Readers Rif on Political Correctness

Return to Issue #32 of Laurie's News & Views
More Readers Rif on Political Correctness

Rifs on P.C. in General:

Karen Williams (KarenOxley@prodigy.com):
I am not exactly sure where I stand on this issue. I do know that I am in no way in favor of rape in any arena. Real or Fiction. I do however see the difference between that and forced seduction. There is a point where the emotions change and desire takes hold - when one's emotions are in turmoil it isn't always clear what they want (I speak in respect to fiction). As a writer I have toyed with the idea of an unwilling participant realizing a hidden desire. I have not yet found a way to write it effectively. Rape is a total act of violence. Forced seduction is a transformation of emotional turmoil into desire. That is only my own definition and I am certain many will disagree.

I am truly sorry that political correctness has taken such a firm hold of the romance industry. We write for the pleasure of it and it is inteneded to entertain. Why is that so many aspects of our genre have to be put under a microscope and dissected until the pleasure is erased. Why can't we all accept fiction for what it is? Not Real!! Read what you enjoy and leave what you don't alone.

Covers, rape, and so many more things have become the focus of romance novels. Shouldn't we try and put the focus back on romance?

What is romance? Well, according to Merriam Webster's Tenth edition it is many things. My favorite of the many definitions was" "a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usu. heroic, adventurous, or mysterious. A love story". Has everyone in the world forgotten that romance novels are fiction? It is a creation of our imaginations that in some way is pulled from a part of us that is based on the emotions of love we feel in our own "real" lives. I write from my heart. Many of my scenes may even be a taste of my own personal fantasies. But in no way is the material that I write fact.

We have become obssessed with the idea of not offending anyone with religion, politics, current issues, or any other "controversial" topics that we have lost sight of what we are doing. We are writing to entertain. We/I want to take a reader to a place they could probably not reach on their own. I cannot believe that so many people are offended because a caucasion malehas been cast on a cover as Native American (savage). I was recently making this point and someone told me I obviously didn't understand becasue I am not of NA descent. Hooey!!! I am half Blackfoot Indian with traces of Chipewa, Potawatmi, and a splash of Cherokee thrown in for flavor. I have not studied my heritage, but know that it is there. I also know that Steve Sandalis looks more NA than I do. So how do we judge. And what the hell does it matter. It is one page of a 300-500 page book. Isn't the content of the story more important? Isn't it the characters on the pages in between that should matter to the reader. It is the readers who are "embarrassed" by the clinch covers who don't understand the concept of fiction. Why don't we spend more time educating people on the true defintion of fiction? I spend a lot of time explaining why I read and write romance, not because I have to, but because I choose to. I want people to understand how much I love what I read and write and how important it is to me. Isn't that what is important? Just my thoughts.

Ann Klein (david.t.klein@worldnet.att.net):
. . . As far as being politically correct in books vs. writing about unsettling topics - Patricia Gaffney and Judy Cuevas are absolutely right. If it's done well, any story should be told. If you find it offensive, don't read it, but don't try to censor what other adults might enjoy. I get so tired of people trying to force their beliefs down other people's throats. I may not like what someone else does, but who am I to say that they're "wrong".

I've always had something of a problem with stories where a heroine desires the hero "against her will". IMHO, this perpetuates the stereotype that women must be forced or coerced into expressing their sensuality. Or that "good girls" don't feel desire until Mr. Right comes along. . . .

But even so, if an author can write it well and make me believe that this is truly what the heroine is experiencing - that's amazing, and she/he must have done a great job. And in the end, that's all that matters.

LaNita Cornwall (cornwall@wc1.wc.edu):
I've never understood why authors should be chained to rigid formulas by publishers. I read How Write A Romance Novel several years ago, and I remember how surprised I was that there were guidelines. And how rigid those guidelines were. And apparently still are.

And all the hue and cry when an author leaves condoms out of love scenes. Please. Getting that little piece of latex on has ruined more love scenes than I can count. And then there's the famous magic disappearing condom. It gets put on but never gets taken off. And then we go for round two (either that night or later in the book) and there's no condom at all. There's realism, and then there's realism. No one ever finds it necessary to mention the wet spot. The cold, wet spot. Maybe we could add a disclaimer to all romance novels, something like the one on cigarette packages. Warning: Unprotected sex can be dangerous to your health and make babies. Then authors could go back to writing love scenes.

I wonder what would happen if publishers allowed authors to write the books? Without trying to force them into whatever mold they think will sell this week. Wouldn't it be great to find out?

Some of the best books I've read have broken the "rules." Wish there were more. I really admire my favorite authors who manage to write great books, inspite of publishers.

Katarina Wikholm (wikholm@algonet.se):
I think that first of all any writer must write a story about characters who are true in her eyes, and to themselves. That is a given. Maybe she's a rabid clan member, or blows up gynecological clinics, and writes from these perspectives? But if the writer don't believe in her own story, in the reality of the h/h's choices, no one else will believe it, either.

But then it is up to two other sceenings; the publishers and the readers. (Fancy, me defending the publishers!) If it's too far off line, off the currently (held standards for) reasonably political correctness, it won't be published. And of the books that are published some of the readers will not like them.

Fair enough? I can imagine a lot of things that would ring true for my h/hs, but who would send some readers running. On the other hand, I wall-bang at the sight of heroine brainlessness, and no common sense. Possibly the writer found their heroines quite believable.

Conclusion(?): What is published will stretch the boundaries of what is currently the main stream because the forbidden thrills. Some readers are on either shore of the main stream and don't want it widened the other way.

Liz Zink (moonrose@initco.net):
I just read the comments from Gaffney and Cuevas and I say "Brava", too! If an author chooses to write about something not politically correct, "great"! I'm all for it, if I can't handle it, then I'll feel bad that I didn't get the point and maybe keep on trying to get it. But it must be done well! Not only will the author get slammed for writing something "not politically correct" but she'll be branded as a bad writer. . . I beg for authors to go out on limbs, if they have something to say, more power to them. I can't write it, so I'm happy they can. Because for everyone who doesn't like what they've written, there is a person that does like it. And maybe the discussion that comes from the differences will enable people to see things they might not have seen before!

Teresa Eckford (YDZX40B@prodigy.com):
I can't remember having read a book that was so politically incorrect that it bothered me. I happen to agree that in fiction, and definitely in historicals, some people expect authors to apply today's standards to events in the past. As far as I'm concerned authors must learn to walk that thin line between portraying the mores and attitudes of the time correctly and just writing politically incorrect scenes just because setting a book in the past allows them to. Does that make sense? I think the rape issue is a perfect example. Let's face it, even in the Middle Ages, though men did rape their wives, it wasn't an everyday occurence within each marriage. However, it did happen with alarming frequency to young women from the lower echelons of society.

It's similar, I guess, to the question of banning musicals like Showboat - the creator (from what I understand) was not saying he agreed with racism, he just portrayed society the way it was at that time. We can learn more from this, by allowing our children to see that such injustices (I'm talking in general now, not about the show) did take place in the past so they can not repeat them in the future. If we shelter ourselves from what happened in the past by pretending it didn't and only portraying an idealized world we won't ever learn what went wrong and how to avoid it in years to come.

I believe Huck Finn has been banned in the States, just as it has up here in Canada (in certain schools, not overall), and, as far as I'm concerned, that's wrong. I'm not saying just let kids read it and draw their own conclusions, - I'm saying, let them read it and have a frank discussion about what they think and explain to them how we have come to disregard those ideas, trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

This is only one example, but I believe it touches on the issue here in your column. People who read historicals may not be interested in the nitty-gritty details of everyday life, but they are interested in history in general (otherwise, I assume, they'd stick to contemps) If they read an idealized version of the past where no man ever raped a women, the aristocrats never mistreat the help or insult the lower classes and women and minorities were treated as equals, how will they ever know where we came from, and how our society developed? I'm not saying that authors should focus on every single bad thing and emphasize, using the historical setting as an excuse (as in the example given), but a realistic view is certainly welcome, and something I aim to achieve in my own work.

Randa Simpson (jsimpson@tc.frontiercomm.net):
I have always felt that the phrase "political correctness" is a contradiction in terms. Politics is rarely correct!! But that is another letter and topic. Popularity in romantic fiction has changed since I read my first romance novel, either a Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, and this is good. If all romance were the same it would become stagnant and we would would have no new emerging talented authors. It is of great concern to me when others tell me what is appropriate to read. I do not handle being told what to think in a very adult manner. My first inclination is to go out and read all that is politically "incorrect". I have never been ashamed to admit that I read romance.

I am a teacher of senior high students in an alternative setting. I have real life slap me in the face several times a day. I do not want a political statement when I read or to learn anything. I read to be entertained!!!!!!!! No one has the right or ability to tell me what is politically correct in my reading selection.

Rifs on Forced Seduction:

Linda Alder (alder@biology.utah.edu):
I've been reading your article on the views of rape or "forced sex". It's embarassing to admit but two of my all time favorite romances, Whitney, My Love and The Flame & the Flower dealt with this very issue and I still ended up loving the hero. However this does not mean I always agree with the writers choice. Rape is violent not sexy and my personal preference would be to have it left out.

LaNita Cornwall (again):
Have you ever read Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden? It was the first book written about women's sexual fantasies. There is a whole section of rape fantasies in the book. But these fantasies aren't about violence. They are about being forced to accept pleasure. And that's a totally different thing. Women are taught to be caretakers. And we all know how hard it is for some of us to take care of ourselves. This can spill over into our sexual relationships, too. We worry about our partner's pleasure and have trouble accepting our right to our own. So the fantasy of a strong lover forcing us to be pleasured in spite of ourselves is an appealing one. We don't have to feel guilty for needing more than a man does to be satisfied. We are forced to lie there and take it until we can't take it anymore. Tie me up and kill me with pleasure. There's nothing I can do about it. I think this 'forced seduction' scene fits into A Well Pleasured Lady. She really wanted him, but she couldn't admit it to him. She needed him to do what he did.

Sue Tatham (statham@dragnet.com.au):
Regarding the subject of forced seduction, I would like to point out that according to my Oxford Pocket Dictionary that seduce means "Lead astray, induce to commit sin or folly or crime, induce (woman) to surrender her chastity to one". Although this dictionary may be old, I think that forced seduction is probably a very grey area, as many seductions could be considered forced just by their very nature!! Not having read Dodd's book I can't comment on that, but I must agree with you on Lindsey's book. I too enjoyed Prisoner of my Desire.

Beverly Latham (blatham@hop-uky.campus.mci.net):
I've been following the ongoing discussion about political correctness in romances with great interest and when I read Ms. Eagle's comments about Fiction versus Real Life, I just had to jump in. Partly because I did read A Well Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd [interestingly enough after I read your review but not just because of it; I like Dodd's writings and was going to get it anyway] and partly because I've been thinking along the same 'fiction vs. real life' lines already and her comments jarred me into responding when I'd been putting it off.

First regarding the book, I loved it. . . Curiously enough, it was only after I read your follow-up article about people crying 'rape' in response to that one scene that I remembered the warning comment in your review and reacted something along the lines of "What?!? Wait a minute! What scene? Did I miss it?"

Which sort of blew my mind, because I have noticed as I get older and wiser, I hope, I generally react very strongly to any sort of abuse in stories. Particularly romances. I simply don't enjoy reading it, will usually not tolerate it at all and the books hit the trade-in bag, if not the wall or the trash can, especially if the actions in question are between the hero and heroine. Depending on how strongly negative my reaction is, I may or may not buy that author again. Abuse in any form is just not what I call romance, historically or societally correct or not. This particular scene did not strike me as being abusive, physical or otherwise. Strong and intense, yes, abusive, no. No more than a wedding night scene with a reluctant bride and a determined bridegroom, which is a curious comparison now that I think about it. Apparently, I was so totally wrapped up in the characters that it made sense for them at that point in their relationship.

However, having said all that, I feel the need to clarify exactly what I mean by abuse. I suppose when I get right down to it, I'm not talking actions here, but attitudes, specifically respect, pure and simple. Or more precisely, behavior based solely on lack of respect for another individual, male or female. It's also about control but maybe that is simply setting the boundaries of respect. Repecting the individual by not trying to control their actions or thoughts. In the scene under discussion, the question might be whether the fantasy of forced seduction is an attempt at control or an attempt to make someone lose control rather than a question of physical force and where we draw the line personally. With this particular scene, I think my reaction was similar to what you described as yours. The scene felt right in context for this hero and heroine and I agree that this may be a case where Dodd's particular trade-mark brand of reserved, tightly-controlled heroine makes all the difference in motivation both ways. . . Would what works in fiction work in real life? Probably not, but this is fiction and one person's fantasy is another's nightmare. Maybe I identify with her heroines so much because I freely admit I'm probably just as uptight in many ways and realize what the poor guy was up against emotionally, and that's a key word here.

Still abuse is abuse and the older I get, the less I can tolerate the concept that there can even be love when, say, the hero does not respect the heroine, or women in general for that matter. And the reverse, naturally, of course. Maybe I look at my seventeen year old daughter and eleven year old son and think about what I would want them to have to deal with. Or not deal with. I honestly don't know why it's become so distasteful to read about abusive behavior in any form, but I do know that if I could put a label on the one element which would currently characterize my taste in the romances and the authors I consistently buy [or avoid, conversely], it would be exactly that - heroes who respect women. Period. They can be dark and dangerous, they can even be arrogant and aggressive, but they'd better respect the woman, or women, in their lives and mean it. It can be grudging respect, it can even be chauvanistic to a point, my acceptance of that depends on the time-frame and the setting, but respect has to be there or gained at some point or the story loses me. Completely.

I recently had someone -- a romance writer of all things -- challenge me on why I dared to like, and even mention, a particular romance that apparently did not meet certain expectations as being what she considered as good, or of merit. Or both. . . The simple truth of the matter is that it is now one of my personal romance favorites. In the end, my answer was simply "I enjoyed it!"

No more and no less. No apologies for whether it was good writing or not. No apologies for the merit of the content and subject. Did it make me cry or make me laugh? Lightly or heavily? Does it matter? It did touch my emotions in the most important way possible -- I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is that simple and that complicated, isn't it? Ms. Eagle wrote in her comments about storyline and characters having to ring true for the individual reader. Exactly. In the end, it doesn't matter whether I personally agree with the correctness, or not, of what happens in each and every scene of a story, what matters is whether the author makes me become involved in what is happening as I am reading it. If she can pull me into the characters heads and hearts, I'll believe it's right for them -- at least for that one story.

Pam Tullos (monica01@swbell.net):
Speaking for myself, I am not fond of rape scenes or forced seductions. . . It turns me off to read a scene where the heroine is being raped or involved in a forced seduction. . . The heroine really has to accept what the hero is offering though or to me it is disgusting.

All in all I prefer my love scenes to be handled in a consensual manner. The two characters are there because they want to be and because their relationship has grown to the next level.

Linda Buschmann (linda.buschmann@sympatico.ca):
I have read A Well Pleasured Lady. Although I respect the author's underlying attempt to develop character, intensify the plot, and heighten the conflict and sexuakl tension, that scene made me uncomfortable.

I do think that the scene probably was essentially a historically accurate representation of the period. Many young women were forced into marriages because of "ruin" through rape, forced seduction, even guilt by association with a the wrong person at the wrong place and time.

Rape and sexual assault are about one individual's use of power to obilterate or contol another person's identity, mind, or soul. The one crime that exceeds this abuse of power and need to control is the destruction of a person's entire being, that is, murder.

A woman can have orgasm during a rape/sexual/assualt/abuse. That the presence of orgasm negates the fact of a rape is a terrible myth.

Psychological coercion is as effective as physical coercion/assault. There may be no physical abuse, no black eyes, no cuts, bruises,or torn clothes in sexual assault. In fact, some rapists take "pride" in coercing the victim and finishing have asked "wasn't it good for you?' "want to do it again sometime?" The myth of the only rape being the brutalized victim of the sadistic rapist is just that, a myth.

And yes, there ought to be a suspension of disbelief when one reads any fiction. The responsible reader must recognize that what is right for a novel does not always reflect what is right in the real world. Regardless of the happy ending, scenes like those of Sebastian and Mary in her room are about about power and the exercise of that power by a man. Not all readers, and perhaps even less likely those people who do not read the romance genre, are responsible. Unfortunately, such scenes can be interpreted as relecting that women really do want a forceful man to take over the power and to do what he knows is right for the woman because in the end the woman will know that it was for the best.

Did the scene work? Yes, after continuing the book and re-reading it several times and I decided that it did work-because the characters fit within the historical period. Would it work in a modern piece? No.

However, regardless of the historical period and related accuracy of the period, I believe that modern women authors have responsibility to set scenes that do not reinforce already prevalent myths. If they wish to include scenes such as the one between Sebastian and Mary authors should write the scene within a stronger and more immediate-to-the scene historical context.

Teri Silvey (terisilv@ix.netcom.com):
I was one of those who thoroughly enjoyed A Well Pleasured Lady, and I have enjoyed other books featuring forced or possibly a better word is, forcible seduction. For me, the first consideration is that our genre is fantasy!!! Adult fairy tales, if you will. In this day and age, women contribute to the household income, we open our own doors, we compete directly with men in every field, and proudly are independent and assertive in every way, including sexually. We take the initiative in sex, and are considered "responsible" for our own arousal and satisfaction. . . .

The fantasy of being able to give up the control and responsibilities that we have is a very compelling one. What woman wouldn't dream just a little of a sexual scenario in which she does not have to do any of the "work," just submit to and enjoy the desire she has aroused in a John D'Salvo lookalike? (VBG)

IMHO, some of the other books I've read that feature very arousing seduction scenes are To Have & to Hold by Patricia Gaffney, and Awaken My Love by Robin Schone. Especially in the case of Gaffney's book,, the forced seduction is similar in theme to AWPL in that the heroine is so emotionally closed off that she literally cannot experience her own sexuality.

The above politically incorrect statements having been made, I do have a few "rules" about this type of scene:

  • It works for me only in historicals, never in contemporaries
  • The seduction should only be forced once. I get really irritated in books where the heroine is constantly hating the hero, and he overcomes her three or four times with his sexuality, only to have her say "I hate you!!" after every bout of lovemaking. Or where the hero and heroine fight all the time except when they're boinking like rabbits.

  • The hero should suffer at least a little for the seduction. Either with pangs of conscience, the heroine leaving with dignity and poise (not whining and running away), or something like that. I can even deal with an out and out rape as in Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney if the hero has to pay for it long enough and badly enough.
  • There should never be any physical violence or threat of such. A little light bondage is ok, though.

Again, my view is that by choice I read fantasies!! I think that some of the critics of certain books should lighten up a little and just enjoy the ride.

Jeri (destrier@richmond.infi.net):
Your theory of "forced seduction" vs. rape sounds like playing with semantics to avoid dealing with the idea of a hero who is a rapist. Quite frankly, I prefer a medieval brute who rapes (no seduction involved) and repents than a smooth ladykiller who has the woman swooning minutes after she firmly tells him "no". Even if you believe he knew she really wanted him despite her "no", what gives him the right to make her decisions for her? I suppose it is a matter of dishonesty vs. honesty. The "I forced you for your own good" type scene makes me ill.

Interesting discussion though. And I can read about people I wouldn't want to deal with in real life. I read about assassins in fantasy novels and torturers in sf, and somehow they can be "sympathetic" characters. I can read romances with a rape in them, but I want there to be some consequence. Not it was OK because she really wanted it. If he uses physical force, it's rape.

Lori Ousley (lori.ousley@mci.com):
I do have an opinion on forced seduction in romance! I have read books in which there were scenes that I felt to be rape scenes that really turned me off the book entirely (namely several books by Catherine Coulter). These were instances where the hero, or some other male character in the book took a woman, be it the heroine or some other woman, by force and there was zero intimacy (for lack of a better word) and there was no orgasm or pleasure for the woman, even at the end. These scenes were pure violence and the woman never submitted to the man; she fought him constantly as if in fear for her life or well-being. However, I have read books (Brenda Joyce is the author that comes immediately to mind) in which there were scenes in which the sexual act began with force but also with passion, such as in the midst of a fight between the hero and heroine, but as you said, the woman eventually became a willing participant and it became a consensual act, either before or after penetration and I wasn't turned off at all by the scenes and rather enjoyed the books. There is definitely a gray area regarding this issue, but I think there is a big difference between rape and forced seduction. The word rape immediately evokes a negative connotation bringing to mind fear and violence. Forced seduction, or maybe I should call it sexual coercion, causes me to think "Rough Sex"! I know that in some people's minds it is all one in the same, but to me there is a difference.

Rebecca Ekmark:
The way I feel is that a man, in a book and in real life, can not truly respect a woman if he forces her to do anything, and if he seduces her by force, he obviously does not respect her as an equal, and therefore is contemptible. He no longer remains a respectable character in my eyes. I do not remember ever reading a forced eduction scene that I enjoyed.

Laura Tracy-Kinsey (jk6631@concentric.net):
I have been thinking about the issue of forced seduction versus rape. I work as an individual and family therapist. The use of power to obtain sex regardless of force is considered sexual assault. The victim, due to the lack of power is helpless. A helpless participant is not a partner and no intimacy is achieved. Instead the victim is left feeling dirty and helpless. I can't see an man who wants to overpower a woman magically becoming a good husband.

Regarding Christina Dodd's book, the scene could have been done with a touch more finesse. Although the scene worked, I think she walked a fine line between humiliating the heroine and creating intimacy. If I were the heroine I can tell you the hero would have had to work hard to regain my trust.

I think the bottom line in these relationships is the building of intimacy and trust. That is what will sustain the couple so they can live happily ever after. Unlike many books that walk the line when they include "forced seduction," I can see this couple working well together in the future. Both seemed to develope the insight necessary to build a lasting relationship. I have never been able to see Johanna Lindsey's characters making it past the honeymoon without continual conflict that would eventually destroy the relationship. I also have trouble seeing Catherine Coulter's characters surviving together. Neither author is able to convince me the heroes are willing to share and cooperate.

I'm sorry. I know I bring too much reality to this issue. Fiction is just that. Unfortunately, the fiction we grow up reading will help us formulate our expectations in relationships. Women who grow up reading about "forced seduction" and rape will accept that as part of the "romantic" image. They won't see this behavior as warning signs of danger to come. Men who begin relationships with force and control only get worse over time, not better.

Flip (flip@pdt.net):
Political correctness should not be permitted to censor sexual fantasy.

Despite Johnson & Johnson and other studies of human sexuality, I believe that we have very little understanding of female sexuality. Rather than attacking the sexual fantasy of forcible seduction, perhaps we should try to understand it. Clearly, it is a popular sexual fantasy for woman. I believe that it is distinct from the sexual fantasy of rape. Both sexual fantasies appear in romance fiction.

The distinction between rape and the forcible seduction seems clear to me. Rape makes a woman feel degraded. In forcible seduction, the woman is not degraded. She desires the man.

Personally, I enjoy the forcible seduction. I loved Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard. I also enjoyed A Well Pleasured Lady and Prisoner of My Desire. In these books, the heroine isn't merely overwhelmed by the hero, she is overwhelmed by desire. Don't we all want to overwhelmed by desire?

Lastly, I must agree with every word written by Leslie Dunlap. When I read a historical novel, I want to hear, smell and feel the period.

Erica (erica@wallingford-software.co.uk):
I find the concept of forced seduction odd - seduction to me has nothing to do with force whereas rape has everything to do with force. However the world hasn't always been such a neat and tidy place; modern sensibilities and ideas are usually out of place in a work of fiction with a historical setting. I do find it hard if not impossible to read books with rape or forced seduction scenes but if it flows from the characters, plot and circumstances then I can usually put my modern squeamishness aside if not then I stop reading! Dearly Beloved by Mary Jo Putney (one of my favourite authors) was a very difficult book for me to read because of its rape scene. But I kept reading and enjoyed the book, although it is not one of my favourites of hers. I am keeping an open mind about A Well Pleasured Lady until I have read it.

Barbara Hancock (hunt.pek@cablenet-va.com):
While I do not think forced seduction equals rape I do find it distasteful. I read romance for many reasons, but one of them is not a desire to read about a woman's sickening psychological problems. If I wanted to read about sadomasochism I would read another form of fiction.

I want escapism from romance not darkness and pitifully messed up protagonists. Sure, they need to have problems or the book would be dull, but I would rather the problem not require years of counciling or drugs to 'fix'. I'm sorry, but I don't care how wonderful a guy is or how great sex is with him it's not gonna 'cure' deep seated emotional problems. If a heroine is so closed off that her only way to relate to man is through forced sex. . . well, that qualifies as a problem that's gonna take more than a man to work through.

I read many forms of fiction from Anne Rice to Dean R. Koontz, from bestsellers to obscure science fiction. By far my favorite form of fiction is romance, perhaps because of my own childhood (alcoholic father etc.). I need romance to be a lighter escape. A world where gentleness exsists and love cures all ills. In order for this to be the case, the ills have to be on the level of what love might cure or I'm left feeling miserable knowing that what I've read was a lie. Sex cannot cure emotional problems. . . many women spend years finding this out. I'd hate to think my favorite genre would ever begin to promote this idea again as it seemed to do years ago with those bodice rippers.

Eleanor:
The whole sex and violence discussion has shown up in your column a few times now, and for the most part I've kept out of it. It's something I feel very strongly about, and I didn't want to ruffle anyone's feathers by wading into the debate. After this latest column I decided to send you my thoughts.

And then I saw the letters from Judy Cuevas/ Judith Ivory and Pat Gaffney, and decided they had put everything far more eloquently than I ever could!! I guess that's why they're writers.

I think there are a few things that should continue to be banned, but they are generally things where people are hurt in production (eg child pornography). For just about everything else, my attitude is that material should be able to be accessed by adults, and that as adults we can then make up our own minds about whether we want to continue to read this book/ watch this film/ view this website.

By all means allow material to carry advisory labels (eg this film contains explicit sexual scenes), but for heaven's sake don't cut those scenes if they are integral to the work. I remain firmly convinced that there are an awful lot of people out there who like to be offended - otherwise why on earth do they keep reading or watching to the bitter end, just so they can then complain about the final sex scene?!

To me, this is a part of what has been described as the "Nanny State". People can't be trusted to decide what's suitable to watch anymore, the argument goes, and can't be relied upon to monitor their children's access to explicit films and websites, so we'll ask the Government to put regulations in place to control this for us. Then we don't have to worry about it anymore, just like we had Nanny in the nursery to worry about things for us.

Are we to see the same thing in books too, with writers self-censoring, and editors cutting out the few random nasties that do creep in? Will there even be legislation introduced, when the people who complain about violent or sexually explicit films suddenly realize how explicit some romance novels are?

Please no.

Romance is a genre that is not regarded seriously enough to be censored by anyone external to the genre, so now we're going to see censorship imposed from within? God preserve us from do-gooders.

Frankly, I agree with Pat Gaffney's inflammatory comment about catering for the lowest common denominator. Let's not see books being written solely to cater to the prejudices of people who might know better if they read a bit more widely, thought about things a bit more, and occasionally talked to people who didn't share their opinions. Talked, notice, not shouted at.

For what it's worth, I'm afraid I'm heartily fed up with people saying the romance genre has a responsibility to do nice consensual sex, and there can never be rough, nasty sex, or the genre risks perpetuating the `No' means `Yes' myth.

The only responsibility the genre has is to deliver books that entertain readers. There are a range of readers out there, with a range of tastes, and what offends one is going to delight another.

I agree with many of the readers in your latest column - the bottom line is that this is fiction. Things that wouldn't be acceptable in real life are fine between the pages of a book. For heaven's sake don't let us being reduced to books that preach at us!!

More Readers Rif on Political Correctness
Issue #32 of Laurie's News & Views
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