July 25th, 2006
In which Anya attempts to be tolerant of the intolerant…

….and almost even succeeds.

If you’re a blog watcher, you’ve probably seen this letter to the editor in the RWR responded to numerous times – Kate Rothwell, Smart Bitches, Lauren Dane, The Good, the Bad and the Unread and Karen S. (and I’m sure there are more by now). Normally I steer clear of such controversy, but I felt compelled to respond to this because it hits a tender spot with me on many levels, both personally and professionally.

The hostility against homosexuals that some people displays simply confounds me. I cannot understand it at a base, cellular level. I. Just. Can’t. And when I read the vitriolic undercurrent in Jan Butler’s recent letter to the editor (in RWA’s publication the RWR), it literally makes me upset to my stomach.

Here’s part of Ms. Butler’s letter:

. . . romance isn’t about just any “two people” celebrating “love in its many forms.” Organizations such as the Man-Boy Love Association would certainly refer to themselves as celebrating love “two people” (or more) finding love in one of its many forms” . . . while they actively promote pedophilia.

Think RWA can’t go down that slipper slope? Think again. Under our present definition, we cannot exclude such “love stories” under the category of “romance”. We, as a culture, seem to have forgotten how to say “enough is enough,” but RWA can–indeed, must–do better than that. . . .

And, please, spare us the arguments about “censorship” and “inclusiveness.” Preference for “one man, one woman” stories represents what RWA has always claimed is romance’s target demographic: college-educated, married, middle-class, monogamous, and moral. . . .Only in recent years has a vocal (translate: shrill) minority tried to drive RWA’s focus off that path, under the guise of “broadening its horizons.” But refusing to define romance according to the parameters it has held for centuries doesn’t “broaden” anything . . . it only starts us down the aforementioned slope, and once we’re in that slide, heaven help us.

There’s an old saying, “Go home with the one who brought you here.” What brought romance fiction to its present level of success is a collection of decades’ worth of one-man, one-woman relationships stories, in all their richness, variety, and power. RWA should be the first to endorse that, rather than attempting to placate fringe groups trying to impose their standards upon the rest of us. If anyone’s in danger of being “censored” here, it’s believers in “what comes naturally”: one-man, one-woman romance. We in RWA owe it to ourselves not to let that happen. Jan W. Butler

I respect Ms. Butler’s right to have an opinion. She can fear/hate homosexuals and write about it publicly. She can even make the false, inexplicable, illogical jump from homosexuality to pedophilia. Excuse me a moment while I stare into space trying to find a connection there…uh…nope can’t do it.

I’m trying really hard to be tolerant of the intolerant. I will also be fair here and say that Ms. Butler had a specific focus in her letter. This was not a diatribe against homosexuality in general. (Well, okay, she does pretty much say that homosexuality is not “natural,” doesn’t she? Glad she’s an authority on that.) It was a plea to the RWA to define romance in a way that would make authors like me anathema to the organization, at the very least an outsider. However, a broader fear homosexuality seemed lace the letter itself and that’s really what hit me in the solar plexus. Whether or not this was Ms. Butler’s intention, it was perceived by me and many others.

All that said, Ms. Butler has every right to make her thoughts known. Ms. Butler, however, wants to deny all the rest of us the same freedom of expression, at least within the RWA’s scope of acceptability. That I cannot swallow. I write male/male love stories. I write female/female interaction. I write polyamorous romances. I see beauty and emotion in ALL these love stories, every last one.

Just because same-sex or polyamorous interaction makes you uncomfortable, Ms. Butler, does not give you the right to deny everyone else in the world the ability to make their own reading (and writing) choices. That’s right, I said CHOICE. The matter is a simple one. I write and read what I choose to write and read…and you choose to do the same.

Ms. Butler’s central argument, of course, is that the RWA reconsider its current stance and define the romance genre in narrow, traditional terms. One man. One woman. Anything else will cause the downfall of the romance genre (and life as we know it, apparently), blah, blah. However the RWA has basically said that it is not their place to define the romance. They would be correct in this. Who does define the romance genre? The readers. They’ve got the power. And as long as there are readers (bless you all, every one) who enjoy non-traditional romances, there will be authors around like me to write them.

And now I sit down to work on my newest EC novel. What’s it about, you ask? Well, the story is about two men who are in an emotional and committed relationship and fall in love with the same woman. It’s male/male AND poly. Avert your eyes, Ms. Butler, I don’t want your brain to explode.

4 comments to “In which Anya attempts to be tolerant of the intolerant…”

  1. Hurrah! You said it beautifully hon, and I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m an avid romance reader and have been for years, but frankly, one of the things that’s always upset me about the romance genre is that, while the characters may have a broad scope, they are fairly stereotypical in that they’re straight, somewhere between 22 and 32, and monogamy is a must. Frankly, it’s saddening. I love romance, I’ll read it until the day I die, and I intend to write it.

    But frankly, humanity is expanding. And the romance genre needs to expand with it or it’s going to go down in flames. I think Ms. Butler IS reflecting upon the downfall of the romance genre—-only she has it backwards. The Romance genre is going to sink: IF IT CAN’T KEEP UP!

    Homosexuality has hidden in it’s closet for thousands of years, and it’s finally getting to a point where it’s being accepted as normal and natural because scientific evidence is pointing in that direction more and more every day. Sure, people are screaming bloody murder and fighting it, but the same was done about abolishing segregation and interrracial relationships.

    Polyamory, well, that’s an entirely different ballgame, but at the end of the day, it’s also getting more social recognition, and while it may never be an accepted norm, it’s still there, and more and more, people are coming out of their boxes and going “Hrmm, okay, monogamy just isn’t for me…let’s try this.”

    People like that want their romance novels to reflect their lives. It’s an age old fact of romance. And if the genre can’t keep up, there goes the readers.

    Personally, writers like yourself who have the gutts to step up and write about different “lovestyles” as I refer to them as, are refreshing, innovative, and I hope to everything in the universe that ya’ll can find your niche in the publishing world so that stories like yours will become more and more prominant.

    Anyways, I’m babbling, but I think you get my point 🙂

    Hurry up and blast out that novel, I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Thank you, Manda.

    “The Romance genre is going to sink: IF IT CAN’T KEEP UP!”

    Aha! Excellent point. 🙂

  3. I whole hartedly agree and I can’t wait to read that novel you’re working on!!


  4. And yet another brava for well-written, intelligent discussion on this. I’m glad you chose to speak up.

    And I want to read that book too!