Front cover of a romance novel
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Romance novels mess up women’s sex lives

By Sarah Moses Monday, August 15, 2011 - 15:23
Romance novels are the source of many relationship problems, says relationship psychologist Susan Quillam. These books account for almost half of all fiction bought in western society. But while they may titillate, it’s not without a price. 

Women who expect real-life relationships to be like romantic fiction are heading for a broken heart, the British author says.

Real Life

“He seized her in his manly arms and bent his lips to hers…” Quilliam quotes the curious language of women’s romantic fiction in the title of her recent article in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.The virtuous romance-novel virgin meets the man of her dreams, blissfully loses her virginity and from then on enjoys condom-free sex and never-ending multiple orgasms. Unfortunately, she doesn’t exist in real life. The messages of perfectionism, idealism and escapism in romance novels do little to promote a healthy and safe relationship and sex life.“Sex may be wonderful and relationships loving, but neither are ever perfect and idealising them is the short way to heartbreak,” Quilliam writes.

Romance novel

Unlike romance novels, women probably won’t recall losing their virginity as the best sex they ever had, might not orgasm during penetration and need to think about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.Fans that get through as many as 30 novels a month may learn everything they know about sex and love from romantic fiction. And this can affect their ability to make rational relationship decisions, because they’re trying to copy the romantic world in the books.

Best advice

Romance fans might opt for unprotected sex with a new lover because in a novel the woman rarely reaches for a condom in the passion of the moment. Or they might abandon birth control later on in the relationship because that’s what they believe being in love means. They might even get pregnant against their own wishes because their partner wants them to.When women start to blur the line between romance novels and real life, they are heading for problems, warns Quillam. “Put down the books – and pick up reality,” is sometimes the best advice, she argues.

Should romance novels come with a warning - may harm your real-life relationships? What do you think?

Women who expect real-life relationships to be like romantic fiction are heading for a broken heart, the British author says.

Real Life

“He seized her in his manly arms and bent his lips to hers…” Quilliam quotes the curious language of women’s romantic fiction in the title of her recent article in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.The virtuous romance-novel virgin meets the man of her dreams, blissfully loses her virginity and from then on enjoys condom-free sex and never-ending multiple orgasms. Unfortunately, she doesn’t exist in real life. The messages of perfectionism, idealism and escapism in romance novels do little to promote a healthy and safe relationship and sex life.“Sex may be wonderful and relationships loving, but neither are ever perfect and idealising them is the short way to heartbreak,” Quilliam writes.

Romance novel

Unlike romance novels, women probably won’t recall losing their virginity as the best sex they ever had, might not orgasm during penetration and need to think about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.Fans that get through as many as 30 novels a month may learn everything they know about sex and love from romantic fiction. And this can affect their ability to make rational relationship decisions, because they’re trying to copy the romantic world in the books.

Best advice

Romance fans might opt for unprotected sex with a new lover because in a novel the woman rarely reaches for a condom in the passion of the moment. Or they might abandon birth control later on in the relationship because that’s what they believe being in love means. They might even get pregnant against their own wishes because their partner wants them to.When women start to blur the line between romance novels and real life, they are heading for problems, warns Quillam. “Put down the books – and pick up reality,” is sometimes the best advice, she argues.

Should romance novels come with a warning - may harm your real-life relationships? What do you think?

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