Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest post: "Why romance?" by Virginia Duke

I am both excited and sad to bring you today's guest post. Excited because it's a great post by Virginia Duke, author of the wonderful romance book Damage Done. Sad because this is the last post in this series about the value of romance and erotica (at least for now). But since all good things must come to an end, I'm at least glad to end on such a note as Virginia's post, which points to some of the complexities of this issue. To find out why Virginia dislikes the romance & erotica genres but writes in it anyway, read on.

"Why romance?" by Virginia Duke

I always dreamed about being a writer, but never imagined I’d sit down and write an erotic romance novel. I’d read a few Danielle Steele novels growing up, and A.N Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty series in college, but it wasn’t my thing. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate a good love story. On the contrary, I’m a big believer in larger than life romance, the “once-in-a-lifetime, meant to be together, stars are colliding” kind of romance. I’ve been lucky enough to have lived that experience. But as much as I love to read, anything and everything, I just couldn’t get down with romantic fiction - it was too “fantastical,” and I felt like most of the stories conflicted with my modern feminist ideals.

You’ve read it all before: romance & erotica reinforce negative female stereotypes, romance & erotica perpetuate patriarchy, romance & erotica promote poor sexual education. And as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate, I admit, it concerns me to see how many women are obsessively reading stories filled with terrible themes that I disapprove of - ownership of your partner, abuse masked as passion, kidnapping, rape.

When I sat down to write a novel, I wanted to tell a story about the real world, about things I knew and understood, and how romance can fit into a world filled with conflict…and reality. I was compelled to tell a love story that didn’t glamorize abuse or violence. I wanted to see more women reading stories that fill the need for romance, the need for drama, the need for heartache, and the need for sex…but without the mixed messages about what “good” love looks like.

But as a feminist, however concerned I am about themes cornering the market in the genre, I’m more concerned with how our society continues to condemn women for their sexuality. The biggest insult we can sling at any woman is that which attacks her for expressing herself sexually. “She’s such a slut.” It’s a shameful part of ourselves that we’re taught to suppress, and then we’re condemned if we’re too successful at suppressing it. “She’s such a prude.” We can’t do sex right no matter how hard we try. So all too often we keep our sexuality to ourselves, we pretend we’re not sexual, or we hide what turns us on.

However personally conflicted I am over some of the conventions of the genre, the reality is romance/erotica provides many women a sexual outlet they are often denied in their everyday lives. So when I finally hit publish on this second novel, you can bet it’s going to contain some strong romance and erotic themes - because women need more place to feed those fantasies and explore those taboos, not fewer.

You can connect with Virginia Duke on Twitter and Goodreads and find her book, Damage Done, on Amazon. She is currently working on her second novel, Grace of the Wicked.

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