I recently read a comment in a thread at another blog that referred to romance novels as “porn for women.” This is a common refrain, and every time I read it I develop a tic, because it’s just astonishingly misguided and wrong. Do you know what porn for women is? Porn. Yes, women watch/download/use/purchase/make porn. A lot of women do, in fact.
I’ve seen porn; I’ve read romance novels. The two things have little in common and scratch two entirely different itches. Porn is people fucking. That’s it. It’s not nuanced, it’s not romantic.
There’s a reason women don’t skip the parts leading up to the sex scenes in romance novels. It’s because it’s the getting there that’s the exciting part. It’s the emotional bond between the two main characters, it’s the longing, it’s the lusting. In fact, after awhile, a lot of romance novel sex scenes blur together. So I’m reading them for the stuff that comes before and after, truth be told.
That’s not to say that romance novels can’t be sexy and hot and occasionally even titillating. But they’re sexy and titillating in a way that is as about as far removed from porn as you can get. Porn is ordinary–often not very attractive/appealing people–mashing their privates together. Romance novels are about two–TWO, not three people and a double-headed dildo–impossibly attractive people falling in love. It’s pure fantasy. I can get an OK-looking guy to put his penis in me . In fact, it’d probably be disappointingly easy. But no brooding (this is crucial), hard-drinking, hard-fighting, 6 foot 5, cut English guy with great hair and great teeth and a rapier wit (this is also crucial) is ever going to sweep me off my feet. THAT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. EVER. And that’s why women read romance novels. It’s not for the sex scenes–which are varyingly explicit–it’s for the fantasy. It’s for the “if only.”
This perfectly segues to my answer to the apparently suddenly-important question: Why do chicks dig vampires?
Well, I think there’s a fairly sizable portion of women who couldn’t care less about vampires, so let’s get that out of the way right away. But while I’m not a vampire connoisseur, I feel fairly comfortable answering this question. To me, vampires are just another version of your prototypical romance novel hero: brooding, aristocratic, powerful, glamorous, dangerous, attractive, etc. Only he’s a super-charged hero, all amped up with special powers. And I imagine there’s something appealing about the notion of someone superhuman digging “l’il ol’ me.”
I’m not gonna get into the whole blood-sucking thing, which I’m sure can be a metaphor for everything from passionate kissing to lovemaking to souls connecting…whatever. I think most often it’s just an embodiment of good old fashioned passion. (I’ve always found the blood-sucking to be the least interesting thing about vampires, myself.)
Anyway, I think the appeal can be summed up like this: vampires are just romantic heroes with superpowers, and the idea of taming/charming such a creature appeals to our vanity.
Are we good? Good.
UPDATE: Well, my first comment for this post was a hilarious gem. Thanks, B^4, for this:
Do you know what porn for men is? EVERYTHING!!!
J.C. Penny’s catalog? Porn. “My Little Pony” cartoot? Porn. Pamphlet from the zoo? Porn. Toshiba microwave oven owner’s manual… porn. This blog? Porn. This particular comment? Yeah, you got it, some guy somewhere will “rub one out” while reading it.