I twigged something when I read Cecilia Tan’s blog notes about the IASPR romance conference.
Which leads me to wonder if I did an analysis of BDSM-based and queer-focused romance if I would find a greater emphasis on the value of the sex (and its place in validating personal identity) than on the more “traditional” romance ideals of true love tied to a diamond ring and landed estate/portfolio? Of course, there are the same-sex romances, for example, which take place in an alternate universe where there is no homophobia, and where everything is entirely the same as possible to a traditional romance except for the one key point that the two main characters are man and man or woman and woman. These would have to be counted separately, I suppose… or I’d have to posit a separate axis on which to divide the genres. Hmmm.
Validation of personal identity for those who are marginalized is perhaps a bigger prize than financial security or the attention and love of a powerful/high status mate. Does that change the rules of romance for queer-identified authors/protagonists/readers? Or does it merely establish the rules more firmly, it’s merely that the prize is different?
So, the old gay and lesbian pulps had the additional function of validating personal desires and types of relationships that mainstream society didn’t recognize. Even if the story isn’t a variation of the marriage plot, i.e. ending in Happily Ever After, just saying it is okay to desire a person of the same sex or something other than heterosexual coitus is important. That undermines the erotica/romance distinction, and/or gives erotica a higher purpose of exploring and experimenting with desire, rather than endlessly renegotiating monogamous domesticity.