Sexuality, Media, and Society
I’m sure by now most of you have realized I write sweet romance. I tried to make it as sensual as possible, but there’s just something that holds me back from going “too far,” whatever that means. At times, I feel almost ashamed of being unable to write hotter romances. After all, we’ve all heard the saying “sex sells.” When it comes to romance, especially paranormal romance, this seems to hold true. Unfortunately, that makes it awkward for someone like me who enjoys the paranormal aspects and heart-melting romance, but not so much the sex scenes.
This push for open sexuality can create some rather uncomfortable circumstances, such as the expectation that certain types of romance (vampires, for one) should include fully described love scenes. Now, I know most women have no qualms about reading sexy romances, but as an author, I have another thought in mind. What if a thirteen-year-old girl gets hold of a copy of one of my books? Do I really want to risk her reading graphic descriptions of sex before she’s mature enough to handle it?
While I know that sounds like a ridiculous concern, think about this. How many women admit to reading their first romance while they were still in middle school? By the time I was thirteen, I was checking books out of the adult section of my local library. With that in mind, I can’t ignore the very real possibility that my books could end up in the hands of girls who are too young to deal with hot content. Then there are my personal beliefs, which also guide the heat level of my writing and apparently make it impossible for me to write smokin’ hot romances.
But American society as a whole seems to be pushing girls to be sexy and explore their sexuality at younger ages all the time. You shouldn’t have to teach elementary kids about safe sex. I still remember when requiring sex education in all high schools was somewhat controversial. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against hot romances for mature audiences. I just want to protect the vulnerable minds of preteens and teens who are trying to navigate a world that tells them, “You have to be sexy, even if you don’t understand it.”
Along with the push to make girls and women into sex objects is another conflicting message presented to society through the media. Girls and women are supposed to be sexy, but if they get caught being sexy, watch out. Your reputation will be dragged through the mud, especially if you’re famous. And it doesn’t even take much to cause an overblown, guilt-inducing scandal. A recent post by Sarah M. Anderson on Heroes and Heartbreakers does an excellent job of detailing this weird phenomenon of pushing for more sexiness while shaming any woman who gets caught doing anything close to that (even if it’s accidental). This paragraph in particular does an excellent job of summarizing the confusing world we live in:
Everywhere we look, young girls and women are told they must be sexually available, sexually ready at all times—but when they act on that (or, in the case of Janet, Kate, and Anne, exist near it) they are held up as examples of sin embodied, everything that’s wrong with our sex-obsessed culture.
Check out out the whole article, which is excellent, and share your thoughts on this topic. Do you think women and girls are being shamed for doing what society tells them they must? Is the prevalence of sex in romance novels helpful or harmful? Let me know what you think!