Psychologist ridiculed for arguing that romantic fiction harms women's minds
Romance novelists and readers have come together to defend their chosen genre against the accusation that "women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books' entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography".
An article on KSL.com, a news website owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claims that there are similarities between what happens to a man when he views pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance novel, according to the Christian psychologist Dr Juli Slattery. Slattery says that "she is seeing more and more women who are clinically addicted to romantic books", according to the article, and "for many women, these novels really do promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships".Written by founder and president of LDS Life Coaching Kimberly Sayer Giles, the article goes on to present a five-point plan for tackling romance novel addiction. "If you are not in a real relationship, you may want to focus on finding one. Are you spending time reading instead of getting out there making new friends and meeting people?" asks Giles, who also suggests that "if you love to read, just choose a different type of book. There are many interesting choices that do not include arousing scenes".
The piece provoked an immediate reaction online from romance fans and writers. "[I'm] not going to say, 'Oh. It's Mormons' as some sort of explanation because there are many Mormon readers and writers of romance whom I suspect disagree mightily with this argument. I am going to say the following, again and again and again: romances are good. Romances are fantastic, in fact. There are terribly few places wherein women's emotional experiences, personal troubles and intimate sexuality are portrayed favorably," wrote Sarah Wendell, author of Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels and founder of the romance website Smart Bitches Trashy Books. "Romances are not bad for you. There is nothing wrong with you for liking them. There is nothing wrong with you for exploring different worlds, different relationships, different emotions, different personal experiences through fiction, and if romances are your preferred way to be entertained, more power to you."
Urban fantasy novelist Amanda Bonilla, a "ravenous reader of paranormal and urban fantasy romance", said that she gets through at least a book a week. "And I can safely say that I don't foam at the mouth or experience the DTs when I'm not reading a steamy sex scene. I don't get the shakes and rock back and forth on the floor when my mind isn't filled with visions of the quintessential Alpha-male seducing me against my better judgment," she blogged. "Reading is an escape. It's fantasy brought to life in your mind … I wholeheartedly disagree with this psychologist's assertions."
The piece also prompted a fierce rebuttal on Twitter, where crime writer Jason Pinter started the satirical hashtag #romancekills asking "what other horrible calamities romance novels are responsible for"."My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos," wrote Pinter, going on to suggest that "the destruction of Alderaan was due to Darth Vader reading too many romance novels", that "Maria Shriver's marriage to Arnold Schwarzenegger dissolved because Arnold was reading too many romance novels" and that "King George VI only developed a speech impediment because he kept thinking about scandalously illicit romance novels".
Romancekills quickly became a trending topic, with other writers and readers jumping in to defend their choice of literature. "Fleas carrying black death were imported into Europe in romance novels," contributed romance novelist Rachel Grant. "The Titanic hit that iceberg because the lookouts were too busy reading romance novels," added literary agent Amy Boggs. And "every time a woman reads a romance novel, her lover dies … slowly, and with great pleasure," wrote novelist Christina Dodd.