Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kelley Wants Me to Comment on Sexy Greek Shipping Magnates

The google image search for "romance novel" yields hilarious results.

Kelley asked me to check this out. Kelley either really values my opinion or is engaged in psychological warfare to destroy me. Given what zie linked to, it's a little hard to tell. ;)

The question at hand is Is Chick Lit Emotional Porn.

Well, I think-

No, fuck that. The title alone is too much to gloss over.

a. Chick Lit.

Allow me to spare you at least 9 hours towards a degree in English literature: books written by men are literature, books written by women using male pseudonyms or androgynous names may also be literature, books written by women using an obviously female name are chick lit. Because while men are human beings and male experiences and male feelings are universal, women and their experiences and feelings are only suitable for a ghetto decorated in pink, lace and stiletto shoes. (Seriously, check out the covers of books written by women.)

b. Emotional Porn.

Fuck if I know what that means. Okay, I know what porn is. I worked at a porn website (well, actually we ran 30 of them) way back when people paid for porn online. Yes, children, I'm ancient. Emotional porn? I . . . um . . . now I'm picturing someone furiously fapping to pictures of people experiencing emotions.

Inside my head is a scary place.

So, okay, before we get into the article proper (are you happy, yet, Kelley? are you entertained? THIS IS . . . never mind.), full disclosure time: my mother wrote romance novels for over 30 years. She was reasonably popular at one point, and at her height was writing three in a year. My mother has, btw, a master's degree in English literature. Romance novels were the reading equivalent of snacks to her, to be consumed between Tolstoy and Orwell. A palate cleanser, if you will.

Once she had children, she no longer had the time to devote to such heavy reading and fell back entirely on romance novels for entertainment. She got so sick of the plot driven characters and other such crimes of writing that she started writing her own. Thus was a career born.

So, do I think romance novels are literature? Eh. Does everything have to be deeply meaningful all the damn time? Is there no room for movies in which shit blows up and that's the plot? I guess it depends upon who's answering the question. Sometimes I want to to experience illumination, sometimes I just want to read how Harry and Sally got to the fucking.

Okay, full, full disclosure: I'm not into visual porn, but I am into written porn. So, there you have that.

So, anyway, what was I- oh yeah, the article. Here, I'll link it again.

On the nightstand of a woman you know, there’s a Christian romance novel and a Bible. Does that matter?


Matter to whom? Also, read that in Phil Hartmann's Troy McClure voice and tell me that ain't hilarious.

A new book by Boston University researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, offers a disturbing look at how Internet search engines reveal much about the sexual and emotional desires of men and women, and how they differ. The research confirms in some ways what almost everyone knows: men are visually engaged, attracted to youth and sexual novelty, and are thus vulnerable to visual pornography.

The research explores further what the commercialized romance industry tells us about what it means to be a woman (at least in a fallen world). Women are much less likely to be drawn to visual pornography (although more do so than one might think), but are quite likely to be involved in such media as Internet romantic fiction or the old-fashioned romance novel.

The romance novel follows, the researchers argue, a typical pattern. The hero is almost never, they say, a blue collar worker, a bureaucrat, or someone in the traditionally feminine occupations (hairdresser, kindergarten teacher, etc.). He is competent, confident and usually wealthy. He is, in short, an alpha male.

But, they argue, this alpha male is typically a rough character who learns to be tamed into kindness—kindness to her. Thus, you wind up with not only the strong silent cowboys with the soft interior life, but also vampires and werewolves and Vikings.

And all of this is moving toward the climax of the romance story: the “happily-ever-after.”

Okay . . . so romance novels are female porn because women consume, or admit to consuming, more romance novels than porn. I . . . what?

Let me try again. Romance novels tell you the true psyche of a woman because the protagonists are wealthy Greek shipping magnates (this actually does come up a lot in Harlequins. you'd think Greece is entirely populated by wealthy shipping magnates. sexy wealthy shipping magnates. with secret hearts of gold!) and vampires instead of guys you meet in line at Walmart.

Here, let me tell you a little secret about writing: nobody wants to read boring shit. There's a reason writers don't include every detail of opening every door or a description of every breath the protagonists take: because it's boring. If I want boring shit, I'll just live my life. I'm not going to pay to read it.

Heroes are sexy, powerful and wealthy because that's exciting. Following construction worker Joe throughout his day as he runs errands and cares for his lawn, not so much. I've got a demon assisting a nephalim in stopping the apocalypse in my book, fighting archangels and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Messiah! That's exciting right there! (pro tip: if you run out of plot, blow some shit up. that's what i'll be doing.)

Look, the Romance Novel Panic(tm) is not new. My mother tells people about her writing with a note of defiance because she's gotten so much shit* for writing romance novels. The argument is basically this: women who read romance novels will develop a skewed vision of love that will cause problems in their marriages because real relationships are nothing like what is portrayed in romance novels.

Because women are so fucking stupid they can't tell the difference between fiction and reality. Our pretty little heads just don't contain the necessary grey matter to make the distinction. We need to be protected from our own childlike naivete.

Fuck off.

Wait, holy fuck, those researchers are relating romance novels to evo psych. Apparently, sexy Greek shipping magnates with secret hearts of gold represent Darwinian [mumblemumblesputter]. Wow.

Fuck off on that, too.

*apparently, that's my word for today.


  1. Aaaaand...I stopped reading with the words Ogi Ogas.

    Just search Teh Google for "surveyfail." Or go here for a collection of links. Basically, his methodology was somewhere between "suspect" and "completely fucking wrong" and his conclusions were, well, massively off due his terribad methodology.

    The interesting thing about this isn't what Ogi Ogas "learned," but the lesson we can learn about how completely and absolutely we should not trust popular science writing or journalism. Here we have a prime example of journalists perpetuating something that every real scientist/pollster/human being who knows anything about the segment of the population surveyed knows is wrong, says is wrong, and wishes everyone would stop talking about. But now it's becoming some sort of common knowledge, simply because the jackass wrote a goddamn book and people who write goddamn books must be smart.

    See, also: Michael Behe.

  2. This is the first thing that comes up for surveyfail:

    It is awesome.

    Essentially, they read some slashy fanfic and extrapolated to evo psych and innate sex differences.

    Which is sort of like making generalizations about all of human culture after watching a 10 second clip of Max Headroom.

    (And I write fanfic. Sometimes even sexy fanfic.)

  3. From the Relevant Magazine article:

    “Romance novels rarely have a sequel,” the book concludes. “Once the hero and heroine are joined in love or matrimony, they get their Happily-Ever-After, presumably with a bevy of children and domestic bliss. Further adventures would violate the female fantasy of true, committed, eternal love.”

    Wait, this guy is criticizing romance novels for ending with the woman in a blissful state of "committed, eternal love"?

    But isn't this what society often tells women they're supposed to want? I mean, even the author of the article promotes "contentment with her spouse" as the ideal a woman should be seeking after. So why criticize a romance novel that upholds that ideal?

    Or is the key here "contentment"? Should women only be content, not truly fulfilled or satisfied? Is this thinly veiled "what you want shouldn't matter?" Is it even thinly veiled?

  4. Yeah, I don't understand it either. Romance novel rules have loosened up over the years (to the point where premarital sex absolutely will happen), but they will always end with a man and a woman in a marriage or agreeing to a marriage.

    Well, there's the Blaze line, but that really is erotica thinly disguised as noterotica. (I don't have a problem with erotica, but you can't sell it at Walmart, so, you know.)

    What I don't think this guy gets is that of course you don't get a book about the next few decades of dinners, housecleaning, laundry, child raising, home redecorating, grocery shopping and occasional date nights.

    Because it's boring.

    The vast majority of anyone's life is really, really boring, and for most people, excitement means "I almost got into a car accident today!"

    There is a reason vampires and werewolves have been, and continue to be, so popular. Because no one assumes vampires and werewolves spend their time cleaning gutters and washing muffin tins. (Except for Stephanie Meyers.)

  5. I recently saw a book called something like Porn for women, and it was pictures of people doing housework.

    I can haz seckshual desire 2?

  6. And Fannie gave me a post! She is Teh Awesome.

  7. "(pro tip: if you run out of plot, blow some shit up. that's what i'll be doing.)"


    And if there's nothing flammable nearby, have someone jump out a window. You've already done this once, but you can never do it too many times. It is impossible to make someone jumping out of a window not be cool, and there is no situation in which it is not applicable. Proof.

    And for bonus points, have someone jump through a window whilst on fire (it makes sense in context. Umm. Sort of. Okay, no it doesn't, but it's still awesome).


    One day I will write a Romance Novel set in Paris that out of absolutely nowhere turns into a race-against-time to stop terrorists from blowing up the eiffel tower within the last ten pages. (okay, I'm kidding. I couldn't write that. I'd get three pages in before giving up and making aliens invade)

  8. You know, the first thing that popped into my head when I read about the "disturbing look at how Internet search engines reveal much" was, "Oh, dear. The sexist assbuckets found the slash fic."

    How much do you want to bet that according to these guys, it's perfectly natural for a man to beat off to a fantasy about an unusually flexible young woman who doesn't look like anyone nature's ever produced, but if his wife wants to fantasize about a sexy Greek shipping magnate, she's forming unrealistic expectations about real men and damaging her existing relationship?

    "Further adventures would violate the female fantasy of true, committed, eternal love."

    Well, no shit the protagonists of one romance novel aren't the focus of any others in the same series. A romance novel is by definition a story about falling in love, not a story about being in love. There are other books you can go to if you want to read about an established couple.

    No wonder Sarah and Candy started up a website to prove these people wrong.

  9. oh, man, even GEDS is stealing my comments!

    that was all i had - "SURVEYFAIL!"

    oh: and i don't know about anyone else, but while i do read SOME paranormal "romance" [it's the paranormal part i love - but i have to admit, the smexy times don't hurt :D ] i read mostly OTHER things by women - most especially, Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction.

    i have YET to read anything within those two broad genres that doesn't have SOME bit of romance [from Laurell K Hamilton's multi-species-almost-homoerotic fuckfests all focused on the SOLE heroine, to Elizabeth Moon's latest in Epic Fantasy with a secondary plot being the KING finding love, it covers the WHOLE SPECTRUM. there isn't a Heinlein book EVER that doesn't have SOME romance - fuck, even JOHN RINGO does it, and does it WELL [except when he's pissing me off with his bad BDSM - but LKH is worse and pisses me off more]] ROMANCE IS PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITON. just because our current poisonous rape-culture society says men "don't like romance" does NOT mean it's true - i REMEMBER seeing Empire Strikes Back in the theater - people CHEERED when Leia kissed Luke, and cheered HARDER when Han said "I know".

    and i reiterate: SurveyFail!

  10. erm, what i meant above was "Fantasy [especially Urban Fantasy, but i haven't completely abandoned Epic Fantasy"]

  11. Further adventures would violate the female fantasy of true, committed, eternal love.

    Exactly. Men don't fantasize about eternal love; they fall in love hoping their partner will dump them after a few months. [eyeroll]

    But seriously: "eternal love" is such an ingrained idea in our society that monogamy and marriage are the default settings of North American humans. It's assumed that romantic relationships should be monogamous and it's assumed that two adults in a monogamous long-term relationship are headed toward marriage. "Eternal love" is not something women (and only women) fantasize about; it's something most people expect out of life!

    Having said that...I had the idea (years ago) of doing a series of romance novels with the same female protagonist and a string of different men. I got the idea when I was reminiscing about past relationships and realized that many guys have made grand gestures to win my heart (a la Richard Gere climbing the fire escape in Pretty Woman) and it didn't lead to Happily Ever After. I always took each grand gesture as a definitive sign that this guy was The One (because that's what movies taught me) but it was never the case and I kind of want to commemorate that life lesson while lampooning typical romance tropes.

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