Sparks flew this week on Twitter as momentum gathered in response to a recent "news" article from the KSL network's site. Self-confessed "founder and president of LDS Life Coaching" Kimberly Sayer Giles offered her careful scientific studyunscientific opinion that, "Romance novels can be as addictive as pornography."
Gosh, where to begin with the problems? I know people are accustomed to hyperbole along the lines of "OMG this absinthe chocolate is so addictive!" but they seldom mean it for real. The tendency to pathologise anything popular as an "addiction" shows just how much leisure time we have on our hands.
I can understand the Puritan impulse behind seeing pornography as an addiction (though I don't share it); we'll find any excuse to shame people about sex. It's even easier when huge swaths of it are remarkably ugly and cruel (to say nothing of badly lit). Even Ted Bundy let himself off the hook on the eve of his execution by pointing his finger at the "real" culprit: pornography turned the poor boy's head. If only he'd been willing to cure the problem like Oedipus.
The shaming of women, however, proves too much for some people to resist. The genre that fueled the ebook revolution, that has almost single handedly kept publishing afloat in these changing times, also has a readership that is overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) female. Surely there's something wrong with these women who—gasp—read! An anti-social, solitary activity: women on their own, often reading books written by other women?! It sounds revolutionary.
People, don't you know better than to make assumptions about the "weaker" sex? Apparently psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery, author of Finding the Hero in your Husband has no problem diagnosing these women, claiming that "she is seeing more and more women who are clinically addicted to romantic books." Clinically? It appears that reading these books give women a chemical release known as "pleasure" (even the word itself can give you chills, eh?). Women who feel pleasure often wish to feel it again and again. It's a vicious circle (and the horrible truth behind Cute Overload).
But Giles has suggestions to help you combat the addiction. First admit that you have a problem (i.e. you 've been secreting Nora Roberts novels behind the cooking sherry), then read self-help books or get life coaching (like the fine services Giles offers), focus on getting a "real" relationship, take up sports and for gods' sake, if you must read, read something else. I can recommend some good serial killer novels.
This ridiculous story spawned was the hashtag #romancekills and the results were hilarious. Romance readers and writers gathered to show their solidarity but also to offer correctives to the alarmist view of romance reading, like author Christina Dodd's tweet, "Couples where women read romances have sex 78% more often. #romancekills DH stands at ready 2die 4my art. #ManlySacrifice," or Theresa Stevens' comment, "I'll give up my romance 'addiction' just as soon as others give up fantasy football, golf on holidays, and misogyny. #romancekills."
Don't mess with rom writers and readers. We'll cut you. Sure, we'll give you cute videos of kittens and some chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven, too—but seriously, we'll cut you, man.
K. A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some lurid pseudonyms to disguise her romance works. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more . Find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter where she will be talking about her upcoming Fulbright year in Galway.
Image of Leslie Kelly's Terms of Surrender via eHarlequin