Does Reading Romance Novels Make You Dumber? by Leia Shaw

I read an extremely offensive and ignorant blog post recently by a man trashing romance novels, readers and writers. Even though I’d love to rant and rave about what a complete ass he was being, I will hold back. (Please someone hold me back!)

Okay, a little better with a glass of wine. So his main message was that romance authors know they are writing the equivalency of a children’s book (not the content, obviously, but the quality) so we shouldn’t be commended or receive praise for our books because they don’t hold a candle to “true” literature. Whatever that means.

And that’s not all. He goes on to criticize women who read romance novels as being childish for buying into these ridiculous notions of being swept off our feet by hunky men and carried away to an HEA in a distant sunset.

Now I probably shouldn’t mention that this blogger writes fantasy and sci-fi, which someone with less morals than I would point out that he should’ve outgrown these ridiculous notions of magic, death rays, and aliens by now. I probably shouldn’t add that his profile stating he “will work for pizza and root beer” isn’t exactly intellectual genius. Hypocrisy anyone?

I think more wine is needed.

So, according to this blogger, reading romance is intellectually lazy because adults should only read to learn, not to be entertained. Sex has no place in books. Romance writers are inferior. The content in a romance novel is meaningless.

Personally, I think he’s just jealous that Romance is the bestselling fiction genre.

Let’s toss the conversation to you. Are you childish for reading romance novels? Can you feel your brain cells dying off one by one as you get swept away with the white knight on his noble steed? Let loose ladies (and men). I know you want to.


About Susan Hanniford Crowley

Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Author
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26 Responses to Does Reading Romance Novels Make You Dumber? by Leia Shaw

  1. jennajaxon says:

    I read that guy’s post too, Leia. He didn’t do his homework on so many levels. (Harvard offered a class on The Romance Novel this year, a thing he swore they would never do.) Why would it be childish to read anything? With literacy levels dropping, if the promise of romance gets you to stick your nose in a book, how can that be bad?

    But specifically romance novels? They have some of the most complex plot structures of any fiction. They teach a moral lesson (good triumphs over evil–must have your HEA). They arouse the senses (I’ve read some that were damn near close to orgasmic) and produce a catharsis of emotions in the reader (just like Aristotle said the best tragedies should do in Greek theatre). Perhaps they are actually stimulating our brain cells. Which would explain why that blogger’s seemed so few and far between.

    Great post and question, Leia.

    • cmkempe says:

      It all goes back to the relatively recent marketing trend to label and sell romance as a genre toward a perceived female audience. Everyone used to read romance. Surveys told booksellers that the major audience for romance was women: what they didn’t survey to find out was that women were the major audience for most genres. Women are the bigger readers period.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      i figured someone who sees this would’ve read it too. i think the post made the rounds. my blood pressure was boiling but you’re right jenna, a good romance has complex subplots and life lessons.

  2. Ridiculous notions? That two people can learn to love each other and themselves? That they can learn sacrifice, hope and acceptance? That there’s redemption and someone to love us no matter what we’ve done? Unconditional love and forgiveness? Yes, that’s all crap. *rolls eyes*

    Really, I think it’s just his inferiority, thinking that he will never be able to measure up to the men we write about and therefore it must be stupid and makes us all stupid and he’s going to take his Millennium Falcon home and not play with us anymore. Which, incidentally, its pilot was a feature in many a woman’s fantasy. In case he wasn’t aware of that.

    I choose to write romance because that’s what I want to see in the world. That’s what I want to craft with my words. Why? Because I’ve seen enough of the dark. I’ve lived it. I’ve had what used to be a man’s brains on my hands, I’ve seen men kill each other over Ramen, fathers who sexually abused their developmentally disabled daughters, men who beat children to death with their bare hands… so yes. I choose to write about good men because I know they’re out there. I married one. And I want the rest of the world to know they’re out there, too.

    And does it murder my brain cells? Hardly. Last time I was tested, my IQ was 140. I wonder if this person can say the same?

  3. Michelle says:

    I’ll keep my response short and simple. Jealousy, Stupidity and prejudice all in one blog sure doesn’t say much for his intelligence.

  4. cmkempe says:

    Agreed with all this — sheer idiocy! Blinkered prejudice is blinkered prejudice. Funny how anything perceived to have a largely female audience is always dismissed as trivial.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      i think that was the worst part – the insult to women as a whole. and i just learned a new word from this. blinkered. will you look at that!

  5. Hm, well, let’s see. Since the statute of limitations has surely run out by now, I will admit that reading romance saved my patoot on at least two college exams; one on Elizabethan vocabulary and one on the contributions of ethnic groups other than English to the economy of the American colonies. A= on both, thankyouverymuch.

    Articles like those written by this gentleman both amuse and sadden me. I don’t read SF/F, apart from trading manuscripts with a longterm critique partner, but I would never presume to blast a genre I know nothing about, and do so with assumed authority. Sorry, buddy. Do the research first, then report your findings. Isn’t that how science works?

    Romance author Eloisa James is also Harvard *and* Oxford graduate, as well as teaching Shakespeare at Fordham University. Did reading and writing romance make her dumb? Don’t think so.

    Ithink the author of the article in question could stand to read a few good romances.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      yeah i don’t know how many vocab words i’ve learned from reading romance. not to mention historical information when i go through my sporadic historical romance phases (especially scottish historical. who knew men in skirts could be so tasty?)

  6. Romance Reader Enthusiast says:

    I have to say that I read that same blog. I want to know who made him an authority on what people want to read. He even went on in his blog and said he was sexy (if you look at his picture ladies you will understand why he is still single). I also got the impression that he only posted those responses where people agreed with his assessment. As long he has his views of women, he will never get married (I hate to see the woman he does marry). I wouldn’t be surprised to see that he is a very controlling person.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      lol! well i wasn’t going to bring up the sexy part. but since you did, yeah, that tells you a lot right there. a middle aged man claiming to be sexy but still single doesn’t give him much credit in my book. lol!

  7. Gerri Brousseau says:

    I love reading romance (and writing it). And I’m not alone, since romance novels are the best selling of all books these days. I agree … he’s jealous.

  8. Awesome post, and being swept off your feet really does happen in life. I’m living proof and it has lasted 32 years and counting. So that guy who already showed his own intelligence should go sit in the corner like a bad little boy (lol). Ah, that felt good. Have a great day. PS 70% of books that sell today are romance novels.

  9. Kel says:

    heh. Someone has genre envy.

    I probably shouldn’t mention that I originally started reading romance because I’d read all the way through the fantasy and scifi section at the library and the romance was the next stack over.

  10. Casey Wyatt says:

    Great post Leia. I agree that this guy has genre envy! But as my mom says, “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” So, I say “Grrr….” instead 🙂

  11. Tonya Kappes says:

    I love all genres. It all helps me escape for a few minutes.

  12. I read that post, too, and was totally infuriated. Not only did he insult the women who read and write romance novels, but he did it while admitting he’d only read ONE–I repeat, ONE–romance book, not including the snippets he thumbed through in his mother’s collection when he was young.

    How can ANYONE condemn an entire genre of tens of thousands based on ONE book?! That in itself is absolutely ludicrous. He also claimed that everything he said was FACT, as opposed to his opinion. What an asshat.

    And yes, he was absolutely screening comments and only posting the ones that either favored his argument or that he felt he could shoot down with his retorts. I know that my comment and Larissa Ione’s comment didn’t make it past his approval process. I’m sure there were dozens of others.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      oh that’s right! i forgot he only read one book and then his mother’s when he was young. not only has the romance genre changed in the last couple decades but even if it didn’t, we’re really going to trust a child’s perception of literature. just ridiculous. and yes, i’m sure he was screening comments. but i bet he doesn’t regret the post. he may be the most hated man for five minutes, but he probably got the most blog hits he ever has that day. i’m sure he relished in the attention.

  13. 75 million people can’t be wrong!

    – Romance fiction generated $1.358 billion in sales in 2010.
    – 8,240 new romance titles were released in 2010.
    – Romance fiction sales are estimated at $1.368 billion for 2011.
    – 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008.

    Source: RWA

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