Thursday, 7 July 2011

Are you kidding me???

Ok, am now back from the glorious RWA conference in NYC and will be doing a long and anecdotal post shortly all about my marvellous adventures once I've finished the revs on my current book and figured out how to download the pictures from my new camera...

But until then, I just had to post my response to this article in The Telegraph today which (surprise, surprise) quotes a recent article in the British Medical Journal blaming romantic fiction for relationship breakdowns, unplanned pregnancies, the rise in abortions, the spread of STDS, the black death and... Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, but come on... Seriously? Are you kidding me?

Read the article, read the comments (some of them great, some of them assinine) and here's my response, which I posted in the comments thread too.

It never ceases to amaze me when reading articles such as this that criticise romantic fiction and the subsequent comments attached to it, the number of people who feel justified in saying 'I've never read one of these books myself, but...' And then go on to give a detailed analysis of something they know nothing about.  

Condescending? Much?

And I'd hazard a guess that Ms Quilliam may well be one of those people, because anyone who has ever read Pride & Prejudice (or any Regency romance) would know that if Elizabeth Bennett had spent her time gazing lovingly across the ballroom at Mr Darcy there wouldn't have been much of a story to tell...

So as an avid reader of romantic fiction, and someone who is currently in the process of writing her 11th book for M&B I'd like to give you all a little head's up about this genre and why women (and - shock, horror - some men) find it so compelling to read. 

First and foremost these are books about relationships, in all their variety and complexity and emotional intensity. And yes, they have a happy ending, but that's the pay-off for the reader, just as the detective discovering 'whodunnit' is the pay-off for a lover of crime fiction. But it's the journey, the way in which the couple grow and change as people and resolve the conflicts between them that's really at the heart of their story. So the suggestion that these books are somehow bad for relationships defeats me.

As to their impact on Sexual Health & Family Planning, I can safely say that my couples almost always use condoms and on the rare occassions they don't they will have discussed 'safe sex' issues, because funnily enough there's nothing very heroic or romantic about a hero (or heroine) who spreads STDs at will.. A number of my couples have had unplanned pregnancies but in the context of a romance novel (just as in real life) an unplanned pregnancy will increase the conflict between the couple, not diminish it, so I would hazard a guess that any woman thinking the opposite is the case certainly doesn't read the novels I'm reading (or writing!).

And yes, some elements of these books are hyper-real, and depending on the level of fantasy in the books there are some which don't address the condom issue. But are we seriously suggesting that escapism and fantasy doesn't have a place in modern life? Or that women can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality? After all if a plumber in Peckham can read a James Bond novel without becoming convinced that he's actually licensed to kill in Monte Carlo, why can't a housewife in Hounslow read a M&B without wanting to have unprotected sex with a Greek Shipping billionaire? I'm just saying!

And for all those people who would suggest that romantic fiction is the equivalent of female porn, can you really not tell the difference between real sex performed on camera between two (or more) people who quite possibly don't know each other and are most likely doing it to pay the rent and a fictional sexual encounter described within the context of a developing relationship? I mean, seriously? 

And last but not least. I'm a tad surprised that a family planning professional would evaluate the choices their clients make about their sexual health and their relationships based on the genre of fiction they choose to read, but maybe that's just me!

Feel free to join the debate! After all that's just my humble opinion. Right, back to work on another story that's going to destroy civilisation as we know it.

1 comment:

Doris O'Connor said...

Great post Heidi and I can only agree, as you have summed it all up so succinctly :-D