Are Romance Novels Responsible For Real-Life Sexual Problems?

I’ve long held romantic comedies, TV shows, and romance novels responsible for real-life romantic problems. No man will actually make you feel like a woman with his passionate embraces and burning loins, then cook you a four-course dinner before he rushes off to perform heart surgery on orphans.

Well, apparently that is not the only problem romance novels cause. It turns out wishful hoping for a romp in bed akin to Dr. Trent Blackjack, Esq.’s throbbing member is influencing real-life sexual problems for some women, according to a report in The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. Psychologist Susan Quilliam, who wrote the report, claims romance novels glorify “unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, unrealistic sexual expectations and relationship breakdowns” and said the fantasies are negative for women. The UK’s Guardian didn’t give us specific examples, but perhaps they were just being British about it.I’m inclined to treat Qulliam’s observation as very silly. Men and women have always relied on stories and accompanying fantasies about them. The books might have gotten dirtier, but I reckon our dreamy, wistful psychological reaction hasn’t changed. A certain amount of fantasy is probably even good: some women probably count on their bedtime reading as their 15 minutes of sanity and/or pleasure each day.

However, the problem may just be that as we live in an increasingly mediated culture, “fantasy-as-reality” is more ubiquitous. It’s not just rom-coms or Harlequin novels that influence us; it’s reality shows like “The Bachelorette” and the panoply of celeb gossip magazines and our friends’ totally-biased Facebook status updates about their lives. The more versions of reality we see, the less clear it becomes to us what reality actually is. (Sorry, I’m getting all meta here.)

It may be true that women’s expectations of men’s performance in bed are more skewed than in, say, 1912, when a virgin bride knew zilch about sex. But I am more concerned with men’s skewed expectations of women’s appearance and interest in certain sex acts by pornography — which I would argue is much more prolific.

[Guardian UK]

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