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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin



Porn's Passionate Pull

 

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." —Hunter S. Thompson

 

Over the years, a lot of men have whined in my hearing about how women don't like sex as much as they do, a complaint that generally distills itself down to how women don't like pornography. Specifically, their women. And their pornography. Usually, this means that the women in their lives have discovered their stash and thrown a hissy fit.

Although it's by no means universal, I think it's safe to say that men and women have different tastes in smut. Given that the two sexes turn on to slightly different things, this should come as no surprise to anyone, but what surprises me is how low under the radar women's porn consumption is. The general idea is that except for those adventurous souls who read Playboy or erotica, women don't like porn.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Women have a ravenous appetite for smut, an appetite that drives books sales, fills conventions to overflowing and has made more than a few writing careers. Women, in fact, have a long-standing relationship with pornography that has gone largely unnoticed because women's porn is labeled "romance."

Romance was and remains a guilty pleasure for me because I was raised in a house full of intellectual snobs. Although my father assigned Jane Eyre as extra-credit reading for his eight grade English students, anything modern was poorly written, poorly plotted and generally beneath consideration. My mother disliked anything feminine, including romances. The closest she got was <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover</i>; her porn was more along the lines of books with titles like <i>Keyhole Kicks</i>. So I grew up in a highly anti-romance environment. A fondness for the genre wasn't something one admitted to in private, much less in public.

Still, I read them from time to time because they were, quite frankly, arousing. Even the veiled language of the older books was highly sexual. After all, what is a "throbbing manhood" but a great big hard dick? I knew it, and so did every other reader, and that's what we were reading for. The plots were simple and relatively uniform, a predictably pleasant form of foreplay, and the sections with the throbs and quivers were almost always dog-eared, by a previous reader if not by me. Sometimes a girl just likes a quickie, you know what I mean?

I think the problem with romances has less to do with the writing than with their audience. There are a lot of well-written romances out there, but women were considered lesser beings for so long that anything they valued was, by association, lesser. There was a time when the idea of including women writers in the literary cannon was a major issue, and then anything so included had to be "serious." Appealing to the prurient interests of the so-called fair sex wasn't exactly serious.

Another part of the problem is that the so-called fair sex wasn't supposed to have prurient interests at all. Like many cultures, ours has gone through periods of ruthlessly suppressing female sexual expression and although the days of Hester Prynne are long over, women who expressed an overt interest in sex were punished in a wide variety of imaginative ways, from social ostracism to sedatives to justifiable homicide. Romance's use of euphemism was a necessary camouflage. The throbs, quivers and ellipses were a way of concealing what wasn't supposed to exist.

The genre has evolved quite a bit over the years. I started reading them in the '70s, when helpless heroines were still in vogue, but a lot has changed over the decades. The alpha males are no longer paired up with children in barely-adult bodies. Now they've got alpha females to contend with cops, businesswomen, stock traders and politicians. Naturally, they not only take this in stride with no blows to the ego, they welcome such women, even seek them out and build elaborate fantasies around them. The modern romantic hero rarely asks his lady to give up her career and he's not averse to taking a turn at the dishwasher or the vacuum cleaner, either.

They also fuck far more explicitly than in days past. Erotic romance, or "romantica," is growing rapidly at the same time that mainstream romance is heating up, and it's getting to the point where it's hard to tell the two apart. Sex scenes are becoming more frequent and even the more conservative publishers are loosening up on just how much lust their heroines can requite on the page. Even an interlude with silk scarves or a bit of black leather is no longer out of the question. The success of Ellora's Cave and the inception of Harlequin Blaze openly defies the idea that women don't enjoy the sexually explicit. They are very explicit, frankly and adventurously sexual, and right up there in terms of language with Penthouse Forum, that venerable old vehicle of porn.

So what's the problem?

I think the cultural problem with romances is along the same lines as the cultural problem with mainstream porn. Porn, they say, corrupts men. It portrays an unrealistic idea of what women should look like and what they should want or be willing to do, and sets up a standard that no human female could possibly meet. It exploits women, objectifies them, reinforces their standing as lesser life forms, and until it is eliminated, men will continue to treat women badly. That's the line, anyway.

I'll be the first to admit that guys who consider porn to be a form of sex education scare me a little. Porn is overwhelmingly fiction. The women who pose for it and act in it are, well, acting, and just because something looks hot in a movie or sounded good in a story doesn't mean it's going to work out well in real life. That and a lot of performance anxiety could be eased if more men realized that, unlike in porn, non-stop thrusting with an oversized penis is rarely a woman's best route to orgasm. Mostly it makes us sore.

If you wade through the pop-up windows, however, what you find is that the women of porn are just a distillation of common male fantasies. Secondary sex characteristics are highlighted and exaggerated, and the sex is on the terms of the viewer. You want casual? They've got casual. No strings wanted? None required. Blow job? She's happy to oblige. She'll even slide a finger up your ass—or not, as you prefer; you just have to find the right website. Porn, as someone else has said, is sex where men and women are on the same page.

Porn, in other words, is fantasy, harmless in one respect but threatening to women mostly because we know we can't measure up. We can't accommodate any kink because we have preferences of our own, many of us find it difficult to have sex with someone when we're angry or without any kind of warm-up, and we don't look anything like the average centerfold. The ready, available women of porn frighten many of us because we know we're not like that, at least not most of us and not most of the time. We're afraid that that's what the men in our lives really want, and it's hard to believe otherwise when we stumble over our partner's stash.

I think one of the reasons why so many men ignore romance novels as proof that women like sex is because they're proof that women have different fantasies. We don't usually daydream about being the kind of women one finds in Playboy. If romance novels are any indication, we dream of handsome, dynamic men who adore us beyond reason and know how to make us come without having to ask awkward questions. We like sexually tense, somewhat complicated courtships, a form of emotional foreplay where the end, although difficult, is never really in doubt. Romance, like porn, is sex where men and women are on the same page, but this time it's women's page and most men know that they can't measure up.

It's hard to face up to the possibility that our partners might want something we can't provide, whether it's breasts unaffected by gravity and an incestuous relationship with her twin sister or a chiseled jaw and a penchant for passionate monogamy, but there it is. I think we have to let go of the idea that we have to provide everything and acknowledge the role fantasy plays in the lives of our loved ones.

Appreciation for porn, particularly of the Penthouse and hoes.com variety, tends to be equated with an interest in sex, but what it really is is an interest in sex on male terms. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's only half of the picture. What the increasing overt eroticism of romance novels shows is that women are and always have been interested in sex. We've just had our own way of looking at it, our own language for talking about it, and our own understanding of what is arousing and what isn't.

It's very easy to make fun of romances. It's considered a sign of taste and intelligence in certain circles. The problem is that while it's easy, it's also foolish. Given the sales figures on romance and romantica, we're ignoring the sexual tastes of millions of women simply because they don't match those of men. Yes, the genre can get vapid, but let's face it Hustler is pretty damned vapid, too. Depth is a quality rarely attributed to sexual fantasies.

Not only are women buying explicit romances, they're doing it in such a way that they might succeed where so many others have failed. Just as men's desire for porn all but created e-commerce, women's lust could completely transform publishing. Although I could find no hard numbers, when I e-mailed Stacey King, Senior Editor of Phaze Press, she said that "authors who write both erotic romance and another genre will tell you that their erotic romance far outsells the non-erotica." I think you can guess who is buying them and because they are often slow to go to print, women are buying them as e-books. The impact on the publishing industry is just barely beginning to be felt, but it's entirely possible that smutty romances, by dint of sheer ubiquity, could bring e-books into the mainstream.

So guys, the next time your lady-friend goes off about your stash, look around for hers. If she has one, odds are good that you'll find it on the bookshelf. But don't worry. It doesn't mean any more—or less—than yours does.

______
© 2005 Ann Regentin. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Author:  Who is Ann Regentin? Read her bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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