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 (firstname.lastname@example.org):
. . . 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 (email@example.com):
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org):
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 (email@example.com):
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org):
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 (email@example.com):
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org):
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 (email@example.com):
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