I read a news article recently where a psychologist claimed that reading romance novels could prove detrimental to women’s health. The argument suggested that this genre fails to encourage safe contraceptive practices and fosters unrealistic expectations in real-life relationships. Since I like reading romantic fiction, the concept niggled at my conscience a bit. I didn’t want to believe the assertion could be true, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. Many people of faith also discourage reading romance for similar reasons. So, what’s a girl to do?
I can’t dismiss the idea out-of-hand because I believe too strongly in the power of words. They can hurt or heal, create or destroy, and how we choose to use them influences our outlook. With so much at stake, I can’t deny that what I read impacts who I am, but I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. While there are undoubtedly books out there that do glorify unhealthy lifestyle choices and distorted views on sexuality, I don’t believe we should categorize the entire genre as unhealthy or without merit.
The truth is that people often misjudge romantic fiction because they have only a one-dimensional view of the genre. They forget that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera are both love stories, and neither of these classics is considered harmful to mind or soul. Detractors also overlook the number of contemporary Christian authors whose novels not only portray the joy of healthy relationships, but also provide us with a glimpse of the steadfast love of God. Many of these stories serve as modern day parables for an audience searching for signs of hope, and hope grounded in truth is never a bad thing.
I’m convinced that the world of romantic fiction is too vast to be painted with a single brushstroke. That’s why I make sure to include a variety of options on my literary palette. How about you?
-Vickie Price Taylor