Romance Novels Influence Whether Women Use Condoms

Illustration for article titled Romance Novels Influence Whether Women Use Condoms

The bodice-ripper genre has never been known for its realism, and people have often criticized it for setting impossible standards for relationships. But now, one study also seems to indicate that romance novels set a bad example when it comes to safe sex. Here's how pulp romances could be a health risk.


Part of the point of fiction is that it cuts out part of reality. In fiction, people spend a lot of time fighting monsters, running from the law, or just musing about the meaning of life. They spend almost no time brushing their teeth. This lack of tooth brushing isn't meant to influence the public's attitude towards oral hygiene, and probably has no affect on tooth retention among readers.

But sometimes omission of mundane details can be equated with disapproval. A analysis done in 2000 noted that few romance novels included scenes in which the characters use condoms, despite many novels including scene in which two relative strangers get swept off their feet and have sex in a barn, or the cabin of a ship during a storm, or a self-made billionaire's private sex dungeon.

A group of researchers at Northwestern University decided to see whether this disregard for sex ed among romance novel characters influenced women's attitudes towards condoms. After interviewing women as to their reading habits, the researchers asked them about their views on condoms, and whether they intended to use them in the future. Results were disheartening, but not surprising. Women who read a lot of romance novels didn't like the idea of condoms. Compared to women who did not read a lot of romance, romance-readers were relatively disinclined to use condoms in the future.

A second study presented romance readers with a library that was packed with the small percentage of romance novels that included the use of condoms by the characters. The women later revealed, in interviews, that after reading the safe sex romances their outlook on condoms was more favorable, and that they were slightly more likely to use condoms in future.

Although the year 2000 is hardly the dark ages, it has been 15 years, and a lot of pulp has to have been through the printing press since then. The most well-known romance series of the last decade, Twilight, quite famously has a couple that doesn't use condoms - and they nearly incur a vampire war. But perhaps other, lesser-known romances include a little more safe sex scenes. What do you say, romance readers? Are more romantic novels including condoms in their love scenes these days?

Top Image: Saga Wikia

[Via Love Means Never Having to be Careful.]




I've always been keen on condom use even as a very enthusiastic reader of romance - but then, most of the romance I read is about the (fictional, far too good-looking to be historically accurate) nobles of the Regency/Victorian eras. Condoms weren't really around back then! Also, despite the fantastical nature of most romance, writers don't tend to shy away from the fact that for the woman the consequences of getting pregnant (in that era & class in particular) would be very serious - ostracism, never being able to marry and being dependent on one's family forever, the child being illegitimate and suffering from the associated stigma etc. That's often a key part of the heroine's concern over taking this devilishly handsome rake as a lover, hence CONFLICT and a hasty ill-advised marriage followed by 200 pages of sex in various parts of his enormous creepy castle and angst and then their gradually falling in love and maybe a mystery to solve or a kidnapping or -

Wait. What was I saying? I've derailed into the land of Loretta Chase and that way madness lies. And wine. So much wine.