15 minutes. That’s all. About 12% of the movie. A movie that seems to be filled with dinosaurs only has them one out of every twelve minutes of the show. That means 88% of the time, you are NOT watching dinosaurs.
But it feels like you are right? After watching that movie, I thought I saw dinosaurs lurking in the shadows for days. Every cell in my body was screaming in terror over dinosaurs. All because of 15 minutes of footage!
Well, I assert that clean romance is the best kind of romance, regardless of morals or religion or appropriateness. That even without these claims (and they are significant), clean romance is the truest form, the most effective kind of romance. And something that is true in terror can be true with love. That, perhaps, by not indulging in it, by keeping the door literally and figuratively closed as much as possible, an author could build up anticipation, a longing for fulfillment that would lose efficacy when the door is flung open.
Perhaps I should make something clear right from the beginning: my sister and I are devourers of the old time harlequins of the 1960’s and 70’s. If this is too much for you to bear, I apologize. I really do. But for anyone looking for well-crafted, sweet love stories, full of compelling characters and storyline, we highly recommend taking a look at some of them. But then, around 1980, things change drastically. The stories and characters become two dimensional, and that was when the bedroom door was flung wide.
Most of the time, kisses were described merely as that: a kiss. Book after favorite book I combed through, the most romantic and heart rending I could recall, and all I found was “He kissed her.” Or, “he convinced her with his response.” Or even, “minutes passed.” And Jane Eyre was no exception. And it is, in my opinion, the most romantic book ever written! I mean, it has lines like: “I have for the first time found what I can truly love – I have found you. You are my sympathy – my better self – my good angel – I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you – and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.” **sigh!** Even in this high soaring fulfillment of every woman’s romantic dream, a kiss was only described as a “kiss.”
Alfred Hitchcock said, “There’s no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” I think the same can be said of romance. There is no romance in sex, only in the anticipation of it. But even that isn’t quite accurate.
And that brings me to my second point.
But we believe they are not same. Introducing gratuitous sex into romance novels reduces the quality of the story, the development of the characters, the heart and the pull of the novel. But it does even more than that, it inserts something carnal into something that has the potential to be spiritual. Romance should be romantic. Not sexual.
There are about as many definitions of ‘romance’ as there are romance books, and one could make the case that a book with sex is as much a ‘romance’ as one without. And she would be right. But I’m going to use my personal opinion here, and chose the definition that coincides with my idea of what a romance novel should be. Not just a book about you-know-what. But a story “depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, and romantic exploits.” (www.dictionary.com)
We, my sister and I, love LOVE. We love romance and characters and healing and truth. No other genre lends itself to the development of character and love quite like romance does, a romance in the historical sense of the word: a story of mystery and adventure, validating emotion, idealism and aesthetics. Giving voice to the heart, the soul, and, yes, the spirit. The yearning for heaven on earth. Too grandiose? Good! That’s romance!!
Now imagine another man who has loved a woman from afar, despaired of ever having his love returned. Conquers his own weakness and outside dangers for her safety and her heart. He saves her, wins her and weds her.
Is there any denying these two ultimately “identical” acts would be anything but “identical”? The difference between one: a biological urge shared by the animals and compelled by selfishness, and the other: the culmination of sacrifice, self-denial, longing and fidelity blossoming into what, one could argue, is a sort of worship. (Perhaps I’m overstating it a little. But, like I said, that’s romance!)
And if we cannot deny that, then we must conclude that there are varying levels in between. That two people who know each other little and hit the sack early, might contain very little romance and thrill compared to an accidental touch between two people who long for each other from afar, who try to be their best selves, who sacrifice and yearn and fulfill each other.
CS Lewis: “The strength of such a critic lies in the words “merely” or “nothing but.” He sees all the facts but not the meaning. Quite truly, therefore, he claims to have seen all the facts. There is nothing else there; except the meaning. ... A man who has experienced love from within will deliberately go about to inspect it analytically from outside and regard the results of his analysis as truer than his experience. ... The voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral biochemistry.”
Perhaps, and most likely, I have not changed any minds that weren’t predisposed to believing me anyway. And perhaps that wasn’t my aim. I think I only wanted to sort it out in my own mind why I do the things I do, read the things I read, and like the things I like. I admit, I am religious, and whether or not keeping sex out of books helped the story, I would do it anyway because of the teachings of my church and the pull of my own heart. But in the process of trying to merely be obedient, I have discovered a delicious truth that is often the case with most of the teachings I try to obey: that in obeying the law, things are improved. It is not simply a negative, an absence of sin, an empty place, but an introduction to more fullness, truth, happiness and beauty. It becomes more, not less.