I still think about this question every now and again. It's the self-reflection that comes up over time. Just recently, I've been seeing all the hype about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie releasing soon.
I never read the book. I won't see the movie, either.
I don't even know that I'd call it romance. Erotic and Romance have distinct differences when you get to the nitty-gritty of story-telling. A happily-ever-after is not a given in erotic fiction. Like with women's Lit--for example, The Help. Truthfully, I don't pick up women's lit for the life of me. It's unsatisfying to read about women who may...or may not find a happily ever after.
But the hype of Fifty Shades brings about the controversy of romance, in general. Sex! In Books! Because for the first time in a long time, this erotic tale [notice I didn't say romance] is front and center of commercial fiction. This is a sexual journey... as people see, or like to see, or believe that sex has become--some kind of freedom, and that the freedom of sex will bring some kind of resolution. To me, that's the element that separates romance from erotic fiction. In romance, sex might bring change or create conflict or even bond two characters. As in real life--whether we believe sex is good before or after marriage--sex does these things. But it's not about the sex. It's the emotion behind making love that forces a person to look deeper into themselves and find a truth. What is love? How will it change a person? Is this a change the character can allow?
Recently, a facebook friend posted something. Sex before marriage is a lie.
Now, I was raised conservatively enough to understand where this person is coming from. True love waits..and all that, yet at the same time, the statement feels wrong, it feels judgemental... a blanket statement that doesn't truly encompass everything good about humanity, including our faults. And without faults, we would have no need for this Love that we claim--forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
So I commented.
Sex before marriage is human.
Is it part of your story? Does love exist in a vacuum of faultlessness? Or do we show our characters in real life? Is sex something to hide just because it's sacred or special or meant for that one person? Or is it time to have an open discussion about it? Do we not already talk about sex...woman to woman? Mother to daughter? Husband to wife?
Romance is inspiration and encouragement to maintain the vows we made [or want to make]. Reading romance is a small blip in a life full of DIY books, how-to manuals, conferences, retreats, workshops, and therapy sessions--all telling us how to live better, love more, and be happy.
So, why not read a romance? write a romance?....
Now, I have to get back to my latest book in which Mr. Perfection completely fails by falling for the most imperfect, flawed woman he's ever met...and bugger him, he wants her like he's never wanted anyone else, including the very nice, mother-approved woman he's been dating for a year and has every intention of marrying!! Will he be able to control his suddenly over-active libido and maintain his self-appointed heading to the perfect life, or will the road bring him to a point where conflict and discovery make him stronger and lead him to true love?
Gee, I know what I'm wishing for even if it does mean sex before marriage. <3 Way more satisfying to overcome the conflict, the idea that this perfect life is just going to land in our lap. To overcome the idea that we know what's right for ourselves!