How can love survive? Many think love happens willy-nilly, but some authorities believe they should control the emotion.

lovelocksLove at first sight. Many of us, at least the very young and very naïve, believe it happens. But whether love occurs with the speed of lightning or following long and complex efforts at a relationship, most agree romantic love exists. Being humans our expressions of love, our fascination with romance take many forms, most of them relatively harmless. We shower gifts of jewelry on our beloved, share preferences in food and wine, proclaim our feelings on social media. We search for examples of love in films, music, art, and enjoy emotions vicariously.

Recently on opposite sides of the globe, however, authorities are intervening in physical demonstrations of attraction. First up, Vietnam, where the Publishing and Printing Department is cracking down on “clichéd, useless, obscene and offensive” works that are “poisoning” the youth. This same claim has been used off and on in the U.S. during various censorship battles. Furthermore, “government needs to regulate an activity related to culture and people’s way of thinking so that it can benefit people.”

If only. If only all of humanity could agree on a method to truly benefit people. Unfortunately, down through the ages, this activity always seems to include punishing, even destroying those who don’t concur with authorities, like Nazis and various religious fundamentalists.

Let’s move on to Paris, where the city is removing locks from the Pont des Arts and other bridges on which star-struck lovers have attached fixtures as symbols of their relationships. A book and film started the craze in about 2006, and thousands of visitors adopted the fad. However, now sections of fencing on bridges are crumbling under the weight, posing a safety risk as well as “degradation of property heritage,” not to mention problems associated with graffiti, pickpockets and street vendors.

At least in this example of anti-romanticism, official action carries some weight. The equivalent of some 20 elephants to be accurate.

Other cities face the problem ways different from removing locks. In Rome city officials created official spots—steel posts with chains on the bridge—to eliminate damage to the infrastructure.

I’m not optimistic either activity will control the interest in and demonstration of romance. Humans are nothing if not creative. We’ve been dodging censors for millennia and finding creative ways to express emotion even longer. However, the attempts at restraint are ever-changing and as entertaining as the many paths of love.

love, censorship, Paris, Vietnam, locks, bridges, books, romances

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Keeping pace with social change: Women accept a brave new world, while writers of women’s fiction wonder how to make headway

summer of loveOur great-grandmothers would be shaking their heads in dismay if they could visit our times. Internet, Twitter, Pinterest, smart phones, text messages, they wouldn’t know where to begin to stay in touch with their families and friends, let alone how to use these tools. Change has become so constant and so fast, even people on the shady side of forty can lose their balance in the net.

No one in restaurants, stores, or theaters is minus a device over which they bend their heads and wave their fingers. Married couples spend more time online than they do in bed with one another. I can barely go shopping without some seller urging me to download a new app.

However, women’s fiction by and large hasn’t adapted to this transformation, at least not to the extent I see in real life every day. Novels still focus on characters, plot, description. Although mobile phones now appear in fiction, and a woman in danger turns immediately to a cell, few heroines or heroes spend the amount of time online that occurs in daily life. Human interaction requires face-to-face contact, if not body-to-body; and text messages or Tweets are used, if at all, as quirky plot developments..

The array of communications methods mirrors what seems to be occurring in women’s personal lives. If experts, along with films, television, and songs, are to be believed, women are leaping in and out of bed (or in cars or on tables or outdoors) with enthusiasm and are increasingly casual in their sexual encounters, if not outright promiscuous.

Why then do novels continue to advocate stable, monogamous relationships? While wedding rings may be far fewer in stories than in the 20th century, the preponderance of women’s fiction has the heroine and hero in a happy clinch by the end, not a clutch of partners.

So how can the poor writer decide how to publish a story and what equipment to feature? Should we write in 148 character series, as one novel I read did in an introduction to each section? Are young readers going to dump fiction unless it’s available on phones? The phenomenon in Japan is the cell phone novel with chapters of less than 200 words. Are our characters moving toward no physical contact, just phone sex?

One thing’s for sure. In fiction, the chaste (and chased) virgin of fifty years ago, frequently a nurse, secretary, or teacher, is far outnumbered by her more adventuresome sisters. They may not be “loose women,” but they’ve been around the block. Plots are reflecting reality, as studies and surveys show attitudes toward casual sex and multiple partners continue to become more liberal.

And yet. . .and yet. At the conclusion of the adventure, whether the novel is a sweet romance, erotic, historical, sci fi, literary, steamy or whatever, everyone’s still just looking for love. Real love. True love. Which continues to mean one partner, even if he’s a vampire.