Monday, July 22, 2013

An Open Letter to Armie Hammer on the term "mommy porn"

My name is Molly. This is me.


We’ve never met but I feel like you should have a picture in your mind when you say the words Mommy Porn to talk about romantic genre fiction – because you are marginalizing nearly everything about me. Only if you could squeeze in the words “wife” and “beer lover” could you better nail down and diminish some of my favorite parts of myself.

There are a lot of things that bother me about "Mommy Porn." But let’s start with your dismissal of not only my work, but my absolute favorite form of entertainment – romance novels. Perhaps at this point you’re sputtering some nonsense about the difference between erotica and romance novels – but those differences are real blurry. And since I’m writing this letter and I like the books that blur that line, you don’t get to sputter.

Considering the fact that you used the word just before mommy porn, I am going to assume that you’re making some kind of quality statement. (And I don’t want this to be about your shitty offensive, ridiculous movie – but really, REALLY Armie Hammer, you should avoid high horses). My guess is you haven’t read a romance novel. This isn’t surprising and there are several rants I could give you, about how little respect art made by women for women gets. How easily it’s dismissed, but I won’t. I will just say this: you’re missing out. Not just in a good way to pass a few hours while sitting on a beach, or a way to escape whatever reality you want to escape from. You’re missing out on an affirming artistic experience. The right romance novel at the right time I guarantee is the equivalent of whatever film experience made you want to be an actor. It’s John Hughes, and even Scorsese. And Cassavetes. Kathryn Bigelow’s hard, realistic edge. A little Billy Wilder mixed with Spielberg. Some are like Altman. Others like Lucas. Some are so new and so exciting, you haven’t seen their like before. There is a world of story and storytelling that you are missing out on. And as a guy making a life of sorts as an artist – don’t be the asshole that makes a judgement call on something you know nothing about. Educate yourself.

Now, you should know, I’m a mom. Twice over. And the words mommy porn seem to me to imply that our sexual desires are silly. Nearly trivial. Childish. Something to be brushed aside. Or perhaps, hidden away. Not at all to be prized. And my only reaction to this is – screw you, you stupid man. There are a million reasons why romance novels should be revered and appreciated, but let’s get to the heart of this – it turns women on. And that must just be deeply threatening to some heterosexual men.

I’m guessing you haven’t had kids and should you have this experience let me warn you now – the mother of your child - her desires will not be childish. They will be mysterious and fleeting and deep and explosive and mercurial. Because being a new mom is both out of body and extremely vividly of the body.

It is the least sexual time – ever. My sex drive – and it’s pretty well documented that most women after child birth have similar experiences – was encased in concrete and buried at the bottom of the ocean. The pleasure of sex was something I wasn’t interested in because it felt a million miles away. Romance novels and erotica brought that part of my life back to me.

This shit should be celebrated instead of made into a some kind of weird marginalizing catch-all.

I’m glad I got this off my chest and there are smarter women, smarter writers writing not just great romance novels but great critical analysis of the genre, I suggest you spend some time reading further and stop saying such stupid things.

44 comments:

Donna said...

Amen sister!

flchen1 said...

Great post, Molly! Thanks!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Wow! That was... that was just awesome.

nancy said...

Thank you for saying it so well.

Tracy Wolff said...

There are so many reasons why I love you, Molly. Well done.

Heather Smith said...

As a reader of romance, erotica and everything in between and a mom of three, I definitely agree with everything you say! Shout it, sistah!

Maureen McGowan said...

Molly!! You are on fire. One of the best essays you (or anyone) has written on the subject.

Lisa G said...

Well said! Thank you.

Natasha Moore said...

Well said!

BTW, my hubby loves that I read (and write) those books! He knows what it does for our sex life. Take that, Armie :)

Christine d'Abo said...

And this is why I love Molly.

I sat with an older gentleman on my flight back home yesterday. We got chatting about a book I was reading and he asked me where I'd gotten it. I talked to him about being a romance writer, the conference and books in general. He has some awkward questions, but was genuinely interested in my answers. By the end of the flight, he'd asked for my pen name and said he was going to look me up on Amazon.

Armie could learn a lot from that lovely mathematics professor.

Lizzy said...


I don't think that romance books are the only books written by women that are worth reading. It's very narrowminded to think that women have only one goal in life and that is to woe or be woed by a man.

That said, read what you want to read and write what you want to write. Books are meant to take us places reality can't. Don't listen to anyone that dismisses your skill as a writer because of the genre you write.

I don't read romance, erotic, or the mommy porn in the middle. Its not because I've never read it in my past, haven't dealt with PPD, or think that the women who write it have any less merit than the guys who write thrillers. I just rather read about dystopians, where people overcome oppression. Or fantasies, where the world is much more magical and the limits non existent.

RomanceWriter44 said...

VERY well said! Good for you!

Fred Green said...

I absolutely hate the term "mommy porn." Granted, I'm not a mother, just some random gay English major in the middle of podunk nowhere, but dismissing an entire genre because of its (perceived) audience.

That's not to say all romance novels are a work of art. I've read plenty that are a clichéd mess, uninteresting, or downright offensive. But for every bad romance novel I've read, I've found at least two that I've thoroughly enjoyed in contrast. Now, while Fifty Shades of Grey certainly isn't one of the good ones, it's bad because of the horribly written characters and terrible messages it conveys, not because its audience somehow inherently makes it bad.

And so what if a mother likes romance novels? Being a mother doesn't somehow make them lesser person, or their interests more trivial than a single or childless man or woman. In fact, it's immensely disrespectful to the women who, for most people, are easily one of the most important people in their lives. Mothers, I guess, just aren't sexy or smart enough to take seriously, which speaks volumes about Mr. Hammer and his ilk.

It says a lot when we live in a society where a man, married or not, can watch a hardcore porn with little to no backlash, but if a woman reads a novel with one or two exotic scenes, they're marginalized for their sexual fantasies and interests, and the effort that went into the creating the novel is utterly dismissed, no matter how good the novel is otherwise. News flash: women can like sex. Mothers can like sex. It's usually how they became mothers. Just sayin'.

Not to mention, writing a story isn't easy. A lot of effort goes into creating a believable and unique world, characters, and conflict, as I'm sure many of the lovely ladies here know. It's the same for any genre, so why is romance considered any different?

There's a lot of genres I could dismiss out there because of their audience and a few bad examples of the genre exist, but I don't because I'm not a terrible person. Good post, Molly. Some things need to be said.

(Wow, that turned into a longer rant than I intended.)

Eileen said...

I recently read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It's a memoir about how she went from being a devout Muslim in Somalia to an outspoken politician lobbying for women's rights in the Netherlands.

One of the things she talks about is how she loved romance novels growing up. They weren't easy to get and she had to read them in secret. She wrote about how their picture of women who could make choices for themselves and whose sexuality was not demonized, but honored helped her have the courage to escape an arranged marriage and become the international political figure she is today.

Let's not dismiss a genre that can do that, okay?

Amy Valentini said...

Brava Molly! You tell him sweetie. I loved what you said about it threatening heterosexual males. Perhaps there's more truth to that then they understand. Words turn us on better than they do. Thank you.

Nikki said...

So eloquently said, Molly! And that is one more reason I love your books!

Zoe York said...

Awesome post, will share widely! Couldn't agree more.

Carol McKenzie said...

Thank you for writing this.

Maria Geraci said...

Right on, Molly!

the jo said...

I have been reading all forms of romance since the late 1960s...I have never had a child....Why is what I am readin called Mommy Porn? Sheez! I really hate labels!
Great post Molly darlin! Way to go!

hugs ya,
jo

Kayelle Allen said...

Hear hear. Thank you, Molly!

Mari Carr said...

Can I just say ditto? Dayum girl! Good stuff!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

Whether or not a person prefers to read romance or another genre, it's wrong to insult or dismiss an entire genre offhand. Especially without reading any, or reading a tiny sample.

And dismissing *any* book with words like "fluff" or "smut" or "trash" or "mommy porn" is just plain mean.

While clearly romance isn't the only kind of fiction women write or read, and yes, obviously women have interests other than love and sex, I do believe the insult comes at least partly because romance is fiction by women, for women. And because it's about all those uncomfortable emotion things that some men don't like to admit they have. Also because romances are about desire, which maybe some women find embarrassing to admit to feeling in public...

Kwana said...

Fantastic! Wonderful post Molly.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Holy Cow - I take a little nap for most of the day and look what happens! Thanks for stopping by everyone and for chiming in your support.In hind sight - I shouldn't have called him names. Or misspelled his name. But I fully believe everyone can love or hate the romance genre, it's too bad if you hate it but the words Mommy Porn insinuate something much more than dislike. Or even dismissal - it's insidious marginalization.

colorlessblue said...

There's an irony in the interview where he made these statements. One of the (many) criticisms of 50 Shades I see coming from the kink community is that it implies True Love "cures" Christian Grey of his BDSM urges. (Way to insult your audience, implying that they need fixing for liking what you wrote.)
Arnie Hammer said he used to practice but stopped, after getting married, because he respects his wife. So, besides the terrifying implication that he was a dom who practiced without respecting the subs he was with (terrifying, unsafe, dangerous), and the sadness of someone denying themselves of sex they like because of sexist notions of chilvary, he's just the same as Christian Grey.

Jonetta (Ejaygirl) said...

Do you see me jumping up an down??? THANK YOU for writing this. As one of the most talented writers on my shelf, you are most qualified to talk about this stupid issue. I'd like to strangle whoever coined "mommy porn" as it marginalizes every woman who reads and happens to have a child.

In any other business bringing in a fraction of the revenues this genre does, you'd see more respect given by the CEOs. How about it, publishers? You can step up by including works from this genre when it's time to hand out literary awards. And you can start with this writer:)

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel concept, if you are needing sexual desire, get a husband and do what you need!
A fake story about fake people about fake sex, yeah , that'll do it....ugh!

Anonymous said...

Likely why the divorce rates are as high as they are - we all accept that men should look at naked woman in magazines and movies and woman should read romance or erotica novels and that each in doing so shows just how much we love, cherish, and are committed only to the other, right!

Anonymous said...

Agree, as much of a threat to heterosexual males as a threat to heterosexual females....why do so many of us woman leave their husbands or send them to therapy to resolve the issue of them looking at naked woman, but find it perfectly acceptable to read romance or erotica? Double standard. If neither can focus only on the other and be committed, faithful, loving, loyal, romantic and sexual with each other, than why be in a relatiosnhip like that to begin with? Stupidity! Now, I personally read romance as a happily married woman because I like to read, simply put. I also like to read some horror on occassion, but I sure don't think about participating in any of the horrific acts depcited on the pages, as much as I don't see myself in any of the acts depicted in a romance/erotica novel, unless, of course, they involve the love of my life, my dear hubby.

Anonymous said...

He should have called it smut!

Anonymous said...

Arnie Hammer said he used to practice but stopped, after getting married, because he respects his wife. So, besides the terrifying implication that he was a dom who practiced without respecting the subs he was with (terrifying, unsafe, dangerous), and the sadness of someone denying themselves of sex they like because of sexist notions of chilvary, he's just the same as Christian Grey.


Yeah, but he apparently finally meet someone whom he fell in love with. Because she had a different sexual style, he adapted to it for her. Making sacrafices or the willingness to change for the love of another speaks eons to his character and internal growth as he discovered what true love is.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

BTW, my hubby loves that I read (and write) those books! He knows what it does for our sex life. Take that, Armie :)



Good for you, sounds like you are using your literature to make your marriage the best it can be and ignoring anything from the outside from intruding into what a beautiful, loving, faithful (mind, body, and soul) relationship you have built with the man of all your dreams...success!

Anonymous said...

Spot on Lizzy! To each their own, but "Books are meant to take us places reality can't."

Not so sure about that, nothing I have read in a book is impossible....

I also despise the concept of "escapism" - to what is one escaping to or from? Sorry, life is far too wonderful for either to make any sense!

Anonymous said...

News flash: women can like sex. Mothers can like sex. It's usually how they became mothers

Duh, that's why we meet, fall in love with , and marry men and live happily ever after. Are you insinuating that woman only read romance novels because they contain sex? That's as assanine as calling all romance literature mommy porn, touche. It's not even real, no woman is that stupid, give us more credit than that. As a woman, what we want is one really good man with whom we can share the rest of our lives with and live fully satisfying lives. I am one of the lucky woman out there who found that man 25 years ago and he has blessed my life in more ways than I could imagine and of course, that makes the sex hotter than anything I could have ever imagined! Although I read nearly every kind of "Romance" book out there, as I don't mind a good "beach read"....I would hate to think that someone would turn to me and think I am reading mommy porn, that indicates some sort of arousal from or interest in the sex in the book, please - don't insult me. Most men in these books are awful anyhow, couldn't even come close to my wonderful hubby as a real man, so just doesn't do anything for me, nor should it....but, great reading and some awesome plots in many of them regardless.

Anonymous said...

Brava Molly! You tell him sweetie. I loved what you said about it threatening heterosexual males. Perhaps there's more truth to that then they understand. Words turn us on better than they do. Thank you

YIKES! Sounds like you are meeting all the wrong men in the world, sorry to hear that. No words can turn me on more than those spoken by my hubby!

Molly O'Keefe said...

Anonymous I'm glad you stopped by the blog and it's always great to talk to another romance reader and one whose taste in entertainment has made such a positive impact on your life. But the point of the essay is no one needs to be judged - what we read and why we read it is everyone's choice. No one needs to be ashamed for what or why they read what they do and you're throwing around a lot of judgement.

Anonymous said...

Not here to judge anyone, just as much as it wouldn't be fair to judge Armie for his opinion either, right? Only God can judge anyone of us. We each can decide right from wrong. Yes, everyone should be able to read whatever they want and that's a personal choice of every reader. Again, I wouldn't want someone to think I was an ax murderer if they saw me reading horror books all the time, just as much as I wouldn't want anyone thinking I was a woman who was here for the taking of men just because I read romance novels. That, I agree is where I think others make some really poor assumptions about romance readers in general. While there certainly are a few woman that could leave that impression, the only man that has my heart, body, mind, and soul is the one I already am enjoying this wonderful life with and I wouldn't want it any other way with anyone else. I get irritated by both men and women that question me about my love life or assume I am on the prowl when they observe me reading any of these books. As if I was discontented in some way and that couldn't possibly be any further from the truth. I mean, geez, it's a book for crying out loud people, it's not real, I wouldn't want to be the characters or live their lives, that's absurd to think that I would. Period.

Anonymous said...

I do find it sad, however, that someone would have to resort to reading a romance novel to be "turned on" or to rev up their sex drive. That only indicates underlying issues in their relationship surrounding desire. Fortunately, for me, hubby and I have had burning desire for one another throughout our journey or love and passion.

Anonymous said...

But all in all, it appears that you care deeply about your husband and your relationship with him. You even preface how the favorite part of your life is being a wife, also one of the best parts of my life. So, having made the effort to restore your intimacy and cherish it is commendable regardless of what it took to get there, it shows just how much you care about your own romantic relationship.

Eileen said...

I have to admit, I'm a little confused about who's saying what and how. I think, however, that we are losing the intent behind Molly's original post.

Armie Hammer is 100% entitled to his opinion about 50 Shades of Grey. Molly's issue was the dismissive and shaming attitude behind calling it "just mommy porn."

Whether you need to spice up your love life and reading erotica helps or hinders you in that attempt is a totally different issue and a personal one at that. I don't want to judge anyone for what they read or what they do in the bedroom or how those two activities might combine.

What Armie Hammer wants and doesn't want to read is also not the point. Again, it's the marginalization perhaps because it's a book about a woman written by a woman and marketed to women that's the issue.

At least, I'm pretty sure it is.

Anonymous said...

That may have been more eloquently put than the original post and it adds some much needed clarity to the subject. Agree, it is just as unfair to marginalize a book about a woman written by a woman as much as it is to marginalize a book about a man written by woman or a woman written by a man or even a man by a man or whatever combination one is reading. I agree, it should not be considered "porn" because it would be unfair to insinuate that all of us woman are aroused by reading it or that is the reason that we do read it. That, as a romance reader, I find insulting. If I were to be aroused by it, than yes, that's "porn" because the effect is one in the same. But, I have shared a wonderful love story with a very fulfilling sex life with the man of my dreams (My HEA :)) and haven't any need for that. Not to play marriage counselor, but if I did, I would immediately seek to resolve the underlying issues. I despise when someone makes an assumption that just because I read a romance or erotic novel that I long to be in the arms of another man or would 'desire' that. That just pisses me off, nothing is any better than lying in the arms of the man I have and sharing intimate moments with him. Please don't assume otherwise and 'marginalize' me for my choices in literature and make such assumptions, it 'paints' me as a pathetic woman.

Anonymous said...

Hammer is hardly the first person to call it "mommy porn". Many people call books like 50 shades and other romance novels "mommy porn." Look at Emma Watson's reaction to the rumors to the rumors that she might be in a 50 shades of Grey movie. She acted insulted and disgusted.

She and Hammer are movie stars. They don't have any need to "escape" from their realities by reading romance novels and pretending that they're being romanced by so and so.

And yes, that is the reason most women read these romance/erotica novels. I've met actual women who say they need that stuff to escape from their ordinary lives for a few hours.

Movie stars have lives that ordinary people can only dream about. They don't need escapism in their day to day lives because they play make-believe for a living.

Anonymous said...

They don't have any need to "escape" from their realities by reading romance novels and pretending that they're being romanced by so and so.

And yes, that is the reason most women read these romance/erotica novels. I've met actual women who say they need that stuff to escape from their ordinary lives for a few hours.


Tragically sad and pathetic that any woman needs to resort to that which is stated here. So much better to find someone to actually romance you each and every day! Thank God I have that, but I still like to spend time reading this genre and others.

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