The Sexual Content Threshold

I bought a book this summer and was quite excited about it. It was a time travel novel taking place between modern day New York and regency-era England. Like really, does it get better than that?

In the first third of the book, it didn’t seem to. The book was interesting, the characters awesome, the plot shaping up nicely. I was quite a fan and had trouble putting it down.

The time streams of the male and female leads collided (as they should. Got to keep things interesting right?) The chemistry was fun between the characters. I was interested to see how things would unfold between them. I mean, obviously they would end up together, but they were on opposite sides of the time-traveling underworld. It was a classic forbidden love set-up in a weird Jane Austen sci-fi mash up. The author had my wrapped attention!

And then things took a terrible turn as I discovered the truth about the book.

It was *gasp* a kissing book!

I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good love story. But a love story and a romance novel are two very different things. Let’s be clear on that, And a lot of the difference has to do with the intent in which it was made and consumed and the sexual content of the piece.

Suddenly in this wonderful story, the plot was being interrupted unexpectedly with a make-out session in the woods. In the rain. I am not kidding.

There was no lead up. The characters had just met a scene before. They were both from the conservative regency-era. There was nothing in their characters to lead to steamy scene complete with “desire” and “throbbing.” It felt like it was there because the writer thought the reader wanted it. Not the characters.

There were so many specifics, that I had to skip some portions–something I’m not prone to do.

And I understand that it is for this experience that some people turn to books. I was just disappointed that such a wonderful story was traded in to give in to misplaced desire.

A great plot was sacrificed to include what other books have embraced to sell more copies. I felt cheated.

Suddenly the characters were not the people I was getting to know and care about. They were eratic caricatures of sexual organs, Their cause was no longer so important. The balance of time and space and good and evil were secondary to these sleeping habits of characters. The truth and humanity was cheapened because sex is what is selling books.

I cannot say if this choice was purely the authors or if there was pressure from the publisher, but I was saddened, I was disapointed. And I at last found the threshold between a love story and emotional porn.

I am okay with a book having sexual content even though I don’t agree with premarital sex. It’s still out there, part of lives and I don’t expect people let alone characters to adhere to my personal convictions.

It is when they use the word ‘nipple’ that I begin to feel uncomfortable. It is adding a specific. It’s makes me visualize something I don’t really wants to. Forces me into the experience mentally and emotionally.

When things are hinted at, I can easily glance over them. It does not add to or take away from the plot. It is when specificity is at the forefront that things take a turn my mind does not want to take. And this is becoming more popular among books for adult women. There used to be a difference between adult fiction (fiction for adults) and adult fiction (porn). Now adays? Not so much.

So I raise this question: Why is it so hard to escape this? Why can we not separate a love story from a sex story? And why can’t a story have sex that isn’t laid bare in gory details? And why are we satisfied with every detail when all it does is tell a lie?

I guess this post is more rant than anything else. (Sorry about that.) I just wish more for the writers of this generation. I want us to be telling stories with truth. Not stories that hold back nothing while still feeding the reader a load of shit.

Readers deserve better. And I as a reader–not a writer–am asking for better,

Girl Story

Writing friend and mentor, Don Pearson released his book iParent: Gender Trends, Online Friends & the Soul of Your Child:a couple years ago. iParent addresses the role technology plays in the lives on adolescents in our culture and how parents can interact with their children to form meaningful relationships and relational patterns in a shallow culture. iParent really is a must-read for anyone raising children in today’s technology drenched, relationally deprived culture.

A few weeks ago on his blog he featured a post entitled ‘Boy Story‘ listing out the basic pattern of life facing boys today. He asked readers to step in and talk about how they would have influenced the man in a different direction.

He asked me to write the girl version and that went live today as ‘Girl Story‘. Check it out and share with your friends!

The Bachellorette: Love, Porn, and Reality

The thing about guilty pleasures is that they tend to be embarrassing. For example, I am not a big reality TV fan. I’m still waiting for someone to explain the charm of Here Comes Honey Boo boo. And why exactly would anyone sign up to be on Naked and Afraid? Why watch people be stupid when I can watch Sherlock or Suits and be a better human for it? (Yes, my snobbery extends past tea…)

But here’s the rub: I love watching stupid people… and sappy stuff is not so bad either.

As such, it is with great embarrassment and chagrin that I confess that I have watched the entire ninth season of The Bachelorette

In many ways, it is like watching a car crash. You don’t want to see it, but you just can’t look away. Whoever thought of the concept of the show was either high or brilliant. Let’s take one woman and have her date twenty-five men. At once. And they live together. There is seriously no way things could get more troubling. Every Monday, I have been given a chance to kick back and watch everything go wrong. Tons of drama, not a ton of common sense.

So as I have been watching Desiree fall in love with Brooks (oof!) and be used by Ben and… that really muscly guy who’s name escapes me, and at last fall for Chris this past season, I have begun to notice some things about the show and some concerns it’s spurned. If you’re a fan of the show, understand that I can respect your interest (Notice I am in no place to judge. At all. Ever.) and also that I am sorting through what the show stirs up in me.

So, The Bachelorette: here is a woman with 25 men doing everything they can to get her attention. (Including showing up in a heinous homemade suit, or a suit of armor.) They travel to exotic locations. The men fight over her and for her. They will make fools of themselves in strange challenges in order to earn a date with her. They stab each other in the back and kiss up to her all to get a rose and stay there another week. She must do nothing but sit back and let them tear each other down to be with her. And the entire time, she is in complete control.

The show follows her through this journey and America is privy to the entire thing. I have seen more of this woman’s love life than I have anyone else’s. That’s a little weird to me, now that I think of it.

This is not reality. This is not how deep, intimate, lasting relationships work. And yet there is something attractive to me about this system. See, what I truly want is security and love; to be told I am lovely. There is a seed of honest goodness to this desire, but it has been twisted into something fearful. I want to control. I want men to just love me for no other reason than that I’m there. I want them to fight for me, if not over me. It is my sin nature that twists this in to a game of manipulation and control.

If there is anything each of the successful marriages I admire have in common, it is that they are real. There is give and take. There is struggle and sacrifice. There is respect and love. Real love. Not just sex and fire. Very little glamour and very minor drama. Manipulation and control have no place in them. And porn and the expectations it creates destroys the beauty of true love.
Despite all of this, I found myself envying Des’s position a bit. What would it be like to be desired by that many handsome men? To have them fight over you? To where beautiful dresses and travel to so many fantastic places? What would I do in her shoes? There was a longing stirred up. A need to lose myself in this fantasy because my reality was less pleasing.
So I guess I should get around to explaining the title a bit… It’s alright, you can put your eyebrows down.

Many who know me, know the phrase “emotional porn.” In short, it is porn for women. In long, it gets a little more complicated to explain. In general, we as women are driven more strongly by emotional rather than physical intimacy. (Like the old adage ‘men give love to get sex. Women give sex to get love’.) Emotional porn comes in many forms, but almost always through narrative. Romance novels are the most common, but also chick flicks. And reality TV. It is ultimately a story we can lose ourselves in. And yes, you can do that with any form of entertainment, but this is a little different. It is when you use the character as a thin veil for yourself. You are experiencing the narrative in a deeper way than just enjoying the story. You are experiencing the emotions for yourself. Not just in empathizing with the character, but involving yourself in what is happening in this fantasy world. It is a more desirable and romantic place to be. It is a preferred reality where we become more desirable, flirtatious, and loved in this fantasy. And then we return to reality as, well, us. We feel undesirable, unlovely, and unwanted on our return to the real world. And we will not be satisfied until we return to that fantasy once again.

It’s hard to explain, but I’m sure you’ve experienced it. These sorts of narratives are trending heavily in our media. Twilight is what I consider a prime example. Fifty Shades is a very overtly sexual example. The exponential growth in the erotica genre demonstrates the popularity of this type of porn.

If you’re not understanding, let me explain it this way. In these examples, the heroine has the adore of men. Usually multiple men. She has done nothing to earn their desire besides be present. She may not even be attractive or feel like she is anything special, but these men are crazy about her for absolutely no reason besides the fact that she is herself. (And that’s all fine and dandy! You have to be yourself in a relationship.) But not once does she have to sacrifice or face consequences of any lasting variety. The man makes the sacrifices. He moves heaven and hell to give the woman all she desires including himself. She gives up nothing. He gives up everything. There is very little real life involved.
True relationships require give and take for both parties. The man is not simply there to serve the woman and make her feel desirable at all turns. That is not even something a man can do. Sure he can tell you you are beautiful and make you feel special, but that affirmation will only be temporary. The longing we feel for relationships and desire can only come from one source. And I promise you, it is not a more perfect boyfriend… It is certainly not Edward Cullen.
You see, our question of “am I desirable?” cannot be answered fully through relationships, or books, TV, or other media. If we take our question to these sources, we will be deeply disappointed, or be fed a twisted lie that distorts our self-image. (This is essentially what porn does.) That question can only be answered completely by the creator. He is the only one who knows the answer to that question. The only one who’s answer will truly satisfy.

Now, I wish Desiree and Chris the best of luck in what could be a marriage, or a very public divorce. Only time will tell. For myself, I wish for a real relationship. One not driven by manipulation and control, but out of love and trust. 

I probably should also wish for less emotional porn in the world. But they announced during the season finale that Juan Pablo is returning as the next bachelor. I think this may be a tougher addiction to fight than initially believed…

Please feel free to comment! Ask questions, state your thoughts concerns, or disagreements. I would love to get some dialogue flowing here!