tagReviews & EssaysRomance Writing: Just Women's Porn?

Romance Writing: Just Women's Porn?

bySelena_Kitt©

There's a lot of argument out there about how to differentiate and separate "erotica" from "porn." But the reality is - we all write porn. Yes, I said it. I'll admit it. Even all the "romance" novels out there that don't have a bit of actual sex in them? Porn.

All romance (even the "sweet" stuff) is just women's porn. When women read (or write - or even watch!) romance or erotic romance, they are looking for Aphrodite. They want to incarnate her in their lives in that moment.

Her incarnation is Aphrodite Porne (Πόρνη) - the prostitute - Goddess of Lust. We all worship in her temple. That's the community in which we live. She is the goddess we who write or read romance/erotic romance/erotica and bow down to.

Me, I'm willing to admit it. Most romance readers and writers though, seem to want to deny it. And to me, that denial is a great big, waving red flag pointing to the Land of Shadow.

I'm not ashamed of what I write. But I'm also not blind to the progression of romance as a genre, as many in the romance-writing community seem to be. My mother read romance novels by the truck full. She had under-the-bed boxes she filled and emptied, filled and emptied, over and over again. I read them, too, after a fashion. What girl doesn't love a good romance?

But it's interesting, as a metaphor at least... because my father also had an under-the-bed collection. He had Playboys, Penthouse, Hustler... So there we have it in symbolic form -- Aphrodite's great gender divide. Is there any difference between the offering to Porne that my father kept and the one my mother did? Do you really think so?

Romance has often been called "porn for women" (and television soap operas have also been included in this category). It's not anything new. And there's a bit of truth in it, especially as the genre evolves from it's tamer roots (using purple prose and euphemisms like "manhood" and "sheath" to represent genitals) to it's current romantica trend, which has recently expanded to include something as taboo as incest.

I remember reading someone defending the romance genre by saying that romance is about relationships and porn is about mechanics, so that books aimed at a primarily female audience were dismissed as "women's porn" if they contained sex, while books aimed at a more male audience (sci-fi, fantasy etc.) could have sex and no one said "boo." But you see... it isn't just about the sex.

Aphrodite doesn't just want the mechanics. She also doesn't just want the romance/relationship aspects. She is the goddess of both love and lust for a reason. Porne, in its pure, most sacred form, honors both. At their worst, both genders' version of "porn" idealize bodies, sex, and create unattainable standards. At their best, they educate, inform, titillate, and remind us that we long for human connection and intimacy.

Romance implies sex - whether it is the sweet, chaste-kissing sort or it's down and dirty, hot monkey-butt-lovin' -- and if a woman wants to write or read it, well why not? There's a lot of blurring the lines lately between porn and romance (there's even hardcore romance!) and I find the blending and blurring, the stretching of the continuum, both liberating and exciting.

I consider the "romance is women's porn" comment to be freeing, not offensive. But a great many do, indeed, find it offensive. Especially those writing and reading in the genre. Which is why, when I talked earlier about that great big red flag, I wondered if it wasn't just blindness we were dealing with here, per se, but rather denial and a great big shadow -- an entire genre's shadow. Interesting idea, isn't it?

Here's a quote from a well known romance author (she who shall not be named!) who took offense to my thoughts on romance-as-porn:

"When you equate all Romance as porn, you're every bit as judgmental and dismissive as those who equate it with fluff, unworthy, trash. With those who sweep it all up in the same box. Write porn all you want. I've got no problem with that, either. But don't describe my work that way, or the entire Romance genre."

Hmmm... can you say shadow? (Ever been to a twelve-step meeting? "You spot it, you got it!") Listen, it's okay if you don't believe in the shadow... it believes in you!

Everyone has a shadow. In fact, as a culture, we have collective shadows, too. And because our shadow aspects are too painful or repulsive for us to own, we project them... we put our shadow out onto other people. All the things we disown or deny about ourselves, we will find in someone else. In fact, most of us go well out of our way to furiously deny whatever quality we're pointing out in that other person (or persons). It's always "them" -- not "me/us!" When you think you're above something? That's shadow. When you think you're better than something or someone? Hello, shadow!

I'm smelling a great, big stinking shadow here...

Not to go all Jungian on you or anything but (okay maybe just for a few paragraphs, so sue me!) separating out these aspects of Aphrodite Porne, cutting her into pieces and dealing her out piecemeal, is painful and unproductive, and is actually a big part of the problem.

Instead of judging and eschewing Porne, why not liberate her from her prison? But no. As the above writer implies: "We don't write no stinkin' porn!" So Aphrodite Porne gets relegated to serving as the romance genre's shadow. Romance writers everywhere look into the shadow-mirror in disgust. We don't write porn! That isn't us! That goes against all my ideals and principles! That's repulsive! They squirm like worms on a hook at the thought of being equated with something so repugnant.

See, here's the amazing thing about psyche. It's always working to help bring the unconscious to light. (Whether you want it to or not!) The shadow exists so we can see and liberate those aspects of ourselves - individually and as a culture. Aphrodite Porne is waiting to be set free. But instead of being able to see that, the romance genre denies her, pushes her away, insists they don't want to have anything to do with her.

It's pretty damned telling when an entire genre gets together to cry foul, point fingers, and vehemently deny, "I'm not that way -- YOU are!" I have to wonder at the depth and breadth of the shadow being projected. Because while they spurn and rebuff the aspect of Aphrodite that manifests as "porn" -- they secretly worship her in their bathtubs and bedrooms and in class and on the subway when they open a romance novel and begin to get lost in Aphrodite's pull.

Look, I'm no angel here. I happen to fall into the "fluffy bunny" category of romance thought. (i.e. the belief that romance, as a genre, is all fluff and no substance...) That's no better. That's also shadow. Because Aphrodite is all-inclusive -- greedy whore, isn't she? She wants the sweet romance, she wants the hot butt-sex, she wants men loving women and men loving men and women loving women... most of all, she wants us to acknowledge her instead of denying her. To open ourselves up to her message -- which boils neatly down into one pot: intimate communion.

Aphrodite wants and promotes intimacy and communion. That's what the feminine is looking for in romance, erotic romance, erotica. That's what "porn" is really about, for men or women. It is Porne. It's that longing for connection. We all feel it. We just happen to like different flavors of it.

And perhaps we are like addicts, looking for love in all the wrong places. Who knows? Have we made the sacred profane in our culture? I have no doubt. Maybe we're all circumventing real intimate communion with what we do - writing and reading about it instead of doing it. Or maybe... maybe, at its very best, we're putting out reflections of how to get there, how to worship that particular goddess in our own lives. I'd like to think it's the latter. I'm sure it isn't, always.

So why can't we honor Aphrodite Porne in all her written forms within the genre? Let her be free, to be fully what she is, whether that's sweet romance, Romantica, or twincest? Instead we have to compartmentalize her, push away those aspects we see as unsavory, distasteful, or just downright nasty.

But no. Instead of recognizing and owning that shadow, we disapprove, reproach, judge, and distance ourselves.

Aphrodite transcends class. She doesn't judge. In her purest form, she inspires us all to be... women who have offered their bodies as sacred courtesans, women who write about the connection between sex and the spirit, women who attempt to create open communities for women to be open about their sexuality. They are all contained within of the spectrum of her light.

---------

>^,,^<

If you enjoyed this, please look for my other work here and elsewhere. If you want to know more about me, check my profile. And thanks for reading!

-Selena

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