This post was prompted by an article that was being shared around on Facebook the other day, in which a Christian woman held up romance novels as one of the ‘new’, great evils of all time, sucking hapless female victims into their thrall. I’m not going to link to it here because it’s not necessary to drive more traffic to her blog post. There’s enough of that sort of thing out there as it is. In fact, the GOP has declared pornography a public health crisis that is ‘destroying the lives of millions.’
Think about that for a moment. Now, I’ll be the first to say that anything taken to excess can be a problem—even a health crisis. Alcohol, for example, or doughnuts. But along with controlling reproductive rights and standing for the most anti-GLBT platform in the history of the party, the GOP has deemed pornography as one of the main things it must battle in the upcoming election.
Not the fact that climate change is destroying our world.
Not the fact that scarcely a day goes by without a mass shooting here in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. outstrips all other countries when it comes to violent acts, accounting for 31% of all mass shootings in the world since 1966.
Not the fact the U.S. has an abysmal ranking for infant mortality, child poverty, and health care out of all other developed nations. Or that we’re sadly behind other industrialized nations in math and science.
No, what is most important to the GOP is what goes on in the privacy of our own bedrooms between consenting adults. And for this particular Church Lady, this includes what’s on my Kindle.
Not that she represents all Church Ladies. I grew up knowing some fantastic women, stalwart and forthright Church Ladies who would appear on your doorstep with a casserole and a hug at a death in the family, and a crocheted blanket for your newborn baby. They run the after-school programs for the latch-key kids, and the soup kitchen for the homeless. They don’t criminalize you for being poor. And when they raise money for the Church, it’s because the roof really does need repair, not because someone believes a multi-million dollar complex is what God needs from his faithful.
As you can probably tell by now, I was born and raised in a Christian household. I have very strong beliefs, and yet I broke with the Church some time ago. In part, because I didn’t believe that religion and politics should be bedfellows, and I don’t like being told from the pulpit how I should vote. In part, because I believe in the separation of Church and State. But also because I believe very strongly in free will. I believe in God. I no longer believe in the Church. And while someone has every right to come along and tell me I’m going to burn in hell for what I say and do, their right to dictate what I say or do or think ends when it infringes on mine. I suppose that’s where all the legislation comes from. There are states where any sexual position other than ‘missionary’ is illegal, where oral sex is illegal, where sex outside of marriage is illegal and so on. Probably so some fiercely intrusive neighbor can rail at you, “But it’s against the law!”
I call it the Sodom and Gomorrah effect. In this Old Testament story, God announces he will smite the people of these two cities because of their ungodly behavior. Not just the wicked and the guilty, mind you. ALL OF THEM. Abraham negotiated with God’s messengers, who said they would spare the towns if fifty righteous men could be found. Abraham talked them down to ten, but in the end, ten men could not be found. Before the smiting began, God’s angels allowed Lot and his family to escape.
Historians believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were actual cities struck by a natural disaster, which makes sense because earthquakes, wildfires, tornados, and the like wipe out everything in their path with little regard for your religious affiliations. Today, Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with evil and immortality—and there is a strong belief among some religious groups that the actions of your neighbor affects your own moral standing. That someday, everyone will be smote by association, regardless of how fervently you pray in your own home. I believe this is the fear that drives most of these anti-everything legislations. The willingness of some to stick their noses where they do not belong because on some level, they believe the entire nation will suffer hellfire and damnation for the actions of their neighbors.
The U.S. has always had a strong Puritan streak. These days, however, certain factions in government have forgotten the Puritans came to America to avoid religious persecution. They have forgotten the words of our Founders written so that others may have the right to worship as they see fit. They have forgotten the precepts of our Declaration of Independence. They want to amend these documents to say, “Only for those people who believe exactly what I believe” when they themselves are splintered into so many subsets within their own religions that this is impossible.
So I say to the Church Lady: yes, child pornography is wrong and it is a crime. What two consenting adults choose to do is not, even if they film it for sale under the rules of the industry. Yes, there are probably people who watch too much porn, just as there are people who drink too much. Yes, porn has probably led to unreal expectations and caused more than one marriage to buckle—but I suspect it was only a catalyst to an already unstable situation. And no, explicit romance novels aren’t new. They’ve been around for a long time. Yes, they’ve been called ‘soft porn’ for a long time, too. Why am I not hearing any ‘slippery slope’ arguments coming from you on this one, as so many do with gun control? Probably because you believe everything should be banned. Do you really think this is where you need to focus your energies right now?
I am perfectly happy with your decision, Dear Church Lady, not to read romances, or allow porn of any sort in your house. You can raise your children to believe sex is somehow wrong unless it is for the specific purpose of procreation, and wonder why they turn to other sources to learn more about one of the strongest human drives there is. You can wonder, too, why spouses stray or hire sex workers. Could it be on some level, they’re missing something in their love life? Some joy, some spontaneity, some freedom from the belief that sex, as an act in and of itself, is bad? In fact, it seems to me those that shout the loudest about controlling the thoughts and private lives of others should check to see if their houses are made of glass before picking up those stones.
Maybe that’s not the case for this particular Church Lady. It’s hard to know exactly what motivates someone to try to hold everyone around them to their specific standards. Just because I decide to go on a diet, it doesn’t mean I get to force everyone around me to do the same. Self-control and willpower are my responsibility, and no one else’s. And keep your nose out of my Kindle.
In the original draft of this post, I was prepared to go on ad nauseum about certain uptight women who think they should have say over what I read and write. (Never mind who I actually sleep with, or my right to access birth control) Who believe the ‘moral decay’ in America is more important than feeding the hungry, providing health care, or creating a strong economic base with the understanding that everyone benefits when there is more discretionary income—even the ultra-wealthy will see business profits go up when there is a strong economy. Tempting as it was, I canned that first draft.
Instead, I decided to share with you why I write romances.
I write because for most of us, life is fairly sucky and we need the distraction of being taken out of our lives for a few hours every now and then. Seriously. You had a crappy day at work? Lose yourself in the fantasy of meeting a wealthy billionaire who will sweep you off your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life. Put in a 12 hour day at the office only to come home and take care of small children and/or elderly parents? Immerse yourself in a different world for a few minutes before bedtime, a place where exciting things happen to characters that you’d like to be.
We need to believe that things can turn out okay. That we can get our happy endings.
We need to see depictions of healthy relationships. And yes, for the vast majority of us, this includes sex. It isn’t a dirty word, not to be spoken except under the covers and with a sense of guilt. And yes, perhaps there are readers who get off on our words, who are titillated by the scenes of passion we’ve created. You know what? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.
Perhaps the reader is single and has no other recourse to relieve a physical need.
Perhaps the reader has had his or her trust violated, and is not in a position to let someone into their lives at the moment.
Perhaps the reader has reached a point in their lives where they are comfortable being alone.
Perhaps the reader is in a relationship, and for various reasons, their partner can’t meet their needs. Maybe it’s due to illness, travel, or stress. For whatever reason, maybe this reader uses romance novels to keep them satisfied until their partner is ready for them. Maybe they understand that their partner’s needs will always be different from theirs and this is how they remain faithful.
Perhaps the reader simply needs more than his or her partner can offer, and uses stories to help get them in the mood for a loving session with that partner. Things change, either because of illness, age, or workload. Reading a sexy scene can stoke the fires for a truly passionate session with one’s partner.
Or~gasp~maybe the reader just enjoys it.
Whatever the reason, I’ll let you in on a little secret here. You may think the reason people read romances with explicit sex scenes is because of the sex. It isn’t. People read because of the romance. They want to see a particular set of characters work out their differences, overcome obstacles, and come together for a happily ever after in the end. If there is some smokin’ hot sex along the way, for some of us that’s just icing on the cake.
So I say to you, Dear Church Lady, I have no problems if you only want to eat broccoli, and shun all sweets and confectionaries. I applaud your willpower for passing up bread and pasta, instead noshing down on zucchini and Brussels sprouts. Hey, there are days when that’s what I want to eat as well. But don’t come down with righteous indignation because I also like crusty French bread hot out of the oven brushed with melted butter. Don’t curl your lip because I dip my strawberries in heated chocolate, or try and legislate away my right to eat brownies. If your religion forbids such things, more power to you. Mine doesn’t. And I certainly wish the government would stop trying to legislate what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults.
Here’s a thought: why not check out a little spicy romance? Who knows, it may rock your world in more ways than one.
For those of you who are interested in such things, check out my latest release, Fool’s Gold. Now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.
Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.