What's the difference between literature and romance? Literature isn't about sex! At least, that's what most people would say. The truth is, most literary greats include a sex scene or two, if not more than that. A whole scene of Joyce's Ulysses is devoted to masturbation, and famous authors such as Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemmingway, and many others include sex in their work. So what is it that makes romance trashy and literature great?
Well, sex scenes in literature have a purpose: to reveal something about the characters that couldn't have been shown otherwise. Isn't there a purpose to sex in romance as well? Sure, it's supposed to get you all hot and bothered, but there has to be more than that to compel the reader to continue. Romances generally uses sex as a way to show the deepening relationship between two characters; not just to demonstrate their physical compatibility, but also to reveal how their love develops.
In literature, the characters are not always falling in love, but the gist is essentially the same. Sex is an important window into the character's mind. As a creative writing major who enjoys reading romance as much as I do literature, I get a lot of criticism from my peers. However, a good romance novel has all the same elements of a good literary novel: it's well written, has compelling characters, and reveals a piece of the human condition. Experiencing passion and falling in love is just as large a part of life as growing up and discovering yourself.
That makes romance, in my opinion, no less important than literature.
A.L. Jones is the author of Sire's Call.