Once upon a time, romance was all about feelings and finding a partner… Nowadays, it seems to be shifting from the heart to between the sheets. I have nothing against what two consensual adults of any sex, persuasion, hue, height, shape or sexual interest do between the sheets, in toilets, on the washing machine (which apparently is now as much a sex toy as a vibrator), in bushes or on the beach. What I am concerned about is that romance may, or may not, depending very much on what we, readers, want it to be, be losing touch with the heart. If this is maybe true in society, it is certainly true in books. Far too often do I find romance books that are erotica. Again nothing against erotica. But I would just wish romance to keep its focus on the heart, or otherwise, call itself by its correct name.
My understanding is that books that deal with the passion that comes from love are romance, those that deal with the passion that comes from sex are erotica and those that simply describe sex…I don’t like the negative connotation we give to the word porn, but let’s say, for argument’s sake, porn without any bigoted and judgemental hues.
Why am I now talking about this? What has it got to do with literature or gay literature? Directly, nothing; you are right. LGBT literature is charactised by honest depiction of sex, but not primarily concerned with sex itself. Far and few between are the examples of gay literary erotica. The trinity of gay literature is, in my experience, sexuality (not sex), society and relationships. So why am I talking about romance?
In a recent interview, an M/M romance writer, Anne Tenino, (see the interview here: http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=12539&cpage=1#comments), sates, ‘Romance itself is the emotional side of literature’ and ‘that’s what we are bringing to gay fiction.’ An interesting comment to come back to from my holiday… My first response was to go down on my knees and thank our superior supporter for granting us the gift of emotion. Of course, coming from within a genre that clearly gets closer to the human heart (as shown on virtually every cover of M/M romance novels) of us gay men by stripping our clothes off to show off our muscles (as it appears every gay man is a Swatzenagger just waiting to be discovered), the great focus on emotion she purpots to have at heart rings…true, naturally, what were you thinking?
So, as I can’t honestly be asked to read her novels, I checked what she herself puts as the highlights of her writing, and here’s a selection:
‘…with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely-hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild.’
The cover of the book thus described by her clearly speaks of relationships, feelings and emotions…or does it?
To her credit, Tenino is one of the more romantic and less sex-driven writers in the genre… But even when the book description does not talk about sex, but love, most reviews seem to spot the other word as a leitmotif instead:
‘Sweet and sexy’, ‘harbouring a wishful longing… sexy’, ‘very hot, sexy, sweet read’, ‘hot and good spank story’ and so forth. I checked 25 reviews of this novel which she states is about love, the word sex (and related words) appeared 40 times; the word love (or any other word related to feelings and emotions)…you’ll never guess…nought!
Again, I repeat, I have nothing against sex, but double speak, misnomers and hypocrisy. I wonder how the writers mentioned in my post ‘Gay Authors to Look out for’ feel, as some of the books mentioned are so poignant, so packed with emotions, so intense that it would take a few hundred M/M romance stories to convey the feelings one of them can pack in a chapter.
Apart from the insult to writers, apart from the homophobic and misogynist content of the statements in the interview, apart form the superficial knowledge of literature, apart from the bitchiness and aggression of the comments, apart from the ignorance of what being gay really is demonstrated by the writers interviewed, what really annoys me is the hypocrisy of how they are consciously (in my opinion) using sex to sell books under the pretence of the word romance.
You have been telling us how we have sex (as if, get a real, ladies) ever since your book one; now don’t try to tell us how we feel!
Naturally, author Ann Tenino is very welcome to present her version of the events. A guest post is reserved for her. So far, no comment has been received.