, romance in all it's forms is about the relationship between the hero and heroine (or lead characters of your choice) and watching it grow & develop.  How well the author is able to depict the relationship varies of course.  Sometimes a strong plot can fuel the imagination of readers into reading between the lines for the relationship.  But the lack relationship, either poorly or well written, removes a book from the romance genre (either traditional or erotica).  Frankly, some of the books I've read that most closely resemble porn have been labeled 'literature' or 'science fiction' (especially in the more traditional meaning of SF).

But it's so much more socially acceptable to read smut, it you can give it a nice name...like literature, boxoffice hit movie, or a commercial.

Edited for clarity, spelling, and grammer.



Last Edited on: 11/1/09 9:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 7
Date Posted: 11/1/2009 7:17 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
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I agree with Nancy. Stupid article.

I have a simple, non-judgmental definition: It you read/watch it for any purposes other than wanking, it's not porn. ;-)

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 8:06 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
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LOL Willa - that might be the best definition lol!

Date Posted: 11/1/2009 9:03 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,167
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Excellent defination Willa *snicker*

Date Posted: 11/2/2009 12:37 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
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WIlla ROFLMAO.  You are so right.   I agree that romance novels are NOT pornography.  Often a 400+ page book contains no more than 2-3 pages of sex scenes, so that is NOT the focus of the book, regardless of the cover "art."

Date Posted: 11/2/2009 7:55 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I always refer back to this from wikipedia:

Erotica (from the Greek Eros—"desire") or "curiosa," are works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions.

I didn't even know, until I started reading romance again, that there was that much erotic literature out there, that many people consider it a sub-genre of romance, and especially that there were romance authors who wrote erotica under different pseudonyms.  That one really took me by surprise; that women wrote it, and so many read it.  I would have thought it was men:P  I always thought of erotica as primarily being naughty Victorian photography & such.  I think some of it is porn, not that labels matter so much to me.  I do kinda see all of it, romance included, as women's fiction, and everyone has different preferences.  I personally don't care much for it, but it's not any kind of prudishness; most of it just kinda icks me out.  It really just depends on the writing and how well it's done.  Like I kinda enjoyed Passion by Lisa Valdez, but the ick factor was a bit high for my taste.  I can't really stomach a lot of womb battering and sperm flying all over the place.  I get that furry throat thing going after a while:P  I don't care that some of you love that stuff though, and your reading preferences don't raise my eyebrows.  I like mostly R rated romance, and some stuff out there is too tame for me, but others will love that too, so I figure it balances out.  I like the diversity here.  I also like trying out this stuff that takes me out of my comfort zone on occasion & seeing how I will react to it, as compared to everyone else.  I haven't picked up Big Spankable Asses or Manaconda yet, but ya never know.  It could happen:P



Last Edited on: 11/2/09 8:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/2/2009 8:34 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I found Big Spankable Asses to be a big disappointment so I would't waste my time with that one..there's nookie but 3 little stories...for 3 little stories I thought Charlene Teglia's satisfaction guaranteed and wild wild west were better...I'm slowly but surely working my way in the erotic romance genre and am finding some authors I really like..decent storyline with an actual  plot along with some hot nookie going on so as far as 'causing sexual excitement' being a definition of porn then hoo boy I'm into porn! :) a lthough I have learned a bit about gambling(Jory Strong's series and LenaMatthew's Joker's Wild), history (Sarah McCarty), and the military/assassins(Lisa Marie Rice) see how educational it is??!

Date Posted: 11/2/2009 9:30 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2005
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Good lord, that article has got to be the absolute lamest defense of romance and women's erotica that I have ever seen. Pitiful.

From the article:

Romance novels might not be the most literary type of fictional writing, but they are still a step above actual pornography.

OY VEY, someone needs to forward to Smart Bitches and let them tear this chick a new one. And educate her on the value of the genre while they're at it. I am really fricking tired of having to defend what I read. Sometimes I enjoy erotica, sometimes I enjoy Heyer. They both fall under the romance umbrella, and they both have value if done well, damnit!



Last Edited on: 11/2/09 9:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/3/2009 12:15 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
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Well said Samantha!

Date Posted: 11/3/2009 6:21 PM ET
Member Since: 3/1/2006
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Hi everyone,

I must admit I've often wondered this topic myself. I'm an avid romance reader and have been one for the last 16 or so years.

While I will put myself out there and say love scenes is one of the main factors I read romances, it isn't the only one. As some people have stated, it's about the plot, the feeling and the interaction of the characters. Also, for me, it's the happily-ever-after! I see so much misery and depression in real life, I want to escape to places where happines lives supreme!

While some pornography books with stories written by women with sexual encounters are packaged to touch the romantic sexual funny bone, I personally don't think of them in the same league as romances. For the simple fact that they are geared for sexual excitement and nothing more. I mean, look at porn itself. Characters may have a situation that throws them together, but it's a hurry to the main event and then the film/story ends.

Now, romance authors on the other hand, want to draw their readers into the lives of their characters, to see their characters as real people, and to truly care about what happens to them as the story moves along. It's not all about the love scenes. Some authors make the reader wait a long time for them, in contrast to porn.

Now, this isn't to say I haven't seen some romances that cross the line. I dinstinctly remember reading a book that I thought was romance but was so awful, I skipped 50% of the book, it was so degrading. The main character had been sexually abused and also shared with friends. Her close friend was once a prostitute, etc. I have no idea what that author was thinking, because I saw this as degrading to women.

Anyway, I don't want to go on and on and simply rant, so I'll say what stands out (personally speaking) about the differences in pornography and romance. I don't feel very good when I read books like the one described above. Even more so when graphic, crude sexual terms are used. That's what classifies things for me. If a book constantly uses harsh, crude sexual phrases, words, etc, I consider it porn. Like someone said, don't package it like a romance if it indeed is porn. That turns me off and I go around telling people, watch out for this book, it's not 100% porn, but it comes pretty darn close.

Nowadays I know more books, like Harlequin Blaze are slipping into using sexual street talk, but I personally don't like it. As said, I feel as though they're crossing that invisible line that makes them too close to porn for my liking. But are romances porn? Of course not, and I'm totally offended by anyone who refers to them as such. Just like when people call them "trash", my feathers get really, really ruffled!