Variety is the Spice of Life
By Jacqueline Rhoades - Romance Author
And IndieRomCon Attendee
Nothing sets a romance reader’s temper flaring quicker than being told whatever romance novel they’re currently reading is nothing more than chick porn. While I have no statistical data to back me up, it seems that most of these comments come from men.
Now, those of us who read a wide variety of Romance novels will be the first to point out that there is a lot of sexual territory covered between what is commonly called sweet romance and the red-hot realm of erotica. So anyone making the claim about the entire romance genre obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or do they?
According to Webster, my go-to guy for definitions, pornography can be defined as “a portrayal of erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement.” Hmmm. So what does this say about the reader who sighs deeply and lets her fantasies run wild over a passionate, fully clothed kiss under the proverbial apple tree? To me, it says she’s not a whole lot different from the reader who gets the same boost from an erotic BDSM novel. Eroticism is in the mind of the beholder, is it not?
We all have different thresholds and opinions about what we consider sensual or sexy and romance novels have always pushed the envelope for what is acceptable sexual behavior for women. Historically, that’s been the argument against them from the beginning. Romance novels make us think and dream about things conventional society is uncomfortable with. It allows us to fantasize about people and circumstances outside our everyday lives. Good for us!
There is a vast difference between reading and viewing. It is one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed horror stories, but rarely watch horror movies. Watching movies, I’m at the mercy of the director. I can’t yell “Cut!” if the scene becomes too vivid. When reading, my mind’s eye has a filter on it that prevents me from ‘seeing’ more than I can handle.
I believe this is true for romance readers as well. We can filter those sex scenes into something we’re comfortable with by skipping, skimming or visualizing the scene with as much or as little detail as our personal preference dictates.
We buy the books written by authors who fulfill our romantic tastes in their writing. Depending on our age, our stage in life, our upbringing, our attitudes toward sex and even our hormonal predilections, those tastes may change from year to year, month to month or even day to day as the mood strikes us. How wonderful to have such a huge selection of authors and books to offer us such a variety.
We may argue amongst ourselves as to how much descriptive sex is necessary for our enjoyment, but I think we can all agree that romance is first and foremost a love story and that is where our ‘chick porn’ differs from the other kind. Sex, even mind-blowing sex is not enough to satisfy any true romance reader. There has to be something more, something emotionally deeper between our romance novel’s protagonists for us to get that romantic high and for many of us, that includes a Happily Ever After ending or at least a Happy For Now.
That’s the real turn-on for romance readers and for those who laugh about our chick porn, there’s some statistical data out there you might want to look up. Women who fulfill their fantasy lives through reading romance novels tend to engage in more frequent sex and enjoy it more!
So for those who make derisive comments about Romance readers, I say this: instead of ridiculing us for our chick porn, maybe you should go out and buy your significant other a romance novel. Better yet, read one yourself.