Romance Novels Vs. Pornography
For some years now, I’ve been fascinated by the fact that in nearly every ward I’ve lived in, there is a group of women who regularly read romance novels. Not the Deseret Books type of romance novel — I’m talking the real thing. The true bodice-rippers. These are women who often hold visible positions in the ward, and cleave to Mormon culture in other ways. But they do love their romance novels.
This fascinated me because Church leaders have been fairly clear about viewing romance novels as a form of pornography. They say that porn (including romance novels) leads to abnormal, illegal, or inappropriate desires. They warn that such material might lead to adultery and that it might irreparably harm your connection with God. Some likewise warn that porn might lead you to treat your spouse badly because he/she just can’t measure up to the fantasy projected on the screen or page.
However, such warnings don’t seem to worry these romance reading Church ladies, who continue swapping their books. I wonder why. Why do they not see these books as dangerous? Do these dire predictions just not apply, in these women’s minds, to the reading of these novels? I’ve been toying with the idea that indeed these predictions do not apply as often to these romance reading women. Let me throw out a couple reasons why perhaps romance novels are not leading to the breakdown of relationships:
- romance novels are ultimately extremely affirming of marriage/wifehood/motherhood. Thus rather than turning women away from their mates, they might encourage women to nurture the relationship.
- romance novels might make women more sexually interested in their husbands.
- romance novels affirm female desire in all aspects of life. They affirm a woman achieving her dreams about a fulfilling relationship, but they also often (at least the more recent ones) affirm other dreams about how she wants to contribute to her world.
That said, there are reasons to worry about the messages that are projected in romance novels. That fulfillment is always found in marriage, that men are sexually aggressive and controlling, that the sexes seem incapable of good communication, etc. are all things to question. However, I don’t see these negative messages necessarily leading to damage in the marital relationship for the reader, at least not the kind of damage that the GA’s talk about.
What are the pros and cons of romance novel reading in your mind? Can one be feminist and a romance novel reader at the same time? Are they porn?
I intend to write a paper about Mormon women,romance novels, and how they affect relationships, and I would love your help. If you are/have been a romance novel reader, would you please take my brief survey? It’s mostly multiple choice. Also, if you are willing to be interviewed by phone or email about your romance novel reading, please contact me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com.