Romance novels & the fantasy of real life

4:17 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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(WZZM) -- Romance books are a $1.4 billion industry. The novels took off in the 1980s, but you'd have to turn back their passionate pages quite a few centuries to find what's considered the first one.

'Pamela' was written in 1740 by Samuel Richardson. It's the first novel that focused entirely on courtship from the female perspective.

So it's safe to say that romance novels have been causing controversy for hundreds of years and it continues today.

The most recent one to ignite the debate is '50 Shades of Grey,' referred to as porn for women because of its explicit sexual scenarios.

Megan Stubbs is a sexologist in Grand Rapids. She uses her graduate degree in human sexuality to help both men and women explore deeper levels of sex. And she says romance novels are a good way to start. "Any tool you can use to help better communicate with your partner is great."

As for the controversy surrounding romance novels? "I've heard a lot of criticisms on it not depicting a correct relationship, it's abuse... when do we hold fiction books to real standards? It's fantasy," says Stubbs. "I don't ever want a woman to feel shame for what they fantasize about, so if they have a certain genre of book that they like, that's completely your personal choice... that's completely fine and normal."

And if reading extreme romance novels has put a strain on your relationship, Stubbs says don't blame the books. "I think that there's probably a breakdown in communication if this man is under the impression that his wife has gone away and lost in books somewhere... if he's blaming himself because he doesn't see himself as his own wife's hero, there's something going on. There's a mismatch in either what they want in the bedroom or their relationship-- it's not the book's fault."

But not everyone agrees. Don Pearson an associate pastor at Blythefield Baptist Church in Rockford thinks often times romance novels do more harm than good. "If we're going to talk about an extreme romance series that is very descriptive in its sexuality and very different than reality, I don't like that."

Pearson's concern is that some women try to make their fantasy a reality. "Let's turn this guy into a slow build emotional character who plays out romance exactly the way I want it done in a guy. Well, you can't find that in real life-- you can't find that guy. If she's editing what she really longs for and wants in a guy by a world that's not quite accurate, I think it really would hurt a guy."

But Pearson makes it clear that he's referring to women with an addiction to romance novels, reading two or more books a week by his standards. "When we do anything to an extreme and we do it as a substitute for God or for life relationships, then it would become wrong."

Surprisingly, Stubbs and Pearson do agree on one thing: Romance novels can be a good way to create stronger intimacy in a couple's relationship and it should start as a conversation.

"I think nothing is out-of-bounds for a husband and wife together, so if they talk about it together and explore soul and body intimacy together in a different language and different concepts and new ideas, yeah I think that's great," said Pearson.

Stubbs agrees, "Have the conversation outside of the bedroom. And say 'What would you think about maybe using a blindfold the next time we are intimate?' and see how they feel."

If you're interested in debating this topic even more here are some links to help you get started.:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/in-defense-of-romance-novels/  

http://catholicexchange.com/whats-so-bad-about-romance-novels/  

http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=582  

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