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LynnS/AAR



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 116

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
The only issue I have with the popularity of M/M romance is that it continues the shift in romance towards creating nuanced and well-rounded heroes at the expense of nuanced and well-rounded heroines. Carina Press editor Angela James recently asked her followers to list their favorite romance heroines and mused that a great majority of romance readers gush and squee over heroes, but have difficulty remembering or even having a bevy of favorite heroines. This is flabbergasting to me, especially when the whole "romance novels are feminist" rah-rahing is trotted out whenever a non-romance reader calls it porn or trash.


I've noticed that heroes tend to get celebrated way more so than heroines, but I'm not sure M/M romance makes that any more of an issue than it already is. After all, there are F/F romances, too. And when talking about M/M romances, at least on the sites I've read recently, I find less squeeing over the heroes in the sense that I see it for the Derek Cravens of Romlandia and more discussion of plot, overall relationship dynamics, etc..

Even in M/F romances, which is the vast majority of what I normally read, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on development of the hero's character and celebration of how wonderful he is while the heroine is sometimes much more bland. I've noticed it for at least as long as I've been a reviewer here and as a somewhat heroine-centric reader (probably why I love SuperWendy's blog - she also appreciates a good heroine!), I find myself thinking about why this is and also looking for good heroines' adventures to enjoy. Personally, I don't see it so much as an issue exacerbated by M/M, but more as an outgrowth of the chorus of complaints that arose whenever a heroine was the least bit controversial or just not "nice."

And yeah, I get flabbergasted, too.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
@linda in wv: I'm talking about meanings of terms which are almost grounded in the psyche but which have come under attack by stretching boundaries, jargon, and political correctness. These attacks are making language into a mish-mash of constant shifts.

Soon we'll have to shift the term romance so that it includes 'My Friend Flicka," Old Yeller," "Lassie, Come Home." After all, if the participants in a relationship make no difference, why not a f/horse, or a m/dog. Absurd, right? But is it really?

And I am truly puzzled by females supporting m/m relationships as romances, and it has nothing at all to do with my being a male reader of romance (something of an ad hominem argument, by the way). It has to do, as noirfemme states, all the rah rah about the romance genre promoting females. It is ironic, I suppose, that a male reader defends it.


Dick, the definition of romance has always been broad, it makes perfect sense that the romance genre in fiction would reflect that. I don't think it's the language that's changed so much. You use words like 'under attack', I don't feel threatened by the boundaries of the romance genre expanding and as a heterosexual female I don't feel under attack by the inclusion of M/M or F/F couplings. I think there is room for all of us in the romance genre. One does not diminish the other.

Comparing a romance between two consenting adults of the same gender to a horse, dog, human coupling is silly. By that same argument if gender is what matters most to you in a romance the same could be said for a male human/female horse, etc. The difference in genders are correct so that's all that matters, right? Ridiculous.

I actually don't find it ironic that a male reader would want to apply limits to a genre that is made up of mostly female readers. Razz

Linda
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chris booklover



Joined: 12 Apr 2010
Posts: 310
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick: You certainly succeeded in your objective of provoking controversy. Smile

But I'm not sure that there is quite as much disagreement as appears on the surface. The quasi-official, RWA definition of romance is deliberately made as inclusive as possible in order to accommodate all views. There is no reason to expect any particular reader to enjoy all the genres, tropes and variations that exist within the broad category of romance. By your own account, your filters exclude m/m, f/f or menage. Many readers share your preferences, even though they may disagree with your views about gender. I suspect that most readers (and writers) would reject any attempt to redefine the concept of romance by excluding same-sex or menage relationships.
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sanalayla



Joined: 21 Jan 2008
Posts: 284

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Throw the tomatoes at me; I agree Reply with quote

ponadog wrote:
Am I the only woman who has no interest in reading books about male-male romantic relationships?


Not the only one. I don't read those books, either. Slash just doesn't interest me, whether it's F/F or M/M.

However, I would still classify those books as romance novels and love stories. It's not a romance/love story that floats MY boat, but it can float someone else's (love)boat and be their ideal romance or love story.

To me, a romance novel has a fantasy/aspirational feeling that it evokes in the reader that relates specifically to a romantic/love relationship between two protagonists. The reader should read it and go, "Oh hey, I would love for that love story to happen to me!" Or, at least, read it and go, "Wow, I can see myself in this and this story resonates with me on an emotional level." For erotica, I would go as far as to say that the story should resonate with ther reader on a physical level. In short, the does the story turn the reader on? Does it make a reader want to have sex or at least get really into the sexy times in the book?

In my case, slash just doesn't turn me on. I can read a romance/love story between a straight male and straight female and - if it's well written - I can have an emotional and physical reaction with even the TAMEST of books. On the other hand, it could be the sweetest love story ever and be incredibly well written & if it's between two men, I just don't connect with it - either emotionally or physically.

But that's on me. It seems to be a growing sub-genre in the romance world, so there is clearly demand for it. I'm just not part of that demographic.

*shrug*
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
Comparing a romance between two consenting adults of the same gender to a horse, dog, human coupling is silly. By that same argument if gender is what matters most to you in a romance the same could be said for a male human/female horse, etc. The difference in genders are correct so that's all that matters, right? Ridiculous.

I actually don't find it ironic that a male reader would want to apply limits to a genre that is made up of mostly female readers. Razz

Linda


Bravo, Linda!

And perhaps this thread should be moved to the "Wild Wild West" forum, since there's an extremely unsubtle political subtext?
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I don't find this particular scenario romantic" does not translate into "This isn't a romance." Personally, I find neither Fifty Shades of Grey and its umpteenth copycats nor the Harlequin Intrigue with a surrogate pregnancy plot I read last year even remotely romantic. Quite the contrary, I find both deeply offputting. Doesn't change the fact that those books are romances. They simply happen to be romances I don't like.

As for comparing same sex romances with books like Old Yeller and Black Beauty, romantic (and usually sexual) love between two consenting adult sentient beings has a very different quality from the love a person feels for their pet or a pet feels for their owner. Ditto for books depicting the love between parents and children or between siblings (unless it's a certain subgenre of erotica). Those books are obviously about love, but it's not romantic love and therefore not romance. Never mind that pet books tend to be notorious for their un-HEA endings.

I also don't see why women in particular should have issues with m/m romances. I don't read to put myself into the characters and I don't necessarily need to see myself reflected in the characters. And while there is a tendency among some romance readers to be far more forgiving of truly bad behaviour by heroes than of any hint of problematic behaviour by heroines, m/m romances are not to blame for this. And interestingly, complaints about heroines behaving badly don't usually come from the demographic that reads m/m romances.

Besides, I really don't know where the problem is. After all, it's not as if the romance genre is being overrun by a glut of same sex romances. m/m is a specifically defined subgenre, while f/f is quite rare in fact. And unlike e.g. the surrogate pregnancy Harlequin Intrigue, where the blurb gave no hint regarding the contents, m/m or f/f or menage romances are easy to avoid, since it's usually obvious from cover and blurb what those books are about.
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bookmark



Joined: 06 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Add me to the list of readers who have no interest in mm or ff books. I remember when I first saw how popular mm books were for heterosexual female readers, I was really surprised. For me, I don't get it. guess in my narrow minded thinking, people read romances according to their sexual preference.

But just because I don't get something doesn't mean it bothers me. People like what they like. I don't have to understand.
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe m/m and f/f stories qualify as romance, but I think menages are more erotica than true romance. I really struggle believing in a hea with three people involved.

I also agree with the comment that the popularity of the m/m romance further limits the development of great heroines. It is ironic and frustrating to me that the focus in romance is on writing complex and interesting heroes and the heroines are so often bland and nice.

Apparently this topic has been addressed before, but I missed it. Given the number of responses, people are still interested in discussing it. I have to admit I cringed when I read Dick's initial post, not because of what he wrote, but because I was afraid I'd see a bevy of responses chastising him for having the nerve to post an unpopular opinion. Good on AAR readers for tolerating and respecting others' right to post what they think and being able to have a truly civil discussion.[/i]
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@linda in sw va:
Quote:
Dick, the definition of romance has always been broad, it makes perfect sense that the romance genre in fiction would reflect that. I don't think it's the language that's changed so much. You use words like 'under attack', I don't feel threatened by the boundaries of the romance genre expanding and as a heterosexual female I don't feel under attack by the inclusion of M/M or F/F couplings. I think there is room for all of us in the romance genre. One does not diminish the other.

Comparing a romance between two consenting adults of the same gender to a horse, dog, human coupling is silly. By that same argument if gender is what matters most to you in a romance the same could be said for a male human/female horse, etc. The difference in genders are correct so that's all that matters, right? Ridiculous.

I actually don't find it ironic that a male reader would want to apply limits to a genre that is made up of mostly female readers.


Well, that's exactly the point: The definition of "romance" as a label has not been broad. In fact, it's been pretty severely limited, even with what is considered romance on these boards, until the RWA changed its definition of it. I'm not certain when RWA did that but in the long history of what most people would label romance it hasn't been very long ago and was contested amongst the members at the time, IIRC?

It's exactly the language changes that I contest. I don't care what other people read. I care what words they use to describe it, because language belongs to everybody, not only RWA, not only romance readers who call m/m, f/f love stories romances.

And I don't thnk that suggesting that eventually we would have to call love stores in which humans love animals romances as well is comparing the two: Of course it's absurd to call a love story between a human and an animal a romance; that was the point.

To suggest that my wishing to proscribe the application of the term romance is patriarchialism is clever but nonetheless an illogical shift away from the subject being argued--the application of a term.
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suspect how one reads has a large impact on the sub-genres one can enjoy. Many readers talk about how they identify with characters and can't enjoy a book that doesn't have a character they can identify with. I read as an outside observer, almost never identifying with any character. I read F&SF for decades before I read any genre romances, so I have no trouble with aliens or the many species in paranormal romances or unconventional gender mixes. I don't deliberately seek out stories with relationships other than straight heterosexual pairs, but as long as the author does a good job I'm willing to read almost any variation. In a sense, my reading of erotica is the same: straight heterosexual works best for me, but a good author can make anything sexy.
Sometimes discussions of love bring up the four Greek words translated as love: agape (spiritual/selfless love), eros (sexual love), philia (friendship as love) and storge (familial love). (The English word "love" covers even more variations than that, including love of possessions, love of money, love of country, love of animals, love of nature, love of beauty, strong liking, etc.) I think the key to romantic relationships is that they blend eros and philia (and sometimes other types of love) and that the relationships are between equals or near equals. Failure to meet those two criteria is why some of the attempted counterexamples above don't work. In fact, many romances fail for readers because authors depict eros without philia (lust without love in more common language). Other romances fail for readers when there is too great a power imbalance or age difference.
The fact that any individual romance or sub-genre or trope or setting does not work for a specific reader or group of readers does not remove the story from the romance genre if the story is centered on a romantic relationship and ends happily.
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PWNN



Joined: 11 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
And I don't thnk that suggesting that eventually we would have to call love stores in which humans love animals romances as well is comparing the two: Of course it's absurd to call a love story between a human and an animal a romance; that was the point.


The great Gays -> Pets slippery slope argument. Please. There is no slope. We're talking about adult humans, we aren't talking different species. It's only a slippery slope for those who believe that same sex couples do not share romantic love, that their love story cannot be a romance. Of course different species romance doesn't bother those that embrace alien, vampire, werewolf, mutant romances.

It's one thing to say that it's not a romance you care to read, it's quite another to declare it is not a romance just because it doesn't conform to your personal tastes. I don't find quite a few books in the Romance genre romantic but I acknowledge they are Romance novels.

Romance is a constantly evolving genre with a multitude of sub-genres. The Romance genre as currently described isn't that old. It supposedly only goes back to the 1970s which I don't agree with since there were certainly Romances written well before that from Heyer to Mills & Boon.

But in terms of genre the modern concept of Romance is relatively new. Romance for centuries meant heroic fantastical adventures from Beowulf to The Three Musketeers to Captain Blood. Even those books that dealt more with Romantic love like Pamela, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre were more Satires or Gothics than what would be considered modern Romances.
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Linda in sw va



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Well, that's exactly the point: The definition of "romance" as a label has not been broad. In fact, it's been pretty severely limited, even with what is considered romance on these boards, until the RWA changed its definition of it. I'm not certain when RWA did that but in the long history of what most people would label romance it hasn't been very long ago and was contested amongst the members at the time, IIRC?


Dick, it sounds to me like your definition of 'romance' as a label is what is severely limited, the definition I posted per the RWA has been so for severals years at least I know because it was as broad that last time we had this discussion. This is all actually kind of a moot point.

Quote:
It's exactly the language changes that I contest. I don't care what other people read. I care what words they use to describe it, because language belongs to everybody, not only RWA, not only romance readers who call m/m, f/f love stories romances.


The meaning of romance is and always has been very broad, what it means to one person may not be what it means to the next. I imagine also that the meaning has changed over the years as well, some researching about confirms that. You want the romance genre to set certain guidelines that adhere to your beliefs but remember that it is a product, it's job is not to dictate but to reflect it's readers and the types of romance novels they would like to read. Diversity strengthens the genre, it does not weaken it. It can set guidelines to help categorize but they are not set in stone. The romance genre has to adapt as we all do if we want to succeed. For some change is scary but I think the genre would be in more danger of lost interest if it were to remain rigid.

Quote:
And I don't think that suggesting that eventually we would have to call love stores in which humans love animals romances as well is comparing the two: Of course it's absurd to call a love story between a human and an animal a romance; that was the point.


Well then we both agree that your comparison was absurd.

Quote:
To suggest that my wishing to proscribe the application of the term romance is patriarchialism is clever but nonetheless an illogical shift away from the subject being argued--the application of a term.


Sorry, I couldn't resist the humor since you declared yourself a man in defense of the genre and all. Razz Very Happy

Linda
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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Well, here goes... Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Perhaps it too openly reveals my "stodginess," but I can't see m/m, f/f, m/f/m, or any more extensive configurations as "romance." I can see the first two as "love stories," but "romance" differs from those in a number of ways.


Like the majority here, I don't agree with your point of view. Although I've enjoyed some m/m, I tend to prefer m/f, just as I prefer historicals to contemporary romances. But just as I would never contend that contemporary romances aren't romances simply because I find them, on the average, less romantic, I would never say that about m/m or m/f either.

A romance novel is a book that ends happily, about human beings falling in love and forming a mutually loving relationship. I think of a love story as being a broader category of books, one which includes romances but also romantic books which do not end happily.

dick wrote:
First, there is no mystery in the relationship of m/m, f/f; it's narcissistic.


Of all your contentions, this is the one I find most puzzling. Of course there is mystery in an m/m or f/f relationship -- there is mystery in any relationship! Since we cannot experience another person's innermost thoughts and feelings as they occur, other people are always mysterious to us to a certain degree. And the more in love we are with them, the more we want to know what they are thinking and feeling.

Moreover, what if the one person has a working class background and the other, white collar? What if one is bookish and the other athletic? One conservative and the other progressive? One a duke and the other a thief who grew up on the streets? Or (in fiction) one an immortal who was born centuries earlier with those mores and values, and the other born in the 1990s and up on all the latest technology?

There are infinite possibilities of how to add even greater layers of mystery to the mystery that exists between any two people, regardless of background, personality or anything else.

As for the contention that same sex love is narcissistic, I don't understand how anyone could think that. Narcissism is a degree of selfishness and self-centeredness that prevents one from empathizing with other people and ever putting their needs ahead of one's own. A mutually loving relationship that satisfies and fulfills both (or all) parties is the opposite of narcissism, IMO.

dick wrote:
Second, any conflict cannot arise from the gender of the participants, except perhaps through resistance by one or the other of the participants to the relationship itself or from completely external forces.


And how easily you dismiss those! But think of what LGBTQ people have sacrificed, over the years, to express love and desire. Things the rest of us take for granted. They've endured centuries of persecution for loving their loved ones. It amazes me that you can't see the romance in that.
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Lillian Sulivan



Joined: 05 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been following this discussion with interest, since I wrote (it's a hobby!) what I thought was a romance that wasn't, well, not exactly, anyway, m/f, m/m or f/f. In it I thought I captured more about love developing between and in turn redefining two human beings than anything else I've written.

dick wrote:
It's exactly the language changes that I contest. I don't care what other people read. I care what words they use to describe it, because language belongs to everybody, not only RWA, not only romance readers who call m/m, f/f love stories romances.


As I am wont to do in these situations, I turned to my big dictionary (American Heritage of the English Language, Third Edition). The most appropriate definition they give for 'romance' is:

4.a. An artistic work, such as a novel, story or film, that deals with sexual love, especially in an idealized form.

The point on which this turns would seem to be 'sexual' ...hmm. If we can agree (and I understand that is not a given) that we're not talking about novels discussing the splitting and recombining of chromosomes, we have:

2. Implying or symbolizing erotic desires or activity.

It's interesting that this definitional path for 'romance' would include most m/m and f/f but not many m/f Inspirationals - oh, my!

Who then is the true and trusted keeper of the one pure definition to which we must all hold fast when in use of our common language, so that we might understand one another?

Best,
Lilly
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Linda in sw va



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting Lilly! And letting Wiki have a shot at it, I found this informative -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel

This description further underlines the fact that what is considered a romance novel isn't something that remains stagnant, it evolves with it's readers over time and will likely continue to do so.

Linda
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