If there was one single panel I wasn't sure about attending, it was the Sex and God: Not-So-Strange Bedfellows panel that took place at RT Booklovers' Con on Thursday afternoon.
Those who follow my Twitter may be aware that I have a long and involved history with religion, including 16 years of Catholic school (yes, even college). But as I've reached adulthood and tried to come to grips with the issues plaguing the Catholic Church, I've drifted farther and farther from any sort of spirituality. The idea of listening to four authors talking about why God should be present in romance novels worried me a bit.
Wow, was I wrong.
It was actually Tiffany Reisz's involvement that led me to the panel; I've often had very frank conversations with her (most on Twitter) about religion, especially as it's applied to her books. But it was the moderation and input of authors Amber Belldene and Alice Gaines and editor Christa Soule that got me hooked.
The key takeaway: no matter what your stance on religion — charismatic Catholic or Sikh, Buddhist or Jew — that is part of your life, from questioning to acceptance to outright denial. So why, these authors asked, is no one ever talking about it? I'm not sure a day goes by that faith doesn't come up, whether you subscribe to one or not. Yet the lack of these types of discussions or actions leaves a giant hole in the lives of characters, taking away a dimension.
Even more complicated is that of authors and readers of racier fiction. What happens when your alter ego of romance or erotica reader — or "worse," writer — is discovered by your faith community. Obviously for many denominations it's not an issue, but when your faith identity is one with a conservative community, it can lead to problems — including exclusion.
I had one question for the panelists: How much the increasing politicization of religion might be affecting the willingness of authors to include topics relating to faith in their books. All the panelists agreed there was a risk of alienating readers who may associate a type of faith with political views that may not match that of readers. But again, the authors noted this was a risk of any facet of a character, and in the interest of creating fully dimensional characters, authors should seek to provide all their parts. And realistically, that includes their stances on — and habits surrounding — faith.
Did you attend the Sex and God panel at RT? What did you think? You can find more RT Convention coverage here.