is romance soft porn and does it really matter?

I realised I don’t really buy into this debate much because I feel like I’m not educated enough about porn. Like is it pro- or anti-feminist these days? Is it exploitative or empowering?

But I think that not knowing what academics and politicians and other vocal, public people have to say is a really bad reason not to figure out what I think.

Firstly, I haven’t looked at much traditional porn in my life, but I’ll admit that the few times I did it kinda turned me on. And if they weren’t terrifyingly seedy I would probably go to an x-rated cinema in the middle of the day one time all by myself to satisfy my curiosity. But I guess aside from having a mildly benevolent outlook, that kind of porn doesn’t really interest me.

As far as I can tell, most of the problems people have with that kind of porn is the exploitation/objectifying of women. And maybe further down the list (much further down) comes an unease about feeding purely physical sexual desire.

When people call romance novels soft porn, their problem seems to come from the idea that women sitting and enjoying (often graphic) sex in the privacy of their own brains is somehow wrong/distasteful/degrading/unnatural, maybe even scary? No one’s being exploited here, as far as I can tell.

I’m really curious – does it matter if someone enjoys a sexual fantasy?

Personally, I love skin and boobs and bums and all the other lovely, fleshy bits of the body. I think desire is healthy, and romance novels promote a healthy, adventurous, brave relationship to desire that is rarely voiced elsewhere.

(For those of you who’ve never picked up a romance novel, the non-consensual quasi-rape thing really isn’t in fashion anymore. I don’t think it has been since the 80s.)

I love the idea that, thanks to the more than 200 years of women who stood up for all women, I have a real say in my sexuality. I also find the idea that I can be a woman to my husband’s man disarming and wonderful.

What I don’t like is that it’s hard for me to say that, for fear that I’ll sound unempowered, unemancipated. Like I’m undoing all the work of all those women.

I think romance novels these days are exploring that fine line between being sexually powerful and acknowledging what fantasies are made of.

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About anna cowan

I look around, and here I am - housewife and aspiring romance novelist. This seems unexpected.
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6 Responses to is romance soft porn and does it really matter?

  1. Nicholas says:

    “What I don’t like is that it’s hard for me to say that, for fear that I’ll sound unempowered, unemancipated. Like I’m undoing all the work of all those women.”

    But isn’t that the core of feminism? To have the freedom and right to choose the path that you want and not what others think is best for you.
    ——————————–
    I think romance novels are a form of soft porn. But as you said, what’s wrong with a little sexual fantasy? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an idealised form of love as long as you realise that that reality is quite a bit different. (Yes, I’ve read a few. My mum likes the historicals) 🙂

    • I agree that the freedom to be and say what you choose is the core of feminism – I guess that was my point. That feminism has gotten us so much, but it still somehow feels un-pc to want to be a woman in the soft, surrendering sense. (Hey, it probably isn’t, that’s just the feeling I get.)

  2. Mini-Mike says:

    I get ya, if that’s how you feel, and that’s what you freely choose, and it’s satisfactory to your husband as well, then its good, I guess.
    I think most (straight) women, conscious of Feminism and their freedom, actually feel the same as you, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

    However you have no idea how frustrating that observation is for me, as a passive, receptive boy, to realise that, despite the many years of feminist progress, sensually most women still want that traditional dynamic. *sigh.*

    Somewhere there is a woman for me that will take enjoyment from my soft, surrendering, self.
    At least, I have to believe that or I will go craaazeee, lol 😉

  3. Mini-Mike says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot, the only problem is if you live in your fantasy too much. For years I accepted what was a nice relationship (*nice* being the operative word) without accepting that it wasn’t sexually fulfilling. I countered that with fantasy when instead I should have been seeking more complete, fulfilling relationships. Instead I was unwilling to cause heartbreak and made the mistake of assuming that lack of true sexual fulfilment with a partner was fine because it was a base need and true love would rise above that (Ha!) but true love *must* incorporate it and if your partner cannot be the thing you need, and vice-versa, be it in the bedroom or in any other aspect of your lives together, then its time to quit. You can only work on a relationship for so long.
    Maybe over-indulgence in Romantic/Sexual Fantasy can be bad?

  4. I think that’s why I love romance, Mike, because it acknowledges how important sex is (and that’s rare, where women are concerned, anyway!) in a real, intimate relationship. Intimacy without it is more like family/friendship etc, I think.

    And do not despair, I’m sure there are women who like a soft, surrendering man 🙂

  5. Mini-Mike says:

    lol, there are indeed. Unfortunately most of them are… crazy. Luckily I’m fairly tolerant, but seriously, it seems like I’m caught in a permanent toss up (no pun intended) between Psychos and gals that are lovely but just not quite right.

    I think my attitude is most clearly visible in my choice of films. I love Eastern Cinema because it isn’t as conscious of fitting a ‘genre’ in the same way Western/Hollywood Cinema is. Love, sorrow, war, horror, comedy – they are mixed up a lot more. Some people find this skews the mood of the piece, but I find it more realistic. So I don’t like Romance films or War Films particularly, as they tend to be too much of one thing. I love a romantic element as it adds something to most narratives, just as a bit of conflict adds excitement to a story, but I don’t think I could manage a full-blown romance novel any more than I could read a Grisham ‘court intrigue’ type book.
    That said, I love a good, juicy, Horror Novel/Film. But all the best ones have a great romantic element too! 😉

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