Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Let's Talk About... ;-)

Hey Everyone! :-)

Today, I thought I'd talk about something I seem to get asked fairly often. For some reason, I seem to have been getting a lot of emails lately that boil down to the question, "Why do so many women like reading romance novels so much?"  My response is generally something along the lines of, "Why on Earth are you asking me? I'm not a psychologist." ;-)  But, when I'm feeling slightly more frivolous, I might say something like, "It's the sex, silly!"

So, with a full disclosure that I am not a psychological professional of any description, I figured today seemed like a good day for frivolity, so why not explore the second answer a little. ;-)  But, first, a few caveats. I will not be citing any sources. This is a work of frivolity and so I will be using only my own anecdotal observations, and any "conclusions" I reach should be regarded accordingly. Also, as a complete and total non-expert in psychology, I haven't the foggiest idea if anything I say here fits within any psychological theory, or has been completely debunked by science, or if there is any other relationship with actual facts. Again, this is not a research essay, it's a flight of fancy. Take it as such.

One thing that seems to hold true, this question seems to come to me most often from men who are exasperated that a woman in their life has in some way compared them to a character in a romance novel and found them lacking. So, first, I'd like to point out that romance novels, by definition, are works of fiction. Therefore, any comparison between characters who don't actually exist and whose every thought, action, and word is carefully scripted and edited by an author to fit within a storyline and an actual human being who has multiple, dynamic, and often conflicting, demands on their time, energy, attention, and other resources and whose thoughts, actions, and words likely only receive a cursory, on-the-fly review and/or filter is not only absurd on its face, it's likely damaging to relationships. In the same way that comparing the bodies and behavior of actual, real-life women to the bodies and behavior of carefully made-up, lit, positioned, and scripted actresses in pornographic videos is both asinine and unrealistic.

Now, with all the caveats, disclosures, and disclaimers out of the way, let's have some fun, shall we? ;-)  So, why do women like romance novels? First, it's not just women. I've met more than a few men who both read and write romance novels. So, the correct question would seem to be, why do people like romance novels?  Well, as I said before, common sense would tend to suggest it's the sex. Duh.

After all, human beings do seem to spend an awful lot of our time and energy on sex. Thinking about it, fantasizing about it, trying to find a partner or partners for it, planning it, having it, dreaming up new and exciting ways/places to have it, and on and on. As a species, we're pretty obsessed with sex, wouldn't you say?  So why wouldn't literature that centers on, and often glorifies, sex be popular?

In addition, many romance novels, unlike most pornography in general, also focuses on the love aspect of relationships.  Are there exceptions to this? Yes. But, for the most part, the romance bit of love is a central theme in most romance novels. Hence, the name of the genre.  This gives readers the opportunity to escape into a fantasy world where people find creative and entertaining ways to work through their differences and grow closer to each other. So, you not only get the excitement from the sex, you also get the "feel-good" moments from the love.

Is it just the pursuit of an endorphin rush -- a mental masturbation, if you will -- that draws readers to romance novels? I honestly don't think so. Yes, it feels good to read about people in love. But I think it's more than that too. As with any fictional literature, I think romance novels are an escape from reality.  They're a way to vicariously live adventures that would be either impossible or impractical in real-life, or that most people just don't get the opportunity to experience. And you also get to do it from the comfort of your own home, without having to deal with any of the hardships that the reality of such a life would bring.

For instance, putting aside the fact that time travel is currently beyond the capabilities of human beings, if you were to be magically transported back to the 1500s Scottish Highlands, you might find the lack of electricity, indoor plumbing, modern medicine, paved roads, internal combustion engines, and other modern amenities we tend to take for granted now to be rather daunting.  And don't forget, before modern printing methods were invented and became commonly used, books were rare and valuable. Just think, no more romance novels!  But experience the same world through the lens of a novel, and you can have all the romance and adventure with none of the inconvenience. Now isn't that worth a few bucks?

I also think that more than a few romance readers make note of ideas and tips that might help spice up their own love lives. Does that mean everything that might be described in a romance novel is actually possible or practical for real-live human beings to duplicate? No, obviously not. But, most love scenes tend to stay more-or-less within the bounds of what human beings might imagine themselves doing. People are more likely to find such ideas arousing than things that are clearly outside the realm of possibility.

Yes, some adjustments might need to be made to compensate for the lack of fictional appendages or technology. If the story you're reading involves a double-donged alien, then a dildo might be a necessary substitute since most human males lack a second penis. But, by-and-large, there's usually enough of reality in a sex scene that people could imitate it if they got creative enough. So, if you're looking for some ideas or a place to start a conversation, reading a romance novel with your sweetie might not be a bad place to start.

So, what does all this boil down to? Why do people like reading romance novels? At a guess, I'd say the reasons vary from person to person. But one thing they all seem to share is that they get something out of reading romance novels. Of course, that could be said about why anyone does anything. If you're taking time and energy to do something, you're probably getting something out of it. Still, regardless of the specifics of their motivations, many people do seem to enjoy escaping into the pages of a romance. And, after all, there are much worse things people can use their time for than making a little love or dreaming about romance, right? So, instead of trying to beat us, why not join us? You might just find and adventure or dream lover of your own. ;-)

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