Columnists Think Romance is Porn and Women are Stupid

Today I saw this brilliant piece in my hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Woman to Woman: Harm in Reading Romance Novels?

Apparently it was a slow news day or these women have run out of ideas, because, though they are supposed to offer differing views, they seemed to agree that romance novels are porn. Case in point:

“…I was concerned to learn that many romance novels are not as harmless as they look. In fact, some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can by distorted messages of pornography. In fact, many of today’s romance novels actually have a huge soft porn influence…”

Yes it’s true. Just like music can inspire people to take machetes to each other, apparently romance novels–especially the soft porn ones–can lure women into becoming delusional.

It gets better. How about this?

“Erotica aside, even traditional romance novels promote – almost by definition – an unattainable romantic ideal. The male heroes are all strong, rugged and breathtakingly handsome, yet sensitive, patient listeners and utterly unselfish. Is it any wonder that if we read two or three of those romances in a row, we’d start to be irritated by our real-life husbands with all their wonderful yet exasperating idiosyncrasies?”

Yeah, leaving the toilet seat up is a “wonderful yet exasperating idiosyncrasy,” especially when I fall in at 3 am. Or using the life savings to buy a Corvette. Or treating one like a live-in maid, cook, and hooker. (examples all, people. I’m not married.)

You’d think the rebuttal would be better, or would actually, I don’t know–defend romance readers. Ri-ight.

“If we’re getting out the protest signs about insipid romance novels, why not rid the shelves of silly self-help books, too. They, too, give women unrealistic and dangerous notions.”

I thought she was simply being sarcastic (as in, “if everyone jumped off a cliff you’d do it too?” sort of way) Then I read this:

“I don’t think Harlequin readers believe they’re doing in-depth gender research or that Fabio is going to ride up on his white horse. I think they’re indulging in a little female pornography.”

That thud was the sound of my head hitting my desk. But then, in an apparent plot twist, the rebuttal lady gets her genres confused. (Surprise)

“But I’d argue that all porn isn’t equal. Comparing romance novels laced with story lines and plots to visuals of girls bent over motorcycles is unfair.”

I think she missed a word or two. Don’t you want your romance novels to be laced with story lines and plots? If you take that all out, you’re left with…with…a cover flap and a dedication page.

Luckily, readers could comment on the story. Several authors did too. There are more than a few romance authors in the Atlanta area, you know. But someone broke out the big guns, i.e., Nora Roberts:

“Jeez, I’ve been sending a `distorted message’ to women for years by writing about relationships and commitment, about overcoming obstacles and celebrating the discovery and value of love. Thank God somebody clued me in! And all this time I thought the message was love is a vital part of the human condition. Millions of women—who are, of course, irrational, weak-minded and unhappy—have become dangerously unbalanced. Marriages destroyed as they toss aside their husbands in search of fictional characters.

What utter crap.

Neither am I writing female porn. Since when is a novel highlighting two people falling in love, and enjoying each other sexually, pornography?

Oddly, I expect my readers to know the difference between reality and fiction, between pornography and sexuality—whatever their gender.”

Do not piss off The Nora. You will get your poisoned pen shoved up your nose, and you’ll thank her for it.

Of course, I had to throw in my own two cents. I am a native after all. Granted, it’s not as good as Nora’s but then, she”s Nora and I’m…well, not:

Wow. Not only am I brainwashing women by writing African American romance, I’m destroying families by writing about how people can develop loving, committed relationships while overcoming obstacles like race, suicide, abuse, and infertility. I didn’t know I was so subversive!

Luckily I give my readers more credit. People are smart enough not to believe everything they read. Like the “commentary” and “rebuttal” at the top of this page, for example.

Okay, so I descended, but I think they realize the truth: romance readers and writers come from all walks of life. They are not stupid, delusional, or wondering why their husbands/SOs/whatever aren’t more like Fabio. (Who wants to be more like Fabio?) Romance readers and writers are intelligent, well-balanced women, And they’re probably having more sex.