Q&A: Romance Novels

One of our readers wrote us asking if it was OK to read romantic novels. There are several variables to consider in this discussion.

One is that it is my opinion that reading detailed descriptions of the sexual encounters of others is inappropriate so if we are talking about the sort of romance novels where the author is painting very vivid images of how the couple is having sex (essentially erotica), then I believe it is unhealthy to choose that as reading material. We work hard here at Christian Nymphos to provide honest and straightforward information about sex without attempting to titillate our readers so it isn’t that I see a book about romance or even sex as inappropriate, but how does the author go about writing the story? Is it overt and exceedingly descriptive or subtle and just enough to tell the story?

One example of healthy romantic literature is the work of Francine Rivers. Some of her books contain sexual encounters, but they are only giving the reader enough information to know what is important to the story. She doesn’t even confine her work to godly, Christian sex because some of her characters endure great sexual hardships, but in any description of a sexual encounter she isn’t tantalizing the reader with blatant illustrations of how the characters were actually having sex. I am something of a fan of her work so I have no trouble recommending her books. Her characters struggle with real issues in their relationships and though they are not perfect, she shows how the power of God can breathe life on the relationships we have that feel like they have no life on them anymore.

Then there are other romantic novels which are not based in reality at all. The characters experience trite conflicts and find themselves overcoming them with little effort on their part. Their man comes in and all their problems are resolved quickly and easily. Their love lives are filled mostly with roses and champagne, and really show a very unrealistic and unhealthy way to approach relationships.

So, having said this, the other variable to consider is that some women read either what I would deem as perfectly healthy romantic novels or these fantasy-based romantic novels and it causes them to become discontent in their own relationship. “Why isn’t my man that romantic?” “I wish I had a relationship like she does…” If the fruit of reading romantic novels is discontentment, then I would caution you to select your reading material more carefully. If on the other hand you can read these books and not find yourself drawn into unhealthy expectations or discontentment, then there is probably nothing wrong with it.

It is kind of like watching a typical “chick flick” to me. The storylines are usually the same. Boy meets girl. Boy deceives girl. Girl and boy get emotionally and sexually involved. Girl finds out about deception. Girl gets angry at boy. Boy delivers heartfelt appology. Girl forgives boy. They live happily ever after. I love it when a chick flick departs from this plot and does something unique, but I still watch these typical chick flicks sometimes. I can watch them without allowing myself to long for being swept away like that.

A final point to consider is that most of the time you are reading stories where the characters are engaging in sex outside of God’s design, most commonly premarital and extramarital sex. Just be cautious about this. Perhaps a good guide would be to consider whether you would watch it if it was in a movie. I do watch movies that have sexual content, but avoid movies where it is the predominant theme. You might consider applying the same principle to romance literature.

So in deciding if romance novels are healthy or not for you, consider how well you do at separating yourself from a fanciful story and how much detailed and overt sexual content is in the story.

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  • August 2008
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