Bitches on Bitch

Joint posted on Bitch Magazine.org and on Flavorwire is an interview about Bosoms, feminism, and defending our love of romance novels.

My favorite part:

MV: Why should feminists read romance novels?

SW: It’s a 50-plus-year-old industry comprised mostly of women writers operating their own businesses and producing a genre about women’s self-actualization, pursuit of autonomy, and acquisition of sexual agency for an audience made mostly of women, who buy over $1.4 billion dollars worth of books a year. No, no, nothing feminist or even subversive about that.

But did the word “smut” have to be used? Twice? Woe is me. As Kate Reading pointed out, it seems “counterproductive to try to talk intelligent[ly] and progressive[ly] about the genre when you’re also calling it names.”

Of course, now I’ve discovered that “smut” is a parasitic plant fungus that attacks a plant’s reproductive system. There’s a joke in there somewhere – in the meantime, Nicole suggests “were-smut” as the next paranormal theme. 

 

Categorized:

General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    KatherineB says:

    Ah, but did you know that smut is also a comestible, to possibly be found in cans on your grocery shelf? They consider them as ‘Mexican truffles’!

    http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/multimedia/2007/10/gallery_canned_foods?slide=1&slideView=3

    look delish, don’t they?

  2. 2
    Carin says:

    You don’t like that they call it smut, but the name of your site includes *trashy*  I love this site.  Love it.  But isn’t this is a little…  I don’t know what to call it.  Too early, brain not functioning.

  3. 3
    Malika says:

    The word smut comes across as derogatory. For me, it sounds as if someone is being humiliated, which is definitely not the case for most romantic novels When talking about romance novels, trashy is usually used more ironically. So yes, slightly inaccurate..

  4. 4
    nkkingston says:

    Smut is also a particle of soot! Which is more likely the etimology of the “sexy” definition, sharing connotations of being “dirty”.

  5. 5
    Silver James says:

    I have a friend whom I go round and round with arguing that romance novels are NOT female porn. Of course, she also believes that the women who read romance are fat, over 40, don’t work outside the home. *HUGE sigh* It is an on-going battle. YMMV but feminists…no. I won’t get into that argument here.

    Thanks, Bitches, for fighting the good fight on every front!

  6. 6
    Suze says:

    Um, I kind of like the word smut.  Except I never really associated it with porn.  I always considered it (when used as referring to books) to identify a romance with spicy love scenes.  Good, clean fun.  Not squeaky clean, just a little smutty.

  7. 7
    willaful says:

    I don’t mind the term smut, but it is unfair and inaccurate to categorize all romances by the term.  Of course, it’s hardly accurate to call all romances “trashy” either. Hmmm. I’m not sure we really have a case here. ;-)

    able92 – yes please!

  8. 8
    Ron Hogan says:

    Not just twice, but twice in the same sentence! “After years of sifting through smut books in order to find the ones that are worth the $4.99 you’ll pay for it, these two ladies have created a humorous guidebook for the discerning smut reader.”

    The copyeditor in me weeps. But Mandy Van Deven does ask some great questions. And of course your answers are fabulous!

  9. 9
    Mary Stella says:

    women who read romance are fat, over 40, don’t work outside the home.

    Let me start this comment by saying that even though I lifted the above quote from Silver James comment, I’m not picking on her.  She related what a friend of hers says.
    It just really struck me today how often romance readers are categorized in this manner.  For the record, I’m fat and over 50 and I both read and write romances.  I work inside the home when writing.  I work outside at a demanding, high profile job.  I’m not prone to tooting my own horn, but I totally rock my day job, too—despite the fact that, mother of all shocks, I’m fat and over 50!  Yikes!

    So, why does the whole fat-aging-eatsbonbons-lazyinferred description bother me particularly today?  Because it doubles, or trebles the scorn.  It’s sexist, ageist, elitist and any other smallminded-ist that you want to throw in there. 

    “Oh my God—not only is that woman fat and old, but she also reads romance novels.  Three strikes!  Obviously, she’s totally effing worthless L-O-S-E-R.”

    That this description is often advanced by other woman is particularly abhorrent today.  Substitute any other activity for “reads romance novels” in that sentence, apply it to women, and watch people howl with outrage. 
    Can you imaging anyone getting away with saying, “OMG, those flower planters are all fat, over 40, not working outside the home and scarfing chocolate.”  Can you imagine how many people protest, and rightly so, when someone mocks the woman who works from home, or who is a stay-at-home-mom? 
    Somehow, it’s okay to deride women because they’re of a certain age or are overweight, or staying at home if they are also romance fans.

    The sweepting, derogatory generalizations and scorn toward anybody is just wrong.  I would expect to receive howls of outrage if, for example, I claimed that all romance novel-haters are weak-minded, shrivel-titted, scrawny-assed, idiots.

    Rant over.  Time for me to go haul my monumental ass over to my chaise lounge with a Milky Way bar and my copy of Beyond Heaving Bosoms.

    Sarah and Candy, my word verification for this comment is wife44.  Shouldn’t that be bonboneatingwife44?

  10. 10
    Adele Dubois says:

    I don’t understand the implication that being a romance reader and a feminist are mutually exclusive. The romance novels I read and write are about female empowerment inside a balanced, loving relationship. Isn’t that one of the central themes behind the mainstream feminist movement? That we take control of our lives and realize self-actualization?

    Great job on your interview!

    Best—Adele Dubois

  11. 11
    Qadesh says:

    Mary Stella, can you hear the applause and cheers from your chaise?  Because that rant rocks!

    (Meanders over to google Mary Stella and buy something this wonderful woman has written!)

  12. 12
    Carrie Sessarego says:

    Rock on, Mary Stella, and save a bon bon for me, an almost 40, pretty pudgy, stay at home mom who reads romance and is as feminist as they come.

  13. 13
    jessica says:

    Feminist critique in itself is a double edged sword.  Nice answer SW!

    Regarding SMUT v. Trashy, it’s the difference between a “hater” and an “appreciator”.

  14. 14
    Suze says:

    Regarding SMUT v. Trashy, it’s the difference between a “hater” and an “appreciator”.

    I don’t get it.  smut = hater, trashy = appreciator?  That makes no sense to me at all.

  15. 15

    Thanks Mary Stella and as a fat over 40 romance reader/writer and SAHM I raise my bon-bons to you.

  16. 16
    Amanda Green says:

    I have to agree with What Kate’s Reading.  The intro really did detract from what was otherwise a really good interview.  If you guys don’t mind, I’ve linked to this post in tomorrow’s Mad Genius Club blog.

    Keep up the great work.  You helped convert me into a romance reader.

  17. 17
    jessica says:

    Sorry Suze – became confused with who called what, when, and where…still new to this site and switching from blog to blog…with a slow connection, no less!

    All I meant to say was I hate having to defend what I read and stereotyped for it as if that is ALL that I read.

  18. 18
    SonomaLass says:

    From Tom Lehrer:

    Smut, give me smut and nothing but!  A dirty novel I can’t shut, if it’s uncut, and unsubtle.  Who needs a hobby, like tennis or philately?  I’ve got a hobby, re-reading Lady Chatterly!

      et cetera

    Smut, like trashy, can be used either sincerely or ironically.  I think it’s a matter of tone and context.  In the above usage, the smut-flinging didn’t sound ironic to me at all, while here at sbTb, the irony oozes from many orifices.

    Add me to the list—I’m two weeks away from 50, so pass the bon-bons and the new Sherry Thomas!

  19. 19
    jocelyn says:

    I see SonomaLass’ point, but I do think getting too up in arms over romance novel name-calling is a bit disingenuous given the name of this site, steeped in irony as it may be.

    Of course, I don’t mind the term “smut” at all, so it could just be that the language used isn’t one of my hot buttons.

  20. 20
    Kate says:

    Hi all, in a sort-of HaBO, can anyone direct me to a few good discussions romance novels and porn? The interviewer would like a few links, and though I’ve found a great posting on Teach Me Tonight on pornography and erotica, I though I could pick some of your wonderful brains on previous discussions.

    I was a little surprised to read (in the comments below the Bitch interview) that the interviewer considers romance novels as a type of pornography, hence the use of the word smut. To me that’s a misconception that was perpetuated in the article.

    Tell64…tell 64 of your friends to watch that freakin’ awesome engineers-with-cats video below this post.

  21. 21
    Jessa Slade says:

    Even my sister calls what I write smut. Not ironically. Sigh. Even with the good press, it does get exhausting to read every article starting from the same place: Wow, isn’t it weird that all romance doesn’t suck?

  22. 22

    “To me that’s a misconception that was perpetuated in the article.”

    To be far, it’s a misconception many readers have too. It’s frustrating as a writer to want to concentrate on characterisation and relationship, only to find one’s story criticised because of insufficient sex scenes. Or the wrong type of sex scenes (I frequently get FB on stories where my guys jerk each other off or give each other head, asking me when they’re going to have ‘real’ sex – i.e. penetration. Sigh.)

    And I’ll be honest – in the m/m genre, a lot of what I read *is* smut. Sex for sex’s sake, there purely for titillation, and the ‘oooh, aren’t we *daring*?’ factor, as if gay sex was inherently amazing and fascinating in and of itself. It might not be porn, but it’s not art either. So while I really, really hate people describing romance as porn or smut, it’s a fact that a lot of it is – and not just the erotica or erotic romance either.  Nothing wrong with writing it or reading it, but let’s not kid ourselves that there’s a reason for the perception.

    “women who read romance are fat, over 40, don’t work outside the home”
    …making good money out of sitting on my fat ass in my home, too :)

    A lot of my readers are in their twenties. Age is irrelevant.

  23. 23
    StephanieL says:

    Like evreything else romance novels (and their readers) are full of misconceptions and stereotypes.  Smut just sounds like a put down as if romance novels can be categorized as porn.  Yes sex is typically present but unlike porn, this is not as essential as the characters and storyline.  I mean even erotic romance has a storyline and multi-dimensional characters present.  People don’t watch porn for the plot, they want the sex and they sure don’t look for any affinity with the “characters”.  How romance novels can coninue to be classified by porn is beyond me.

    As for women who read romance being “fat, over 40, and don’t work outside the home” it is laughable.  I myself am 24, have a degree, and work out daily and I am just one reader.  And seriously I have all the respect in the world for stay-at-home moms.  You can pretty much say that they have the hardest job in the world and work 24 hour shifts, 7 days a week without getting paid. 

    And I think the “Trashy” in the name is more of funny response to the sterotypes like the one above.  A response to those who believe that readers of romance couldn’t possibly intelligent, free-thinking women.

  24. 24
    asrai says:

    As it’s been said “I don’t know what is obscence but I’ll know it when I see it.”

    Words like smut, erotica, porn, and even feminism are subjective.
    I’ve been known to call my own writing smut, affectionatly of course.

    And there is nothing wrong with a strong woman enjoying some down and dirty sex. Good for those who do it!

    Why I enjoy the sex in romance novels is becuase there is a real connection between the characters and having sex furthers their relationship. That’s where the difference in erotica and porn is for me. Porn is sex for the sake of sex. Which has it’s time and place.

  25. 25
    aninsomniac says:

    I don’t see smut as something derogatory, much like ‘trashy’ has been reclaimed by the romance readers here (including me) from the disgust of literary snobbery. Equating smut with romance novels doesn’t make sense as they aren’t synonymous. But more than that, I don’t want to see people who read smut being shamed because it is such a “porn”-ish material. You know what, I like porn too (certain genres). And I consider myself a feminist.

    I think the Bitch magazine writer backtracked way too easily trying to defend her usage of ‘smut’ first saying it doesn’t just have a derogatory meaning and then saying that “Oh, even Sarah used it once!”. If you have an unshakable stand on something, maybe you don’t need someone else’s endorsement on it; simply your reasons would suffice.

    On an unrelated note, Ann Somerville, nothing you will EVER write can be called smut, I LOVE your books and the characters you’ve created. I want moar Kei and Arman and that is one couple I will never see enough of, even if you write them having geriatric sex (over 75 years even!).

  26. 26

    “I LOVE your books and the characters you’ve created.”

    Thank you. I want to get back to Kei and Arman – I’ve got a story started but I keep being distracted by stuff. I never forget them though.

  27. 27
    Rosa says:

    Personally, I don’t like the idea that porn = bad.

    It seems to get used as, if i like it, it’s erotica. If I don’t, it’s porn.

    Personally, I *like* porn, I like pornographic scenes in novels, I especially like woman-centered porn – if we label all the bad stuff as “porn” then we’re going to only get degrading, icky, rapist porn.

    Not that all romance novels are porn. But there’s definitely a continuum between sweet inspirationals and porn, with most of what I read to the porn-side of center.

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