Political Correctness. This has been one of my most treasured chew toys these days. Whether or not I prefer something discussed in certain terms, do I save room for honesty? Do I even care?

The author of this essay (Jayne Ann Krentz) tackles the critique romantic literature has received since its inception.  It would seem there has been a push in recent years (recent, to its 1992 publication date) to tame the aforementioned beast, among all other manner…reportedly to no avail. From the aggressively charged atypical alpha male to his traditionally virginal target, swept in the heat of passion, everything has come under fire and survived – which would say a lot about our nature, or at least the nature of our fantasies..

About said passion she makes an interesting point: although the conquering of the heroine is often perceived as bordering on rape – there is a distinct parallel in romances of any genre. Usually, interestingly enough, the seducer – in mysteries, sci-fi, you name it – is female. Most other areas of fiction feature a male lead, succumbing to (or at least deterred by) a siren. One immediately begins to think of our present day teacher-student scandals. It should come as no surprise to anyone, given a reversal of roles, our initial impression of an affair changes. Whereas no other genre is questioned about this, romantic lit is routinely attacked for what would be standard seduction anywhere else. Solely, it would seem, because of she who is being seduced. This is simply at odds with our “newer” sense of what is right – to say. Our pocketbooks, however (a more than loaded term, in this instance), would argue otherwise. One is left to wonder why..

I can remember many conversations with past lovers in which I was exclusively identified as the aggressor. Exclusively. As if there where no doing on the part of my partner – and she would insist upon this as I sat in awe of her convenient amnesia. In light of this essay, it actually makes a lot of sense. The author cites our inherent desire to identify with the treasure more-so than the treasure hunter – even though romantic fiction serves up its reader the rare opportunity to vicariously be both. As attested to in the previous essay, there is something deep within our legacy of romantic myth that insists upon a very particular order to our fantasies. And the woman, for fantasy sake, must be a target of her aggressive captor – were she to ever enjoy “taming” him in the final act.

Another aspect criticized, was the virginal state of said target. According to this essay – the oft used virginity of the heroine, exists most importantly as a metaphor for the completeness of a woman’s trans-formative power (one should note, hymens can break platonically).  It is not that sex corrupts her (which would be the lament of the PC), but that the most complete transformation can only come from what is essentially at first- pure. This actually made me think of the “perpetual innocence” I’ve known many women (even the most lurid) to travel with. A sort of insisted upon narrative that was often treated as both beginning and end point to almost every instance – again, no matter how complicit she was in the matter. And why not? as is suggested – without this purity.. her fantasy dies. Maybe even fantasy itself for man and woman alike- for what is there to be affected when everything has known corruption? And on whom does the societal “burden” of redemption weigh more heavily? The man? or the woman?

Interestingly enough – political correctness would have these stories feature gentle, pre-tamed stallions. Ready-made affectionate lovers who understand everything that already needs to be understood and sit inoffensively in their predetermined chairs with ‘nare objection. But what about that even begins to appeal to our intrinsic notions of fantasy? (Man and Woman.) Sales would insinuate that there are little if any buyers at all for this sort of saga, and I’d say reality reflects this truth profoundly.  Young girls dream of horses, not the puppies at their bedside – why should women be any different? And what’s with this whole “should” thing anyway?

– sah