Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Romance Novels - Unrealistic Expectations?

I was surfing the net, searching feverishly for a new blog topic, when I came across an article that had me doing a double-take – Romance fiction is being blamed for sexual health problems. What? I clicked on the sight of the “Guardian,” a United Kingdom publication, and began reading the story. According to a psychologist, Susan Quilliam, Mills and Boon books are responsible for a myriad of sexual health problems . Did it occur to anyone that these women who were the basis for this statement are seeing psychologists? What about the millions of women who aren’t having problems delineating between the real world and fiction? Please see: www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/07/mills-and-boon-sexual-health-problems

I don’t want to go into the details about what those various problems were but suffice it to say: romance books in general are being blamed for every little problem these women have with their sex lives. I laughed then I became incensed, then I laughed again. The gist of the problem, according to this Quilliam, is that many women are addicted to these books and the stories in these books create an unrealistic expectation of sex, dating and finding a man. This is fiction for Pete’s Sake! We write about people who only exist in our imaginations. Surely we cannot be blamed because some person decided her life wasn’t a romance novel. Heck, my life isn’t a romance novel! (If anyone out there is experiencing being abducted by a Sheik and whisked away to live in a palace with thousands of servants, clue me in on where to sign up –geez). So, I decided to look at who I could blame for all the problems in my life and I came up with a list:

I have nightmares at night sometimes which causes me to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning – I blame Stephen King and Dean Kootnz for writing horror stories.

I have nine horses on this farm which require way too much work – I blame Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry and John Wayne because they made too many Westerns which I watched as a kid. False advertisement that horses are just fun, no work involved.

I became a lawyer because I wanted to right the wrongs in this world. I was sadly mistakened that I could stop all the criminals. This led to unrealistic expectations that I was a super hero - I blame Woodward and Bernstein for writing “All the President’s Men.”

I have to keep my house clean which is just setting myself up for extreme disappointment - I blame June Cleaver and Donna Reed. ‘Nuff said that I can’t clean house in a shirt-waisted dress and high heels.

My cooking leaves a lot to be desired – I blame Julia Childs for writing all those cookbooks and making it sound easy to prepare Beef Wellington and pate de foie gras. She just set me up for failure.

My list could go on but by now I think you are getting the point. We can’t blame others for our choices and foibles in life. Readers of the romance genre are not stupid. They know the difference between fiction and real life. Reading, going to the movies, watching television and any type of entertainment is just that – entertainment. It isn’t real but it takes us from our world to a place where we are cowboys, superheroes, great cooks and expert lovers. What’s wrong with a little imagination and escapism? I am tired of people who blame others for their own problems.

Tell me your opinion on this new trend that blames romance writers for the world’s woes in the bedroom. And, feel free to add to my list about things which have caused problems in your life (Anyone out there afraid of police because of Barney Fyfe?)


  1. I so agree, Cheryl! Anyone who can't separate real life from a novel is not clicking on all cylinders, if you ask me. I think romance novels can be good for marriage.

    Personally, I believe blaming my problems on other people is lame, lame, lame. I'd be in a psychologist's office too, if I started trying to think of whose fault all my problems are. I figure my problems are mostly my own fault, and I better do something about them myself instead of whining and blaming. And anybody who blames their relationship problems on romance novels should consider that they were the ones who picked up the books and read them. Nobody forced them to read book after book. Hello.

    LOL! Good topic, Cheryl. I've seen this come up over and over lately, where people want to say that romance novels are "bad" in some way. It's usually men saying it, but I won't go there!

  2. Thanks Melanie. I think that it is just the times we live in - no one wants to be responsible for their choices and their problems. I am like you: I chose to pick the book up, turn the tv on, or go to the movies. Anything that results from that choice is of my own making. I can see where young girls might get a convoluted view of love and love-making but I think it is something that we, as parents, should explain to them - i.e. the difference in the real world and the world of fiction. OUR responsibility to do it.

  3. As I seem to be a magnet for people with psychological issues, I can partially confirm the phenomenon that I -think- they should have been getting at in that article. I do actually know a handful of unstable women who have taken romance literature as their own personal gospel-o-love.

    Last year, a former friend left her husband and five children so she could begin dating three men at once in search of the Edward Cullen-like relationship she felt she deserved. That's right, she attributed her manic break from reality with having read Twilight. Now do we blame Stephanie Meyer, or undiagnosed Bipolar disorder coupled with one of the worst midlife crisis cases I've ever heard of? It wasn't hard for me to go with the later. >.<

    But, as ever, it's easier to cast blame than to get to the root of the problem and deal with it.

    ~Angela Blount

  4. What about all the people who read romance and don't have sexual problems. I know there is at least one . . . .

  5. Wow, Angela! That is so sad! Yes, I do understand that there are people who either have psychosis or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorders which all involve disassociative behavior. They truly believe their "other" life exists and that certain things are reality when in actuality none of their delusions are real. I feel sorry for that woman's family! It's hard to compete with a fantasy made up in the sick person's head. But, as you so eloquently stated, it's easier to cast the blame than deal with the root of the problem.

    Hey Jean, there are TWO that I know of...

  6. This makes me sad. Like everything else romance is being picked apart and placed under a microscope?

    I see nothing wrong with a woman expecting a man to treat her with respect, to seek love in the midst of trials, to gauge a man's devotion through loyalty and protection, or to expect the convergence of two souls via the culmination of loving intimacy. Anyone who thinks that is wrong, is terribly deprived of real love.

    Humans crave the connection love empowers them with. But as time goes by, it can be very hard to remember that joy when life deals the blows everyone must face. People read romance novels to help them remember what new love felt like. And in that remembrance, they embrace the love around them.

    My .02. ;)

  7. You are right Kathy, there is nothing wrong with a woman expecting a man to treat her with respect or to seek love and all it's gifts. I have found in my reading that most people believe in the intense romantic love that people experience at the beginning of a relationship - the flash and exciting beginning. But they seldom praise the deeper, more enduring love that comes from living with someone day-to-day. Called by experts, Agape love, this is what we should all strive for - the selfless and complete love. Thanks for your wonderful insight!

  8. Sorry I missed this yesterday, I was on the road and just didn't make it, but I love the topic.

    I think it is crazy to blame sexual or romantic troubles on a fiction book. Maybe the writer of the article needs to see a psychologist.