Tuesday 9 October 2012

Have Women Lost Their Dignity?

Now before I say anything else I want to say I'm NOT a prude, I think sex is wonderful and writing a character without giving him/her a bit of a sex life, even if only a hint, makes that character unreal, almost unnatural.
   Neither am I against having a tipple or two. On average four hours of my life is spent in the local every week. That's where I have got to know several of the people who live in the village.
And I don't have a dicky-fit if I hear someone use, or read, the word 'fuck.' I have even been known to use it myself and believe me, when I turn round and call someone a 'fucking wanker' they take notice.
   On the other hand I feel much of the efforts over the last forty years to make women equal to men have gone in the wrong direction.
   YES women should be paid the same as the man she is working next to if they are doing the same job. It is the job that should have a price, not the person doing it.
   YES women should be given the same career options as her male co-workers if that is what she wants.
   NO, she can't do that AND have a family. Bring up a family is a full time job if you wish to do it properly.
   But I am straying from the point I want to make here. All the above do not affect a woman's dignity.
The habit of binge drinking is nothing new. Fifty years ago young men would frequently attempt The Abbey Street Run, which involved visiting every pub in Abbey Street of the town where I have spent the last thirty odd years. The aim was to have a drink in every one. Usually only half a pint as there were something like fifteen pubs in Abbey Street (it is quite long). Role models would be those who could do the run and manage a pint in each one. Wives and girlfriends would wait at home and deal with the consequences. I have no idea if any deaths occurred through vomiting in a drunken stupor after this run, no doubt if any did the poor soul would have been heralded as a hero.
   Yet, these days not only young men but young women go on regular weekend binges. Hen weekends are as common as stag weekends, and not necessarily to wish a soon to be married person good luck. Any excuse will do. You find young women drinking until they can barely stand up.
Is this what Women's Lib was all about? Where is the dignity in puking your guts out at the side of a road, or being so drunk last night you can't remember who you shagged? If you got lucky, that is.
   And now I come the the latest phenomenon. Mummy Porn.
   Yes, I'm talking about THAT book. You know the one I mean. Personally I haven't read it, so maybe I shouldn't be the one to comment. But I did read the sample chapter and I did read some of the reviews. Talk about reverse psychology! I wish could get so many bad reviews and have people queuing up to buy my books! Amazon do this thing where if several people make a similar comment they highlight it. Over 2000 people said the book was rubbish and don't waste your money on it - and still it sold.
   This is heartbreaking for the thousands of good writers out there who are not getting a look in.
I'm not saying a book can't have sex in it. All my male characters are sexually active. In The Penhaligan File Mark Andrew has a girl-friend and is seduced by the wife of his best friend. But the act is no way demeaning.
   The premise of that book seems to be the lead female is somehow unable to avoid being seduced by the male lead. How old fashioned is that? How pre-liberation? Don't the women of today know how to stand up for themselves? The very idea that women are so susceptible to the charms of such people should surely tear at the heart of all independent women around the world.
   The fact that thousands of women are lapping it up shows another sad side to the way life if going.
At one time Porn was for men, because we all know men can't go more than a few minutes without thinking about sex. Poor things. Although I do not believe that statement for one minute. I think it was put about by someone with pockets to fill with jangling coin. Certainly the men I have known throughout my life have not displayed this characteristic. (What opportunities they missed!).  Or maybe they just hide it well!
   Once Lady Chatterley's Lover was accepted as a work of literature, sex became more common in books. Harold Robins of The Carpetbaggers springs to my mind although maybe I am showing my age here. Then there was The Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn, before moving on to what was basically soft porn in The Confessions series. Very interesting to a young teenager but soon becoming very boring as the reader realised the same story was being repeated over and over again.
The truth is books about sex have been around since The Karma Sutra.
   A good book has strong characters, not always perfect. Alex Churchill in The Blue Hour is very troubled, but the character is drawn so well that I want to know more about her, her back story, how did she get into the state we find her at the beginning of the story? And even Alex has a sex life - but that is left to the imagination of the reader.
   There are a plethora of Erotica books about these days. Again I haven't read any myself but I really wonder at the need for them. Are there a lot of frustrated writers out there who can only find sexual gratification by writing about it? And are there twice the number of frustrated women who need this stimulus to make their lives complete? If there are I feel very sorry for you all. Is this a sign of how the liberated woman will end up? I did read one book that claimed to be erotica. It started very well, the writing was very good and I thought we were in for some kind of female Raffles type adventure. But by the end of the second chapter it turned out to be one sex scene after another with very little in-between. And the things the woman who was narrating the story had to put up with - well, you wouldn't catch me being treated like that! No way.
   I'm not saying that authors can't have vivid sexually fantasies, but they should stay that, private fantasies. Even at sixty I can get quite carried away with what my characters might do. You wouldn't believe what Kianda Mala has got up to it in my mind but none of it reached Edge of Extinction. 
And what Tony and Christina did in Shattered Dreams, well I can't go into that what with it being a pupil/teacher relationship.
   The cry 'we should be allowed to write whatever we like' does not sway me. As writers we all have responsibility towards our readers. Yes, we are writing fantasy, every story is a fantasy. But the people who read about our made-up world take all sorts of subconscious messages from our pages. Every book has a message hidden somewhere within it. The best books don't make that obvious. I know people pick out things because of comments I have received about Edge of Extinction. I did not set out to write an important message about how we treat the people and planet, but that is what some people have picked up on.
   So what are we saying about women who are seduced by powerful, controlling men. That it is ok? That it is what everyone should be aiming for? Or do the readers just skip to the next sex scene and do whatever they do while reading it?
   I'm sure if it were known that men were writing such stories (I say that because there are probably lots of men out there using female pen names) there would be an outcry about the demeaning of women. As a woman myself I agree.

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