The bodice-ripper genre has never been known for its realism, and people have often criticized it for setting impossible standards for relationships. But now, one study also seems to indicate that romance novels set a bad example when it comes to safe sex. Here’s how pulp romances could be a health risk.
Part of the point of fiction is that it cuts out part of reality. In fiction, people spend a lot of time fighting monsters, running from the law, or just musing about the meaning of life. They spend almost no time brushing their teeth. This lack of tooth brushing isn’t meant to influence the public’s attitude towards oral hygiene, and probably has no affect on tooth retention among readers.
But sometimes omission of mundane details can be equated with disapproval. A analysis done in 2000 noted that few romance novels included scenes in which the characters use condoms, despite many novels including scene in which two relative strangers get swept off their feet and have sex in a barn, or the cabin of a ship during a storm, or a self-made billionaire’s private sex dungeon.
A group of researchers at Northwestern University decided to see whether this disregard for sex ed among romance novel characters influenced women’s attitudes towards condoms. After interviewing women as to their reading habits, the researchers asked them about their views on condoms, and whether they intended to use them in the future. Results were disheartening, but not surprising. Women who read a lot of romance novels didn’t like the idea of condoms. Compared to women who did not read a lot of romance, romance-readers were relatively disinclined to use condoms in the future.
A second study presented romance readers with a library that was packed with the small percentage of romance novels that included the use of condoms by the characters. The women later revealed, in interviews, that after reading the safe sex romances their outlook on condoms was more favorable, and that they were slightly more likely to use condoms in future.
Although the year 2000 is hardly the dark ages, it has been 15 years, and a lot of pulp has to have been through the printing press since then. The most well-known romance series of the last decade, Twilight, quite famously has a couple that doesn’t use condoms – and they nearly incur a vampire war. But perhaps other, lesser-known romances include a little more safe sex scenes. What do you say, romance readers? Are more romantic novels including condoms in their love scenes these days?
Want the original research? Visit: The Relationship Between Reading Romance Novels and Safe Sex Behavior
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