Erotic desire [...] thrives on mystery, unpredictability and politically incorrect power games, not housework battles and childcare woes. Furthermore, increased emotional intimacy between partners often leads to less sexual passion.You can find experts who'll tell you the complete opposite:
Real intimacy is frightening. It requires a kind of openness, honesty and self-respect that most of us aren't used to. But Schnarch's 30 years of counseling couples has convinced him that it's worth it. [...] Best of all, the sex often becomes more relaxed, creative and connected. Literally and figuratively, no one's hiding in the dark anymore.Laura Kinsale made a comparison between what Perel had to say about marriage and the romance genre:
The great mistake about the romance genre is, and always has been, to literalize the stories. The critics make this mistake, the censorious make this mistake, and lately even the readers seem to make it, too. Readers have become self-conscious about their fantasies, largely because the fantasies have been conflated with real life political issues for the last few decades.she adds that
It sometimes begins to seem to me that a goodly percentage of present day romance readers are actually frightened of reading about a real conflict in a book. It's as if they would prefer a therapy session between the characters, with a moderator present to keep things under control while the hero and heroine get equal time to present their side of the story and work through their issues.This led to a discussion at the Smart Bitches, (27th September) including a comment by Robin that
I think the core of her position is in her comment about the “literalization” of Romance. If I understand Kinsale’s argument, it goes something like this: while so many of our fantasies, archetypes, myths [...] relate to the taboo, to violence, to dark eroticism, etc., in our Romance novels, we’ve moved farther and farther away from honoring those symbolic and metaphoric and mythic levels and have instead grounded all this stuff by inappropriately writing and talking about it in the same way we’d talk about real life issues.So, does everyone want a marriage of the sort described by Perel, or romance that functions on mythic levels? I'm not sure we all do. Different readers will have different preferences. Personally, I enjoy romances which relate to 'real life issues', and if they did happen to include a therapy session with Dr Oz Strummer I wouldn't complain. In fact, Julie Cohen's Being a Bad Girl, in which he appears, is a good example of how the portrayal of the development of intimacy, real life issues, psychological analysis, and sex scenes can be combined.
Also on the 27th Larissa Ione, blogging at Romancing the Blog asked if it's 'possible that the “high” we get from reading erotic romance has changed our preferences for content…permanently?'. Again, several readers popped up with dissenting views, saying that they preferred romances which were less explicit, and you can even find a reader such as Daisy Goodwin, who says that she doesn't 'want sex [in romantic novels] unless it is comically bad'.
Getting away from issues of eroticism and fantasy, there are some scenarios which are more popular with some people than others, and the differences make themselves felt at a national level as well as between individuals:
Japanese readers love stories about Arabian sheiks and Mediterranean heroes, but don't like romances set in hospitals or rural American settings," Belinda explains. She also adds that Harlequin book covers portraying pregnant heroines, doctors, babies and children typically sell below average.Whatever one's personal preferences, this evidence of variety within the genre seems to me to be a positive thing, as long as all readers are able to find some novels which they enjoy. It does mean that an author is never going to be able to please every single romance reader, but publishers have long been aware of this fact: Harlequin's many different lines are evidence of that.
So, without getting into a discussion of what's erotic and what's not, because that's a topic that's been heatedly discussed elsewhere, do you enjoy the diversity of the genre, or do you actually find most romances rather similar? Are you able to find romances which suit your tastes or do you lament the passing of a golden era in romance writing?