Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Subversive Smut

Erotica is one of those genres that can be thought of as subversive: many modern-day erotica writers proclaim erotica liberates women’s fantasies (thanks to Nancy Friday’s examination of the modern woman’s fantasies in My Secret Garden); others will say erotica recognizes not everybody swings to the same kink.

Still others will say that the proliferation of erotica in this day and age is a sign of Satan, of extreme moral decay and no self-respecting Christian should even look twice at the lurid covers gracing the romance aisles in bookstores.

OK, so nobody has ever actually said that to me, although I’ve had someone turn their back on me because of what I write.

I’m thinking, after this post, nobody will say it to me, because I’m ready to give them an earful.

I’m a Christian (an active, prayerful, go to church every Sunday and then some Christian).

Now, I have no objection to personal preferences being for something other than erotica. I mean, I can’t crack open a horror novel because I know I will have nightmares for weeks afterward. So if their objection is “I just don’t like it.” I smile and say, “That’s fine.”

But something Kate mentioned in an earlier post (Revealing Myself) has been curdling in my brain ever since.

So, the next time someone says that writing (or reading) smut is sinful, then perhaps you could say:

“Hey -- have you read Genesis 19:30-38? There’s this awesome scene where Lot’s daughters get him drunk and seduce him .... and God, who was in the business of smiting back then, doesn’t smite a single soul over it.” (Turns out that continuing the tribal line is more important than anything in the Books of the Law.)

I mean, the bible -- the Holy Scripture that guides Christians -- is loaded with sexual references and not all of them are derogatory. The most famous example is Solomon’s “Song of Songs”. Now, some will say that this song is a metaphor for Solomon’s love for Israel and that may well be a legitimate interpretation, but really, it is a love song, where:

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth --

for your love is more delightful than wine”
Song of Songs 1:2

or

“My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh,

resting between my breasts.”
Song of Songs 1:13

and in typical goat-herder king style, he says of his lover:

“Your hair is like a flock of goats

descending from Mount Gilead.”
Song of Songs 4:16

He goes on to marvel about how her teeth are so white, and she has them all. (Hey, this is B.C., people, dental hygiene was in its infancy.) If nothing else, it’s different from the usual metaphors for a lover’s body parts.

The bible is not hung up about sex, about sex out of wedlock, or having multiple partners. (Rachel and Leah anyone?) So where’s the beef?

Yes, there is a moral code outlined in Leviticus that prohibits women from associating with others during her period (nor could anyone have sex with her then); it also prohibits clothing woven of two different kinds of material, the cutting of hair on the sides of one’s head, or clipping the edges of a beard.

Then there’s a whole bunch of stuff about the prohibited degrees of marriage (not marrying your brother’s wife, for example), and keeping one’s women (that is, property) pure and virginal. Women aren’t (or shouldn’t be) property any more.

As for Bible heroes as examples of moral living? Moses was a murderer. Paul persecuted Christians (which means killing them, folks) and even Jesus has a temper (Matthew 21:12-16). Peter refused three times to even acknowledge his best friend in his time of most desperate need.

And then there is the incestuous Lot, and the lascivious kings: David and Solomon. I could go on, but I think I made my point a paragraph or two ago.

So, as a Christian, writing about sex out of wedlock, bucketloads and bucketloads of sex, should be contradictory to what I believe, right?

Wrong.

And not just because the bible alludes to such scenes. But because my writing is subversive.

Not in the modern sense of “empowering to women” or “being open about one’s kink and it being okay”, but through the themes of all the books I write, I carry a single message.

Redemption.

My books are about screwing up, making mistakes, and yet getting that second chance (or the fiftieth), and being forgiven for the wrongs of the past.

Remember Moses? God chose him to save the nation of Israel. Paul turned into the biggest “born again” Christian ever and evangelized the Mediterranean. Peter, forgiven for his betrayal, founded the Roman church which led to Christianity becoming an “acceptable” religion.

It’s why I write happy endings, why most of my characters are deeply flawed or are seen as “bad” by Society. I don’t write about angels, I write about humans, conflicted, confused, deeply flawed human beings and I redeem every single one of them.

It’s God’s most powerful message -- to be loved and forgiven no matter what. And having experienced it personally the weekend before last, I can tell you it’s real and palpable and overwhelming, and my attempts at writing it in a secular, already subversive genre pale in comparison.

For any of you who have read my books, you know there is no bible-thumping involved, and yet one thing remains plain:

Love is the most subversive thing of all.

13 comments:

Rhonda Stapleton said...

WOW, this was such a great post. I'm a deep lurker, but I had to pop up and let you know I loved this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on sexuality and Christianity!!

Eva Gale said...

Ha! You should have put in the verses where the joint of her thighs were carved jewels (7:1) or where he begs her to let him go south (2:14/4:16) or where she goes south (2:3) where he caresses her with his hands (5:4-5)

The whole canticle is pregnant with erotic images.

Bravo, I'm a praciticing Christian, too and one who has been told by others that I'm going to hell for what I write. I figure that it gives me the chance to perfect my forgiveness and to practice not judging, like Christ asks us to.

Jane Lockwood said...

Interesting. But how do you deal with the strange bedfellows phenomenon? After all, there are a lot of appalling jerks around who trumpet their Christian beliefs and they too interpret the Bible to mean exactly what they want.
Welcome, deep lurker Rhonda!

Pam Rosenthal said...

This is new and fascinating to me. Welcome to those who've been dealing about these issues in their lives and deep imaginations.

Settling back to listen and learn...

Sharon Page said...

What a terrific post, Celia. I loved seeing your well considered examples.

As a reader, I loved the redemptive ending of your book 'Show Me', for example--it completely touched my heart, and now I can see how it really spoke of the passion behind it!

Celia May Hart said...

Jane -- yes, well, if the Bible wasn't subject to interpretation, a lot of Jewish scholars'd be out of a job. They've been discussing the Old Testament for centuries... :)

janegeorge said...

I'm a pagan, I wasn't raised as a Christian (father=atheist, mother= read Kahlil Gibran, nuff said) but extended family members are Christian. So,I insisted my children attend church for a while so they knew what it was and would learn the mythology.

The most interesting sermon we heard was by a visiting Methodist preacher who claimed that Christians need to choose which God they worship, the wrathful god of the Old Testament, or the compassionate God of the New Testament. Still makes me think, and I'm not even Christian.

Mina said...

Interesting post.

It's totally off topic, but I thought you ladies might enjoy the book I'm reading. It's Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank. While it's not specifically related, there's a lot of fascinating historical lore that the author talks about. It's also a fun look. So when I take history + fun writing + sexuality and put it all together, it makes me think of you guys. :D

Mina said...

er - that was supposed to be "a fun book", not look.

Colette Gale said...

Great post, Celia! How the hell am I going to follow this one?

Celia May Hart said...

Colette -- hey, you followed it with Sean Bean. I haven't even read your post yet and I already its trumped mine!! Sean Bean. Yum.

Jane George - um, that's a heresy from the Gnostics. OT == NT, imho, He's just grown up a little.... Or has revealed more of its divinity as we've evolved or something.

Mina: oooh, I think I know the "Virgin" author from LiveJournal!

Rhonda welcome to out of lurkdom!

Kate Pearce said...

I wrote a lovely long reply to this and blogger ate it. so I'll re-phrase-what a fabulous thought provoking post! I shall endeavor to remember all those useful quotes next time someone brings it up

RevMelinda said...

I stumbled upon your post way too late to really join the discussion but I have got to say--you go, girl!

"Love is the most subversive thing of all." Amen!

Do you think we'll EVER have a sexy minister/vicar/religious guy character in a romance novel who isn't a wife-beating, sex-hating, uptight prude of a jerk while he quotes scripture in a self-righteous sneer? I am so tired of those guys and they are Everywhere.

(PS Anybody who thinks ministers and ministers-to-be don't like sex--or are too concerned with Higher Things to do it-- hasn't been to seminary. Yikes! The stories I could tell. . .)