Jul 16, 2011

bravo: read your mills & boon on the bus with pride!

Just read a brilliant article over at www.heroesandheartbreakers.com entitled "Eff You!: Romance Novels are NOT Porn for Women!" by Evangeline HOLLAND.
Rabbit image courtesy of picto:graphic via Flickr
This Guy’s Not Exactly the Playboy Bunny, but You Get the Point—Are We All Hopped Up on Sex?
"Most of the jabs directed at the romance genre by non-romance readers have to do with sex—romance writers are frustrated housewives, romance readers are sex-crazed, the books create unrealistic expectations, et cetera et cetera. In turn, most of us have been largely conditioned to hide our clinch covers, splay our fingers across such titles as Bedded by the Sheikh or The Prince’s Virgin Seduction, and passionately argue that the blurb focusing on the hero’s lusty ways and the heroine’s quivering loins are not the sole focus of the book—we’re reading them for, well, the romance!
The main joke at our—and the genre’s—expense is that romance novels are “porn for women,” and at that I call foul.
Everywhere we turn, sex and women’s bodies are displayed for the gratification of the male gaze. Playboy and its various entities have become embedded in pop culture, magazines like Cosmo recycle countless articles on how to become a sex goddess for your man, and visiting a strip club with your man or your girlfriends is seen as the height of sophistication.

Ultimately, the glaring, blatant message society sends is that male sexual desire, and the satisfaction of it, is supposed to be the main focus of “love and other indoor sports” (© Judy Blume).
No wonder romance novels are so mocked, derided, and jeered at!
Thrill by Jackie Collins
Thrill by Jackie Collins
When I first discovered romance novels at the tender age of 17, I was shocked that this funny, entertaining book I was reading actually had sex written in its pages! Color me naive (my onetime experience with Jackie Collins at 10 notwithstanding), but I sailed along blissfully in the waves of kisses only or maybe even just smoldering looks and touches in the books of Ann Rinaldi andFrances Temple. To see such graphic descriptions in the printed word was jaw-dropping...titillating...freaking awesome...and I grabbed for more.
Sure, the sex in Catherine Coulter’s novels can be of a questionable quality, but I cherish the hilarious eroticism of The Courtship, which opens with the hero, Spenser, stumbling upon the heroine, Helen, giving Alexandra Sherbrooke a lecture in discipline. Even better was the fact that Helen was a very tall, Rubenesque woman, and not only was she proud of her stature (and she was very intelligent), but Spenser loved that about her. The combination of an intelligent heroine, a humorous, if anachronistic take on BSDM in the Regency, and funny sex was eye-opening for my teenage incarnation. I received the sex talk from my parents early on, read any article or book on sexuality from cover to cover, and of course, discussed things with my friends, but in the pages of a romance novel I could explore the sensations aroused by my tumultuous and admittedly confusing hormones in a safe space.
The Courtship by Catherine Coulter
The Courtship by Catherine Coulter
From there I browsed my library stacks, pulling out the books with interesting spines (and titles—I quickly cracked the romance novel title code), experiencing a variety of sexual positions, a variety of kisses, and a variety of sensual touches, in the bodies, so to speak, of a variety of women. In these pages I saw short women, tall women, women with large breasts, women with small breasts, boyish bodies, curvy bodies, brown women, white women, black women, brunettes, red-heads, brown-eyed, green-eyed—just women who had bodies and experiences and personalities like normal, everyday women, who got to enjoy sex in a powerful and affirming way.
Now that I’m ten years older and a trifle more experienced, I still find the sex in romance novels, in all their fantastical, outrageous, virgin-orgasms-her-first-time way, continues to be a safe and private space. While I do read romances for a number of reasons, and sometimes roll my eyes when I see yet another clinch cover on a story that is so much more than its sensuality level, I appreciate the sex in romance novels and what it means for its writers and readers. So if romance novels are “porn for women,” I feel we have the right to own, explore, and cherish our sexuality (and the HEA is the cherry on top!)."
My favourite 'chewing gum' for the record!
Read it: It's brilliant.
Can I say here and now that there is NOTHING wrong with a good old Mills & Boon! Just as much as there is nothing wrong with reading for a bit of harmless escapism! (To use one of my favourite quotes from my favourite childhood movies National Velvet: "What's wrong with folly?")
Sure it's not going to nourish your soul and broaden you mind like Kafka, Chomsky or Rushdie - but we mustn't forget the importance of reading for FUN, ENTERTAINMENT and ENJOYMENT! :)
And to quote from my primary school librarian:

"Some books are like chewing gum, and some are like hearty meals. There's nothing wrong with either if you enjoy them in moderation!"

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