Monday, April 02, 2007

Monogamy in Erotic Romance...Or Not?

Well, I was going to do some clever April Fool's Post and backdate this to yesterday, but meh--insert your own suitable prankage here. :P Instead, I need to ask another one of those thinkin' questions.

If you asked me a few weeks ago about what differentiated erotica from erotic romance, my answer would probably have included something about the hero and heroine being faithful to each other onscreen. A few weeks ago, the ladies over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books blogged about misogyny in romancelandia where Smart Bitch Candy posted the following, which is tangential to their discussion, but made me think hard enough that it hurt:

But the thing is, sexually active women are still punished, and punished severely, in Romancelandia. Think about the legions of villainous fiancĂ©es and mistresses that populate romance novels; odds are high that these women are sexually voracious or promiscuous, which is usually meant to contrast with the heroine’s dewy-eyed innocence. In the vast majority of romance novels in the past, the heroine is allowed to feel pleasure with the hero, and only the hero. It’s only very recently that we’ve started encountering heroines who’ve had pleasurable experiences with former lovers, or whose virginity wasn’t kept intact despite all odds and common sense.


Candy also discussed the heroes:
...another convention that’s kept to quite strictly in Romancelandia is the hero’s absolute fidelity--one bordering on monomania--to the heroine once he meets her. In books past, this led to Inexplicable Dick Death on the part of the hero once he met our (usually virginal) heroine, an ailment that can only be cured by the heroine’s Magic Hoo Hoo.


What this amounts to is that once "on stage," in each other's lives, so to speak, the hero and heroine remain faithful to each other...or at least, free of other entanglements.

My current WIP features a theme of the heroine's journey of self-discovery (which is a theme through a lot of my stories). But part of her journey requires her to climb into bed with other partners. And the cultural situation in which I've placed them both would make it less-than-believable if they only partnered with each other.

I can think of a time in the not-too-distant past where I would have passed right over a book where the heroine enjoys multiple sex partners without guilt after engaging with the hero. Ditto for the hero once the heroine is firmly in his life. But I honestly can't see writing this story any other way. The story is an erotic romance, of that I have no doubt. But it's not all-sex-all-the-time, so it's very definitely still in the romance category without being full-on erotica. What do you think? Would it bother you to know that the main characters are gleefully schtupping my (hopefully) interesting and quirky and equally-deep supporting cast? Or does that signal "wallbanger" for you?

5 comments:

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

For some reason I'm more forgiving of a heroine with multiple partners than a hero. I may be in the minority - this issue tends to get people riled up. Should the relationship in ANY romance, even erotic romance be strictly and without exception monogamous? I don't know. I prefer them that way, but I think any rule can be broken in the right way.

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

I think what I've seen a lot of lately... and I'm sure to have rubber chickens thrown at me for this...is that some writers push the envelope, not because it is essential to that particular story's plot line, but because they think that's what readers and editors want these days. To me...I can spot those a mile away, because you're reading along then all of a sudden there is a menage, where there doesn't need to be one. Cutting out the threesome doesn't change the story in the least, nor does writing one in add anything. In situations like that, I say, if it makes sense to the story...go for it. If it doesn't...drop it. That's always got to be your bottom line, regardless of any other factor. However, that said...as a reader, I'm not likely to pick up a book where I know the hero and heroine indulge in multiple partners after they're together. Just a personal prefence for me. There is so much cheating going on in real life these days, that the escapism afforded by romance novels, where there actually is some sort of fidelity is wonderfully refreshing. (No, I'm not speaking from personal experience here. Hehehehehe...) I'm talking about what you see in the media. To me, monogomy can be very sexy. so, that's my comment. Split vote though it is.

- Be true to the story. Let that be your guide. People who don't like the subject matter or the way you've handled the story line, don't have to read it.-

Good luck!!!

-Kat

Skylar Masey said...

I'm a strictly monogamous girl. That may have to do with my own personal insights, but I have problems believing that the hero is "the one" for the heroine if she's getting her jollies (which are as good as the hero is giving) elsewhere. I've always thought of the hero-heroine physical bond as an extension of their emotional bond.

Though with the recent trend toward erotica, or atleast erotic elements, hitting the mainstream I don't think it would be frowned upon as it once was in Romancelandia. :0) And as long as you have due cause for the hero and heroine to have multiple partners, the reader (including editors) should be able to see that, instead of gratuitous sex for pleasures sake.

Xandra Gregory said...

There's some good insight here, ladies. Thanks for your comments. I'm not a fan of cheaters, either, and with the prevalence of situations in real life where it leads to nothing but heartache, I'm not keen on putting my characters through it. But something I realized after thinking about it more is that while the two may be engaged (not as in "betrothed," but as in "caught my attention and verbally sparred with"), they're not committed yet to each other. I think that after their commitment to each other, they'd be exclusive, but until then, it's open season.

Lynda K. Scott said...

You ladies are really deeply intuitive on this subject. I have to admit, I'm not one for multiple partners in my romance (erotic or not). BUT I have seen it done and done well. I think the very last line of Xandra's response comment is the key. It's the act of commitment that shouldn't be violated.

Great post, Xandra!