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Chick-lit doesn’t ruin lives, it provides an escape

According to the psychologist Susan Quilliam in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, women who read romantic fiction “suspend rationality” in their real-life relationships*.   

Um Susan, that’s one of the big reasons to read fiction is because it does enable you to suspect reality for a while. 
But her view is that reading Pride & Prejudice or its modern variant, Bridget Jones’ Diary, is that having read about Mr Darcy, we will be unable to settle for anything less in the real world.

And even worse than that, that we will expect sex to always be incredible and relationships to be straightforward. 
Oh come on – one of the reasons we like these books is because they don’t portray the grim realities of our real world and real lives.
Even worse than making us set our romantic sights too high, American sociologists think that chick-lit novels have done something further.  US author Dr Julianna Slattery, author of the ‘interesting guide’  Finding the Hero in Your Husband; Surrendering the Way God Intended has gone so far as to label romance novels “an addiction” and an addiction that places an unreasonable burden on the husbands and boyfriends of those of us who read them.
The men in question are being forced to live up to the standards of the romantic heros with the threat that just as soon as they have been got rid of, their wives will be riding off into the sunset with a bigger, better looking, richer version in tighter trousers.

But what is so wrong about women setting their standards high?  About women wanting to grasp a bit of romance in their lives?  About women wanting strong men who can provide them with security, safety and take-your-breath-away seduction?

In fact, perhaps the problem is not that women are reading these novels but that men aren’t – perhaps the average bloke should be taken to one side and given a copy of a Georgette Heyer regency novel and told that this is the sort of  behaviour that women are keen on and that a few hours spent reading about the antics of the hero might reap him untold benefits.
At least it has to be an improvement on thinking that the world really is like the inside of something by Terry Prachett.

*she does make one good point in that only 1 in 10 novels features condoms and that isn’t helpful from a family planning perspective but the whole fact they are fiction and not supposed to be reality does seem to have passed her by.  And safe sex is a good idea in the real world with real nasty diseases.  Obviously.

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10 comments to Chick-lit doesn’t ruin lives, it provides an escape

  • Personally I found Harry Potter much more damaging. It really hurt when I ran into that wall at the train station. *rolls eyes*

    Silly bint. Her, not you.

  • *snigger* at Heather’s comment!

    I don’t read those novels, never have, I can’t abide them, but I have high standards when it comes to men! Does it ever occur to her that maybe we just genuinely deserve to be treated well?

    And yes to the condoms, condoms can be sexy imo

    • We deserve to be treated well and you know what, if reading that men can be considerate, caring and so on makes you think you shouldn’t be treated badly then that’s a good thing in my book

      And condoms, much much sexier than a nasty infection

  • Interesting that this exact same argument is used by anti p0rn campaigners…that it provides unrealistic expectations of what happens in the bedroom and distorts people’s real relationships. On both counts, I would argue that it assumes we are all stupid with no ability to separate fiction from reality.

    • Actually that’s an interesting point – and there are some that argue that porn did have positive impacts in the 60s and 70s on bringing sex into the mainstream

      And yes, we aren’t stupid and we do know that fiction is fiction

  • This is not a new argument – in the novel Madame Bovary the implication is that Emma Bovary is so much influenced by reading romantic novels that real life cannot live up to her expectations.

    Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dreaming of Mr Darcy – after all why not aim high :-)?

    Great post.

    • I had forgotten that – interesting point that there has always been a theory that we women can’t cope with reading novels

      And you know what, if Mr Darcy popped over here and asked me out I would be very tempted

  • Very well said. What a ridiculous viewpoint…I now find that time and tiredness means that every book has to count so if it doesn’t transport me to a more lovely place, it is usually abandoned just a few chapters in and I move on to the next. PS – if you haven’t done so yet, please read Caitlin Moran’s new book, it is making me roar with laughter.

    • Oh yes I am reading Caitlin Moran’s book – and have a massive girlie crush on her

      My ipad has meant a huge increase in book reading – great to be able to carry about several books and have them there when I can grab a few minutes

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