Karen Scott blogged about Carol Lynne's latest book which features incestuous brothers. It doesn't take long for people to start showing up to tell everyone that they don't find incest fun in real life and therefore they don't think they will enjoy this book. Not that I'm sure any of them has any intention of buying that book in the first place.
I wish I have medals to give out to these lovely and wonderfully normal people who clearly recognize that fiction and real life can be separate and different, but a part of me wonders whether these readers will be so vigorous in their announcements if the topic is about homosexuality instead of incest. I'd pay good money that these same people will instead pounce on those who said the same things they do (only this time it's about gay people and not incestuous folks) for being bigots.
Now, I'm talking about incest in fiction. This is an important qualifier. I don't care what people do behind closed doors because it's their business, and if two people are in a consensual incestuous relationship and they are happy, I'm not going to judge them. That's real life. In fiction, I think it should matter even less whether or not I agree whether incest is moral (or not) because it's fiction. Heck, I don't swing, I don't do threesomes, I don't sleep with big strapping African-American men while my husband spies on me, and I don't do 99% of the things characters do in erotic fiction, but I manage to enjoy these stories nonetheless without going, "Hey, that's not what I do in real life, so eeeuw, this is a disgusting story that should be outlawed from erotic fiction!" If the author is good enough to sell me the fantasy, I'm more than happy to go along with the ride. We are, after all, talking about fiction.
And in erotic fiction, incest is a very popular topic. No, really, just look at Literotica, Nifty, and other repositories of free erotic fiction. Anyone who writes erotic fiction and wonders out loud how people can enjoy incest-themed erotic stories really should know her genre a little bit more before she makes such foolish proclamations. That's as bad as erotic fiction authors trying to say that rape fantasies are "wrong". When it comes to erotic fiction, morality should be the last thing on the minds of both the reader or author. Erotic fiction is about arousing the reader and exploring boundaries, and this includes a varied spectrum of politically and morally incorrect themes. After all, people tend to be intrigued by something that is taboo, hence the proliferation of taboo subjects as the central themes of many works of erotic fiction.
Perhaps erotic romance is not ready for some of the more envelope-pushing themes that are actually very common in erotic fiction, but come on. Total-e-bound is open about being an electronic publisher of erotic fiction with a romantic bent. So Carol Lynne writes about incestuous brothers. What's the big deal?
So you don't find the idea of sleeping with your own sister appealing? Well, neither do I but I'm not patting myself in the back for being superior to those who enjoy reading stories with such themes.
Really, if I take the entire comments section in that blog entry and replace "incest" with "gay", poor Karen's blog is probably going to explode in flames as many of the people who happily pile on Carol Lynne will do a turnaround and go on their high horse about tolerance and acceptance.
So what if you don't approve of incest in real life? This is fiction. It has nothing to do with real life.
So what if you don't like reading about a couple in an incestuous relationship? Then don't read the book. Oh wait, you don't plan to. But judging from the popularity of incest as a theme in erotic fiction, I suspect that there are many people who want to read such stories. There are some people who say that Ellora's Cave will never allow incest. Well, call it a hunch of mine, but seeing how Ellora's Cave outlawed MM stories until they saw how fast those stories sell, I suspect that if someone can show these people that incest stories sell, we will be seeing some of those stories soon enough on Ellora's Cave.
If we want to dog on Ms Lynne for writing a bad and unrealistic story where there is no credible psychological insight given as to why two brothers will get it on with other, I have no issues with that. But I really get uncomfortable when we have authors and readers, many of whom are erotic fiction writers and readers, piling on about what makes or breaks "romance", when many of these same people are the same ones up in arms when RWA wanted to define "romance" as a strictly heterosexual thing. These same people fought long and hard against folks who wanted "erotic romance" to be excluded from "romance" as a whole. So, why are these people now happily applying the same standards they decried when such behavior was coming from "the other side" onto their fellow authors? Is it because the author in question is Carol Lynne and therefore makes an easy target to dogpile on?
My point is this: in erotic fiction, the boundaries are limited only by what the author chooses to write and what the reader chooses to accept. The author is sharing a sexual fantasy with the reader, which is to say, the author creates a private fantasy world where the reader feels free and safe to enjoy vicariously a sexual fantasy that may be unacceptable in real life. The nature of erotic fiction being what it is, it is impossible to find acceptable "right" parameters to define the genre. Therefore I don't think it is fair that other people who don't enjoy or appreciate that sexual fantasy condemn those who do. If this is allowed to happen, then gay romances are fair game as well to people who prefer to use religion to point out why such relationships are immoral, don't you think?
Erotic fiction works best when morality is not allowed to intrude.