Friday, June 10, 2011

Do You Read Romance?

I decided to let this week's post on emotional infidelity run a few days because the comments there (as well as here at P31) are quite powerful.  I think every woman - married or single - should read them. At the P31 blog I responded directly to a lot of the comments, so follow the link to read those. PS. I'm working on getting that comment capability here in a new blog design. PSS. AIMZ is the book winner!

I have lots of questions for you today and I'm hoping you'll jump into the discussion with your thoughts. I'm wondering if you ever read romance novels? And if so, how they impact you?

This topic has been on my mind for a number of reasons. One is I just finished a couple of secular novels and a few of the scenes were a bit steamy. Nothing major. Seriously, this was nothing major compared to what I know is out there in print. I'm no prude, but it was enough to get me thinking about what it means, or takes, or costs, or impacts to read (or write) such scenes.

Do you view books where sexual tension builds, kisses deepen and hands wander as mostly harmless, mostly dangerous, or somewhere in between?

Interestingly, I've seen movies with "love scenes" in them and they usually don't impact me quite like the novels.  I've long had a theory that men are more stimulated by what they see and women by what is said. I came across this article published last week that indicates my theory may hold water. That news site is managed by the Church of Latter Day Saints by the way.

Recently, in a comment on my emotional infidelity post this week, a woman said: "I am a reader and I used to read anything that I could get my hands on. I used to read the romance novels and realized that they put thoughts in your head that shouldn't be there. You start comparing your husband to the characters and usually find him wanting. I stopped reading anything but Christian fiction, my Bible and books from proven resources."

Has reading romance made you less satisfied in your marriage?

Anyone want to argue the other side and say it hasn't bothered their marriage, or has actually made them a more affectionate spouse?

So many of the "classics" are love stories: Wuthering Heights, Dr. Zhivago, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Gone with the Wind, Hope Floats. Ok, so maybe that last one isn't a classic love story but the point is so much of our entertainment throughout the ages -- from poetry to plays, novels to movies --has centered on falling in love (and problems with that).

Should romance writing definitely have a place in Christian fiction? (It seems to in the Bible in the Song of Solomon.)

Where do you draw the proverbial line on what is or isn't appropriate?Is it a matter of degree or taste, careful wording?  Is important that the characters are married? 

Another woman, commenting on my devotional at P31, revealed: "I had been molested by family members and one of my mom’s boyfriends so early on that I don’t really have recollections of not being hypersexual. I found ways for validation in public when possible, and by sex any time I could. But we serve a Loving God who wanted to pull me out of the pit I was in. So He told stories of women like Ruth, like Rahab, like the adulterous woman, like the Samaritan Woman at the Well, to show me that He even loved “ME.”

Let me warn you of something that scared the stuffing out of me. About a year ago, I found a really juicy book and started to read. It was a romance novel, you know the kind that come every 4-6 weeks, or that you buy by the sackload at garage sales? I got to a particularly explicit section of the book and as I read, I felt my eyes dilate, my stomach started churning and I actually had to run to make it to the bathroom where I emptied my lunch back out of my mouth into the toilet.

As I spasmed, I could hear God’s Words saying He would never let me be tempted beyond what I could bear, and that He would always give me a way out. I GOT THE MESSAGE!!! Romance Novels for me are just like a joint to a drug addict; wine to a drunk. Then I studied and realized the only difference between those and the sex stories in a porn magazine was the vocabulary. I immediately called my mentor, told her my entire history, and begged her to keep me accountable. Now when I see “Harlequin” or one of those books, I know to steer clear."

Do you think romance novels are only problematic for a certain segment of people, those who already have sexual or addiction issues? And does that mean the romance writer holds no responsibility for how her writing affects them? Or can the novels themselves create the addiction?

This blogger, Niki, seems to say they can create the addiction in her experience, or at least open the door to it. Although I get the impression she was reading more of the secular, dime store bodice-ripper type novels than a love story you might find in a Christian bookstore.

I don't know that I have all the answers to these questions. So as a reader, and a writer, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


  1. Rachel,

    I find it easy to get carried away so I also steer clear of a lot of romance, even Christian romance novels. The latest series I read was the Brides of Culdee Creek by Kathleen Morgan. I loved the reality she put into the people and relationships and how she kept it rated G/PG. Overall, however, this genre needs to be a small part of my reading diet. Thanks for starting the discussion! -Sara

  2. Wow....this is really powerful. I decided not to read them some years ago. I realized that although I have the right to do anything, not everything is beneficial, like Paul said. And the decision also includes soap operas which in the Latin world, where I come from, is a big thing.
    And I totally understand what you say about movies with romantic scenes. I guess the difference is that you can dwell on the book, that your imagination can fly higher.
    It all comes down to what you choose to fill your mind with, and with that, we need to be careful. We might just be opening a door that should remain closed at all times.
    I do read Christian fiction like F. Rivers, K. Kingsbury. And lately, Marybeth Whalen!
    Great discussion, Rachel.

  3. I love to read, however I will NOT read any romance novels (christian or otherwise). Mostly I read Christian fiction and Medieval Historical Fiction. I am really enjoying learning about medieval history.

    I agree with the comment that after awhile you start comparing your husband to the characters in the book and then not measuring up. It easy to get a character you create to say just the right things at the right time, to act in a certain way at the right time, etc. but your rieal life husband has thoughts and actions of his own.

    I used to read romance novels until one day my daughter picked one of the books I was reading up and started to look at it and I just about died - that was when I knew if I am too embarrassed or uncomfortable with my daughter looking at the book I am reading then I am reading the wrong thing!!!

  4. Terrific comments so far - thank you for chiming in.

    Wendy, I've always steared clear of soap operas too. Even before I was a Christian.

    Veronica, the "daughter test" is an interesting idea on where to draw the line.

    Just got home from an Italian dinner out with my hubby. About to watch Whale Wars. No romance at all in that. Unless you are a whale being rescued by a brave sea shepherd. :)

  5. I read about half of this but will have to read the other half after I posted a comment. There was a time I read these steamy romances. Then suddenly my relationship with Jesus changed and they didn't appeal to them. In fact the romances I right are no way like this and are focused around Christian beliefs.

    Some of the greatest romance stories are Ruth ad Hosea ( where one woman was queen who saved her people and keep them from being killed.) I'm sorry I don't remember the family or exact story.

    Secular books that are really graphic make uncomfortable now.

  6. Hi Rachel,
    This is a fresh topic. No I do not read them but I used to read romance/mystery novels. After I tuned in to Jesus in my life, I didn't want to read them. I think they plant seeds in your mind that are not fruitful. The Lord pruned my reading taste and I am thankful. I might add I have not read Christian Romance...its probably a different ballgame so I don't want to speak against it.

  7. AnonymousJune 12, 2011

    Here is a thought: I have used romance novels to get me in the "mood". It has helped when I know I still need to connect with my husband but I am just not there for whatever reason: four kids, busy job, lack of sleep or just hormones. So I am walking down a dangerous road? Is that wrong? I actually had read about it in some book on how to "spice things up". By the way song of solomon is quite "saucy" as well. I am just honestly wondering because Satan can take somethings and make me feel guilty about them even if it is not wrong. Michelle

  8. I do not read modern romance - however I do read Christian romance and Amish fiction which has some romance but in a different way. I think that we all need to question what we watch, say and do - and yes, that includes reading books. I also do not read vampire, violence or the like books. I have one family member who reads steamy romance and she says it enhances her marriage / sexual life. But I also know that she would not want her fellow church members to that she reads them. If you feel the need to hide it, then you probably should not be doing it. To sum up my thoughts (and they are mine alone) I think that God wants everything we do or say to be pure and to always reflect Him - even behind our home's door.

  9. I am not a romance novel reader - just don't enjoy them. However I do enjoy the whole suspense, mystery genre both Christian and secular. What really gripes me in them is the steamy parts that have nothing to do with the story - I feel like these parts are thrown in to attract readers but they are sooo unnecessary. It's like the unnecessary swearing and cursing. It has nothing to do with "whodunit".

  10. Carol I'm with you all that cursing is what turns me off - and that's for anything books shows web sites general conversation. You can express yourself very well without all that "dirty mean talk" as my grandma said. shoot we couldn't even say Gosh cuz it sound to much like .... God Our Father. We need to work to bring old fashioned values back.

  11. The Bible says be careful for nothing. I do belive those types of books can awaken things that should not be woken. I also know that there are ways to tell a love story without all of the grafic details. I also feel that reading books like that is takeing away from my time. I have hard enough time (at times) just getting into my word like i should.

  12. I have been out of pocket for a while, but upon reading your post, I have only read one romance book that is not Christian. I have stuck with the Christian romance novels since. I was able to learn a few things about me and my husband in one and another put me on a quest to help my daughter memorize scripture.

  13. I went searching for this post because I knew it was out there, but had missed it when it originally came out.

    Q. Is it ok to read a romance novel to get in the mood with your spouse?

    A. It is no "wronger" to get steamy over a romance novel than any porn website, or x-rated movie.

    May I suggest a stash of notes from your hubby from when you were dating (or write down memories of when you first 'knew' he was the one for you, if you don't have notes)?

    Secular Romance Novels are marketed the way they are and written the way they are to encourage you to develop anticipation for the next one (e.g. addiction).

    The Philippians 4:8 and the "Would I mind my daughter reading this with me?" tests sound like sound assessment tools to me.

    Be careful little eyes what you see!


Chime in.