Romance Novels May be Bad for Your Health

I found this article on LA Times….I just had to include it here. Brings up some good points, but wow, kind of puts a damper on romance readers. And for writers – kind of feel like I’m being restricted on what and how I can create stories. Although many will not feel the same way, I do. I always want ultimate creative freedom – but  I also try to keep other moral, societal concerns in mind – and those hinder my thoughts.

Ladies, beware as you choose your summer reads: Like so many enjoyable things, that romance novel in your beach bag may be bad for your health.

So writes relationship psychologist and “agony aunt” Susan Quilliam in an essay published in the latest edition of the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

The problem? When the novels’ escapist fantasies get confused with reality, Quilliam says, leading women to make poor choices.  Unlike in novels featuring Fabio on the cover, real-life sex is not always perfect and relationships are not always smooth.  Pregnancies are not always trouble-free. Shunning a condom because a novel’s heroine “wanted ‘no barrier’ between her and the hero” (as typically portrayed in the mere 11.5% of romance novels that did mention condom use at all, according to one study Quilliam cites) is likely to result in serious negative consequences.

“The values of romantic fiction…sometimes run totally counter to those which [women’s health practitioners] espouse,” Quilliam writes, later adding, “above all, we teach that sex may be wonderful and relationships loving, but neither are ever perfect and that idealising them is the short way to heartbreak.”

Quilliam notes that romance novels account for more than half of fiction bought in some Western countries, with some fans reading several of the easily digested books a week.  Formal sex and relationship education might take place over a few hours in a woman’s lifetime. Realistic takes on romance hardly stand a chance.

But the news for romance novel fans isn’t entirely heart-breaking.

Quilliam — who confesses a keen love of period romance novels during her own teen years — acknowledges that bodice-rippers have their pluses. These days, depictions of sex in the novels are more “healthily presented” than they were in the past, with heroes and heroines both more aware of women’s sexual needs, she wrote.  

In a 2009 survey, she adds, 75.5% of regular readers of romance novels said that romantic fiction “encouraged them to have more sex, more adventurous sex and more experimental sex.

Apparently, the same women said they did not negatively compare their real-life partners with the fictional swains, “unless the partnership was already rocky.”

“Whew,” Quilliam writes.

LA Times


3 Responses

  1. I get it.

    I’m more a manga of the romance genre reader. Problem is, most of the stories are series that I just cannot drop since I’ve been reading them for years ( I was still a teen, and swooning ), and I really want to know what happens next.

    • It just sucks that as a writer you see articles like this and it places little seeds in your head as you create storylines and characters. Then, at least I, come to the point where you go ‘screw it’ and just start writing. And whatever happens happens. As a reader I appreciate what the writer creates for me and it saddens me to know their ideas were stifled and couldn’t be as great as they could be you know? Just a fine line …..

      • I guess I belong to another category that the relationship psychologist has missed noting…. readers of romantic novels have become ” idealistic” as to how their own real time romance should play out. This kind of readers ( perhaps myself included ) are bound to get hurt more when reality kicks in. I’d like to believe that my feet are on firm ground . ( I hope )

        This is an excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

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