And, off we go. To say that I find this right wing/left wing thing entirely ridiculous goes without saying. Whoops, I said it. But, let's look further.
Of COURSE, said right wing journalist is going to state that reading is dangerous. That's been their mantra for how many years? There's always something dangerous, always something to call the enemy. It's not bad enough that they claim that most of the world are our enemies, that certain religions are our enemies (disregarding that we have people of that religion in our country and that zealots of any religion are dangerous, even their own)... No, reading is dangerous.
Yes, reading is dangerous to people who try to make us live in fear and ignorance, because reading means that people are using their minds. Yes, this does apply in the situation of reading romance novels, because...by default, when someone is reading, that person is exercising portions of her brain not being exercised while watching the media. I won't even get into my opinion of the media, the news media especially, of late. I'll get back to romance genre later, so stick with me for that.
So, let's look at the complaints...
People are not DISTORTED by romance. Let me liken this, since they liken it to addiction, to a drug. It is completely possible for 95% of the population to take a particular Rx painkiller with no serious effects and that remaining 5% to become addicted. Is it the fault of the drug? Or is it some difference in the person? Is it, rather, the fact that their system works differently?
I would claim the latter. I would claim that their brain functionality works differently than the other 95% of the population. I'm not stating right or wrong, here. I'm saying DIFFERENT.
Let me throw out some oft-used terms and discuss them...
Deviant- Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society. By that reckoning, anything that a large percentage of people in your culture would consider "normal" or "acceptable" is not deviant. Um...55% of mass market sales are romance. I'd say it's not deviant to read romance, as a general rule of thumb. One of the three hottest-selling romance types right now is erotic romance/erotica geared toward women. Again, deviant isn't happening on this issue.
Immoral- Contrary to established moral principles. This is assuming that you're using the moral standard of the culture as a whole as the line. However, though some people will CLAIM the line is X, the fact is, they may not be claiming a line that exists in reality, rather one they hope exists or wish to believe exists. I'd say that Ms. Shaunti Feldhahn is using a line that doesn't much match what others think. Applying her own moral code to others is an effort in futility. We're a diverse culture; a little respect for the sensibilities of others might be appropriate here.
Kink- A mental peculiarity; a quirk. OR An unusual or eccentric idea. This one is tricky. On one hand, it implies there's something mentally WRONG with you, if your tastes run to something that the majority of society doesn't embrace. Then again... Grinning... I don't really need to follow that one out, do I? On the other, it says it's eccentric but not immoral. This one would depend on which definition you're using and why. Personally, I think the definition itself proves that reading romance, even erotic romance, is not inherently kinky. It could be, in some cases, but I'm speaking in generalities, at the moment.
Perverse- Directed away from what is right or good; perverted. This one implies a real MORAL and LEGAL opposition to something. Not just that it doesn't match the perceptions of others but that it's WRONG to think that, it's antisocial or psychotic or otherwise a threat to society...more or less, a crime. Last time I checked, reading romance, erotica...even most types of porn wasn't illegal, and as I stated earlier, morality isn't universal. In addition, there is no indication by a reliable source that reading romance poses any threat to society. I think they've failed on this mark, as well.
Back to the subject.
The FACT is that the vast majority of women can read romance, even erotic romance, and not become addicted to it or find dissatisfaction in their marriages. The fact is that the vast majority of men can look at pornographic images and not become addicted, not resort to affairs and not become dangerous, abusive or otherwise a threat. In fact, in both cases, there are spouses that rather appreciate the fact that the SO (significant other) can become aroused and then turn to the love of his/her life, because aroused by a thought or image or not, the chosen mate is the person he/she wants to be with. The fantasy is rooted in reality. The person knows the difference.
I might also note that any woman that needs to worry about her husband "catching" her reading has more problems than any book can cure and needs serious counseling or a way out of the relationship. There are far more important things that cause problems in a relationship. IMO, this one shouldn't even rate.
Further, I find that Ms. Feldhahn resorts to nothing short of yellow journalism. Let me give an example.
She caps off her discussion of addiction with the RWA numbers of people reading romance novels (64 million in the
Diane Glass isn't much better. Her comment that reading romance isn't reading Maya Angelou but it's reading is dismissive, in itself. Can we say "snob" any more clearly? This is a woman that clearly thinks herself above the genre, and it shows.
While she's been busy reading whatever she deems worthy of her attention, Ms. Glass has apparently missed the boat. By that, I mean that the new breed of romance novel isn't your Mama's romance book. The industry has moved on, not just into erotic romance but also into dark romance, realistic/flawed even handicapped or villainous heroes and heroines. Romance isn't fluff writing anymore. It's allowed to take on new realms and hard issues. You'll find the aftermath of rape, insanity, corruption... Romance isn't just about entertainment anymore. And it's all happening while these two prattle on about something they clearly have little knowledge about.
I'm not saying the classic "feel good" romance doesn't exist anymore. It does, but saying all romance is that sort is uneducated in the subject and insulting to both those that are and those that aren’t.
The only kudos I can, in good conscience, give this entire debate is the fact that Diane Glass points out that it's "violent porn" that's shown to have negative societal repercussions. At least they got something right in the bargain, though not much.
To all of those who ENJOY romance... Read on, sisters and brothers! Fifty-five percent of the mass market sales, plus e-book sales... We can't be wrong. Romance genre will be around long after both of these journalists are considered old hacks.