Romance, Erotica, and Political Correctness

Laura Kinsale sent us a link to a rant she wrote on her own BB, wherein she discusses political correctness clashing with her desire and goal to write a good story.

Kinsale’s frustration is with readers who expect enlightened heroes (read: not ‘old fashioned’ alpha heroes) but bemoan the lack of good stories:

I read a lot—a LOT—of reader commentary on the various romance sites regarding things like alpha heroes and “rape” and “forced seduction” and how all that is so 1970’s (or 80’s or 90’s, take your pick depending on your age) but we’re all enlightened modern women now and we just don’t like that sort of thing. Then in the next thread will be complaints that the genre just isn’t as compelling or interesting as it used to be and readers can’t find books they really enjoy, and gee, why are all the heroes vampires now?

The trend, as she calls it, of self-conscious political correctness in romance is somewhat stifling to Kinsale as a writer, and a recent review in Salon gave her the context to express what had been irritating her.

The book being reviewed was a discussion of eroticism and emotional intimacy in real-world marriages, but when applied to romance protagonists, the discussion takes on different significance:

Erotic desire, Perel argues, thrives on mystery, unpredictability and politically incorrect power games, not housework battles and childcare woes…. “The challenge for modern couples,” she writes, “lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.”

Kinsale writes: “It sometimes begins to seem to me that a goodly percentage of present day romance readers are actually frightened of reading about a real conflict in a book.” Moreover, “Romance IS an erotic genre. And Perel has pointed out the elephant in the room: Erotic desire…thrives on mystery, unpredictability and politically incorrect power games.”

Kinsale argues that readers have become self-conscious about their own erotic fantasies, and the genre itself has been divided into two camps: the “safe Regency settings” that provide emotional depth, while “the erotic drive has been channeled over to vampire and fantasy books where realism is a non-issue,” leaving folks who prefer neither to complain that there’s nothing to read.

This long-ass summary of a really thought-provoking rant caused me to turn to my husband of six years and ask, “Can you have your emotional security cake and hump it too?” He of course, had no idea what I was talking about but was pleased that I’d mentioned both “cake” and “humping.”

I don’t know in all honesty what I think about the idea of the divide of the genre, or the idea that readers don’t want to read real conflict. But I do have to wonder about the idea that erotic desire “thrives on politically incorrect power games.” Is erotica as a genre then a subversion of current standards of societal correctness, particularly in America where we can watch ten men get shot before 9pm eastern but God forbid we see a naked breast during prime time?

When I consider the responses to our discussions of heroes, heroines, and plotlines on this site, I haven’t necessarily read a great deal of shunning of the alpha hero, though our discussion on rape scenes in romance was long and infinitely absorbing, even as most of those commenting on the topic agreed it was a cliche that was better left in the past. but are we uncomfortable with conflict and sexual power plays in romance, unless they are shelved under the erotica genre?

I’m still formulating my reaction, to be honest, but Kinsale’s rant gave me a lot to think about in terms of erotica, romance, and expectations of the genre. And I very much want to read what you think.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ann Aguirre says:

    For me it’s all about context.

    A scene where it doesn’t matter if the woman sincerely says no is going to turn me off, regardless of how well it’s written. If it’s more of a role-playing thing, where the woman has made it clear she wants to be “tamed” and the man is obliging, then I don’t have a problem with “forced seduction.” I guess for me it crosses the fine line between consentual play and rape her til she likes it. I simply can’t find the latter appealing under any circumstances.

  2. 2
    Christine says:

    I think there is definitely a line between the titilatingly taboo and the offensive, but it’s highly subjective.

    I can’t stand old movies where the more the hero is an alpha asshole, the more the heroine loves him, and I’m the same way with books. I don’t think it’s political correctness – I think that implies the superimposing of values from outside – but my own idea of what is right and wrong. If it reeks of “wrong” to me, I’m not enjoying it, I can’t get into it. 

    Of course, I may just be an old, withered prude.

  3. 3
    Rinda says:

    I’ve noticed this discussion going on often.  I’ve heard over and over from lots of die-hard romance readers that there just isn’t anything good to read anymore. 

    I don’t agree, but I do think that in the new popularity of the “kick-ass” heroine, some think that a strong heroine needs the balance of a weaker hero. 

    Uh no.  I’ve put down many a book because that just doesn’t ring true for me.

    Now, this is a personal preference, but I love a book with two strong character finding balance.  I love the push and pull of that strong attraction and see nothing wrong with either character going after what they want—or letting them take turns. (g)

    But it does sometimes feel that we are PC-ing our fiction to death.  I can agree on that one.

  4. 4
    Lorelie says:

    I know this makes me un-PC, but I sometimes like a well written “seduce her til she likes it” scene.  Yeah, it’s a fine line to rape, but if an author plays it right, it’s a great pay off for me. 

    I’m also one of those who’s had a problem finding stuff to read in main line publishing lately.  As a result, I’ve moved to reading a lot of e-books.  It seems like the online publishers just take more risks.  It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes it’s great.

  5. 5
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Don’t ask me why I have this double-standard, but if it’s flipped, if it’s the hero saying, “No, no, we can’t,” and the heroine seducing the hell out of him, I am so there. I love that almost as much as a cross-dressing heroine and “am I gay?” angst on the part of the hero.

  6. 6
    Christine says:

    Even better would be a man in dress being seduced by a woman.

    …Or is that not PC?

  7. 7

    First, hi! Am a relatively new reader both of romance and of this site, and it’s been great to find out that the genre is discussed seriously (IRL, I’ve pretty much only encountered the stigma).

    I agree with what was written above – there’s a big difference between the hero sweeping a heroine off her feet, and actual non-consensual sex. And the novel is the ideal medium in which to make that difference. The reader is privy to the heroine’s thoughts, emotions and actions, so we can be sure that she consents. Even if the scene is a man pulling a woman to him – an action that can fit both the non-con rape and consensual seduction scenarios – we know which one it’s meant to be because her choice can be written in.

    Also, the hero can know perfectly well whether she consents or not. Part of the ideal is this sort of connection between the two lovers, both caught up in the same moment – so again, it can be made clear by the author as to whether he chooses to force himself on her, or whether he does it only with her consent.

    One of the classic romance-type stories (from what I’ve seen anyway) is the couple who get carried away by the force of their passion, even if they’re “unwilling” in any of the usual ways: don’t want to trust someone, don’t want to give up independence, don’t want to give up single lifestyle, object of lust is entirely unsuitable, etc etc. So the unwillingness is part of the deal in those scenarios. The above reasons are all good ones, and for the character to work, their objections have to ring at least partly true. I don’t want to read about an annoyingly coy heroine who only pretends to want independence: for the scenario to work, she has to really feel she’d be giving something up, and she has to maintain some part of that independence by the end.

    Am not sure if I’m making it clear but I guess what I’m saying is that the “swept off your feet” archetype story means the heroine has to believe herself unwilling to some extent, else there’s nothing to sweep away. But the important thing is that another part of her – a fully conscious and active part – IS willing, and will convince the whole of her to let go. It’s not that the hero knows best, it’s not “rape her till she likes it”, it’s that she DOES want it and the novel allows us the vantage point to see that she does, that it’s her CHOICE to allow herself to get swept away even if it’s not logical.

    It is being able to have your fantasy cake and eat it too … it seems to me that the romances I’ve read have that element of mind-reading where the lovers instinctively know what they want from each other and so all the embraces can be consensual even if they seem rough, even if the heroine isn’t exactly consulted in words, even if she delights in feeling “overwhelmed” or “helpless” (as happens in some of the Nora Roberts clinches I’ve read) … Because she isn’t helpless, and everyone knows it (both inside and outside the book).

    For an author to go out of their way to make it non-consensual, to make it rape, is to destroy that fantasy connection, the wish-fulfillment ideal where emotions and wishes are exchanged without having to be carefully thought out or verbally expressed. The hero DOESN’T know what the heroine wants, not truly, not even if the story has her fall in love with him later, because some part of her really didn’t want him to do that and that part has been ignored rather than convinced by strength of feeling.

    Have no idea if that was expressed clearly, and in any case it’s just my own opinion and preference, but well. =)

  8. 8
    Candy says:

    I have lots more to say about this—oh yes, lots and lots, but no TIME, argh—but for now, here’s what immediately comes to mind: I disagree with Kinsale. (Yeah, yeah, those of you in the peanut gallery can pick yourselves up from the floor, now.) There’s a difference between political correctness and homogenization, and she’s complaining about homogenization. There’s no doubt that political correctness can drive art towards homogeneity, but an even stronger force is market demand. Was the market any more diverse back then? Maybe, but maybe not. I’ve read pretty extensively in that time period, thanks to my sister’s collection of old romance novels, and I can break down well over 90% of what I read as follows:

    - Historical sagas, most of which involved rape and long separations
    – Contemporary sagas set in high-falutin’ corporate settings or some kind of glamorous industry, like fashion or Hollywood, most of which also involved rape and long separations
    – Doctor/Nurse romances
    – Boss/secretary romances

    And there’s also a difference between political correctness and speaking up about what one thinks is fucked-up shit.  But then, I’m kind of touchy about the use of the term “politically incorrect,” thanks to douchebags like Regnery Publishing.

    I agree with her arguments regarding the distancing mechanisms required for us to partake in tittilating power plays, but I’m not sure I agree with her conclusions. Yeah, vampires and werewolves and demons, oh my, allow us freer reign for some of our darker fantasies, but I’d argue that the sweeping historical saga of the 70s and early-to-mid 80s served much the same purpose and provided a similar element of fantasy. Not too many romances were written back then about the mousy truck-stop waitress being wooed and raped and then wooed and raped again and then abandoned and then raped and then having a secret baby and then raped and then finally falling in love with one of the truckers at her restaurant.

    (Hell, not too many romances are written about that NOW. Romance novels largely deal with characters who occupy niches that are viewed as glamorous (aristocrat, multi-billionaire), dangerous (thief, spy) or honorable (doctor, teacher). Next time you read Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, try to picture the heroine as an administrative assistant and the hero as the manager of Purchasing and Inventory Control. I can guarantee that the magic wouldn’t be the same.)

    OK, I’m rambling on, and I’ve kind of lost my point in there somewhere, but I desperately need to get some work done. Rar.  More later. Hopefully it’ll be more coherent, if not more concise.

  9. 9

    Erotic desire, Perel argues, thrives on mystery, unpredictability and politically incorrect power games

    I think different people will find different things erotic. While some people may think mystery is exciting, others will find it offputting. Some people thrive on unpredictability and uncertainty, others don’t. Some people like power games, whereas for others this might recall real-life situations of abuse (whether physical, emotional or verbal). It’s like some people think of a candle-lit dinner and red roses as romantic, whereas for others this might seem trite and therefore insincere.

    Similarly, when it comes to romance novels, different people will have different fantasies and enjoy reading about different types of relationships. I don’t know that it’s got to do with ‘PC’; while there are some people who long for the novels of the past, I’ve also read plenty of comments by people who say that, when they’ve gone back to read old favourites, they no longer see their appeal. It could be that nostalgia is affecting some people’s recollections (though of course that won’t be true for all people). And I also wonder if readers are becoming more demanding. Each reader, with her/his different preferences can email authors, post on message boards etc and so the authors, like Laura Kinsale, will receive mixed messages, because they’re getting different messages from different readers.

  10. 10

    Just one other comment on Kinsale’s post. I noticed that she says:

    So now we have scads of safe Regency settings, while the erotic drive has been channeled over to vampire and fantasy books where realism is a non-issue.

    I thought there were quite a lot of erotic romances set in the Regency?

  11. 11
    Tonda/Kalen says:

    For me, rape is never ok, but I’m still not sure what “forced seduction” is (though I know we discussed it into the ground on this site a while back). The length of that discussion leads me to believe that it’s not a term with a clear definition. The entire concept of “seduction” implies that you have to overcome some kind of resistance on the part of the suducee (ok it’s not a word, but I’m gonna use it that way anyway!). If some of that seduction is physical does it cross the line into “forced” seduction? I have no idea.

    I only know what I’ve experienced and what turns me on. And a guy I like being a little forceful WORKS for me. It makes me feel feminine, sexy, desirable. A guy I think is an asswipe doing the exact same thing makes me want to grab his dick and twist. A woman’s response to the overtures of the seduction are a red light/green light that most guys on the planet seem to be able to read (the ones who can’t are the dudes who end up in jail).

    Sex in a public place? Naughty and fun, and even more fun when one partner is a little hesitant . . . Sleeping with someone you KNOW you shouldn’t (brother’s best friend, best friend’s brother, sister’s ex, etc.)? Totally dirty, and kind of fun when it involves someone really having to stretch to achieve the seduction.

    And I don’t see any reason why this kind of thing has to be limited to erotic romances. Seduction is a mental thing. It can be achieved in a perfectly chaste way. After all, it’s true when they say the most powerful sex organ is the mind . . .

  12. 12
    Kerry says:

    I don’t have an answer to the whole rape/forced seduction thing and usually find I know where a scene falls for me personally on a case by case basis.

    However I have wondered if the motivation is a factor.  If the hero’s actions are about power rather than love, then it’s definitely rape imo.  When it really is about love, it gets a lot less clear cut.

    Someone commented above that being able to see inside the characters heads makes a difference and I think that’s true.  But for me the motivation should be positive on both sides for the sex to be a positive act.

    Don’t know if this makes any sense.  Just throwing out a thought that came to me after the big discussion finished the last time, so I missed out on tossing in another idea.

  13. 13

    I only know what I’ve experienced and what turns me on. [...]

    Sex in a public place? Naughty and fun, and even more fun when one partner is a little hesitant . . . Sleeping with someone you KNOW you shouldn’t [...] ? Totally dirty, and kind of fun when it involves someone really having to stretch to achieve the seduction.

    But like you’re saying, these are your personal feelings about what’s erotic. It’s not going to be everyone’s idea of what’s erotic. For example, if someone has had a negative experience of coming across strangers having sex in a public place, that person might not consider sex in a public place ‘erotic’. They might, instead, think of it as a public nuisance and an eyesore for other people who are going past. Or with the example about sleeping with someone you shouldn’t – say the best friend’s ex. That might be sexy to you, but if you were someone who’s best friend had slept with your ex, and the result was emotional heartache, you might find that scenario extremely unsexy.

    So it seems to me that what’s ‘erotic’ to one person may not be to another, and so authors are bound to upset some readers for whom the particular scenario the author has written is unappealing.

  14. 14
    Rosemary says:

    First off – I second what Tonda said.

    Second – I’ve thought long and hard about the concept of “rape” fantasy and I think that a lot of people are confusing the basic premise of the fantasy aspect of it.  (I missed the first discussion, so I apologize if it seems I’m plagiarizing someone else.)

    There is a HUGE amount of space between “not being in control of a situation” and “not having any control of a situation.” 

    There can be excitement in the mild amount of fear that can be brought about in thinking, “Ooo!  He’s holding down my hands and licking me just right!  Will I like what he does next?”  There is NO excitement to be had (for me, at least) in thinking, “Oh God, this is going to hurt and leave me bleeding and crying and feeling ashamed and dirty and vomiting and not wanting to be touched in even the most innocuous manner even by my own damn mother.”  That is rape in the truest sense of the word for me.

    I’ve read books that have both of these scenarios, and ANY situation that has the heroine having the second thought process SHOULD NOT BE PRINTED.  The first scenario?  Rock on.

  15. 15
    Rosemary says:

    Fucking a woman who’s crying out of fear is never hot.

  16. 16
    sleeky says:

    Yawn. Blaming political correctness is so damn lazy.

  17. 17
    Tonda/Kalen says:

    If the hero’s actions are about power rather than love, then it’s definitely rape imo.  When it really is about love, it gets a lot less clear cut.

    But then you’re saying no sex, lust, or desire without love, and I just can’t go along with that. So much of human interaction is about power. Power over ourselves. Power over others. Power over where our life is going. I can see understand that some readers would prefer that love come before seduction, but if we all stuck to that golden rule what a homogonous world it would be (to use Candy’s term).

    So it seems to me that what’s ‘erotic’ to one person may not be to another, and so authors are bound to upset some readers for whom the particular scenario the author has written is unappealing.

    Obviously no one writer is going to be able to match their kink to everyone else on the planet’s kink. That’s impossible, and I don’t think I was implying that everyone had to buy into my kink, just that one person’s “forced seduction” might be someone else’s aggressive demonstration of attraction. I guarantee that every book on the planet has upset or disappointed someone, somewhere. Just as every book has delighted someone, somewhere. There are plenty of writer’s whose books I don’t read because our world views simply don’t overlap enough for me to enjoy them (e.g. I don’t buy “Inspirational” romances as overt godliness is something I can’t identify with, and I skip over a lot of erotic romances cause anal sex is a real turn off for me, personally).

    There is a HUGE amount of space between “not being in control of a situation” and “not having any control of a situation.

    EXACTLY! This sums it up perfectly for me. Big honken difference between being convinced to do something and being forced to do it.

  18. 18
    Lauren says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with Kinsdale here.

    If PC is the reason we’re not seeing the romanticization of rape, go PC.

    Sorry, rape isn’t romantic. Forced sex isn’t romantic. Rough sex within boundaries? Oh yeah, very sexy. A man seducing the hell out of the woman? Very sexy.

    Even studies about rape as fantasy fail to really get at the underlying issue – which is letting a woman put the responsibility for her desires that she’s deemed unacceptable or inexpressible onto the man. That’s not rape. That’s something else entirely and it’s really exciting if it’s written right.

    Strong characters of both genders are sexy and compelling. A strong character can be vulnerable too. Blaming the lack of compelling characters on PC does nothing to convince me that it’s anything other than lazy writing that creates cardboard characters in some romance novels.

    I don’t bemoan the good old days when heroes were asshole rapists and if the heroine got uppity he’d give her a little what for to put her in her place.

    Just write a good story with strong characters who don’t abuse each other. It’s not that complicated and PC isn’t stopping that from happening.

  19. 19
    Kerry says:

    But then you’re saying no sex, lust, or desire without love, and I just can’t go along with that. So much of human interaction is about power. Power over ourselves. Power over others. Power over where our life is going. I can see understand that some readers would prefer that love come before seduction, but if we all stuck to that golden rule what a homogonous world it would be (to use Candy’s term).

    Very fair comment.  Clearly, what I said didn’t come out quite as I meant it.

    I’m perfectly happy for there to be sex if both parties want it and agree to it.  (Oh yeah, I’m there.)  So using “love” was incorrect terminology in my example.

    I’m not quite sure now how to say what I was trying to.

    So I take the whole statement back.

    If I can figure it out better at a later date, I might try again.

    Maybe I’m thinking in terms of all negative reasons for the act as opposed to positive ones, whether it’s that the characters want to have a good time, if they’re madly in love or anything in between.

    I’m not sure and since I obviously didn’t make myself clear – and I guess that’s difficult when I don’t have it clear myself – I’ll just shut up and sit back and read everyone else now.

  20. 20
    Kerry says:

    P.S.  I knew there was a reason why I’m usually a lurker.  You’re all much better at this than me.

  21. 21
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Aw, don’t say that, Kerry. Your view is just as valid as anyone else.

    There’s some debate on the whole sex vs love thing. Like purists say that sex shouldn’t have anything to do with the process and it comes as a result of falling in love. But in my books, the h/h enjoy lots of bouncy-bouncy for its own sake, just for the pleasure of it, because they find each other hot, on the way to discovering that there could be more.

  22. 22
    Kerry says:

    Thanks Ana.  But it does help if I can actually manage to put across my view rather than something that isn’t clear enough to show what I’m trying to say.

    When I have something to say that I’m sure I can say clearly, I promise I’ll jump right in and contribute to the conversation.

  23. 23
    Nora Roberts says:

    I think the loss of control on either side, or on both sides, can be both romantic and erotic if written well—as suits the characters.

    I also think there’s a wide, wide difference between being convinced to do something, and being pressured to do something. Forced takes it to another level entirely.

    Losing control, emotionally or physically can be part of the rush and thrill. Being convinced, seduced, persuaded, can be very sexy.

    I don’t consider it a matter of being PC not to want a hero who would physically or emotionally force the heroine—or visa versa—to have sex or perform a specific sex act.

    It may work within the framework of the book if the writer is really skilled, and it fits the characters and the storyline. But redeeming a character who’s used force is, for me, damn near impossible.

    I didn’t like it back in the day either.

  24. 24
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~So using “love” was incorrect terminology in my example.~

    Maybe respect is a better term. To my mind, one doesn’t abuse—and forcing sex is abuse—someone one respects.

  25. 25
    Susan K says:

    I’m with Candy and have to say that I grit my teeth whenever someone (even Laura Kinsale) blames lack of quality/excitement/variety on “PC”.  I’m one of those who generally finds relationships far sexier if the H/H achieve some kind of balance.  I’m not talking about her hymen and innocence balanced against his strength, wealth, and power.  Nor do I mean that the H/H are always equally strong or smart or whatever.  I just mean that my personal fantasies aren’t fulfilled by young girls overpowered by men twice their age and size but instead by H/H who are smart (but may make mistakes) and strong (but may have periods of doubt and uncertainty).  It’s telling that my favorite romances include Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels”, Taylor Chase’s “The Thief’s Mistress”, and (yes) Laura Kinsale’s “For My Lady’s Heart”.

  26. 26
    Tonda/Kalen says:

    Kerry, please don’t leave me feeling you’re lurking cause we disagreed. You expressed how you saw it (or thought you saw it). I responded. You came back with “Ok, I wasn’t clear” and tried again. BRAVA! That’s how this discussion thing works. LOL!

    From your last post it sounds to me like we actually agree on this one, and that Ana’s (and my) characters are free in your opinion to play “bouncy-bouncy” as much as they want as they want so long as both parties want to (and that was really all I was saying . . .).

    But to digress back to Kinsale’s comments, I really don’t get the “safe Regency settings” comment. I think there is much of a muchness in ALL the subgenres. And, yes, the rampaging alpha hero of the past is not much in vogue currently (unless he’s fanged). You don’t see a lot of “fuck her till she likes it” books being published today (maybe you do in epubs, I have no idea), and if that’s the thrill the reader is looking for I don’t know where to send them (and I’m grateful not to know). What I do see is a lot of “tease her, or manipulate her, or paranormally seduce her until she admits she wants you” books.

    I think that the attitudes that readers like/accept at a certain point in time are much like the hairdos of historical films: They say more about the time the film was made (or book was written) then they do about the time when the film or book is set. Those classic “bodice rippers” were being penned at the same time that Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood were tossing their costars around on screen and the women sighed over it.

    Men, in our books and in real life, struggle with their identities (maybe they always have, but certainly not so vocally and so obviously as they do right now). Much as women struggle with the virgin/whore dichotomy, and the working woman/SAHM dichotomy, and the good girls don’t like sex stigma, or good girls don’t like THAT kind of sex stigma, etc. Men struggle with conflicting messages, too: Be a MAN, but be gentle; Defend your woman, but don’t be a raging jerk; Never hit a girl, but what to do when the girl is the one hitting you?

    It’s hard to be people (so ungrammatical, but I can’t think of any other way to say it).

    I think it’s hard for people to figure out who they are, how they’re supposed to act and react, what is ok and what isn’t, and I just see the grey area getting larger and larger . . .

  27. 27
    --E says:

    It seems to me that the real issue isn’t what the characters do—it’s how the author handles it afterward.

    Back in the day, a hero could force himself upon a heroine, and the author seemed to be saying the heroine really didn’t want to, and the hero wasn’t doing it as point of power, but rather as sex (I hope I don’t need to explain to the Bitchery that rape is a power thing, not a sex thing). However, the authors didn’t necessarily make this clear. I think it stemmed from what Lauren was saying: ”…letting a woman put the responsibility for her desires that she’s deemed unacceptable or inexpressible onto the man. That’s not rape.”

    No, it’s not. But it looks a whole lot like it in the hands of a writer who isn’t spelling it out. I suspect the audience of the 70s and 80s already knew the subtext and didn’t need to have it explained, or at least felt the same way he author and/or heroine did, even if they didn’t quite understand the underlying reasons for what they felt. I’ve read those books. They never bothered me; I understood what was really going on.

    But the fact is, this is the 21st century, and one hopes that women today are allowed to own their sexuality, allowed to say, “Yes, I wanna!” and not be thought less of. If it’s PC-ness that demands that women be allowed to have sexual feelings, then hoo-rah for PCness.

    Does this mean there’s no place for the “forced seduction” in today’s writing? I dunno. I like to think that no options should be outlawed, and despite my hopes, there are no doubt plenty of women who still need that fantasy because they are not comfortable saying “Yes, I wanna!”

    I think I would just like to see it handled…better. More smoothly? More attention paid to the underlying psychology? More repercussions, more consequences?

    Sometimes I think authors, despite all their head-hopping omniscient POVs, really fail to show character psychology…or perhaps they just fail to make characters as complex and contradictory as real people. Too many authors have a very neatly mapped out profile of the hero and heroine’s psychological baggage, and how to deal with it—but real people are just not that simple.

    Real people have twelve reasons for everything they do, not one. Real people don’t “heal” from psychological injury—they learn to cope, they learn to work through or past, they develop into different (hopefully better) people. But as anyone who’s broken a bone knows, it’s never, ever as good as it was before. 99%, maybe, but never 100%. Why should the mind be any different?

    Feh, I’m blithering. I guess what I’m saying is, if an author tackles a complex, serious, psychological scenario, then she owes it to her readers to not simplify it and diminish it.

    —————-

    On a lighter note,

    He of course, had no idea what I was talking about but was pleased that I’d mentioned both “cake” and “humping.”

    and

    Next time you read Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, try to picture the heroine as an administrative assistant and the hero as the manager of Purchasing and Inventory Control.

    both made me spit half-chewed, expensive Leonidas chocolates onto my monitor. You wasted chocolate! Bad, naughty, wicked Bitches!  ;-)

  28. 28
    Kerry says:

    Thank you Nora.  Yes, I think respect does work better.

    Tonda, yes I’m all for the bouncy-bouncy.  And don’t worry, I won’t back off because I disagree wth someone (although I think we’re actually on very close pages if not the same one), only if I feel saying more isn’t going to advance anything.  I struggle to get what is in my head out into words that show it clearly – that’s partly just me and partly the fact I have CFS and my brain doesn’t stay focused as well as I could like.

    Okay, going to read the nice, long comments above this one that I skipped to reply.

  29. 29
    DS says:

    So what happened to the intrepid author who presented such unconventional heroes as the one in Seize the Fire where the hero was on his knees to ther heroine not once but twice! 

    I have to agree that I think she missed the boat with the hero in Shadowheart.  The relationship did not work for me.  I have no idea if she watered the character down at the urging of her editor/publisher or if it was just too long between the time she conceived him in the first novel and when she trotted him out again in Shadow Heart.  Maybe it would have been better for the story if she had created an entirely new character.

  30. 30
    Robin C. says:

    I have to say, that when Kinsale says:

    Perhaps, like in a modern marriage, readers have begun to insist on getting “everything” from a romance novel…[including] elements that are mutually contradictory and exclusive of one another.

    My instant reaction is to ask, is it readers who want everything, or is it Kinsale who’s running around in circles trying to please everyone> because honestly, if there’s one thing the recent rash of posts at this site has taught me, it’s that the romance readership is a pretty wide and varied group of people. It seems to me that what Kinsale is finding frustrating may actually just be the diversification of the genre, and the fact that while individuals may know what they want, there is no one way to please the whole romance audience since there are so damn many of us.

    I think it’s ALSO making a difference that now *everyone* has access to a computer, so the author is much more likely to hear (or seek out, or stumble upon) feedback from someone other than her immediate circle and the loyal fans who write in; in that sense she hears criticism that the hero was too much of a fop (read: not to my tastes) or the heroine suffered too much (read: not to my tastes), and thus tries to please the casual reader as well as the loyal one. Suddely there’s a lotof reader-author interaction where before there was very little, and a whole bunch of the new stuff is coincidental rather than direct. Now it’s way way easier for a reader to voice an opinion publically, and the author has a much wider range of opinions to read and consider.

    Case in point: I tend to think I’m pretty consistent in my tastes – love KA heroines, not real big on dark heroes, and not so much a fan of erotica (not that I don’t read it, but I don’t get overly excited about it often), but compare me against, say, my friend D who loves a good degree of sensuality (I could take it or leave it), prefers Blazes to Bombshells (unlike me), and likes heroes I’d consider darker. Like me, she ALSO has a computer and an opinion and is just as well spoken. If one were to lump us both together as “the romance readership,” when I like combat and she likes an sensuality, well, I can see how “readers” as a whole might come across as a little contradictory.

    But the thing is, we have separate buying habits. Our books are all labeled romance, though, and shelved right next to each other. We’ll read the same things sometimes (we both love Lunas), but our opinions do differ quite dramatically at points, and we both have access to a keyboard.

    I think part of what people who miss the gold old days miss is that then, when you picked up a romance, you more or less knew what you were getting. You didn’t ten pages in discover that the hero was a sensitive poet with a secret baby, or your heroine’s KA labeling didn’t prevent her from needing to be rescued every 30 pages. I think that the increased diversity (or at least, the shift away from certain elements and towards others), plus the fact that on the internet all arguments hold equal weight, has simply left authors confused about where exactly they’re supposed to go to please the most people, and readers confused about what exactly will best suit their tastes. But, while no-one wants to exlude potential “readers,” and plenty of readers are willing to experiment outside their favorite genre, you can’t exactly please the whole world.

    So in short, I don’t know that it’s so much that our tastes are inconsistent as individuals; I think that it’s more a problem of, as an author, separating the people who *will* read you and “get” your stuff from the people whose cup o’ tea you’ll never be, but who’ll stumble across your book and feel free to express their opinion anyway.

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