Lust vs. Love
I'm learning in philosophy class that definition is a key element of an argument. Before I argue: What's the definition of lust? Definition of love?
Lust is, according to my handy American Heritage Dictionary, "intense or unrestrained sexual craving."
Love is, according to same dictionary, something very different. Love is "a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness."
And while a dictionary definition can never encompass something as huge and mysterious as love, this definition does point to something obvious. Lust and love are not the same thing.
Lust is merely physical attraction and desire. It's got nothing to do with personal connection, mutual understanding, or intentional commitment. Love, however, runs deeper than lust. It sees beyond instant attraction, hot looks, sizzling eyes: Love is a person-to-person thing that's rooted in friendship. Best friendship. And long hours talking, lots of laughing, lots of questioning and arguing and learning to work together.
Mainstream YA fiction has forgotten that. Worse, it's twisted that up.
See, Edward and Bella must be in love because he's hot and she's attracted to his marble moodiness. They must be in love because they both obsess about each other and dream about kissing each other. They must be in love because when they kiss, sparks fly and things sizzle. They must be in love because --
I don't want to rant about Twilight, and I don't mean to single it out. But I think it's a good example of a broader trend, and so I'm going to use it to elaborate.
Why must they be in love?
Speaking as a teenager myself, I know it's easy to fall for "love" stories like Bella and Edward's. The tension in YA paranormal/romance books runs so high it's impossible not to get caught up in eyes staring, hands touching, bodies wanting.
But. What else is there to a relationship like that?
This lust-mance isn't real life. This lust=love stuff is a myth, a sugar-coated and highly addicting myth that we're swallowing like candy - because it is candy. It tastes good for a while. I'm not going to lie: I like sizzling chemistry between two characters who are insanely attracted to each other.
When romance is boiled down to mere sex, though, it loses something valuable. Yeah, it seems like candy; our society, our teen readers, and our YA writers are gulping it down by the handful. But it's just going to make us sick.
Maybe we already are: we're so obsessed with sex - our culture is so saturated with it - that we forget about love and trade it for something cheaper.
How cute would it be to read about two characters who connect like kindred spirits not because they can't stop staring at each other in the halls, but because they trade words that matter? Because they come to know each other? Because they learn the meaning of selfless love -- not selfish lust, but selfless love?
I know that some people think that fiction is just fiction, and characters are just characters - and that analyzing romance in YA is just plain dumb. And... to be honest, I think that's a cop-out argument. Books influence their readers; the myth of YA romance has influenced our culture. We've gotta change something - because we've lost something precious.
Comments welcome. Arguments too. I'd like to hear what you think!