Romance as a genre is doing rather well these days, but there will always be naysayers who question it’s validity in Literature. Usually, I’ll just brush off those snide remarks as differences in taste, but every once in while, someone really obnoxious comes along, and off come the kid gloves.
The following posts were pulled from their original thread on Goodreads, and presented for you here. The backstory for these particular posts began during a forum dicussion: Romance Novels Sex or No Sex, where readers and authors commented on what their expectations and preferences were when reading Romance. It was a fun and lively discussion until someone arrived (I believe the correct term is ‘troll‘), looking to denounce the entire genre; with sex scenes (and the authors who write them) singled out for an extra dose of disdain. All this, without ever actually reading the material he’s decided to decry. In the interests of saving space, only his last reply and my response are listed here–for the entire thread in context, please click the links above.
(new)–the troll’s last(?) post
L.A. wrote: “Larry, I find it hard to see how you can judge romance novels when you claim to never read them. What a backward way of thinkinng.”That’s a distorted and specious argument. I don’t read what passes as romance TODAY. It’s about as romantic as a romp in the sack with a hooker. I’ve never killed anyone, yet I’m opposed to genocide. I made my current conclusions based on what several of you said in this column. Let me share with you the opinion of some friends of mine who are also professional authors. The male said in another Goodreads forum: “I caught some of the “erotica” published by Amazon via KDP. None of it was actually erotic, because it was too poorly written, and most of it would only a few years ago have qualified as pornography, plain and simple.”The female author said: “The line between erotica and romance has been erased. Unfortunately, a reader is told ‘skip the scenes or read Christian Lit.’
The heroines are ‘quivering bunnies’ who are fixated on the ‘sniffing dog’ hero – to the point where there is no plot, just two people obsessed with getting laid. Then for some unknown reason inspite of the fact they hated each on site – they are now in deeply love.”
I commented in the same forum: “I find it personally offensive that a wannabee passes of smut as writing ability. It’s the EBook equivalent of ‘Deep Throat’.”
That pretty much expresses my viewpoint after 45 years as a journalist, author and book publicist. My final observation: I’d be mortified to have my grandchildren see my name on anything as explicit as you’ve described here. It’s an embarrassment to all authors who strive to maintain quality standards.
I know I won’t change any minds and that’s why I’m now out of here.
I will never understand why some individuals will pick a few (poorly executed) examples from an entire genre, and then use their distorted sampling as a justification for lambasting every other work that falls within the category. No matter what you read in literature, there will always be stories that fall short of the mark, but that’s true of every genre, not just romance.
To take a romance novel, and dissect it so that the only things you care to examine are the sex/love scenes, is an extremely myopic and tunnel-visioned approach. Romances are about developing a relationship between characters, and exploring their physical relationship is simply ONE aspect of it. It’s tragic that some people can read a book, and that’s all they’ll take away; in cases like that, I think it says far more about the reader’s deficiencies than the book, the writing style, or the author’s abilities.
Also, I don’t understand what’s so wrong, shameful, or mortifying about exploring human intimacy, or the ways in which people in love can physically demonstrate that. Even wedding vows pulled from the Bible contain the lines “With my body, I thee worship.”, and the Song of Solomon is a real-eye opener for anyone who thinks that sexual repression is a Biblical concept. It is ludicrous to claim that sex scenes are somehow an embarrassment to all authors who strive to maintain quality standards, or to tacitly imply that all Authors who DO write them are somehow sub-par.
Romance is about exploring the dynamics of human relationships, the developing fascination and attraction between characters, the heady experience of falling in love–and yes, it’s also often about expressing that love physically with the person you’re in love with. It’s NOT just about sex, and while not every romance will be to your taste, it’s impossible for any genre to be filled with books that are entirely 100% in line with your personal preference.
On the other hand, Erotica is all about exploring human sexuality. Characters, story, plot–all of that is secondary. I can understand how some more conservative or reserved readers would be uncomfortable with the genre, because it’s purpose IS to incite arousal, and to some degree, it IS literary porn…but even Erotica has it’s place in literature. Therefore, if vivid, blunt, and explicit descriptions or depictions of human sexual behaviors are not what you want to read, it would be best to give the genre a wide berth.
Regardless, nothing diminishes the fact that both Romance and Erotica provide an important function: Entertaining readers. Nothing erases the fact that readers have the ultimate control over what they do and do not read. If you are not entertained, if you are not enjoying yourself, if a book is getting too explicit for your taste, you can skip ahead a few pages, or stop reading. If a genre doesn’t interest you, you can avoid it. Readers can personally censor books at anytime before reading or during, as they choose.
After 45 years literary fields, I’d be ashamed of myself if I’d reached the point where I no longer acknowledged the possibility that a different point of view is valid, that different literary tastes have merit, or that it might be best to actually have an informed opinion on the genre I criticized.
I can respect people’s preference (and avoidance) of different types of literature, but I pity the ones who’s own narrow view of the world precludes them from ever enjoying something new…and I roll my eyes over the ones whose ignorance isn’t a deterrent to sermonizing.
As it turns out, Larry wasn’t done with trolling the thread. He continued spewing his message of condescending bile for several more posts. Freedom of Speech can be a beautiful thing, though I’ve seldom seen it used quite so spectacularly for someone to exercise their right to indulge in a shrieking hissy fit.