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29 May 2012

Romantic clinch covers: are they offensive?

Are you offended by clinch covers? I just did my sexual harassment training at work tonight, and such a point was raised. Apparently I can't read sexy books at work because I'm harassing everyone who sees it. Even possession of such books in the work place is against regulation O.o One just needs to fall out of my bag and I can receive an official warning. Ebook time!

The above was a sensationalised statement because I'm shocked about such rules. It is only a fraction of our harassment regulations but it effects me very personally. Despite the continual debate online about reading romance and erotica on public transport and how people react to our book covers (of which I couldn't give a damn. Just don't watch me reading if you have a problem with what I am reading) and how people perceive us for our reading material, I have never stood down on my right to read what I want to read, where I feel comfortable reading it. I don't cover my book covers, I don't read ebooks because I am ashamed of my reading material, and I don't hide my book if someone starts reading over my shoulder. I am more likely to start a conversation than anything (if the person isn't being negative of course, and is genuinely interested in the novel), and if someone makes a comment about my morals or makes unwanted advancements towards me for reading such a book I count that as sexual harassment. As it is. Note, this occurred on a train when I had a salacious cover (M/F/M, with kink). Nothing I would even consider reading at work, regardless of format. When I'm reading one of those I head to a cafe ;)

So, I never though of reading a book as potential sexual harrassment to those around me. I should state that I don't have a problem with swimsuit calendars or images of sexy filmstars myself. I would if the images were non-consensual or of sexualised underage subjects. I do have a problem with slurs and sexualised comments about someone, because I see that as non-consensual. But I digress.

I understand the company regulations for no porn, no swimsuit calendars, no lewd comments, no photos of shirtless hotties as my computer wallpaper, etc. All those are common sense to me. And, on saying that, I guess can see how that can be stretched to include covers with a shirtless hero and a heroine showing a bit of leg and shoulder (classic clinch pose). But, surely it is just that! A stretch! When does a picture become so sexualised that it is unacceptable? One of my co-workers has a photo of him and his wife (who also works with us) in a pretty sexy clinch. On his desk, in plain sight of everyone. I am sure he isn't the only one. These are acceptable, but a clinch cover is not. So does this also mean I can't read a book about surfing? A shirtless man rubbing himself up against a surfboard? Or does it need a recognised sexual context to be offensive? He could have a surfboard fetish! You never know.

Obviously I wouldn't read a kinky erotica with a graphic cover in my office lunchroom, but I do read them on trains and at cafes. I understand that the regulations some companies have are probably actually related to these more extreme covers thar could themselves be considered soft porn. However the wording does not exclude clinch covers of even the most chaste romance novel. I guess we live in a world where sexuality is stigmatised in all its forms, regardless of how physically revealing the image is.

I intend to ask a friend in HR tomorrow for further clarification. I very much doubt anyone I work with would complain about me reading a novel with a clinch pose in the kitchen, and I already leave the erotica at home or on my phone. Mostly because no one needs to know the type of erotica I read, and erotica covers can get quite graphic. I very much doubt anyone would mind the clinch covers on most romance novels. As a friend said, this is extreme political correctness.

So, ignoring where I work (that isn't important), here is the discussion point: are you offended by clinch covers? I don't even mean the highly sexualised covers of erotica, but just the traditional clinch pose. Am I (or anyone else) offending people by reading books with such covers in a public space? We've had this debate regarding reading romance and erotica on public transport, which is similar, but the anonymous nature of public transport and cafes (etc.) leads on to think that those around us are not victims but voyeurs for watching us reading.

I must state that your comments will not stop me from reading romance and erotica on trains or at cafes. Any vindictive comments by zealots will be deleted. If you have concerns about clinch covers, please state them politely and respectfully.

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