A Rape by Any Other Name

Warning: This Post May Be Triggering for Some Readers

Reading Patricia Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold led me to consider the question of rape in romance. This is more a set of observations than a coherent essay, hence the numbers. Actually, this is a rant, and it’s probably a day late and a dollar short, but if a blogger can’t indulge in bully pulpit blogging from time to time, what’s the point?

0. This post isn’t about any and all rape in fiction. It’s about rape by the hero of the heroine in a romance novel, presented positively, or in such a way that the real harm of rape is minimized or ignored.

1. I spent some time reading online threads about Claiming the Courtesan, and about the Gaffney, and I noticed it’s hard to really have a good discussion about this because of all the red herrings.  So I want to say, in this first bit, that this is NOT about the following: censorship, labeling romance covers, or kicking people out of the genre.

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Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 12:43 am  Comments (45)  
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Erotica Warning Labels, and Porn v. Erotica.

Sticking this to the front today.

Summary for the tl;dr crowd:

1. Warning labels may be helpful, but they may mislead readers into thinking books with warning labels are more extreme than books without.

2. Erotica and pornography both intend to arouse the reader, but erotica intends to do so in a way that has other kinds of merit, such as artistic.

3. Feminists who object to porn do so not b/c it is obscene, but because of its negative effects on women. From a feminist point of view, much erotica is consistent with feminist empowerment, although plenty is not.

4. It is odd and too bad that one central intention of erotica — to arouse the reader — is downplayed by many erotica writers, and readers, giving lie, in some sense, to the idea that erotica empowers women to be fully sexual beings.

I’ve been trying to get myself to write a review of Lauren Dane’s Giving Chase, which I liked, but I can’t muster the willpower. I actually purchased it in paper, and as I sat looking at it, willing myself to come up with something interesting to say about it, I noticed something.

It has a warning label:

“Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex, graphic language, and some violent situations.”

I find it interesting that Samhain uses warning labels, and while I know their executive editor has her own blog, I feel like it would be too forward to write in and ask her about it. I guess my unconsidered opinion about it is that it probably doesn’t hurt and it may help, for example, by alerting parents of minors about the content of what they read, so that they can make knowledgeable decisions that accord with their own family values, the same way the “Explicit” notation on lyrics at iTunes helps me decide whether a song is appropriate for my child.  On the other hand, speaking as a consumer new to Samhain Publishing, the warning led me to gird my loins, as they say, for what turned out to be a pretty tame read.

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Romance Novels as an “Addiction”

I was looking for reviews of Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake, when I found a 2004 AAR Interview with her where she makes this interesting comment (emphasis mine):

“[Interviewer:] There’s been a lot of discussion on the message boards about how romances just aren’t what they once were. What’s your take on that?

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Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Comments (9)  
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