Sunday, 10 July 2011

At a time when all my Romantic Novelist friends are in Caerleon and, if their Twitter feeds are to be believed, partying really quite hard, quite a few newspapers have reported on an article in the the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care which claims that:
a huge number of the issues that we see in our clinics and therapy rooms are influenced by romantic fiction.
The "we" in this quotation is supposedly a reference to therapists in Family Planning Clinics, GP Surgeries and similar places where medical professionals work with patients. But as far as I can tell the author, Susan Quilliam, has no professional qualifications at all. She has a website on which she describes herself as a "relationship psychologist", but there are no rules about who may call themselves a "psychologist", and indeed Quilliam's description of this function hardly inspires the reader with confidence:
At the moment, I not only write agony aunt columns and books; I also comment for newspapers; broadcast on radio and TV; consult on advertising campaigns; and advise on medico-sexual projects.
So it appears that the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, an offshoot of the widely-respected BMJ, has accepted an article by an amateur with a nose for self-publicity, and splashed it to the media, for what end?

The key paragraph in Quilliam's tosh is perhaps the one that says:
If a woman learns from her 100 novels a year that romantic feeling is the most important thing, then what follows from that might be to suspend her rationality in favour of romanticism. And that might well mean not using protection with a new man because she wants to be swept up by the moment as a heroine would. It might also mean allowing that same man, a few months down the line, to persuade her to give up contraception because “we love each other”. It might mean terminating a pregnancy (or continuing with one) against all her moral codes because that same man asks her to. It might mean panicking totally if sexual desire takes a nose dive after pregnancy or because of strain – after all, such failure never happens to a heroine. It might mean – in the wake of such panic – judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance.
I was sorely tempted to write a piece in which a romantic hero did demonstrate all the "correct" attitudes, but I haven't for two good reasons. The first is that such an essay would miss the whole point of Romantic Fiction, which is surely escapism. And the second is that Catherine Bennett has written a brilliant article in The Observer which uses all the best gags anyway.

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