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.