Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Am I unwholesome? #EroticRomance #Judgmental #FreeStory

Wholesome and puzzled young woman

Image by press 👍 and ⭐ from Pixabay

In the last month or two, I’ve noticed quite a few of my author colleagues touting their work as “clean and wholesome” romance. To be honest, this bothers me a bit. Maybe I am being over-sensitive, but I can’t help feeling there’s an implicit judgment in that label. It makes me wonder whether my work is viewed as somehow unwholesome.

I understand the motivation behind this marketing. Some readers don’t want to consume stories that feature explicit sex. I respect that, and certainly wouldn’t want to cause anyone distress. I’m upfront about the fact that almost everything I write does include at least some sex, because I don’t want to upset people who are looking for something else.

What bothers me about the phrase “clean and wholesome” is its intense polarity. Both of these adjectives have strong positive connotations. Their opposites have negative connotations. “Wholesome” means “healthy; conducive to physical or moral well-being”. The implication is that my sexually-explicit stories will make you sick, or undermine your spiritual or social values.

I strongly reject this notion. In my view, good health includes enjoying and being comfortable with your sexuality. There’s ample scientific evidence that people who have satisfying sex lives also have better relationships, report being happier, and even live longer than people who are celibate or sexually frustrated.

Of course there are people who have plenty of fun in the bedroom but still don’t care to have all the juicy details spelled out in the stories they read. On the other hand, I worry that some readers who insist on “clean and wholesome” tales do so because they think sex itself is dirty or shameful or even evil, something to be hidden or denied. That’s a sad attitude, because they’re losing out on a lot. In fact, I believe it’s downright unhealthy.

Another term sometimes used for non-explicit romance is “sweet romance”. I have no problem with this at all. In contrast, my books are spicy. Not everyone likes spicy food, either. There’s no value judgment, it’s just a preference.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing “sweet romance”, just to see if I could. In fact I have a few short pieces that might qualify. If you want a taste, check out my story “Vegas”. It’s free on my website. And let me know what you think.

I’m happy to let people write what they want - and read what they want. But please, don’t imply there’s something wrong with me or my books, just because I like to write about the many fascinating aspects of our sexual selves.


Fiona McGier said...

I was cornered in the locker room in high school once by a group of girls who told me I was nothing but a whore. I shrugged, saying, "Okay. I don't think I'm one. You're entitled to your opinion." They were shocked that their insult didn't bother me. I've been against "slut-shaming" forever!

From what I've read in cultural anthropology books, once cave-men realized that they had something to do with the babies that grew in a woman's body, they became obsessed with wanting to be sure they were only feeding and supporting THEIR OWN issue, not some other guy's. That way their "stuff" would be passed on to their own children. The trick was how to convince women to not have sex with anyone except them. Hence the idea of slut-shaming--making a female feel guilty for her own natural bodily urges, and severely censuring those that cross that line. ("The Scarlet Letter" anyone? When only SHE is shamed, and not the daddy?)This of course, also led to the significance of virginity. I joke that I didn't lose mine, I gave it away as soon as possible, so I could get on with my goal of having sex with as many men as possible! Of course, now that I've been happily and monogamously-married for over 30 years, I remember those days fondly, as the time when I totally enjoyed my freedom and my youth.

Do you know why Roman Catholic priests must be celibate? Before the pope who came up with the idea, priests were commonly family men. But the problem was they tended to leave their stuff to their kids. The then-in-charge pope decided they couldn't be allowed to marry, so they'd have to leave all of their stuff to the church. No wonder it's so wealthy!

I prefer Bonobo monkeys as role models. Sex for them serves many functions, not the least of which is good, clean recreational fun. It soothes anxious or upset members, it engenders friendships, and it's enjoyed by all members of their society, with anyone they happen to be near when the urge hits them. Now THAT would be fun to try, right?

As for my books, my own brother and his wife sniffed and called my books vanilla, when I was first published. That's when I stopped giving them free copies. But in the town I live in, if people knew what I write, there might be burning crosses on my front lawn. I don't write as explicitly as you do, nor with as much variety. But I still don't ever close the door on the sex my characters are enjoying--I want my readers to enjoy it along with them! Because we don't shame any other bodily urges--we eat in public, boldly. Of course we excrete in private. Most of us have sex in private also. But we're not supposed to be ashamed of anything else our bodies want us to do, why should sex be different?

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hiya, Fiona!

I figured you'd comment on this (and I'm glad you did). I hadn't heard that stuff about the Catholic church. I don't know if it's true, but it wouldn't surprise me, either.

Someday I'll have to tell you about the written sexual fantasy of mine that got stolen in high school study hall and passed around. Talk about being harassed! But I ended up getting sweet revenge on the guy who grabbed the note - literally! Teamed up with a male friend to dump an entire bottle of perfume on his gym uniform!

Fiona McGier said...

And entire bottle of perfume? LOL! I hope it smelled extra-girlie! Served him right.

My usual comment when guys drive like a-holes around me, is, "Maybe someday you'll get laid, and then you won't have to drive like such a putz, with your hormones making your dick so hard you have to drive erratically." And guys who are in HUGE trucks? I just shake my head at them, "Compensate much?"

FYI, my kids would never say their mom is "wholesome" or "clean." I did, after all, turn them on to Nine Inch Nails when they were in grade school, and the song's chorus lines are, "I wanna f**k you like an animal--I want to feel you from the inside. I wanna f**k you like an animal--my whole existence is odd--you bring me closer to God." The name of the song is "Closer." But since I'm a mother of 4 well-adjusted kids, one of whom has gifted us with our 2 toddler grandsons, I think I did pretty good. So much for women who write smut not being good mothers--or good people, for that matter.

See, I reject the yardstick that says you have to behave in socially-conscripted ways to be a "good" person. Usually that pertains to sexuality. I claimed my sexuality as my own business and no one else's, back when I was in high school. It's none of anyone's concern--especially what I think up and write as fiction romance books. Do people think Stephen King spends his time plotting and carrying out murders? Of course not! So why is sex more dangerous and contaminating than murder?

Instead, when I see the words "Sweet romance," I think of that pain you get that runs up the side of your face to your jawbone, when you put something TOO sweet into your mouth. Annoyingly painful--that's how I feel about romance that has one kiss and some lustful glances--then they get married and live HEA. BS! How you gonna know if you're compatible, if you don't take each other for some test-drives?! And as the reader, I wanna be along on those test-drives! LOL.

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