Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Your Readers Are Uneducated Morons

So...have I ever mentioned I'm alumna of the same college as Margaret Atwood? We weren't there at the same time, of course, (she's considerably younger than I) but it's still pretty much my only claim to fame.

When I was a kid, the one item that consistently appeared on my Christmas list was "a university education." Hahaha, yes, better than a pony, etc, but my mother would take one look at that and say, "It's all well and good to want a higher education, but I'll not be paying for it." And, true to her word, she didn't. And that probably comes across as bitter, but looking back I'm actually very happy to have been spurred to work hard and pay my own way. I think I probably value and respect my degree more than a lot of people whose parents paid their way.

(By the way, that bit about Margaret Atwood being younger than me was a joke. I'm actually not in my seventies. Thought I should probably clear that up.)

Why am I thinking of education? Well, an industry "professional" recently reminded me that readers of erotica are “uneducated” so I should stay away from big words they’re unlikely to understand. I was kind of like… ‘scuse me? Should I even start deconstructing that statement? Because, seriously, we’ll be here all night. Suffice to say…well, two things:

  1. Education is not a barometer for intelligence. One of the most well-read people I know is my grandmother, who quit school at age 16, when she got knocked up and married her handsome soldier. Even now, well into her 80's and with seriously impaired vision, she reads voraciously and can carry on an intellectually stimulating conversation on any topic. Seriously--we've discussed everything from indie rock to trans issues to world politics, and she always knows far more than I do about everything. Reading gets you everywhere, kids. It does.
  2. The proletariat does not have a monopoly on sexual desire. I actually took a course (don't laugh) called Sex and Sexuality in the Premodern West, and one of the many ideas I took away from it was that we've always sort of "assigned" sex, as one of our "base" instincts, to those "base" people in society. Sex is like anger or sorrow, or any intense emotion: it belongs with the stupid and the poor, people of the lower classes who don't know any better. To me, the concept that only the unwashed masses enjoy and explore sex and all its trappings is really insulting and just...inaccurate.

I’m educated and I write sex for a living. Why? Because I choose to do so. I've worked in other industries, in business and the arts, and I far prefer writing erotica. I've always said I write more for myself than anyone else, so I assume the readers who will most enjoy my work are readers who are somewhat like me.

Actually, I've had other authors disclose to me that they've had industry (un)professionals tell them exactly what I was told: that readers of erotica aren't very smart, aren't very educated, don't know a lot of words. Whatever you're writing, you should dumb it down for them. Don't want to confuse their little peanut brains. Well, here is my educated response: fuck that! Seriously...

Insulting readers by establishing this strange Us vs Them of "We the Educated Creators" and "They the Stupid Consumers" is not going to fly with me. I'm not going to look down on readers. In fact, I'm bowing low and offering the work up, praying to the gods of erotica that they will enjoy what I've created for them.

Like I said, we could be here all night if I let myself go on. So I'll stop now. But, who knows? You might have something to add.



Angie said...

Romance readers are stupid too. According to everyone who doesn't read romance, we're all fat, ugly middle-aged women, either bitterly single or trapped in unsatisfactory marriages, who read romance as an escape from our dull, disappointing lives.

I guess readers of erotic romance must have, like, IQs in the negative numbers...? [huge freaking eyeroll]

And of course, it's always people who don't read erotica or romance who make these assumptions. People who don't read SF assume all its readers are fat, geeky men who've never had a conversation with a female. People who don't read fantasy assume its readers are all fluff-brained women who believe in the healing powers of crystals. I'm sure readers of mysteries and thrillers could report similar crap said about them.


Lucia said...

I'm busy being educated and have a happy relationship with my boyfriend :) English is my second language and shockingly, if I don't know a word, I use a dictionary! Problem solved :) That some people are so uneducated about what kind of people read erotica, surprises me. All kinds of people read it for a lot of different reasons. I also think it isn't smart to underestimate your readers, because I would hear a writer call me stupid, he could whistle for his money *is that even a saying in english?:P*

Angie said...

he could whistle for his money *is that even a saying in english?:P*

Yes, it is. :) A bit archaic, and the youngest generation or two probably don't know it unless they read older books, but it's definitely a saying in English, and means exactly what you mean by it.


Sally Bibrary said...

Well, I would be quite happy to tell that so-called "professional" that I am not only one of your biggest fans, but I also happen to have a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature. Yes, I am educated, and I enjoy erotica. Oh, and I also enjoy plenty of other low-brow, mass-market, tawdry genre literature like fantasy and horror. Gasp!

In my experience, people who like to read, like to read well. Regardless of what formal degrees they may have, they have a lifetime of education through literature. I was a rather precocious youngster, reading the likes of Stephen King back in early elementary school, and I did it with a dictionary in the other hand. They’re only ‘big words’ once . . . after that, they’re just a part of your vocabulary.

Kristi P said...

I am yet another erotica reader with a brain (a Masters degree in Organic Chemistry), and I absolutely resent the "dumb and trashy" stereotype romance readers are given. I have actually been glared at while reader a book with a Fabio-type cover...my Kindle saves me from judgemental people all the time!

If I have to look up a word, I'm almost excited...okay...I'm usually excited to learn something new! That includes new slang and word usage. Josh Lanyon hosted a discussion on his blog recently in which several British authors discussed the challenges of writing for a largely America audience. Publishers don't think American readers can use Google, I guess. It's amazing that I can watch BBC America without assistance.

Thank goodness for small publishers!

Kristi P said...

Grrrrrrrr...I meant "while reading a book"

Syd McGinley said...

I get that a lot -- especially when Dr. Fell gets on a roll with some of his 50c words.

I am proud that Torquere lets us fly our freaky educated flag!

I love new words. One of my best presents ever was a dictionary.

Giselle Renarde said...

Oh yes, I should have mentioned Torquere has never chastised me for big-word usage. :-)

Thanks for all the encouraging comments! It's great to get some insight on everybody's views on erotica and edumacation. (that's a Homer Simpson-ism LOL)