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Men are from Mars; women lust after Mars

The Washington Post had the foresight to include the Sunday magazine section in the paper delivered on Friday, the last print issue we have seen since the Snowpocalypse hit the DC area Friday afternoon. Because of that, I was able to stave off crossword puzzle withdrawal, and to read one of my favorite features, Gene Weingarten's humor column.

This week's column is called “XXX for the XX Set: Women's erotica isn't just dirty. It's nice and dirty.” In it, Gene interviews writer Kate Rothwell, who writes romantic erotica under the name Summer Devon.

Gene Weingarten is almost always funny, and this column made me laugh out loud. But I do think Ms. Rothwell/Devon is wrong about one thing. I think men can write women's erotica if they have studied it, which Gene Weingarten clearly hadn't (his attempt was one of the places that made me laugh). But when men do write for the “women's market,” they use a feminine pseudonym, because otherwise most women would assume it wasn't what they were looking for.

If you have a moment, read the column and then let me know what you think of the assertion that basically, porn/erotica is about unrealistic expectations. I found that statement fascinating.

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Note: I turned off that part of my brain that goes ::snicker snicker:: and am trying to talk like a mature adult.

The point of some porn/erotica is fantasy/wish fulfillment, but I guess you could say that about regular or genre fiction as well. (See: evidence of Mary Sue-ism in genre fiction.) Another part of it is the desire to see how two people get together -sometimes in graphic detail- and perhaps another part is for people to find satisfaction in reading a story with a happy ending.

(Okay, I walked into the euphemism there. My bad.)

And yes, I'm not an idiot: some people use those stories to arouse themselves.

However, I don't think porn/erotica is completely -or even mostly- about unrealistic expectations. If that were the case, most movies made today would be suspect. Why get the most attractive men/women to play roles on the screen if there wasn't a bit of unrealistic expectations surrounding their appearance? Do people really think all of the characters in a drama should look like the beautiful people? It's one thing if the show is about a modeling agency, but about high school or college, or even a law firm? At least that's one thing that The Big Bang Theory has going for it: the main characters -with the exception of Penny- look normal.

I know some people write their fiction using movie stars or other attractive people as their mind's eye model, but is that realistic? And should it be that way?

(Ooo... I sense a blog post.)
Feb. 7th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: BBT. I think Koothrappali is actually pretty hot. But you're right. One reason I like it is that even very pretty Penny is often shown hanging out around her place in comfy clothes with her hair stuck up any which way.

That's something I've noticed form watching British TV shows, too. The people on Eastenders look a lot more everyday/normal than the people on Days of Our Lives.
Feb. 7th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
You put your finger right on the reason I've recently gotten hooked on EASTENDERS. My wife has been a fan of the show for a couple of years but I just started watching it with her the past two or three months and it's precisely because of the reason you state: The folks on EASTENDERS look like people I could see walking down my street and not like the impossibly handsome/gorgeous people inhabiting most TV shows.
Feb. 7th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
I suppose it averages out. British soaps probably pay less, but the actors don't have to shell out for plastic surgery. -)
Feb. 7th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
This just got me to thinking about American Idol. Isn't a big part of that show the physical image of the contestants?
Feb. 7th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
with exceptions like Reuben Stoddard. Pretty isn't enough. You do have to be able to sing. Even more depressing in a way.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
Well, the singing should be the point of it. How you look shouldn't matter, yet it does.
Feb. 7th, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
I have noticed something crazy about American Idol this year and last...ever since Elliot Yamin, EVERY contestant has the most perfect teeth I've ever seen. Seriously. I suppose when one is a singer, one's mouth is a focus, but it's impossible to believe all these people have such perfect, white, straight teeth.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
That's a scary thought. I just had the episode of Friends where Ross went to get his teeth whitened running through my head, and imagining incandescent glowing teeth from an American Idol contestant is enough to make you run screaming the other way.
Feb. 8th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
It's really crazy. Take note. You'll see what I mean.
Feb. 8th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
Don't you think that's because teeth are easily "fixable" now that you can apply white, pretty, even, porcelain veneers to crooked or discolored teeth? It takes time and work to make someone thinner, lots of money and pain to make their faces prettier, but new teeth are (compared to major surgery) cheap and quick. A couple grand and you're good to go.
Feb. 8th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. Absolutely. It's just funny to watch the earlier shows, then the later ones. Now, even the hopefuls that never make it onto the show seem to have perfect teeth.
Feb. 8th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
That's just scary.

Have a rotten day? Fix your teeth.
Need a pick-me-up? Fix your teeth.
Want someone to overlook your glaring weaknesses? Fix your teeth!
Feb. 7th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
Here's a question that just popped into my head: while that may be the case for British shows, what about Bollywood? After all, we know how Hollywood operates, but what about the Indian film industry?
Feb. 7th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
I know very little about Bollywood except they get worked up if anyone is shown actually kissing on screen. It's actually kind of hard to gauge, as beauty has a somewhat cultural bias. Good-looking in Mumbai might not be good looking in the Western world.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
That was fantastic. The example he posed vs. the reality of erotica is essentially the difference between men and women. A love scene, for a man, is all about the physical thrashing, the sweat, the saturation of lust, the pure adrenaline-rushing, feral thing that is sex. And then they never see one another again. (That cracked my shit up--that's porn, darling, not erotica.)

In erotica, a love scene can be all those things as well--with a purpose. There is never just sex in a sex scene. I'm not talking emotions either. There must be more to it than sex. It forms a connection--good or bad--between the characters, or a single character and the story she resides in. It creates conflict and tension and not simply for the moment. It resounds in scene after erotic scene whether or not they are connected.

**Of course, there are always exceptions. This is what I have found as a reader and as a writer.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Good thing you put that disclaimer in, because I was going to call you on it. I wince when I read variations of

A love scene, for a man, is all about the physical thrashing, the sweat, the saturation of lust, the pure adrenaline-rushing, feral thing that is sex. And then they never see one another again.

because that shouldn't be the point of it all. I'm not trying to be critical of porn/erotica in general -that's a personal choice- but there ought to be more to it than just the sex.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
My husband loves Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt books. Sex is all about the act. It's titilating, often messy, and almost never an actual plot point more than it is a device.

Not all men like this. Not all women like erotica. I was speaking speficially within the genre.

I did note, however, in the bulk of sex scenes I've read written by men, it is often quick, raw and to the point--that being an explosive orgasm that has an awful lot to do with domination. :)
Feb. 7th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
I did note, however, in the bulk of sex scenes I've read written by men, it is often quick, raw and to the point--that being an explosive orgasm that has an awful lot to do with domination. :)

Yeah, I can imagine.

I guess I think of someone's first time, and there's such a disconnect between what is written and what really happens. Not everybody gets that idealized version of a first time that you often read about or see on the screen. I'm not asking for a lot of "oops" or "sorry about that" or "ow" or other things along those lines, but words evocative of giants bestriding the world like colossi probably is a bit much.
Feb. 7th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
Ever read THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy? Now there was a first time that women could empathize with. Basically, it boiled down to he's happy and she's no longer a virgin but she can't figure out what all the fuss is about because not that much happened.
Feb. 7th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
No, I haven't. I might want to check that out. Was there a lot of desire leading up to it, and then there's the big letdown?

Feb. 8th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
Been a long time since i read it; it's considered a classic of early feminism. I seem to recall the part i mentioned was older guy, younger woman, and she was more curious than anything else. Also, remember it was written way way back in the early 60's and set in the 30's, The Wikipeia entry on it is pretty good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Group_%28novel%29
Feb. 8th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Was it strictly curiosity, or was there a real interest between the two?

The book being written in the 60's about the 30's will have an impact, since things have evolved since then.
Feb. 8th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
She might well have written it in the 50's for all I know. I don't recall the details well enough to answer your questions, but it seems to me they did start a relationship.
Feb. 8th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
Thanks for the info, Karen. I'm going to have to follow up with that novel.

(It just occurred to me that we're talking about this while I'm watching the Super Bowl. Go figure.)
Feb. 8th, 2010 03:42 am (UTC)
words evocative of giants bestriding the world like colossi probably is a bit much.

That was too hilarious for words. If I weren't so full of the delicious but gut-busting bread pudding I made for Superbowl yummies, I'd have fallen off my chair.
Feb. 8th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
Thanks, I think.

I wasn't thinking it that funny, but I had the image in my head of "OMG! Greatest sex EVAH!" I knew I had to tone that whole thing down a bit, but my point was that in a lot of books the wording always seems to make the first big hookup so spectacular that, well....

I guess if I had to describe a lot of first time hookups, spectacular wouldn't be in the description. Nervous would be more like it.
Feb. 8th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
Mileage varies, but I'd say you're right on that one.
Feb. 7th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
So, you're saying it was good for you? -)
Feb. 7th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
::rim shot::

Feb. 8th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
You're the man, baby. ;)
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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