Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheerful Naughtiness

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Loretta reports:

Several people sent me links to Alan Elsner’s Huffington Post trashing romance novels (Oh, gee, that’s a novel take on the subject). In addition to the numerous comments from romance readers, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches wrote a response.

The Romance = Trash or Romance = Porn equation is nothing new, but these posts and Susan’s Pepys excerpts and my post about Boswell’s sexual adventures got me thinking about “dirty” books and pictures.

The Victorians made sex amazingly dirty. Their predecessors were much more matter- of-fact about it (there were exceptions, yes; there always are). For me Thomas Rowlandson captures the spirit of the late 18th and 19th centuries, before people got all sick and twisted about sex. (I am not sure we’ve got over that yet.)

Susan and I have often remarked on how cheerful the people are in Rowlandson’s naughty pictures. Take a look. Oh, go on. Force yourself. Even the dirty old men, while ugly, aren’t creepy. Some of them are kind of sweet.

And some of them, with or without dirty old men, are kind of romantic, don't you think?


Vanessa Kelly said...

Boy, that Alan Elsner post was obnoxious. I thought Sarah wrote a great rebuttal.

What I like about the Rowlandson prints is that none of the women are skinny model types! I think I would have felt right at home in the Georgian and Regency era.

And, yes, everyone seems very cheerful and relaxed about the whole thing.

Monica Burns said...

YAY! Loretta finished her all-nighter and lived to tell about it!!

As for that ridiculous post, some guys only think with their brains when they post envious pieces like that idiot. Can we say jealous in a financial sense??? There's a reason mass market has the word mass in it. It was written for the masses and the consumer want's romance. Are we somehow ignorant for that fact. Sheeesh

These pictures are definitely randy, and as for the repression of sex, I would like to theorize that Europe isn't quite so repressed as America. We have Puritan ranks to thank for that. The Victorian age just sent it underground, but not quite given Edwards proclivity for numerous women in his bed. I'm surprised he didn't come down with something. LOL

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I'm w/Vanessa on loving the voluptuous figures of the women. And, gosh, yes, cheerfulness in erotic imagery is so much lovelier than the goofy, smoldering moues we see on a regular basis in general media today. The other thing I dig about the Rowlandsons are the pieces in which men are fully -- or nearly -- clothed. This imagery definitely has worked its way into romance in recent years. I've seen the opposite on some covers, but it didn't seem as swell. Cool stuff to cheer a bitter Midwestern morning. Grazie!

nightsmusic said...

I would make a comment about where Alan Elsner's brain really is, but we won't go there. I loved Sarah's rebuttal. She's so good at that.

The prints, yes. Some are more funny than "naughty". One or two gave me a laugh. But I'm with the others. I'm so glad the women aren't sticks. Just shows that women who can blow away at the slightest gust of wind aren't the only sexy women out there. :)


Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Loretta and I have often talked about how jolly everyone looks in the Rowlandson prints. The ones she has posted here are (relatively) tame -- there are others that are far more graphic, with zero left to the imagination -- but even in what should be the most extreme throes of passion, the participants are all smiling gleefully. Compare that to modern dirty pix, where everyone is grimacing as if in pain, rather than pleasure.

I don't have any scholarly or sociological reason for this -- just that it sure looks like more fun in 1810!

Loretta Chase said...

Vanessa, Monica, Theo, I definitely got more than a whiff of prudery from the Elsner post--and I agree that America seems to be more prudish than many other countries. Whether the books are well or badly written is one thing--but calling the sex scenes/love scenes/smoochies "porography," tells me that some people don't approve of or resent or fear women's sexuality. I think they need to look at more Rowlandson and adjust their attitudes. In the more graphic prints I linked to, some of the women have a wonderful, mischievous look. And, yes, it's lovely to see truly voluptuous women represented as sexually desirable. This is what Rowlandson and his contemporaries considered HOT. And yes, how nice that they're smiling instead of grimacing.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Yes, Elsner's contention that romances sucked the air out of the room was pretty bizarre. His idea of love stories sounds like the ultimate in post-modern dreariness.

Susan, I think you're bang-on about the jealousy part, too. It must stick in the craw of some literary fiction authors that schlubs like us can make way more money than they can. I guess it's the same mentality that led some of my profs to trash Dickens as too commercial to be taken seriously.

Charles said...

Glad to see so many intelligent women who enjoy Rowlandson - and yes I share his taste in women. I hadn't seen "Fire at the Inn" before. I'm rather partial to his landscapes.

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