Monthly Archives: March 2013

feminist is one side of a shape

All those posts about romance and feminism last week kicked off some huge discussions on twitter. Where those discussions more or less ended up: It’s kind of irrelevant whether romance is feminist or not – I love reading it.

This gave me Thoughts.

As I said last week, my stance is that romance isn’t obliged to be feminist, and the most feminist thing about it is the critical discourse surrounding it. I’ve engaged in this discourse. I find the feminist readings of romance novels fascinating and enlightening. It’s helped me become a better, more engaged writer.

But I’ve been wondering whether we truncate our reading experience by not reading romance with the same level of critique in other ways.

Example: I recently read Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione. I found it cheap at a charity shop, and remembered being curious about the series years ago when I first discovered the particular crack that is paranormal romance. It was kinda fun, kinda forgettable.

The first sex scene between the hero and heroine is only consensual if you really, really squint. Through binoculars. She’s a demon slayer who’s been brought, critically wounded, into a demon hospital. The demon doctor heavily drugs her then patches her up. While she’s still off her face, the doctor’s brother gets inside her head with his special demon powers and gives her a really hot sex dream. (The brothers are incubi, natch.)

The doctor, summoned by her arousal, sends his brother off but then becomes overwhelmed by his own instincts. He “wakes her up” (she’s still off her face), and she, thinking this must all be a dream, tells him to take her. So, consent. But not really, because she’s injured and drugged and was just coerced into arousal while innocently sleeping.

They have really hot sex.

And the thing is – it is hot. These two sex-demons are taking full advantage of the woman, but it’s still hot. It’s even hotter when she realises she’s having sex with a demon – a race she hates – while he’s still inside her.

None of that is particularly yay-woo feminist. It’s not something that ever gets addressed in the book, like, he shouldn’t have taken advantage of her. But that didn’t stop it from being enjoyable.

It makes me think there are other critical conversations we could be having around romance – like about erotic power dynamics.

There’s been a lot of conversation about the slavery in S.U. Pacat’s Captive Prince. From what I’ve seen, the discussion has been solely about: What stance does this book take on slavery? And is it problematic? I’ve seen no discussion about the erotic dynamics of slavery – which wouldn’t cancel out the socio-political conversation, but would add another, equally important angle to the critical discourse. I didn’t read it as a book about slavery – I read it as a book about (sexual) power dynamics.

Whether romance is escapist or not, it is largely emotional and erotic fantasy.

I think this is the reason it’s so interesting to read from a feminist perspective. It’s a direct look inside female desires, largely undiluted by what’s correct or progressive. It’s a kind of snap-shot of what is.

But it’s also something worth looking into for itself. For what it tells us about fantasy, about erotics, about emotional desire. (I had written “separate to the feminist context”, but I’m not sure whether this is true or not. Feminist can sometimes feel restraining to desire, but that seems like a counter-productive statement to make, so I’m probably missing something.)

It’s totally possible these discussions are already happening, and I haven’t found them yet. Please point me in the right direction, if you know where the party’s at! For myself, I’ve enjoyed these thoughts, and the direction they’re leading me in both as a reader and a writer.

 

a cup of tea

I’m imagining a round wooden table in an alcove of windows somewhere – Scotland, maybe. The house is old, the glass is old, and I’m looking out over my favourite kind of countryside: a bit desolate, low and scrubby, its few trees like fists raised at the sky. The sky, of course, is full of movement.

But it’s so snug inside. Let’s have a cup of tea, and a catch-up!

That silence on my end has mostly been about productivity. I’ve been through the revision process for My Lady Untamed, and it has added so much value to the book. There’s one scene in particular that just melted my heart as soon as I’d written it. Going with a publishing house has been worth it just for that one scene alone, not to mention how cool Penguin Aus HQ is.

The book’s in copy-editing at the moment – which means someone’s picking up my spelling errors or logistical errors, and no doubt fainting in horror at my…unconventional use of punctuation. I can’t help it. I love the truncated sentence with a full-stop.

All signs are pointing to a May 15th publishing date (so soon!) – but you can be sure I’ll keep you updated. I can hardly wait for you all to meet Kit and Darlington.

I’ve also fallen head over heels in love with the idea for my next book. This is what I know so far:

The heroine is a debt collector.

The first time she and the hero meet, she’s murdering someone.

He’s the lovely, naive youngest son of someone-or-other.

He’s engaged to a very proper young woman whose family have just lost everything.

In other news, I was recently mentioned in an article in The Atlantic about romance and feminism. The article’s an interesting overview/jumping in point for looking at what romance is up to these days.

And as this is a discussion that will never be done, and can be looked at endlessly from all angles, there are wonderful follow-up conversations over at Cecilia Grant’s blog (can romance be feminist?) and Something More (are we doing ourselves a disservice when we dismiss early romance?).

I think the heart of my stance on all of this is: Romance is not obliged to be feminist; and the most feminist thing about romance is the critical discourse around it.

I’ll be back to regular blogging next week. Damn that was a good cuppa!