What is it about pornography that makes women dislike it so much? Is it the objectification of women to fulfill male fantasies? Is it that we, as normal women, can’t ever live up to that gorgeous, airbrushed porn star? Is that it sets a man’s expectations to high when it comes to women?
Yet… don’t romance novels do the same thing to men? But whenever anyone, be it a religious leader or a husband, objects, we defend it. It’s not porn, we say… or is it?
Pornography is defined in the dictionary as anything intended to create erotic excitement, be it visual or emotional. Men are turned on by visual images, thus why pornography in video form appeals to them so much. Women, on the other hand, are wired differently. Our excitement is created mostly in the mind, with expectation, implication, and romance. We want a strong man, so we find strong literary men incredibly sexy. So, the romance novel is born. It doesn’t even have to be overly sexualized; just the thought of forbidden fascination, a stolen, heavily-charged kiss, or a chance encounter is enough to turn us on.
And therein lies the problem. It’s very difficult to live up to the Bible’s standard of thinking “on all things that are lovely and pure,” particularly in the modern world, where pornography – either in its visual or emotional forms – is readily available. We might defend our choice of reading material, since by most classifications, it isn’t all that sensual… but does it produce sensuality in us? Do we get to the point where reading a Christian novel, we wish the scene hadn’t ended there? I remember reading Lori Wick novels as a teenager, and being annoyed that the door always shut on the couple. Would it have killed her to give them a passionate embrace, at least? Something to go on. And that’s why she stopped there… because anything more would encourage my emotional porn.
As a writer, I continually face this challenge. It’s a natural progression of events for romantic characters to become lovers, and that presents a new range of problems. Not only must I be aware of leading myself into sexual temptation by fantasizing incredible love scenes for my fictional characters, I must be cautious of potentially leading others “into temptation” through what I write. Sometimes the most erotic love scenes aren’t even “sexy” by the standards of the world, but if they connect to you on an emotional level, you find them more so. Less can be much more. Graphic love scenes in books or in movies aren’t my thing, in fact, it can turn me off… but bring emotional passion into it, and that’s another story. What’s more emotionally satisfying and spiritually stirring, an animalistic sex scene or that moment in The Painted Veil when after a long estrangement, Walter sweeps Kitty up into his arms?
So, who is responsible for our reactions to “emotional erotica”? Is it the author or the state of our own heart? Do we learn what triggers our desire for emotional pornography and stay away from it, or do we indulge and defend it as “harmless”? Do even innocent romance stories threaten our future and current relationships, because it objectifies men into something no man can actually attain? Where does instinct end and sin begin? It’s different for each one of us, but in this fallen, utterly-sexual world, nothing is ever entirely innocent.