Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mommy Porn?—A Chicks & Dicks Emergency Alert



BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! This is an official C&D Emergency Alert! Please read the following post and prepare to weigh in. Thank you.


Mommy Porn? Or Mommy is a fully-functioning human with a sex drive?

by JM Cartwright

Yesterday at the RT Booklovers Con in Chicago, a CNBC reporter used the term "mommy porn" to describe the erotica that women are reading and enjoying these days. (I can picture the anchors back at the studios with smirks on their faces.)

Huh. What a neat, concise phrase that manages to denigrate an entire gender, box up a book category and dismiss readers all in one blow. I wonder if that was Courtney Reagan's intention when she casually used the phrase while delivering an otherwise very interesting and insightful report on what's happening in the book industry.

The phrase was used again in a Q&A session later, when an audience member spoke about the term, asking a panel of editors, agents and authors about it and what impact it was having on the choices that industry execs are making when buying and repping manuscripts. The discussion that followed was illuminating, to say the least.

When I was a kid, the men/dads I knew kept tittie calendars on their garage walls, and usually had a Playboy or two lying around. But that was okay. In the meantime, moms were back in the kitchen or vacuuming or doing laundry, asexual creatures that they were, just keeping the home fires burning. Hmmm. Perhaps that Leave It To Beaver picture wasn't quite as truthful as some folks would like it to seem. Oh - and today? - let's not forget at all the success of places like Hooters, and the "gentleman's clubs" that are all over the place in cities around the world. Even the arch-terrorist Bin Laden had his porn stash.

The RT Booklovers Con has lots of fun and interesting panels and events. But it clearly, unmistakably shows us one very essential truth: turns out that women are indeed sexual beings. Gasp! Heads up, people in TV land; if women weren't sexual beings, none of us would be here. Oh, wait, I guess there might be some who aren't so interested but that's certainly no reason to slap the rest of us down with a label stating, in essence, if we're interested in books with sex scenes - maybe lots of sex - then we're just porn enthusiasts. There, that neatly shelves any concerns that we might be persons of value, with feelings, thoughts, needs and wants that just might not be addressed by category romance books. Brrr, I can feel the shockwaves through the land.

Boys and girls: women like romance, women like love. Maybe it's not a stretch to sometimes say we're in love with love. Thus, we're often indulging ourselves in a good (or great) romance that allows us to happily, mentally, experience the wonder and joy of love and yes, the heat and sweaty fervor or a great sexual workout. Why should guys have all the fun? And, oh? We even like stories with non-traditional protagonists. Scratch that; we LOVE those stories. Gay romance is an exploding sub-genre in romance books.

Women are in love with men in love. Yes, we enjoy the sex. Who doesn't? But it's more than that. Yesterday, at another panel, one reader asked why we women are buying and reading edgy, erotic stories of love and sex. The panels members and audience bandied the question, answering with their own opinions. Well, here's mine, which I offered up yesterday as well. Women want to believe that a man can fall in love, can be vulnerable and care enough about someone else  to lay it on the line, talk about that love, his feelings. We want to believe that all men are capable of those things. Else, why get up in the morning? Why continue to hope for a better tomorrow if half the world doesn’t really give a red rat's patoot?

The bottom line (since this report generated from CNBC I thought that was appropriate) for me is this. Women don't need to be ashamed of what they like, enjoy or love. First of all, it's nobody else's damned business. Second, as grown-ups, we all get to make choices and it's not really anybody else's place to judge those choices. Now being human, that's exactly what we do. Clearly, we all need to get over that.

Consenting adults can (and should) do what's legal and what they like. Why isn't that enough for everyone?

The explosion of eBooks is being driven by romance. Surprise, surprise. And it's also saving the publishing industries' collective ass. It's changing that industry at the very same time. Publishers, agents, editors - everybody's scrambling to keep up and stay ahead of the curve. Seems an impossible task but each day we see evidence that savvy entrepreneurs are grabbing a share of the market. Consumers are in control, that seems clear. The choices we make are what is governing the choices that publishers are making.  Isn't that the essence of capitalism? Why must it be denigrated by using a sophomoric phrase like "mommy porn?"

Industry experts, reporters, followers, et al, here's a newsflash for you: we really don't care what you think any more. We're in the driver's seat and the industry is all around us, waving its arms, yelling "choose my book, buy over here, I've got what you want."

Seems to me, we're the ones lifting a superior brow, asking who's laughing now? 

42 comments:

  1. I want to know why it's called Mommy Porn, since I read it and have never been nor will ever be a mommy. Just cause I have a vagina does not mean I'm a mommy. I think there are a lot of women out there that read this genre, and all the men of course who wouldn't fit into that box. Sigh.

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  2. Agreed. It's stupid and a way to marginalize what we love to read. Please help spread the word, Lissa!

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  3. It makes me want to do an eye roll that goes on for about five minutes when I hear statements like "mommy porn" or "lady porn." I can't believe that usage was allowed in the broadcast because it is such a sweeping statement and does dismiss those who love to read romance/erotica. Like it doesn't bother me enough when I am at the bookstore and I have to sneak my way into the "Special Interests" section to get a m/m book... I don't want to have a big sign put up that says, "MOMMY PORN IN THE BACK" Putting readers on the defensive is a bad move!

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    1. Agreed, SE. IMO the phrase was used to titillate and because reporters like to stir the pot. It certainly wasn't based on any knowledge of the publishing industry, much less erotic romance.

      And thankfully we have the internet which is leaving bricks and mortar stores that have "Special Interest" sections in the dust.

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  4. So what part of the stuff guys go for is "Daddy porn?" I read everything from sweet-no-sex through some hard-core erotica. I don't want that particular label on any of it (or on anything I write.) Romance/erotica/porn would seem to cover the range. The term "mommy" diminishes it to some cute little thing we mother types do before we go back to our dishes. Bletch.

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    1. Daddy porn indeed. It's okay for guys to buy, watch, read it, salivate over it or even jerk off to it. But when a woman reads it, OH MY, the horror of it.

      Let's not let them win this one by banishing us to the corner or the back room. Women are the majority sex on the planet and frankly it's time to take it to them. We don't wish to be denigrated or diminished or dismissed. Period.

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  5. "Mommy Porn" - Just oh my God! So condescending. Argh, I get just angry seeing that term.

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    1. It is nauseating and stupid - and condescending. You're right!

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  6. There are four basic human relationships that are addressed in literature-- platonic, filial, romantic and divine. The romantic relationship can bleed into the other three-- the romantic relationship often encompasses a deep platonic relationship, especially at the beginning. The romantic relationship establishes a household or an emotional backdrop in which a parent/child relationship can thrive or whither. Very, very often, the people who claim to have no spiritual roots see their first glimmer of the divine in their loved one's eyes. To call stories of romantic love "mommy porn"? Literally shits all over one of the hallmarks of being human, and so called pundits who use the phrase should be ashamed.

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    1. That is the very point, Amy. It's used cavalierly and to provoke a response, without care for the derogatory nature of the phrase. Regardless of where it came from, it needs to go.

      Well said. Thank you.

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  7. Am I over-reacting when I think we're seeing more and more of this sort of disrespect for things that are identified with women lately? I think it's the election, and I've been sort of taking it in stride, but it's hitting closer and closer to the heart of my existence and purpose.

    I might normally say, "Oh, it's because everyone has to put things in a box," and laugh at their ignorance, but I'm sick of seeing this "war on women" go on. In my mind, this is one more strike against us, and it affects men too. I love this post, JM. Thank you for it.

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    1. Well, I have to say that I think the "war on women" thing is being somewhat manufactured, but I absolutely do agree with you that it's all too easy to slam stay-at-home moms as ignorant know-nothings and it's all to easy to slam working women (many of whom are moms) as sell-outs for not staying home, or treat them as less than the men who are their peers, when they're doing as good or better.

      We were talking about this who Mommy Porn thing earlier at RT and the phrase may have been coined initially to sell something but it's pernicious in its impact and it needs to disappear. As a society we need to learn to value the differences among us and celebrate the choices each of us make. Jeez, I sound soap-boxy.

      Thanks, Anne - I don't think you're alone with your concerns and feelings. Maybe we disagree politically but I think when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I have a feeling we agree more than not.

      JM

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    2. I don't think we're that far apart, JM. I think the "war on woman" is mostly hype, but there are a lot of things going on that I don't like right now. I really don't think this is connected, but it is strangely coincidental for me. I simply don't like it.

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    3. Hi, Anne, I don't think you're over-reacting. When I read this part of JM's post:

      "...as grown-ups, we all get to make choices and it's not really anybody else's place to judge those choices."

      I also couldn't help thinking of the current flood of judgment about women and our choices.

      One bit of comfort: the same people who want to limit women's choices also usually want to ban porn. So for that battle, at least, I think we'll have men on our side. ;)

      Nice column, JM.

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    4. I completely agree, Anne.

      And I'd go further to say that how women are portrayed on TV and in music has become flat-out insulting. Women are so often portrayed nowadays as clueless tramps. It's disgusting.

      Swing it back, feminism. Time to swing. It. Back!

      Strong women are sexy. Confident women are sexy. (At least my husband thinks so. :)

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  8. Well, it hits at the heart of society's gender roles and stereotyping at it's very root - for example if a child goes out dressed in an unusual way or a little grubby, even though it may be dad that has the child, it's "where's the mother, oh, isn't she a terrible mother for letting her children out like that". To the ever popular - 'if a man gets plenty of sex he's a stud, but a woman? Well, she's a slut'. I laugh at the expression 'mummy porn' but it is ignorant at best, derogatory at worst. I am a mother, and a lover, but I'm also a business woman, I'm no fool AND I love a good book, particularly well written erotica and, yes, porn too but I'm an equal opportunity erotica, porn reading woman to the end and my partner thanks me for it. And by the way, some of my top 20 all time favourites are books in the erotica genre. The reason? They are gritty, beautifully writen, well researched and stack up against books of any genre. Mummy porn indeed!

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  9. Here, here. Women can be many things and to marginalize us with silly, insulting, demeaning language reflects that very stereotyping you mention. It's annoying and aggravating. You've said it well - and thank you for commenting.

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  10. Another example of the pervasive double standard between men and women that has been ongoing probably since the beginning of time. I don't know if there are any male commanders above, but I'd be curious to hear their reaction to this term.

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    1. Sorry, commanders should have been commenters.

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    2. As would I, Barb. And yes, the double standard is all too alive and well.

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  11. Mummy porn - yuck. Not a mummy and not going to be. Reminds me of the description given to 'Fifty Shades of Grey' the ex fanfic story. It gives this stereotyped vision of women sitting at home reading 'porn' instead of doing the ironing.
    Shock news - women like reading and writing about sex and that would be all women.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Regardless of our mommy status, we like sex. We're all different, so we may not have the same triggers or find the same things enticing but as humans we all have the same basic drive. To deny that or ignore it or trivialize it is futile and stupid.

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  12. People with small narrow minds have small narrow opinions...
    I actually feel sorry for them...
    They have no idea what they're missing out on...
    And I don't give a shit what they think of my reading flavors...
    Cindy

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  13. More power to you, Cindy - and to us all!

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  14. UGH that is just so condescending and it puts this image in my head of the little woman in her kitchen barefoot and pregnant reading a book hidden by a LHJ magazine. Seriously makes me ragey.

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    1. Perfect analogy! Love the reference to Ladies Home Journal... there's a blast from the past.

      Good one! Glad you're angry and that you stopped by. Spread the word. 8-)

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  15. "Mommies are people,
    People with children,
    Busy with children,
    And things that they do,
    There's a lot of things,
    A lot mommies can do..."

    Reporters obviously didn't pay attention to Free to Be You and Me.

    What bugs me most about the term "Mommy Porn" is that it suggests that the porn (and erotica) I consume is somehow softer and sweeter than regular porn/erotica. I want to say, "Oh, you mean where two guys beat the crap out of a subby guy and then call in their friends for a gang bang? Yeah—I lurve mommy porn!"

    I read erotic romance, and even sometimes watch porn. And there's nothing "mommy" about it.

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    1. How sweet it is, Daisy! Agree with you 100%.

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  16. What bugs me is the way it underscores the baseline assumption of "porn" (the inference being "REAL porn for MEN") as the normative standard, with "mommy porn" then becoming some lesser non-standard variation. It manages both to denigrate/marginalize the women in the equation while reinforcing the dominant (male) culture. If romance/erotic romance is just cutesy "mommy porn", it can be dismissed as both a literary form AND as legitimate pornography. Men who like it can be ridiculed for that, and women who like, you know...that actual porn stuff...can be looked down upon for THAT. The label is wrong, and perpetuates wrong thinking, on so many levels.

    As for me, I like my porn from kink.com, which I don't think anybody would argue is "porn lite for ladies". On the other hand, while I might joke about it, I don't actually consider what I write to be pornography, in that the primary purpose isn't just titillation. But if it were porn, it certainly wouldn't be "mommy porn". Unless it featured two or more moms getting it on, sans dudes, I suppose.

    I never understood the whole "porn for women" designation anyway...who are all those women in porno movies, then? Unless it's male/male, porn pretty much involves women as much as men. Often MORE women than men. Are they actually dudes in very convincing drag? And yeah, sure, it may be targeted for male audiences much of the time, but at the same time it's hardly a no-girls-allowed clubhouse. Ugh. The whole virgin/whore dichotomy expectation thing just makes me want to bitch-slap society, it really does.

    On a side note, people who feel the "war on women" is manufactured...c'mon down to Texas, lemme show you some laws and lawmakers who might just change your mind. Scary shit down here, seriously.

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    1. You raise several excellent points. Even our porn is lower grade than men's by default, it would seem. And bringing up the subject of all the women present in male porn (such as it is) is so pertinent. Women are at least half of the porn that is apparently deemed acceptable.

      Love the bitch-slap society note - totally agree with you. And I will bow to your native wisdom on the laws in Tejas. Thanks, Delphine!

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  17. The term "mommy porn" makes me think of some of the incestuous titles floating around out there right now with Mommy or Daddy as the key words in their titles. I won't name any and to each his or her own, but I personally don't appreciate the type of books I read or write to be associated with that particular category or any flippant term someone decides to throw out there from one day to the next. We don't need a label. Just let us enjoy what we want. It's really nobody else's business.

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    1. No, we don't need a label, but clearly someone does. It's worth it to ask ourselves who needs that label and why (as we're doing here).

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    2. Oh I agree. I may have come off sounding a little harsh - sorry about that. Too early in the morning for me to be throwing my rants around. :)

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    3. Good point, K-Lee. But obviously we're not associated with the questionable stories you mention. Though I heartily support the notion of to each his own, long as it's consenting adults.

      I do tend to agree that it's the label du jour and stay tuned for the next insulting
      Phrase to be assigned to somebody, somewhere.

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    4. Oh, K-lee I didn't mean your comment was harsh—I didn't think it was. No worries. :-)

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  18. I guess what really gets me about this kind of term being used in conjunction with m/m romance/erotica is the whole assumption that the only people who write or read this kind of fiction are straight, married, older, cisgendered women. While that does describe some writers and readers it's pretty problematic, as I think we are all becoming increasingly ware, to assume that goes for all readers and writers in the genre. That's the first thing that jumps to my mind when I read the term.

    The second which I think someone above me pointed out is that it allows the entire literally genre to be dismissed as "porn" and at the same time enforces the idea that no woman would ever have anything to do with "real porn". Only soft core stuff which fade to black if she's being extra naughty. Which is problematic for so many different reasons I can't even begin to name all of them.

    And also on a less serious level I laughed so hard when I read "Mommy porn" then the comment about "Daddy porn". It made me think of Daddy/boy, Daddy/girl and Mommy/boy, Mommy/girl play which is not at all what I'm sure the reporter was intending :~)

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    1. Would be very interesting to have Courtney Reagan expound upon the mommy/daddy thingee. I enjoyed that thought, EE.

      Yes, I think it's very clear in all the comments here that we're a wide variety of writers and readers, which is a microcosm of the reading public. Woe betide those who seek to pigeon-hole us. We don't fit into any mold and we're breaking all the book rules as we go. And we sure as hell don't need some small-minded pukes sitting behind a desk to ascribe labels to us that aren't in the least accurate and are abominably insulting from the get-go.

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  19. Hi JM! Your blog was pointed out to my by a friend who said, 'Hey, a lady was at that thingy where you made the publishers fumble for their Bibles'. ;)

    I was one who asked the 'pro' panel about what they saw their future involvement in erotic romance aka Mommy Porn(barf) being. It was very funny to see the deer in the headlights look from many of the panel members and the glare of 'you dirty slut' from others. One or two had some good answers but man, you sure didn't see any of the authors stepping up to say they read/enjoy it and I think one of the pub reps might have passed out in a ye olde swoon. They actually made me feel embarrassed for asking the question, like I was asking them if they liked to take dump in public. :P

    But, and this is a big but, I received a ton of positive feedback from the readers and authors that were there and I realized that I could give two donkey farts less if some people on the panel now had me labeled with a big scarlet 'P' on my back. So thank you so much for posting this, seeing the feedback here really makes me smile.

    Ann

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  20. Ann - I'm so glad you posted! I hope you'll let all your friends know about us here at C&D and that you'll come back regularly.

    As I mentioned during that panel at RT, I was planning to ask them my question on the downlow, but based on the hesitant response you generated BY BEING BRAVE ENOUGH TO STAND UP AND ASK THE QUESTION, I went for it. Sweet!

    I spoke to both Louise Fury and Alicia Condon, who indicated they would definitely accept male/male submissions. I hope that turns out to be the case, but you are absolutely right calling out the lack of response from the six or seven authors who were there. If I had to guess, I'd say that at least some if not a majority of them write sex scenes in their books. Right? Maybe even hot, sweaty sex? Ohhh, myyyy.

    Anyway - you're great and I hope to meet you in person. How about attending GayRomLit this fall in Albuquerque? Failing that, we'll have to meet here in the blogosphere. Thanks so much for starting an amazing conversation.

    JM

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  21. Good lord. I can see I was better off staying home. I'm glad that most readers ignore that crap. I mean really, mommy porn? I imagine most of the younger, single readers, along with our ever-growing list of male readers (both gay and straight) would be offended if they card at all. *sigh* why does everything have to be a catchphrase or a sound byte?

    Great post, JM

    J.J.

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    1. Thanks, JJ. Yes, ignoring it is probably what a lot of them do, but I just got pissed about the silliness, sly, smirky dig of it all.

      And we do indeed live in a soundbyte world, where labels abound. I confess I've labeled my share and I try to remind myself to stop it. Because this is where that gets us.

      8-)

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