Politics and Prose had another romance panel last Tuesday. This one included Mia Sosa, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins, and Lisa Kleypas moderated by NPR's own Petra Mayer. Sosa has written contemporary, Jenkins and Kleypas have written both contemporary and historical, and James has written historical. The new releases for all but Sosa were historical though, so things tipped a little more in that direction. They talked about active consent on the part of their heroines being an intentional choice. They mentioned that we today, often think consent, and fun and interesting sexual positions are all modern things, but, to paraphrase Jenkins, people have been having all kinds of sex, all kinds of ways, for all time. They also talked about how some of the romances from the 1970's that were a little lax on consent, did so in response to a specific cultural moment. It was a time where good girls weren't supposed to have and enjoy sex, but if someone came a long and tied them to the bed until they orgasmed, well then. And that therefore romances of today, whether historical or contemporary, are responding to the idea that consent can be hot and sexy. There was also mention that dubious or non-consensual things have their time and place, and no one worries that people will read spy novels and think they know how to be a spy, but people do worry very much about what romance readers are learning.
This led to a discussion that if you unpack some of the what will people learn from reading romances is this fear of women experiencing normal sexual desire. That no one polices male desire being anywhere and everywhere, but what if women (or non-men) are just out there in public aroused? They unpacked this further, talking about how this fear is also rooted in fear of people asking for what they want. Not just in the bedroom, but outside.
The audience questions were great. Many people wanted updates or news on favorite characters. And the signing was a hoot. If you've every been to a multi-author signing you know there is often a glut. Folks have their two or three faves of the four, and then it's weird to be stuck standing in front of author 4. While James and Kleypas stuck to seats (and author tour, folks, I get it) Jenkins and Sosa began working their way down the line.
I had a great moment not only getting a great author panel, but also getting to see writer friends, author friends, book club friends, and even a church friend.