ETA: Thanks to Carolyn Jewel for the link: it seems most of this article is plagiarized from a letter to the editor from 2007. OH THE HILARITY. So not only does Sayer Giles have her head up her bum BUT she’s a plagiarist, too? WOW. JUST WOW.
Another day, another disparaging article about romance novels. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link that set Twitter on fire this morning and insulted so many of us who read and write the genre: Romance novels can be addictive as pornography.
What set my hair on fire about this article is that this is EXACTLY the attitude I was trying so hard to combat in my upcoming book, the one where romance readers and authors worked together to help me defend against this crap.
At least it’s a bit more rare to see the asshattery displayed in flaming colors like this. Used to be weekly. Now my blood pressure has time to level out to somewhat normal numbers.
Kimberly Sayer Giles, of LDS Life Coaching, outlines that romance is porn, some women are addicted to it, and conveniently she has a few steps toward wearing yourself off the romance now that she’s insulted us all most thoroughly.
First, I have a question: LDS Life Coaching? LDS as in Latter Day Saints? Is there a Mormon prohibition against romance novels or fiction depicting sex? I know of some of the other Mormon prohibitions but am unfamiliar with any regarding sexuality in fiction or romance specifically. Sandy Kidd tweeted that, “sex depictions are taboo, even between married het couples in romance books.”
Yet Laura Hunsaker’s sister pimped Hunsaker’s books to her LDS book group (nice sister!). And Andria Robb responded that she’s Mormon and has “never been told that I can’t read romances. It would be a very sad day for me if I couldn’t.”
So it might be somewhat narrow set of religious prohibitions or interpretations that serves as the motivation for this article, but I suspect not. I think it’s more that Sayer Giles has her head up her ass and is so wrong I’m not even sure where to begin to try to flag her back to reality.
I doubt it is even worth it to try, since it’s one long crazy fiesta. Maureen Johnson likened finding the crazy parts to an Easter egg hunt where the eggs are huge.
Like, the size of Yugos, says I.
Citing sources from Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian site that provides “Christian advice on marriage, parenting and other topics,” Sayer Giles backs up her porn-for-women-therefore-it’s-bad argument with specious supporting evidence.
Dr. Juli Slattery says that a male looking at porn experiences a “neurochemical” reaction while women experience that same high reading a romance – and thus “experience the same addicting chemical release as men do” when they view pornography.
Wow. That there is some science.
Sayer Giles continues that all that romance promotes dissatisfaction with real relationships because real life doesn’t measure up to the fantasy.
Here’s my favorite part: A pornography addiction counselor named Vicki Burress also equates pornography with reading romances, then says that “Women involved in pornography have a hard time keeping their family together.”
I refuse to debate the idea that a woman’s responses to anything are “emotional” or the idea that romance is pornography, because it’s a tired, lame argument. And it’s dumb.
And the responsibility of holding a marriage together falls on both parties, by the way. Not just one.
I’m also 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.
In this slackass excuse for journalism, Sayer Giles writes, “Women may find their standard for intimacy begins to change over time because may not be able to get as satisfied with their partners as they can reading a book.”
Well, hold on a minute, there. Actually, yes. We do learn that there are some behaviors and habits we should not be satisfied with. And many of us learn to think better of ourselves from romances.
So we may find that we are not satisfied with the intimacy of our relationships – but I don’t think the automatic next step is cheating. It might just be asking for what we’d like in a relationship, and standing up for ourselves and our own desires. Being inspired to be the strong heroine of our own lives is quite a coaching-worthy goal, isn’t it?
Let me quote Robyn Carr’s contribution to “Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels,” because she said it best:
… what do we learn from romance novels that we shouldn’t get over? When our heroines walk away from lying, cheating, abusive relationships, our readers stand up and cheer! When our heroes fail to fall for mean, selfish, manipulative women, our readers applaud!
Men and women in real life and in romance novels find themselves trapped in unhealthy, destructive relationships all the time, and when they choose to believe they deserve love, respect and healthy, enduring relationships, when they reclaim their lives and demand only excellent treatment and a love they can fully trust, life is good. Readers are not only satisfied – they use those characters as role models.
What saddens me most is that this is a “life coach” writing this article. Yes, by all means, let’s tell women who read about commitment, emotions, sexuality, trust, honor, and happiness that they have a problem and can’t stop themselves. Let’s treat our indulgences and our happy interludes as something to be ashamed of. Let’s shame those who read regularly about fidelity, courage, honesty and strength. That’s good coaching.
But then, I agree with Susan, who said via Twitter that the “article read to me like fear-mongering by those threatened by female empowerment.”
Ayup. I can see that point, clearly.
But what makes me even more discouraged is that somewhere, a person is going to read this and might think this is good advice, that romances are terrible and destructive, and stop reading them, even though they made her happy. Or, a reader is going to be told to stop reading them, or made to stop.
The likelihood of that person reading this page along with that pile of festering tripe is slim, but let me say this anyway: 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.
In fact, around here, and on many, many other sites online, there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of readers who love romances as much as you do, who understand that they make you happy. Welcome. We’re glad to have you with us.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. You and your romances are awesome, just the way you are.