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Happy Halloween

And what better way to celebrate than with a treatise on pornography versus romance.

I like the Cure. I've liked the Cure for the last thirty years. I saw them live during their first ever tour of the west coast of the United States in 1981. They didn't have an opening band, they played a movie they'd scored instead. The movie was called Carnage Visors which they said is the opposite of rose-colored glasses. We saw them in a small club called the Whiskey A-Go-Go with about 300 other people. I fell in love with Simon Gallup that night, and there was no looking back.

One of the things I always liked about the Cure is that they just come right out and say what they mean. I always tell the story that if not for them and their song "10:15 on a Saturday Night" I would have committed suicide when I was twenty. That's a bit of an exaggeration of course, but the night I discovered that song I was sunk in typical 20-year-old depression that no one understood me and no one liked me. For some reason the haunting simplicity of that song snapped me out of it.

The Cure's fourth album is called Pornography...and I remember when it was released that first of all I didn't like it, and secondly everyone misunderstood why they called it what they did. That was when I learned the true meaning of the word.

por⋅nog⋅ra⋅phy [pawr-nog-ruh-fee] -noun

obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.

The reason I bring all this up is that I've been told at least two times recently that I write "gay porn". Now, usually when I hear that I take it as an insult, and in at least one of the instances that is exactly how it was meant. Ever since the Cure enlightened me as to the true meaning of the word, and because I've watched a number of pornographic movies, I think anything regarded as "porn" is something that not a lot of thought, time, or effort went in to.

The definition of the word goes on to say:

1. Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.

2. The presentation or production of this material.

3. Lurid or sensational material: "Recent novels about the Holocaust have kept Hitler well offstage [so as] to avoid the ... pornography of the era" (Morris Dickstein).

When someone dismisses my work as pornography it gets under my skin. It was my intent to create a love story. Sure it is a love story that includes a lot of sex, and I suppose I write the sex to cause sexual arousal, but that is not my primary purpose for writing it. It's more of a study of the human state. I put a lot of time and effort into creating the book, and to hear the whole thing tossed aside as "pornography" really irritates me.

The majority of X-rated movies (which are typically watched on television in a hotel room, not that I know anything about that ;) fit the definition of pornography. But in my mind, anyone who spends hours, months, years researching a spot in history, visualizing their characters to make them accurate, weeping over the intricacies of their love story, is NOT writing pornography, they are writing romance.

Eventually, I came around to the Cure's Pornography and enjoyed it for what it was, and it is now one of my favorite Cure albums.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
jenna_hilary
Nov. 6th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Rowena, I found this discussion of your work being called pornography to be very interesting, since I've recently been wondering what exactly to call what I (and you) write. Gay romance? Explicit gay romance? Homoerotic gay romance?

I definitely would not call your work pornography. Whoever calls it that doesn't understand what you write and doesn't understand that everything sexual does not necessarily mean gratuitous. But there's a strong puritan streak in the U.S. (I'm not sure where you live), that's for sure, and undoubtedly in other parts of the world. Sometimes people just have a knee-jerk response to anything having to do with sex. I don't understand why that's the case, but it is. Such potential readers would probably react in a very similar manner to a heterosexual explicit romance; make it a same-sex romance and their discomfort level skyrockets.

I share your frustration. I know that what I write, what the community of writers in this genre writes are quality novels and stories. But they are labeled because of one element in them, and the rest of the work often just disappears under that label. I'm not sure what to do about that...except keep writing. The world might change....
Yours,
Jenna
rowenasudbury
Nov. 7th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
Hey Jenna...I read your post the other day and was ruminating on what or how to respond, because I also felt that your thoughts went along with mine in this instance.

I haven't read any of my traditional romances in a while, the het romances I grew up reading...but I think they were relatively explicit. I mean not with the kind of words we use, but I understood what was happening in the scene.

I know that in the one case where someone dismissed my book as gay porno it was because he's a straight man who finds the idea of two men being in love, let alone having SEX to be obscene. I'm really troubled by intolerance of this kind, and I'm still not sure how to counteract it.

I'm in California, for the record, and I totally agree on the Puritan streak. I find it faintly disturbing that children are allowed to watch overly violent TV shows and movies but God forbid they watch anything sexual.

Maybe "explicit romance" is a good name for it. All I know is that for a fact, nothing you or I write is even remotely pornographic.

Rowena
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )