Romance Novels and Erotica

January 21, 2014

in the generous life

Yesterday I talked about removing male eye candy from your Pinterest boards. A generous gal, “LJ,” responded with an interesting comment.

And while you’re at it, stop reading romance novels and erotica. Let him be enough.

I read the occasional murder mystery, but I’m not tempted to go out and murder someone. However, if I watch a fair amount of violence on TV, I become somewhat desensitized to the violence and pain around me (and because of that I’m a little less sensitive to the needs of people around me). It’s something of a continuum for me. A little can be fine, but a lot can subtly influence my thinking and attitudes in a not-so-good way. 

I have to wonder if romantic novels are similar. The occasional novel may be entertaining, but a steady diet of them may influence your thinking and attitudes more than you might wish. How much are you reading? How are the characters in the novels shaping your attitudes about relationships, romance, sex and ultimately your relationship with your husband?

Be wise about your novel choices and the amount you read. This is going to be a little different person to person and novel to novel (I have friends who swear by Francine Rivers). The point being, you need to know who you are and how these stories are influencing you. A book with a romantic story line may not wreck your marriage, but if you build a desire for a certain kind of man or a certain kind of romantic expression, you may put a serious dent in your marriage relationship.

Again, be wise, and don’t try to con yourself. If you’re reading a truckload of romance novels and you’re unhappy with your man, do the math.

Erotica.

Now, honestly, I’m worried about this stuff. It’s a bit like porn in the sense that it creates perspectives about relationships and sex that are totally unrealistic. I don’t see how you can park some of this stuff in your brain and not have it change your perspectives in a bad way. Impetuous sex with a handsome stranger? Gumby sex? (that would be sex positions only bendable dolls can handle) Yeah, I want someone to tie me up and beat the snot out of me! So sexy. So … not.

Even if the fictional sex is between fictional consenting married adults, what are you doing in their fictional bedroom? You don’t need to be there and drag someone’s idea of “creative” sex into your mind and then into your bedroom. We’re creative gals. We don’t need Shades of Grey or fan fiction.

Deep breath and changing direction …

Let him be enough.

I love this last little bit of her comment.

Let your husband be the standard for masculinity, romance, sexuality and more. He’s the real deal.

If you have any concerns about how your reading is affecting your marriage relationship, why not take a break from the reading and focus in on your man. Spend time with him. Get to know him better by asking questions. Play together. Pray together. Focus in on what is real and actual. Enjoy your husband for the man that he is.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Connie January 21, 2014 at 5:19 am

Don’t forget tomorrow is National Love Your Husband Day!

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for the reminder, Connie!

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Christine January 21, 2014 at 6:22 am

“If you’re reading a truckload of romance novels and you’re unhappy with your man, do the math.”

In our marriage, we’ve noticed this can even become a problem by reading too many marriage books or blogs. Although we previously read with the intention of continuing to strengthen our marriage, expectations subtly crept in — not only for each other, but even more so for our own selves. An idealistic (and very burdensome) image was created.

Out of love for each other, we determined to stop complicating our marriage by filling our heads with other people’s ideas of how things are “supposed to be” in a good/strong marriage. We found that we are most blessed when we simply talk with each other (vs. looking somewhere else for the “answers”.) The only marriage material we now read is The Generous Wife and The Generous Husband, which we use as conversation starters. :)

We keep our “expectations” simple — be thoughtful. Thoughtfulness in action has sweetened our marriage in every way, including in the bedroom.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Christine,
Great perspective. Regardless of what we’re talking about, you need to understand the impact it may have on you and your marriage.

Delighted that TGH & TGW are helpful to you.

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Joyce January 21, 2014 at 6:53 am

In respect to romance novels I would have to say that there is a great deal of difference between reading novels by Christian authors and those of the Harlequin type. If you like to do light reading an occasional Christian Romance is fine. But the ones that get into detailed sex scenes are, or should be, off limits. If you find that even the good things you are reading cause you to look negatively at your husband then you should probably take that up with the Lord and consider whether that is good or bad for you individually. You may find some things you need to work on, but if all it does is give you a bad attitude then it should probably be off limits.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm

That’s a part of the reason I said you need to know your novel material. “Romance” is a fairly broad genre. I wouldn’t put Rivers in the same group as bodice rippers.

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Ashley January 21, 2014 at 6:59 am

I love this article and totally agree with you! Out of respect for my husband I stay away from romance novels of any kind, “Christian” or not. In his opinion they are to women what porn is to men. Unrealistic and inflated expectations can bring havoc into a marriage relationship. Even more so, for the woman these expectations can cause a sense of discontentment, depression, jealousy, and more. It is impossible to live up to fictional life when real life contains real (sinful) human beings who struggle with real issues.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Ashley, I think it’s great that you and your husband can talk about stuff like this. I love it when couples have real discussions.

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Bonnie @ Love, Marriage and Sex January 21, 2014 at 7:55 am

I think romance novels can be very damaging, but an occasional one here and there (depending on the person, of course) may not have an impact. I have known women who fall in love with the men in novels and then become unhappy with their spouse because, well, he’s not a fictional character! On a personal note, I read a certain popular series of erotica (the first I had read in many years) and it completely revamped my sex life with my hubby. Like, sexless marriage to several times a day revamped. I don’t make it a habit, I don’t “compare” my husband to the men in the novels, and I don’t “recommend” it per se, but it did work for me. My husband can vouch for me there.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm

“I have known women who fall in love with the men in novels …”
I saw a fair amount of this around the Twilight saga. It was a bit scary.

“I read a certain popular series of erotica (the first I had read in many years) and it completely revamped my sex life with my hubby … I don’t make it a habit, I don’t “compare” my husband to the men in the novels, and I don’t “recommend” it per se, but it did work for me. ”
I have had a couple of gals say something similar to me (about romance novels or erotica). I don’t recommend it because it is so risky. You are exposing yourself to a fair amount of distortion and wrongly directed sensuality. That you were able to pick up something that helped rather than harmed is IMO God’s grace in action.

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Pearl January 21, 2014 at 11:46 am

Let him be enough. Soaking that thought in calmed my heart. We have so much beyond reading material that are distracting us from our husbands. Also, when we let Him, as in God, be enough, it’s easier to be in tune with what isn’t helpful for our marriage or marriage bed, even if the world is telling us it is OK. When our hearts are connected with silk threads to God’s will and holy design it’s easier to know where our boundaries should be. Thank you for sharing her comment. Lovely!

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Your comment about the world just brought it home to me about how important it is to know the Word and have marriage-friendly folks in your life. We need to develop a church culture that will encourage us and help us learn to be better husbands and wives.

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J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) January 21, 2014 at 11:46 am

I like what you say here, Lori. Since I write fiction when I’m not writing about Christian sexuality, I’ve see the gamut of romance novels. I don’t believe in panning the whole genre — after all, Jane Austen is technically romance — but I agree we need to choose wisely. And we especially need to recognize this is fiction and not try to apply fantasy relationships to our marriages. Indeed, the real thing is actually better when you invest in building a great love story with your husband.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for your perspective as a fiction writer. I enjoy the occasional novel and I think there is a place for fiction.

I like what you said about acknowledging that it is fiction and putting it in perspective as such.

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Tammany January 21, 2014 at 11:57 am

I really have stopped gazing and drooling over celebrities and such for a while. Although, occasionally, I enjoy swooning over some great singer’s voice My husband and I have come to an agreement that we can acknowledge the beauty in someone else, but it doesn’t need to be more than that. We need to find each other the most attractive. I honestly stopped reading romance novels because they do things to my head. Not only do the sex scenes bring up my weakest link, (sexual sin) but they adjust my thinking about marriage, romance, men, etc. I once had a wise young man tell me long before I was married that listening to country songs about romance was building castles in the sky. In other words, they were creating worlds that I couldn’t reach ever. He was wise to tell me that. Now, I am still a hopeless romantic, but I don’t go searching for what doesn’t exist. I enjoy the reality of what God has created and the marriage that I have been blessed with.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Love that last sentence.

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Chris January 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I used to read romance novels all the time–and not just the tame Harlequin stuff. I’m talking bodice rippers. I was on an airplane once, and a man took out a Penthouse magazine to read. I thought about offensive it was to realize that he would be thinking sexual thoughts while sitting across the aisle from me. And then I glanced down at the romance novel in my hand and realized that what I was doing wasn’t really much different. In some ways, those novels were my emotional porn.

For some women, these books aren’t a problem. For me, they were. They kept me from seeing what was good in my man. I noticed that since I’d begun working on my approach to our marriage, I haven’t felt a bit of interest in reading romance novels.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

One of my favorite books is False Intimacy by Schaumburg (aff link http://amzn.to/ZBlFfu). The basic premise is that we have legitimate needs and we will seek to fill them in one way or another (healthy or not). (The book is about porn use, but the concept runs in all directions.)

I find it interesting when you began to build a healthier relationship with your husband you no longer wanted paperback guys. Nice.

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Ol' Will January 23, 2014 at 9:52 am

If a man might make a comment:
My first wife (she died suddenly of natural causes in March 1994) was smart, funny, flirty, sexy and she read romance novels by the wheelbarrow-full – the paperback bodice rippers. She liked them all: mysteries, westerns, medieval – everything. She didn’t spend so much time with this reading that it took away from our time together or her time with the kids.

She never once compared me to any of the male characters and, to our mutual benefit, she learned and initiated a few tricks that greatly added to our love life repertoire.

Of course that was before all of these Christian marriage blog sites – which I’m sure she would have devoured as eagerly as she did those novels.

J said, “Indeed, the real thing is actually better when you invest in building a great love story with your husband.” That’s exactly what she did and those novels helped her do that in a small way.

I just discovered this site the other day and want to say thanks for everything you are doing to help folks.

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SoTired November 17, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I’m 27, my wife is 26. We’ve been married for 5 and a half years. Since right before we were married, she’s been reading explicit romance novels. It didn’t used to bother me because we were still intimate from time to time (we maxed out having sex five times in one month).

However, we are now in our second “drought” of the marriage. The first lasted for 10 months, this has gone on for 5 so far. I’ve noticed that she reads a lot more of those books during these periods, but will swear until her dying breath that they have no effect whatsoever on our relationship or her libido. I’ve made it clear that when she denies me while reading what amounts to pornography for hours every day, it is damaging our relationship, but she will literally laugh at me about it. I’ve tried to be understand, and I still love her, but it’s driving me crazy. What do I do?

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Lori - The Generous Wife November 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm

If your wife will not discuss it and work with you (that means you are stuck as a couple), then go to a third party (go by yourself if she will not go with you). A good counselor will help you sort through your situation and give you ideas on what you can do. You can’t make your wife change, but you can get some encouragement and help from a counselor. It’s good to have someone not involved in the situation talk you through your options.

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SoTired November 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I have asked her to go to a counselor with me, but she always refuses. I guess I can try talking to one by myself, but I have a hard time seeing how that will benefit our relationship if it’s just my side being discussed.

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Lori - The Generous Wife November 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

They can be amazing helpful, not only as a sounding board, but they have training and perspectives you may not have thought of. Also as you go and talk through your situation, there is the “curiosity factor”. Your wife will wonder what you are saying and want to have a say too. You have far more influence than you know.

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