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Romance Novels: Like Porn Addiction to Women?

No one might cast a second look if a young woman is pouring over the pages of her paperback romance novel, engrossed in the story.

Perhaps they should.

A recent article summarizes a New York Times interview describing how romance novels can be used by readers to “numb out” or leave stress behind, even to the point of addiction. Romance books are rapidly exceeding sales of other genres nationwide, exceeding sales of $1.36 billion in 2011. The figure represents more than half of the entire category of fiction book sales.

The fear, according to experts, is that women readers use these novels in the same way men use online pornography websites. They become aroused, they escape or avoid negative emotions and many simply can’t put the novels down – even when it means neglecting family or work. Even some authors have expressed concern that there’s a level of harm involved in romance books, especially when a woman can use the book to fill an emotional void instead of real-world relationships.

Over time, romance novels can become an addictive behavior and a woman may develop harmful beliefs about her own marriage and about sex – very similar to the effects of online pornography. The books can connect to women in a very emotional way, which can be powerful and lasting and cause the addictive behavior to escalate. In fact, the chemical changes at the brain level that happen to a woman reading a romance novel can be very much like the changes that occur when a man sees pornography.

Concerns over pornography addiction and love addiction can also become part of the dialogue about addictive behavior toward romance novels. Not only is there a repeated sense of arousal and escape in graphically portrayed romance novel sex scenes, nearing a pornographic effect for many women. There’s also the risk of letting fictional characters feed the craving for one new love relationship after another – a hallmark symptom of love addiction.

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