Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Propagating Pornography

Yesterday Anny provided definitions of Pornography, Erotica, and Artistic meaning. I found myself agreeing with her and wondered how the heck I was going to follow with a controversial discovery. So I got to thinking... as I will sometimes do (shh. I like people to think I'm slow, just don't treat me slow) about those definitions.

These, I've decided, are liberal definitions. Why do I say that? Well if you ask my family what constitutes as pornography you'd get a much narrower interpretation. I suspect that many Americans, when pressed, would agree their faith limits the scope of our chosen art form. As authors we place artistic meaning to our work. If we didn't, we wouldn't care about it enough to write. And while I agree that Anny is correct in saying it's a matter of interpretation, I suggest that the interpretation is where the entire argument lies.

For example. I write mainstream romance (sensual). I tried to break into inspirational romance (Christian). I discovered that there are guidelines for inspirational romance which are especially stringent for authors wishing to breach the gap from one genre to another.

Inspirationals follow CBA (Christian Booksellers of America) guidelines. When I went looking for what, precisely, these guidelines were, I could not locate them. I joined online groups and asked for a copy of the CBAs and was told to look at Harlequin inspirational submission guidelines as they were the closest thing in print. While part of me wanted to smack someone for making it next to impossible to obtain the holy grail of Christian writing regulations, another part admitted it was extremely clever of them if their goal was to keep out people like me.

In speaking to a very prolific Christian writer I asked her to explain some of the regulations in a clearer format. She said if a man is alone in the middle of a forest, chopping wood, he may not remove his shirt if he gets too hot. She went on to say the h/h cannot be in the same room alone, the same house overnight, or think of the other person in any sexual context. This was furthered by the realization that if a hero wishes to kiss the heroine, he must wish to do so because he finds her mind attractive and her faith desirable. At no time should his physical attraction be addressed. THEN he may chastely place a kiss and back off.

Folks. That's ridiculous. You all know I'm a pastor's-wife-in-training. I assure you, we have sex. I have two kids to attest to that fact. I can also say that while I'm sure my brain powers and faith are stunning to my husband, there has to be a point where I physically, er, arouse him. Chaste kisses? Only in public, darlings. He is, after all, a man. And I am a sexual creature who responds to him.

So why do I bring all this up? Because many readers see these guidelines as normal. They think anything pushing the parameters is pornography. Am I looking at the naked chest when a man is chopping wood? Did the author describe the way his muscles glistened with sweat or the flex and shift of bone and sinew beneath the surface of his bronzed skin? Ah, I just overstepped. Does my heroine lick her lips, catch her breath and secretly pray her hero will kiss her? When he does, does she feel it to her toes? Does her body respond to his attention in any preparatory way? Oops.

In the Bible a woman should not paint her eyes because she seen as a woman of ill repute. Have you seen my avatar for Blogger? Dang. Messed up there, too. I absolutely paint my eyes. No, I don't turn tricks and I don't have eyes for anyone but my husband. I paint my lips too. GASP. And I think we all know I stain my hair in flashy colors. Looks like I'm a pornographic slut monkey.

These are extreme cases. However my extended family finds my mainstream writing risque, pornographic. I have been accused of propagating pre-marital sex (yep, in some books), drugs (nope, never been addressed), alcohol (I do have a few toss backs when the guys are really upset but they always limit themselves), teenage pregnancy (not one of my heroines is in her teens), the downfall of youth in America today, including the eventual decline of my children (um. these are the same people who tell me what a great parent I am and how wonderful the kids are. besides they don't read my stuff. they aren't allowed). How did I become this pillar of sinfulness? I write mainstream romance. In 300 pages of writing I have a scene or two of steaming sex (what's that, maybe twenty pages? skip 'em then. The book is about more than sex. see the other 280 pages). I don't shut the door on them, I invite you in to watch. You voyeur, you.

I've warned my family this won't stop, that in fact I am escalating and am not ashamed of my writing. I've told them not to buy me as I will disappoint their sensibilities. And yet I have been told they will read everything I write. Okay then. But you've been warned.

Pornography and Erotica are touchy subjects. They don't just skim across the surface and hope to take hold of your understanding. They grow tentacles and grasp different aspects of your psyche. They are entwined with your faith, your sexuality, your respect, your relationships, your sense of who you are. When someone attacks those things, you get your back up. And you should because for some reason the judgment of pornography is a judgment of your fundamental character.

What is pornography? It no longer is limited to sex is it? Pornography is that oily word thrust at you when you are disapproved of, for whatever reason, whichever genre. It is the all encompassing word meant to say "you are dirty and you don't measure up". What is erotica? Well, I guess I didn't really address that. But I do believe they are completely separate issues. Pornography is unlimited disapproval. Erotica is specifically about sex. That's a whole 'nuther blog.



  1. It is interesting to me that religion places such a taboo on sex.

    Take for instance, Gen. 2:24 and 2:25

    {24} For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. {25} The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

    become one flesh...that sounds a wee bit sexual to me. and granted for {25} they felt shame later, but it doesn't change the fact that the bible has them both running around naked up to that point. I'm just saying...

    I think it all boils down to the individual comfort zone. Once a passage or scene makes us uncomfortable, it becomes dirty. Once it becomes dirty, it must be marked as such and what better title for dirty words than pornography?

  2. I've thought about that too, James. Especially because the same God we worship, for which we as humans place these taboos, created some seriously phalic plant life. There are so many repeating shapes which resemble male and female genitalia. I don't believe sex is bad at all. How did we get to this point?

  3. My teens call my sex scenes 'porn', but they are 13 and 16 and giggle at anything sexual. My mom frowns on my use of the 'F' word, and I've not dared tell them about my erotica works. They know I'm capable of writing it; Mom read my diary accidentally and accused me of being addicted to sex.

    I've read several Christian-based romances, and while they are believable, it is HARD to believe in this day and age, of people not engaging in any form of petting, past a chaste kiss, before the wedding!

  4. Hi,

    Porn exploits women, and sometimes men as well, and sometimes even children. Period. Erotica and erotic romance are explicitly sexy writings that may offend some people (thus the warning labels on erotic romances, so folks who might be offended don't have to read them), but there's no exploitation, and there's a lot of fine writing. I think it's great there's an inspirational market for folks who prefer super-chaste, religious stories. And I think it's great there's an erotic romance market for folks like me, who love reading and writing red hot stories that explore non-traditional aspects of romance. And I think it's great that our country values personal liberty enough that both genres can coexist, in their own snug little corners at bookstores all over the US.

    Happy Reading,
    Eden Rivers

  5. Pornography is a powerful word with very negative connotations. I'm with Eden--porn is about the USE of people, regardless of age or gender.

    I am not ashamed of what I write, but I have chosen to shield my parents because THEY would be upset. My kids (all adults) love my stories. Heh. There's no happy medium.

  6. I had an opportunity to write a fetish short story. It was interesting, since the whole story had absolutely no sex in it. However, the way the reader recieved the story, would make it almost pornographic. It was not erotica as there was no love involved. I wrote it to the reader's specifications.
    Not one of the words would have raised an eyebrow. Yet, I guess I am now a pornography writer.

  7. excellent points one and all. I'd say more, but am saving it up for my turn on Thurdsay.

    Kelly, your painted eyes are gorgeous!

  8. MMM. James has a great point about all the biblical aspects of this and I agree completely. I also agree with Eden and Anny. God made us as sexual beings and it's spoken of in the bible and, I'm certain, in other religious texts that aren't Christian. We are MADE to be sexual beings. We must simply apply our own measuring stick as to what is "over the top" for us personally.

    Great post, Kelly.

  9. (giggle) I've never forgotten what my jr high youth group advisor told us once:

    "If you ever get the urge to read a dirty book, read the Song of Solomon!"

  10. Great post, Kelly. Your hubby is a man of the church and he's doing what the good Lord said: Go and multiply.

    For me pornography is selling sex. Anything I would not enjoy or would not allow myself. So as long as you write about the beautiful love scenes you would love to experience, relax, you are not writing pornography. My 2 cents.

  11. Oh bloody hell I accidentally lost my comment. I haven't got time to do it again. Suffice it to say, I don't enjoy reading erotica. I love a good plot and yummy lovemaking at appropriate times.

  12. You're a pornographic slut monkey? Uh oh. What does that make me? Excellent blog, Kelly.

  13. One woman's erotica is another woman's porn. Opinions are subjective. Bottom line for me is that we have the freedom to write and read what we like. We also have the freedom not to read erotica, porn, or whatever you want to call it. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy it or read it.

  14. hi kelly, found this post because james pointed to the blog.

    (stands up to greet the wife of the pastor-in-training) hi, i'm a former missionary and i've written erotica (though i'm not published) and enjoy reading it. i avoid christian fiction like the plague because most of it is so poorly written. now i know why it is poorly written.

  15. oh yeah...and if you take the time to learn about the imagery in hebrew poetry, the song of solomon is EXTREMELY erotic.

  16. Hi Lime!!

    My husband takes Greek and Hebrew. I'll have him read it through for me. Who knows where that might lead?!?

    And HI!! Thanks for stopping in. James posts tomorrow too.


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