Exploring Links Between Romance Novels And Porn

Thanks to Wikimedia for the image.

According to a Christian psychologist, romance novels can cause emotional addictions in women, leading to unbalanced behavior and losing touch with reality. Apparently, romance novels function for women just like porn functions for men, creating unrealistic fantasies that becoming addicting, while promoting dissatisfaction with one’s real relationships.

Fans of the romance genre are protesting this view as one-sided, claiming that romance novels validate women’s emotional experiences and provide imaginative ways for women to explore what different kinds of relationships might be like. The fans, along with Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory, assert that readers of romances are, indeed, intelligent enough to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Like any other literary or film genre, romances contain stock plots and stereotyped characters; and, like any other genre, there is a pretty obvious line where the stories depart from reality. Maybe you wouldn’t start reading romances to a four-year-old, but there’s no reason adult women couldn’t read them for fun, put them down, and resume their normal lives without acting like shivering, slavering addicts, jonesing for the next hot scene of emotional and sensual titillation.

Interestingly, the conventions that shape both romance novels and pornography are strikingly similar, if inverted. As summarized on Salon, most mainstream porn plots rely on the assumption that women crave sexual pleasure from men, while most romance plots rely on the characterization of men who find fulfillment in being converted by their soulmate to more loving ways. Physical fulfillment vs. emotional fulfillment. Both genres can promote unrealistic ideals by cloaking their values in plausible settings. As Clark-Flory points out: “Men who actually buy into the porno norm may be greatly disappointed when they encounter real women who do not orgasm on command, breasts that do not defy gravity or genitalia resembling that of an adolescent.”

In the end, though, if we don’t trust adults to distinguish fantasy from reality, if we must police every novel or clip of porn that they might see, then we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a sexually independent adult. Yes, some individuals might invest too much in fictional characters, whether on the screen or on the page, but most people treat fantasies as such: marvelously powerful tools for exploring ourselves and our world, but still inherently connecting us back to our world, our desires, ourselves.

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About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.