Romance Readers & Authors Respond
What Women Really Want

July 2001

Inspirational romance author Staci Stallings' recent Write Byte led to some interesting discussion on our Potpourri Message Board. That discussion is archived below.

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Subject: What Women Really Want
From: Eileen Wilks
To: All
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 10:00:24 (EDT)
Email Address: emwilks@basinlink.com

Message:
Staci Stallings' views in the just-posted Write Byte are undoubtedly sincere and well-intentioned. However, she may be projecting what is be true for her personally onto readers of romance as a whole. Certainly that's what she's done when she equates the sexual expression of love outside of marriage with promiscuity and says that it degrades the spirit.

But it's her basic premise that saddens me. She states that 'craving romance, women turn to the pages of Harlequin or Silhouette to fill the void,' and goes on to say that the sex in these books misleads readers into equating sex with romance. First, she seriously underestimates readers. More importantly, she is promoting one of the most annoying annoying cliches about our genre and the people who read it. This sort of generalization -- that women read romance because their lives are lacking in romance -- is as groundless as assuming that a mystery fan must be hungry for more mystery in her life, or that fantasy fans crave less reality in their lives. It also feeds the stereotype of a romance reader as a woman 'hungry for love.' Phooey.

The truth is, women love relationship stories of all sorts. Happily married women with wonderful relationships with their husbands still enjoy revisiting the feelings involved in falling in love. And for a great many women, those feelings include the dizzy exhileration of sexual attraction, and the intimacy and bonding of sex.

For the record, I should add that I write for Silhouette Desire and Intimate Moments -- obviously I'm going to disagree with Ms. Stallings about the place sex holds in telling the story of two people falling in love. I'd like to add that I'm glad the inspirational genre exists. Those whose beliefs make them uncomfortable reading about sex, especially sex outside of marriage, should be able to find stories that speak of love without violating their beliefs. And I'm certainly not going to argue with the rest of Ms. Stallings' article. Making the effort to truly pay attention to our loved ones -- to talk, listen, and explore each other -- is basic and necessary.


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Maria K.
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jul 06, 2001 at 09:32:32 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I can't speak for women in general so maybe I should have changed the subject line into What I really want <g>

In my opinion Ms. Stallings made a lot of worthy points in her article. While I don't necessarily share her religious perspective and I enjoy a steamy romance as well as the next reader and have yet to read my first inspirational romance, I agreed with most of what she said about other romantic gestures. I miss more of that in my romances. More talking, absolutely. Hand-holding and hugging could be very expressive. I've never particularly thought about touching of the face or hair but I guess that falls into the category 'other intimate touching'. I love it when the characters comfort each other by hugging or encourage each other by silently squeezing the other's hand, or just look. If those things convey commitment they're more effective than boredly written sex.

Sex isn't everything. Just yesterday I read a book in which the actual sex was dealt with rather cursorily, but there were little touches, hand-holding, fleeting glances and other small things that conveyed a world of emotion to me, and that emotion made it a very worthwhile read for me. I did not miss a lurid love scene when faced with all that wonderful tension. (And I don't mean only in the sexual sense.) But sexual tension may sometimes be very effectively expressed in such subtle ways too.

For the record, I don't think I'm reading romance to fill a void in my life. I'm happily married and my husband is very affectionate and not afraid of small gestures of love. But Ms. Stallings forgot to mention the most romantic gesture of them all, in my opinion. When you're having a terrible flu, sneezing and shivering in your bed, and your loved one takes care of you, brings you hot tea and runs to the drugstore for you, that's romantic. And then you can do the same to him when he catches the disease from you. (No, a flu is not the same thing as being on one's deathbed, seriously wounded from a French spy's pistol shot, and having your beloved bring you back to life, but we can't all be war heroes, can we?)


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Karen J
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Sat, Jun 30, 2001 at 10:42:44 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I just had to respond to this Write Byte myself. I also felt that some of her points were valid whereas others made me cringe. I actually do agree to a certain extent, her idea that some women read romance because of a void in there lives. That's okay IMO. My husband has a void in his life for sci-fiction that he feels the need to fulfill and I don't think any less of him for it. I've actually tagged along o a Star Trek convention to keep him happy, but then I'm open to all kinds of things. Since my husband's idea of romance is to have dinner, go see a good sci-fi movie and then rush home to talk about it, then yes I would agree that all of my romance fantasies are not fulfilled. Does this mean I feel that my relationship is lacking over all or that I am not happy? NO! I've been with this man for almost 13 years and love him more now than in the beginning, but he has NEVER been romantic. Then again, real life romance to me is him making a fresh pot of coffee when he leaves for work and putting a clean travel mug out for me for later(like I couldn't possibly open up the cabinet and get my own travel mug). That's the sweetest thing to me and that's real life romance with an unromantic guy. Now, with that said, that doesn't mean that I don't want to feel, see and experience every nuance of romance to the fullest in my reading. I do 100%. I want to see every bit of the relationship develop, including the bedroom scenes. I can't buy into the story without them. That does not mean I want them thrown in with no rhyme or reason. This is where I want the reality to be in place. Real people have real sex and are really attracted to each other. It is PART of what makes them fall in love IMO. I mean really, if you weren't sexually attracted to your partner then they would just be a great friend. I can't even specify how much sex I think a book needs. It depends on the author, story and of course the characters. Sometimes I need a few and sometimes just one at the HEA is just fine. But, there must be at least one or else I feel like the story was incomplete. I WANT all the juicy details(and I don't mean gratuitous or necessaily explicit), that's why I read. I want to know every detail of their thoughts and actions and reactions. If I didn't want that, I would stay in real life where of course I sit every day without reading peoples minds. Instead I escape to my books where characters think like me, not like me and everything in between.

Now, having said all that, I would like to say how glad I am that their are inspirational romance writers out there to write their kind of stories for the women who don't want the bedroom scenes. I have occasionaly taken my nose out of a book over the years and noticed that everyone is different and unique. The variety needs to be their and I'm sure opens up the genre to readers who want the romance without the sex.

Well, that was my bit. I have thoroughly enjoyed this discussion and having so many opinions. I really love seeing readers and writers perspectives. It keeps the mind going. And to think, my mom thinks I don't read 'real' books. LOL Karen Jacobi


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Fiona
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 17:12:45 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I feel that the romance genre sends a very positive message to women whatever their situation. Instead of 'hungry for love', 'hoping for love' might be a better description of a woman's need to find that one special man she can spend the rest of her life with. I've been married 33 years and very much in love with my hubby. Someone might say 'Why are you reading that stuff? You don't need it.' Wrong! All those wonderful love stories, aside from being darn good reads, speak to everyone's need to be loved. My husband, mainly a scifi and Patrick O'Brian fan, reads romance too. Susan King, Laura Lee Guhrke, Susan Johnson, and Marsha Canham are some of his favorite authors. He likes the sensuality of romance novels as opposed to 'the plotless porn' (his words) marketed to men.
Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Rachel
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 13:56:13 (EDT)
Email Address: grerp@lakeland.lib.mi.us

Message:
I actually think that Stallings has a point. I don't think that women/people are reading romances to fill a void--that I don't believe. But I do think that she has a point about the quiet gestures and touches being more romantic than sex itself.

Some of the most romantic and touching books I've ever read have just kisses or subtle sensuality. And I can't think of too many sex scenes that have made me dab the corners of my eyes. Sex scenes, if done right, are fun and arousing, but romantic? Not that often. And sometimes I think that sex can get in the way of a good story. I've read a number of books lately where the author did a great job writing the sex, but overall, failed to convey that the characters had anything else in common. And many sex scenes feel like padding--they don't add anything of depth to the relationship being portrayed.

Also there's something mysterious and fascinating about a fully-dressed man. He has dignity and secrets that aren't being revealed. How many women through the years have swooned over Mr. Darcy? Or were touched by the under the umbrella scene in Little Women? One of the sweetest romantic bits I've ever read comes at the end of Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. Stan leans over and snaps his ID bracelet on Jane's arm. I still get misty thinking about it, and he's barely touching her.

I'm not saying I don't enjoy a good sex scene, but it better add something to the story. Lots of them don't.


Subject: What Women Really Want
From: Karen Ranney
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 22:58:51 (EDT)
Email Address: karen@karenranney.com

Message:
I read romance to feel connected. In this genre, like no other, characters are accessible to me. I haven’t the slightest idea if that labels me as lonely, deprived, or just plain normal.

Saying that premarital sex degrades the spirit is, I believe, a philosophical and intrinsically personal point of view. Authors being human, however, we write what we believe. At least I do.

I do not, for example, feel that there’s anything wrong with premarital sex as long as that relationship ultimately leads to marriage. (In a historical or a contemporary.) However, I have some difficulty with “skanky” villain sex whereas other authors might not mind writing it.

As an author who’s written my share of erotic scenes, let me also add that it’s incredibly easy to write a sex scene and very, very difficult to write a love scene. What’s the difference? That sense of connection between the characters.

Inspirationals are not my cup of tea, and sex, premarital or otherwise, might not be someone else’s choice to read. Isn’t it wonderful that they’re both available?


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Adele Ashworth
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 10:46:08 (EDT)
Email Address: adele@adeleashworth.com

Message:
I agree completely with Eileen. I also think Staci Stallings may unintentionally be projecting her personal feelings and beliefs about sex and romance novels, and the truth is, it's not a black and white issue.

For instance, I write books with very detailed love scenes, but they aren't thrown in for shock value or to give a reader who may have a lacking sex and/or romantic life something to 'wish for' or 'dream about.' The love scenes I write are just that - love scenes. They're part of the 'falling in love' aspect of the book. When it comes right down to it, some people enjoy reading the full aspect of the hero and heroine's growing love for each other, and some people prefer that it stops at the closed bedroom door. It's a matter of taste, and what that particular reader is comfortable reading. In every book I write (and I would suggest that this is the objective of most or even all romance authors) I build the relationship with simple looks, talking, caresses, hand-holding, smiles, etc. These feelings of growing romance are always included. Just because an author writes explicit sex in her books doesn't mean the romance is missing. It's my perception that Ms. Stallings is grouping all romances into those with sex and those without, and those without are missing the romance. My only question is to wonder how many of these she's read lately?


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Jennifer, PA
To: Eileen Wilks
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 10:26:28 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
Well....

I agree with the part that talks about how romance should not be equated simply with the sex scenes in a book...romance encompasses a whole lot more than just sex, although sex is certainly and integral part of a HEA romance, imo.

But I have to agree with Ms. Wilks and object STRONGLY to the idea that women read romance novels to make up for a lack of it in their real lives. What a sterotype, and how appalling that a woman whom, I am assuming, is involved in the romance industry would propagate it! To me, that is much worse than the abuse I endure for reading romance: the sly looks from people on the train, the teasing references to 'smut novels' and 'bodice rippers.' To hear such a comment from 'one of our own,' so to speak, is more than a bit of a letdown. I, and many other readers out there, have never 'turned' to a romance novel for solace or as a substitute for my own love life. How absurd. OK, I enjoy romances, what's wrong with that? Is that somehow a waste of my time? Would I be more entertained or a more intellectual person if I was reading Tolstoy or Proust? No. It's all a matter of taste, and I'll thank y'all not to insult mine.

Jennifer, PA -- getting off her soapbox...


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Rhonda Drummond
To: Jennifer, PA
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 11:13:40 (EDT)
Email Address: ladyzak@celticvoice.com

Message:
I cannot agree with Ms. Stallings way of thinking, as it seems very closed-minded. Emotions, tensions, fun, and adventure are all part the genre, and for characters to give into all these aspects as part of their relationship, including the sex, which incompasses all four, are the reasons we keep coming back. Sure, we all crave some kind of adventure, so it's not really romance we might be missing, but excitement, but any genre can fill that void.

Seeing peeps come together in emotion, overcoming obstacles to reach the HEA, that's what we look for. We see it in our favourite movies, so why not our favourite books, too! Wish I knew exactly what Ms. Stallings has been reading!


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Joan
To: Jennifer, PA
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 11:10:59 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I think that Ms Stallings is out of touch with the readers of romances. As Ms. Ashworth noted, readers are not looking to romance to fill a void. I remember reading an article telling about a survey which revealed that readers of romance novels had more and better sexual encounters with their partners. The results seem to completely disagree with Ms. Stalling's statements.

I suspect that women read romances more than men because women are more interested in human relationships than men. I also suspect that because there are so few happy endings in real life, we enjoy to read about them in fiction.

As the other posters have stated so well, I think that the letter writer's opinion is a reflection of her values. I don't think they reflect those of most of the readers of romance, at least not those of people I know.


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Carol
To: Joan
Date Posted: Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 14:21:32 (EDT)
Email Address: CarannHol@aol.com

Message:
"I suspect that women read romances more than men because women are more interested in human relationships than men. I also suspect that because there are so few happy endings in real life, we enjoy to read about them in fiction."
---
I entirely agree with this. The reason I've been reading romances for 25 years is that they _entertain_ me. They make me _feel_ good at the end of a long day of work, laundry, carting my kids to wherever, and cleaning up the cat poop which somehow landed _beside_ the litter box.

When I find an author whose voice appeals to me, no matter what type of book s/he's written, I try to find all of their books because I liked those feelings engendered throughout their story. The sex scenes in the books are just that - a scene that contributes to the story overall, but is not the focus, and isn't the only reason I read the book.

That said, everyone has different reasons for reading romance. Whatever emotional response I have to a story may be entirely opposite to your reasons. And if someone has an element lacking in their personal life, who am I to say they're doing damage to all readers and authors when they use the books for that reason?


Subject: Why 'what women want' works and doesn't work!
From: sandy c(new bern)
To: All
Date Posted: Sat, Jun 30, 2001 at 08:14:37 (EDT)
Email Address: sc012060@yahoo.com

Message:
hi everyone, i recently read the wryte bite by staci stallings on 'what women really want' and had some opinions on what she had to say.

while i agree with her on the 4 point list and the description of each item on the list and how they reflect 'romance' in a relationship, i do not agree with the overall premise that she is trying to defend. to me instead of saying these items are what women really want, when i read the article as a whole, i get the feeling she is really basically defending why she prefers to write inspirational romance which lacks the usual passionate love scenes, and why her readers enjoy this, and more important why 'we' readers don't really need those love scenes for a romance to be romantic.

however, i disagree, and do not think this applies to the majority of readers of contemporary or historical romance. some of us prefer 'sweet' reads and some prefer 'steamy' reads, and there is also a special population that enjoy 'sweet inspirational' reads. my post here is not intended to offend any one of these populations only stating my opinion.

first, let me explain my own religious values. i was raised predominately in a southern protestant environment (ie baptist, presbyterian, freewill baptist). as an adult, i am not an atheist by any means, however i do not fully believe in christianity. if i were to describe my beliefs they would be that i believe there is a higher power, and that man has a purpose and a need to serve others rather than just himself/herself. my beliefs are sort of a mixture in the teachings of goodness in the bible as a whole and the teachings of moderation in eastern religions. along with moderation i have strong belief in 'not judging others based on my beliefs in religion'. we are a multi faceted world and we all practice some very different religions. because i live in the south, i am exposed to, unfortunately, the fanaticisms of christianity everyday. now, don't get me wrong, for the most part, this is not the norm, just the extremes, but it is those extremes that keep me from totally letting myself be a part of the christian religion. people, before you slam me, i state this so that you know where i stand, not for any debate on my beliefs. i won't debate something as personal as this, so please no flaming on this.

why i state this is simply so that you will understand this: i have a hard time reading inspiration romance because instead of the relationship, i find myself focusing on the beliefs expressed and my own personal conflict with those beliefs. i can't seem to let myself get past that when trying to read inspiration romance. the majority of them are based on the christian religion, or at least the 6 or 7 that i have tried to read.

so, in reading staci stallings wryte byte, i have a problem with her expressing this as what 'most women want' based on her own personal beliefs.

it has been my experience that most readers want an exciting and passionate read. now that passion can take different forms and the 'act' occuring 'behind closed doors' ala kurland or all out front ala robin schone. but the key here is romance AND PASSION. most readers seem to want excitement, adventure, sometimes mystery, but always romance, love and passion.

nor do i buy into the pre marital sex being promiscious theme. never have and never will. i believe more in the 'respect your body and share it with someone you truly love' theme and there should be no shame in this, regardless of a piece of paper or committment. if you get married great, i feel that once that level of feeling has reached a point that you wish to proclaim it to all around you and totally commit to that one person then its wonderful.

so with all of this said, why did this article catch me somewhat? because part of what she said is true, just not necessarily the way ms. stallings probably intended. although i still won't be rushing out to buy inspirational romance i would like to discuss why many of us may be having problems with some of the romance we are reading lately.

i think the overall theme saying that our current romances do not feel romantic is valid, however the list she gives seems more geared toward how you, in real life, keep your own personal relationship feeling more romantic longterm.

'romance is often equated with the sex portrayed in these novels' . imo, stallings is on to something here, just not the way i think she intended. for a long time i have been dissatisfied with our romances because i am tired of reading suspense with a sex scene or two thrown in to make it a 'romantic' suspense. instead of all the effort that the writer is putting into the plot or the mystery, i wish they would at least put as much effort into the romance or relationship development. they could take some tips from ms. stallings as to how they could begin to go back to the basics of romance. now i don't mean 'take out the sex or love scenes', but adding more of the romance between the characters back into the story. when reading romance, for me the steamier the better, but i still want that stage of 'falling in love' to shine thru.

ms. stalling said 'being Christian myself and having seen the consequences of traveling down both the paths of chastity and promiscuity, I knew I didn't want to promote anything that would degrade the spirits of either my characters or my readers. Thus I knew that any pre-wedding bedroom scenes were not an option for me.' this is where ms. stalling loses me completely. here she is proclaiming her beliefs and judging others in romance by them. if we were talking about real life here, of course a love scene between two lovers should be private, but we are talking about reading a story, readers reading a tale of love. and how intimate that story becomes when reading about the lovemaking between two characters. instead of degrading for most of us they are inspiration in the telling of that intimacy. think of it, in the dark ages and the victorian era, how did women find out about sex and our bodies. many didn't and many didn't understand that it was something to be enjoyed. what is degrading about that?

i look at today's romance as a way for women to be inspired. not religiously, but more matter of factly. as women, we have learned many lessons from today's romance; that there are men out there that are wonderful and loving, and that passion between a man and women can be beautiful and joyful and pleasurable. i think if we were to go back to what ms. stalling's is proposing, 'with everything occuring privately behind closed doors', this would take the most beneficial aspect of reading romance away from us. if i had a daughter, i would much rather her learn about love and love making from one of my romance novels, than to not read about anything at all and or to find out about it thru rumors and gossip.

so, while i think ms. stalling's has given some good tips on how to keep your relationships feeling romantic, i do not think her premise about romances and romance readers as a whole to be true.


Subject: Re: Why 'what women want' works and doesn't work!
From: cindy
To: sandy c(new bern)
Date Posted: Sun, Jul 01, 2001 at 19:50:46 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
Hi - I think that something Ms. Stallings left out is that the sex IS between committed couples that always leads to marriage. To me, romance novels aren't about sex at all. They're about committment, honor, integrity, loving another and being able to be loved. I find them to be very traditional and conservative overall. (and I might have read that here first).

For me too, the romance and the sex are two different things. I recently read an anthology where in 3 of the 4 stories had no sex at all and lots of romance and were perfectly satisfactory reads. It's the characters that either 'do it' for me, turn me away.

I'm feeling real picked on here. Lots and lots of books have sex and romance in them in most genres written by both men and women. I guess readers just skip those scenes??? These things do seem to be a part of life no matter in which genre we dwell.

The meeting of the h/h in romance begins the end of promiscuity, single bliss, cigarettes and problem drinking. I haven't see street drugs mentioned much, but they'd be over too. It's the beginning of fixing family, work, and other past or present problems and living a 'better life' at some level. They're positive messages about personal progress and happiness. The sex is just about personal preference, writing style/demands and contemporary culture.

I enjoy Harry Potter too and so do lots of romance readers and writers. Uh, enjoy other genres, I mean. <g>


Subject: What Women Really Want
From: Vicki S
To: All
Date Posted: Sun, Jul 01, 2001 at 07:58:08 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I think Staci is saying that women really want emotional intimacy, and I couldn't agree more. Sex isn't love. It isn't even a very good substitute. With that being said, I think the best romances find the moment when body and soul come together. I'm a Christian and an avid romance reader, and there are two types of books I generally avoid: HarlTemptation/Silhouette Desires and series inspirationals. It may seem odd on the surface, but IMO both types of books are missing something. The Tempt/Desires emphasize sexual attraction over emotional connection, while the series inspirationals are often too idealized to be believable.
Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Susan
To: Vicki S
Date Posted: Mon, Jul 02, 2001 at 13:48:40 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
Very interesting viewpoint. I especially am interested in the comment about Insprirational stories. I have not read the inspirational stories, but even some of the subtle 'romance' by both Silhouette and Harlequin (especially the '80's when I started reading them) seemed a little 'preachy' about no sex before marriage. I think this is interesting because supposedly the sexual revolution took place in the late '60's and early '70's. A decade later it was clear that in a lot those books, he wasn't getting any until the ring was on the finger (or just about).

I don't mean this paragraph to mean that I think that is bad; it is just one viewpoint. There are all kinds of women and each one needs to make those choices as her upbringing, morality and conscience leads her. Hence it really doesn't make sense to have books all one way or the other! We are all different!

There are women that are: virgins, widows, divorcees, married and happy, married and unhappy, single but looking, single but given up looking, separated, not married but in committed long term relationships, single but having short flings, all around me!!! I would expect each has made the choices she has for specific reasons. They are 'her story'. Why can't romance novels be the same?

In general I find my favorite stories to be about people I might know, making choices that seem real for them. Good choices, bad choices etc. but they are 'real' to that character.


Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Vicki S
To: Susan
Date Posted: Wed, Jul 04, 2001 at 12:33:19 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
Personally, I think the sexual revolution was a disaster. LOL! What I love about romance is the commitment. If you're ever in the mood to try an Inspirational, I'd suggest REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers. It's a very unique book. The inspirationals that don't work for me are the series books. I also loved the FORGIVING HOUR by Robin Lee Hatcher.
Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Avrey
To: Vicki S
Date Posted: Thurs, Jul 05, 2001 at 09:39:18 (EDT)
Email Address: fl

Message:
The sexual revolution a disaster? In what way? It ultimately gave us freedom over our own bodies. How can this be a bad thing? It allowed women to compete for jobs, do more in the military than be secretaries, as I did. Not to mention all of the positive things it spawned. Title 9 for instance. I'm glad my teen-aged daughter does not have to sit on the sidelines at sporting events. She can actually play sports. What a novel idea. I remember sitting in gym class watching while very expensive Nautilus equipment was brought in, only to be told it was for the boy's use only. And that was in the early seventies! The women's movement moved us forward and I will be forever grateful to those women who started it.
Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: Vicki S
To: Avrey
Date Posted: Thurs, Jul 05, 2001 at 22:17:28 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I agree completely that equal rights and equal access are welcome political changes in our society. What I question is the change in attitudes towards sex itself. I don't think casual sex is good for anybody. Sure, women have more control over their bodies, but for what purpose? Pleasure? Meeting physical needs? No one dies from abstinence. And what are the risks of casual sex? Disease? Unwanted pregnancy? Not to mention the loss of emotional intimacy that comes from a lack of commitment. I hate to see what the sexual revolution has done to our teens. A person can't turn on the TV without seeing at least one highly sexualized ad. I don't think this is liberating, if anything it degrades an act that should be highly personal, and at best, meaningful, safe, and just plain fun. My husband has a unique take on the whole subject. He thinks the sexual revolution gave women permission to copy traditional male behavior, and that it was a step back rather than a step forward. What do we look for in romance novels? Commitment above all else.
Subject: Re: What Women Really Want
From: LLB
To: Susan
Date Posted: Mon, Jul 02, 2001 at 19:28:20 (EDT)
Email Address:

Message:
Susan -

I am a very progressive, liberal person, and don't agree that premarital sex is immoral. And yet, when my 9-year-old daughter came to me last week and asked me if a virgin is a woman who doesn't have sex before marriage, I didn't bat an eye before saying yes. ;)

That said, when I read certain of the series lines, I find them almost to be written to teen-age sensibilities. In other words, they are chaste enough that any teenager - no matter how conservative or liberal they or their parents may be - could read them. That bothers me as an adult woman. It would be one thing if Harlequin/Silhouette put out a line solely for teens, but I'm an adult, and while I don't require love scenes in all my books, I can recall two that featured no more than two kisses - in a contemporary series book - before the hero proposed to the heroine.

I wrote about this in an ATBF because the author, who used to write historicals w/a nice level of sensuality, totally lost me w/these two books. TTFN, LLB


Subject: What women want, ahh, the arrogance
From: Linda Z
To: All
Date Posted: Mon, Jul 02, 2001 at 18:58:08 (EDT)
Email Address: np

Message:
of this author. Of course, the only right way to fall in love or have sex is the Christian way. This is what she is basically saying - any sex outside of marriage is promiscuous, degrades the spirit. I'm often baffled, how in this day and age, morality and ethics all focus on sex. I'm only 40, but i seem to remember a day when being religious, moral and ethical had as much or more to do with how you treat other people, including NOT JUDGING everyone else. I'm sorry but this author completely reinforced every anti-evangelical christian stereotype out there. Running around being judgemental and self-righteous might make you feel better than everyone else, but its no less of a sin than premarital sex (check out those ten commandments again? eh?)

And as a matter of fact, I also totally disagree with the author's whole romance thing. The most 'romantic' and important thing about marriage is intimacy, both sexual and otherwise. Sharing thoughts, dreams, hopes, expectations and yes, even frustrations. Sharing your life everyday. The 'romance' of falling in love is not real, and doesn't last, but what lies beyond is so much better and more meaningful, but generally would make for boring reading.


Subject: Re: What women want, ahh, the arrogance
From: Vicki S
To: Linda Z
Date Posted: Wed, Jul 04, 2001 at 12:27:17 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
Your comments are a perfect example of 'relative morality.' You're suggesting human beings should ask, 'What's right and wrong for me?' IMO, the Christian perspective believes in an absolute morality: 'What right and wrong for mankind?' It presumes that recreational sex is less than beneficial and even damaging to individuals. I fall into the Christian camp, proudly. I respect your opinion, completely. I just disagree, strongly. Is that judgment? I don't think so. We probably even like some of the same books! Whether we agree or disagree, discussion is healthy.
Subject: Re: What women want, ahh, the arrogance
From: Tate
To: Vicki S
Date Posted: Sat, Jul 07, 2001 at 19:16:00 (EDT)
Email Address: Not Provided

Message:
I simply have a problem with people talking about absolute morality because it has been an excuse used to suppress and oppress a lot of different populations. More people have been harmed when people believe that there is some absolute truth that all manking should follow. What if I am Jewish, What if I am Muslim, what happens to MY truth? That is why I believe that absolute truth is a myth and I am Christian.
Subject: Re: What women want, ahh, the arrogance
From: Vivien
To: Vicki S
Date Posted: Sat, Jul 07, 2001 at 06:48:26 (EDT)
Email Address: Lothar.Fritsche@t-online.de

Message:
I am a bit late jumping in here, but I have followed the thread with interest. I definitely agree with Linda, Laurie and others from the 'liberal camp' here. I think the problem is that the author painted a very one-sided, black-and-white picture of human sexuality. Either there is no pre-marital sex and only sex in marriage, which in her opinion is what everyone should strive for, or there is recreational, gratuitous, non-committed sex. At least this is how I read it, and what peeved me quite a bit.

I am definitely not in favor of sleeping around, neither in men nor in women. I consider it shallow, unhealthy and not very dignified, but this is just my personal view point and I am sure some people can get some satisfaction out of it and I won't judge them for it. However, I think there is something in between. You can be in a committed relationship for years, and I would not expect anyone to remain abstinent in that time. The sex will surely be as meaningful, as emotional, as spiritual as conjugal sex. Anyone who doubts that is simply opinionated and short-sighted, sorry for saying it. A marriage licence does not mean that your married life is absolute bliss, nor does it mean that the sex will be better, and sadly, for many people marriage can be easily broken and dissolved.

Personally, I have been in a relationship for seven years and I am sure I will someday marry this man. Frankly, I could not imagine NOT being intimate with him. Passion is an esential element in any relationship, and I feel you can only express it fully if there is a physical joining to complete the spiritual union. We are still crazy about each other, but we were even more so in the beginning and I frankly could not imagine waiting years to finally make love. I don't believe I am shallow because of it. There are plenty of romantic elements and gestures in our relationship, like candlelight dinners, taking care of each other in sickness, washing his clothes which he throws around, running errands for the other, cooking something nice for each other, frequent phone calls when we are apart, holding hands etc. All this, however, does not preclude the earthier, more sensual aspect of love, which is really the icing on the cake. I think the majority of women nowadays do want commitment, and most of them don't take sex lightly. Sometimes, however, relationships don't work out and people move on. This does not mean that they are immoral only because they have not retained their virginity until marriage. These matters are not as cut-and-dried as the author seems to imply.

Frankly, I would rather read about a romance heroine who has been in one or the other relationship, has some sexual experience, and then falls head over heels in love with Mr Right, than about the wide-eyed, innocent virgin who practically swoons when she meets the hero and only discovers her own sexuality through his help. In my opinion, this is a step back for women. Being judged worthy, lovable and desirable only on the basis of whether or not one is still a virgin is in my opinion harmful for any women. We have other reasons to be proud and feel worthy - chastity is definitely not a requirement. Okay, maybe I am digressing a bit, but this topic is very engaging and I could not butt out.

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