From 5th grade on I was famous for reading horror, fantasy, and classics. What people around me didn't know was that by age 13, I'd also gotten a taste of historical romance novels and was hooked. It wasn't until after high school that I decided to quit reading them in secret and to "come out of the closet," so to speak. But still, I used to be a little embarrassed and offended when a friend would eye one of the romance novels I was reading and say, "Oh, you're reading one of those 'smut books' again."
I threw off the shame of reading "smut" after awhile...or so I thought. I was always adamant to argue that the romance novels I read weren't smut. "Because they have a plot," was my typical argument. I had cast away the shame of reading romance novels so much that I began writing my own. Never mind that it took awhile before I would flat out say "romance" when asked what I wrote, after awhile I admitted it.
Then, a couple years back, I embraced the term "smut." I was a mechanic that also did some construction work on the side and all of my coworkers were men. When they saw me working on a manuscript during break time, they'd ask what I wrote.
"Paranormal Romance," I replied with a steely gaze, daring them to laugh.
My response was always greeted with a blank stare, and maybe a tentative, "Huh? What's that?"
Finally I grew sick of their confusion and said, "Supernatural Smut." (Catchy name, huh?)
Comprehension dawned in every man's eyes. "Oh, okay." Then either we'd all get back to work or they'd go on to ask what the story was about.
It was then that I realized a few things:
1.) Many men don't know what "Romance" is as a genre, but they all know what "smut" is.
2.) "Smut" isn't really a bad thing for most people.
3.) "Smut" is a figurative term.
Did you know that THE GREAT GATSBY was once referred to as "smut" when it was banned by a few schools a few decades back? I remember very little about that book. Schools have a way of sucking the fun out of almost any piece of reading. But if it DID have anything I would remotely consider to be "smutty" I bet I would have enjoyed it more.
So what is "smut?" Is it any romance novel? Or just romance novels with sex scenes? Is it romance novels with cheesy or non-existent storylines? Is it porn without a plot?
I would love to hear how you define "smut" and why.