Talk to me about romance. Talk to me about love. Talk to me about romanticizing those things. What is it that draws us to that tale of the chase and catch repeatedly?
The debate swirls and continues, and as a writer of romance…no, as a lover of romance, I come back to the same question: What is romance? And I’m ready to ditch my answer. I know. I know. A hundred times we’ve discussed this. Romance and romantic are different. Death, itself, can be romantic. Nature and a destructive snowstorm can be romantic. Lovers in love but giving that up can also be romantic. There is something aesthetically romantic in beauty itself. And beauty can even be pain. Therefore, pain is romantic, especially when the sufferer does so for love.
But the genre of Romance has confines. Definitions. The trope of the Happily Ever After or Happy for Now is a MUST-HAVE. You try to publish. You'll see. In big, NEON letters, they state: Must have a happy ending. There are further restrictions as well.
Throw the word “erotic” into it and a myriad of new problems arise. Suddenly the negative connotations abound. It’s pornography. It’s worthless. It’s “sex sans relationship.” Certainly, that kind of erotica is prevalent and alive. And if that is what a reader or watcher wants, that is their right, their prerogative.
But that label, dear friends, is not one for me. None of these definitions or meanings are true necessarily, but it the broad brush-stroked way it has become. I’m beginning to want to distance myself more and more from that connotation of erotic or erotica as the equivalent to sex and titillation only, that equation that erotica is pornography. It isn't. Not always. And I want to be titillated but always within the framework of a story. Whatever word is opposite "sans"-- I want that. In fact, sex for mere titillation just bores me to fucking tears.
Leon F. Seltzer writes in his article, “What Distinguishes Erotica from Pornography":
“If the erotic celebrates sexuality, placing it on a plateau above any essentially
masturbatory act of copulation, then it can be seen as diverging markedly from the
pornographic. Pornography proposes a temporary "fix" for our sexual frustrations; eroticism offers us something more elusive--an opportunity to experience sensuous delight of a higher order….
"What in general separates the erotic from the pornographic is an attitude toward sex and human sexuality that can be inferred from looking (dare I use the word, "objectively"?) at the finished product. If the subjects are portrayed in a manner that focuses on their inner and outer radiance, their fleshy vitality, and the work itself seems to manifest a passionate and powerful affirmation of life and the pleasures of this world, then I think we're talking erotic. If, however, the subjects seem reduced to so many body parts, if any beauty appears subordinate to the overriding purpose of arousal, if the sex depicted seems depersonalized, controlling, non-mutual, and devoid of fun or play (but rather seems about "getting down to business" and "getting off")--and if the sex acts pictured contain not a hint of human caring or emotional connectedness to them--that, to me, would definitely secure the work's place in the realm of pornography.”
So I labeled myself an Erotic Romance Writer. But what I write is neither of those things as defined individually or lumped together. Yes. I find beauty in the romantic but not ROMANCE as it’s been labeled. I almost label that trite. And yes. Erotic. But not for the sex it implies that is for mere titillation. To me the erotic is the relationship that organically manifests itself between people finding and exploring love. It is the universality of accepting the darkness that makes up human nature, the darkness I find so romantic within that dance, the inevitable opening up that lets in the light of sensuality between two human beings becoming one together without the confines of preconceived morality. In short, an exploration of all the facets of both the subconscious and conscious of light and dark. “Emotional connectedness.” Yes, Dr. Seltzer. That.
I’m here to say that it’s time we start a new genre. I’m dead serious. I just don’t know how or where to start or how to make it a reality. I want a new category or genre, a new way to describe what I, and many others, write. All the great waves of writing get dubbed: Romanticism; realism; post-modernism...hey come from revolution. It’s time we start our own revolution, our rebuttal to Romance, to distinguish ourselves, to stand up and say NO. That is what post-modernism did. No answers. No neat bows. No rules. And I want us to coin it, embrace it, and live and write it through our work. Just because something has romance in it, doesn’t make it a Romance; likewise, just because the erotic presents itself, doesn’t make it Porn.
How did the great revolutions of writing begin? Let’s talk romanticism. Romanticism in the 18th century was a revolt against the Age of Reason, a rebuttal against scientific rationalization of nature; and Realism was then a rebuttal to that and so it goes. That Romance has come to mean a set trope with a must-have HEA/HFN ending is just absurd. Here’s an earlier post I wrote. This is not a new dilemma for me. http://rbobrien.weebly.com/blog-posts/just-how-the-fk-do-i-categorize-my-writing. Here’s where I'm trying to go with this. The Norton Anthology states:
"The American Scholar A.O. Lovejoy once observed that the word 'romantic' has come to mean so many things that, by itself, it means nothing at all...The variety of its actual and possible meanings and connotations reflect the complexity and multiplicity of European romanticism. In The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal (1948) F.L. Lucas counted 11,396 definitions of 'romanticism'. In Classic, Romantic and Modern (1961) Barzun cites examples of synonymous usage for romantic which show that it is perhaps the most remarkable example of a term which can mean many things according to personal and individual needs."And I agree. So why so narrow? How did writing Romance, in particular, get so marginalized into a neat package of consumerism? Romantic. That’s what I write. I take you back to the beginning of this long article. One can find the romantic everywhere. In nature. In love. Yes. Even in lust and death. Sometimes happy endings are about the most unromantic thing there is. And sometimes, it’s exactly what makes it beautiful and that beauty IS romantic.
So I ask you. Let’s stop this madness. Let’s stand up and start a revolution. We are the New Romantics (Sorry, Taylor Swift. I thought of it first. Give it back.) Let’s coin it. Own it. And make HERSTORY. I invite you to come read my story. I am a New Romantic.
I LOVE to write and read. I particularly enjoy reading erotic romance that has tons of emotion in it. I hope you will ask me questions and share your favorite authors and novels. I welcome all feedback.