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Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Do Not Write Porn



I've joked about it-- a lot! I'm self deprecating about my writing--I called Vulnerable"my smutty vampire novel" when I was finished with it. When I was working on Jack & Teague it was "gay werewolf porn". I mean, we bloggers, we tend to be a self-deprecating lot, right? It's as though we feel that just putting ourselves out there online, that's a big enough act of hubris. We don't need to do anything else to offend the gods.

We can do amazing things--I have met people online who have DONE amazing things--knit an impossible scarf, or put out a phenomenal number of quilts for charity, or make rumballs for many, many friends, or brave the hazards of cursed yarn, or juggle the demands of a beloved faith and an obsession with fiber, or learn how to sew in order to please an adored child, or earn a degree in a subject way too complicated for me to even remember, or balance a difficult job and a serene, positive outlook on life.

I have met all of these women on the web, and all of them, in some way, shape, or form, take away from the things they have done. "The scarf only looks impossible. Double-row lace is really easy once you get the hang if it," "Rumballs are really easy--here's my recipe. See?" "Well, yeah, it was a project for church, so I sort of had to do it," "Yeah, I'm a science geek," "It was a simple pattern--really easy to do!" or "I really doubt that yarn had it in for me. Mostly." I read your blogs, I boggle at your accomplishments, and I understand what goes into that job, that classwork, that scarf, that recipe, that manuscript, that pattern, that weight loss, that serene outlook, that whatever, because I am a woman, and I try hard not to make too big a deal out of my accomplishments too.

So I get minimum sleep, agonize over my manuscript, my readers' wants, the things pushing at my heart to be written, my genre, my word choices, and my place in the universe and whether or not I'm making the most of what the Goddess gave me to forge a better one. And when someone asks me what I'm doing with all of that sweat and blood, I say, rather shyly, "You know. Writing fantasy or some dumb shit like that. Me and porn, heh heh heh, don't you know it!"

I do not write porn.

Nothing I've ever written or ever shall write will ever fail The Miller Obscenity test. My stories have plot, characters, theme, socially redeeming value, a message, literary devices and some really lovely passages of description. My characters make people cry, make them angry, make them hurt, make them think, and my themes appeal to a truly diverse span of the population, if my fan mail is anything to judge from. People tell me that my stories haunt them, and that my characters feel like family.

I do not write porn.

So what is it do I write?

I write romance--fantasy romance, urban fantasy romance, contemporary m/m romance, you add it all up, and it's romance, and while puckered angry white men (and women--I've been watching the political arena, there are some REALLY puckered angry women out there who have lost all perspective about what they do or do not need to care about in terms of other people's sex lives) will tell you that romance is not particularly important, I would beg to differ.

Hell--so would the entire publishing industry.

25% of the entire publishing industry is made up of romance. Now, again, puckered angry men and women will tell you that this simply indicates the prurient nature of a decaying society.

I think they're full of shit.

People reading great literature for the first time are often startled at the amount of sex in it--and not just in Brave New World or 1984. Patrick Henry told the Virginia Convention that they were laying on their backs "supinely" and getting screwed by hope. Thomas Paine used the idea of German troops coming into frontier houses and raping the women and getting an entire generation of Prussian offspring on them as a goad to keep people fighting. Ben Franklin talks about why you want to shag an old mistress instead of a young one, and Walt Whitman... *whew* brother was bi and proud and descriptive about it. So was Lord Byron. Hell--so was Shakespeare.

It's just that people always assume that great works of literature and the people who spawn them are above sex, and I don't know why. (Well, I do know why, but let's save my rant for why we can expect puckered angry white people from the Puritans, because any people who thought the Dutch weren't white ENOUGH are BOUND to stir up some stupid ass shit for later, shall we?) But assuming that literature is above sex is overlooking the entire nature of humanity, and so, for myself and any imaginary puckered angry white people who would land on this site (and I like to imagine them bursting into flames if they do.  I do have a streak of pettiness in me that I have tried valiantly to hide, but it keeps getting away from me!) I'm going to remind us of why that's not true.

There are four basic human relationships. Four.

There is the filial, the platonic, the romantic, and the divine.

So, there's your relationship with your parents and children, your relationship with your friends, your sexual relationships, and your relationship with the God/Goddess of your choice. (Or all of them--whatever your conception of the divine, well, theryago. Jeff, god of biscuits, hear my prayers, right?)

Only one of these relationships has an age taboo, and that's mostly a physiological thing, right? You don't want to explain sex to your six year old because he thinks it's just naked wrestling, and as long as it's happy naked wrestling that only grown-ups do, you're pretty happy with that. But your teenager? Your young college student? Well, you assume they will grow into the romantic relationships in great literature just as they will grow into their own, and good for them!

But the romantic relationship is actually bigger than the age/sex taboo, and that's something that people forget. The romantic relationship SPAWNS the filial relationship. That John Mayer song, "Fathers be good to your daughters?" Absolutely-- the parents' working partnership (romantic relationship) helps to set the tone for the parent child relationship. It's the alpha--and the omega--of the holy trinity of parent/parent/child. Ah ah ah...

Wait--the romantic relationship just took over a whole other quarter of the relationship building, didn't it?

Because many people see the divine in their families. The other parent or the child--well, that's proof that God/Goddess exists, for some of us. Some people existed in a lonely void, until a beloved's voice or touch awoke them to the possibility of a warm presence in the universe that just might have some use and comfort for those of us in a lonely void. A friend to hold hands with and keep us warm in the night, right?

And there you go. The fourth wall of the relationship cottage, firmly usurped by the romantic relationship. Because our partner is supposed to be our best friend, right? I mean, I'm not about to go all Christian on the diversified and faintly pagan lot I know lurks out there, but isn't that in the marriage vows or something? Our spouse is our friend?

So there you go--this one relationship, this one side of the relationship building, well, it's not just the wall, it's the foundation and the cornerstones for a lot of us, isn't it? Sure, it's POSSIBLE for the human race to accomplish great things without the goad of romantic love... but why would they? Why would they even want to.

Notice, by the by, that there is no room in our little house for government? I don't know... anybody out there, no matter WHAT the outcome of an election, getting the electric buzzy sexy tingles for whoever is wearing Uncle Sam's stilts?

Yeah. Didn't think so.

So there you go. The romantic relationship--25% of the publishing industry, but even more than that to the human race! (And, of course, that "25%" number is completely overlooking those other genres that CONTAIN romance but are not LABELED romance--yet another reason I dislike labels intensely, right?)

And yes. There is sex in romance. There are things that people say to each other when their skin is bare and the world is night-dark and private that define who they are, and what happiness is to them. In order to write successful romance, very often, a writer must needs write successful sex.

But to call it porn is more than self-deprecating. It's damned near a criminal insult to something that I know I have labored over--and that a lot of other people that I know now, have also labored over. Romantic literature is age old, and it's important. No one reads about King Arthur because he wrote political law and set it in stone. They read it because the tortured triangle of Lancelot, Gwenyfar, and Arthur makes our hearts hurt to this day. That terrible angst set in motion wars that killed and treaties that saved and boundaries that defined a people. Even if it never happened, the story itself defines us, and it is not porn.

So the world seems to be crumbling around our ears, and I'm here, in my hole, writing romance and hoping that my words make a difference. Is it futile? Does it make me hopelessly naive?

I'm going off the classics again.

Aristotle said that poetry is more important than history or philosophy. That's because if you change the way someone FEELS about something, you have done something infinitely more important than recorded what has happened or delineated the rules of thought that the world operates within. If you change the way someone FEELS about something, you have CHANGED history, and you have CHANGED the rules of thought that people believe the world operates within.

My romance has the potential to change the world. People have written me and told me that this is so. My work has changed the way they think, and they, in turn, will go out and change the way they treat other people, or think about important issues, or even vote. And that is the power of romance.

And it is not porn.

17 comments:

Roxie said...

I stand and applaud! Bravo! This manifesto should be caligraphed with gold leaf capitals, framed, and hung prominently in front of every "Puckered angry man or woman" in the nation. Go Amy!!

(Verificatation word - cohenes - Would those be Irish/Jewish cojones?)

Anonymous said...

Amy....What a wonderful Spanking for the men and woman of the White puckered community...Bravo....And
Roxie...I will pay to have it caligraphed....

grammy

GrillTech said...

I'm not a member of the "white puckered community" so I'm way over on your side with thise.. I have however, talked to people who feel that "if what you are reading, watching, or thinking arouses you, then its porn".. Gotta admit that is a pretty wide definition.. On the plus side since you write M/M stories and most of the people that use that definition are pretty homophobic, you should be safe.. :>

Marianne Morea said...

Amy...

Brava, my friend, take a much deserved bow! Puckered is as puckered does, and obviously they aren't doing much or they wouldn't be so uptight! As a fellow author laboring over my own love scenes, I have poured much of my own steamy experience (both real and fantasy) onto those pages. I embrace you, your work and your manifesto. To go even further back than the classics, the puckered ones forget that some of the smuttiest stories come from the bible. Talk about sex selling!

Marianne Morea said...

Amy,

Brava, my friend, take your much deserved bow! I applaud your defense of romance! Puckered is as puckered does, and obviously they aren't doing much or they wouldn't be so uptight! They seem to be upset with the fact that sex sells. Well, it has for millenia. But the puckered set conveniently forgets that a book they all know, one they all own, is chock full of what goes on between the sheets...and it's the best selling book of all time! THE BIBLE. It's got sex in every chapter!

night owl in IL said...

Hi Amy -
Terrific essay/blog!

RĂ©ve said...

Well said!
And let us not forget the physiological pluses to romance. The tingles, the heart flutters, the wonderful stimulating feeling of falling in and being in love. It's what those wonderfully sappy poets are all about. The delirious euphoria of 'the love cycle' as I like to call it, is not about porn. Sex, yes, but we do not get a substantially lasting emotion from sex/porn. Romance, when well applied, lasts a lifetime.

Donna Lee said...

That was wonderful and wonderfully clear. I love romance novels and I'm not ashamed to say so. I think the world would be a warmer, happier place if we all gave romance (of any kind between any kind of people/beings) more respect.

I don't know when we started to denigrate what we do. I'm in awe of what you write and what you sacrifice and put up with to do so. I won't accept that it is anything less than spectacular. Just like I told all those people that knitting is "nothing big" and that spinning is "simple". It IS big and It's not simple. It's just something that we do because we can't NOT do it.

I'm with you sister, all the way.

DecRaink said...

Go Amy!!!!!!
Your books/stories have changed me. You are a terrific writer, and you SO do NOT write porn, just loverly tales of love.

Patric said...

Dear Amy...

I don't write porn either.

I write Romance-- That lasting quality of a relationship between two people that remains far longer than the time it takes for the wick to dry, or for the lube to wash off.

True Romance lasts far longer than the need to dip yer wick in the first place, and that transcendence is the power I aspire to write-- That long after Adam and Steve have grown old they are still in love with each other, and still want to be.

Hugs baby! You Rock!

Anonymous said...

Hear my applause! I'm a fellow m/m writer, and it's frustrated me for nineteen years now that people don't understand that sex is an essential part of our beings. Writing about it openly and honestly should have no negative connotations to it at all. I agree with your wonderfully passionate post and urge you on to more!
With admiration,
Jenna Hilary Sinclair

Louiz said...

Exactly! I tend to leave your worlds with a smile on my face and that's an important thing, changes my world:)

ElaineG said...

Amy,
Bravo! Bravo! *stands and applauds*

Because I know some people in the "white puckered world" and they spout and rant and rave and condemn....without EVER knowing what or who they are attacking. I wish it was as simple as asking them to read your blog today, but they will not because anything that MIGHT have the power to change their minds? Is of no consequence to them...because why should they actually TRY to see things any way other than THEIR way?

I adore each and every book you have written, read them all OFTEN and it hurts to think that there is such amazing storytelling that the "WPW" will never be exposed to.

But I am thankful that you share so much of yourself with us readers....I know my life is FAR better because you do. So, Thank You.

*hugs*

Galad said...

Well said!

Chris said...

Very well said! *applauds*

michelle said...

Say it Sister! Say it for those like me who do not have the words to do it ourselves! !

Anonymous said...

Fine. Write what you want. But KEEP IT OUT OF THE CLASSROOM. DON'T GIVE IT TO YOUR STUDENTS, for gods sake. How dare you! How can you even think of giving your m/m manuscripts to your MINOR students? Did it not even cross your mind to check with their parents first? Giving it to young people who are at their most impressionable, who are trying to figure out who they are and then you do THIS?! I bet your readers might think differently of you if they knew that you were distributing this "literature" to minors. We try to protect our kids from the endless stream of crap on the internet, and YOU--a supposed TEACHER-give it to them instead? You should be ashamed of yourself. How dare you call yourself a teacher. You are shamelessly promoting yourself, not looking out for the welfare of your students. You should remove yourself from any position where you work with children. Is that where you get your inspiration, from the young high school students? Do you get off on it? Do you let your little children read it? You are more than twisted. You are sick and disgusting. You are lucky you only received 10 days unpaid leave. We were campaigning for much more. And trust us, we're not done. We're watching every move now.