ICB: Steamy romance novels are bad for your health
Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit. Get ready to get steamy. The hot topic du jour is romance novels and the apparent threat they cause to women’s sexual health.
A UK medical journal has published a piece from ‘agony aunt’ Susan Quilliam arguing that bodice-ripper romantic fiction is discouraging condom use and giving women crazy ideas about orgasms.
Before we go any further, let’s have some gratuitous ‘literary’ sex scenes, just to give you the flavour.
Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.
OK, you got me, that’s an excerpt from Rowan Somerville’s The Shape of Her, last year’s winner of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award.
Ms Quilliam writes in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health that she is more concerned with romantic fiction that ends “with the heroine being rescued from danger by the hero, and then abandoning herself joyfully to a life of intercourse-driven orgasms and endless trouble-free pregnancies in order to cement their marital devotion”.
She’s backed herself with figures about the popularity of romance, and statistics about the scarcity of safe sex messages in them.
And she may be right that some women are “more likely to be informed by Mills and Boon than by the Family Planning Association”.
OK, so I haven’t read anything that would count as romantic fiction since giggling over Judy Blume’s Forever more than two decades ago, but I call bullshit on Ms Quilliam’s idea that people should stop reading fiction - she says: “Sometimes the kindest and wisest thing we can do for our clients is to encourage them to put down the books – and pick up reality.”
She calls it escapism, and that’s sort of the point.
Imagine if fiction always reflected fact and instead of bareback fantasies about horse-riding cowboys the only stories around were 300 pages on a day in the life of an open-plan office.
Instead of Shakespearean tragedy you’d have the more banal tragedies of missed trains – wouldn’t want people getting crazy ideas about suicide or murder.
Lolita’d be out for sure, as would Clockwork Orange. Naked Lunch has some kooky take-home messages too.
What other books would you advise people never read, in case it has adverse health effects?
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…