Bad Analogies Can Be as Addictive as Chocolate

Did you know that reading romance novels can be as addictive as pornography? And that reading romance novels can destroy marriages?

That utter silliness is being peddled in an article by Kimberly Sayer-Giles. The article prominently quotes Dr. Juli Slattery, the Family Psychologist for Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is James Dobson’s organization fighting for “traditional marriages,” which evidently are under attack not only from gays but also from romance novels.

The romance novel weblog SBTB has a good takedown of the article as a whole, but I was fascinated by the article’s use of science.

“There is a neurochemical element with men and visual porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels,” [Dr. Slattery] wrote.

Men are very visual, and viewing pornography produces a euphoric drug in the body. This drug is the reason pornography becomes addictive. When the natural high wears off, a man will crash and feel depressed (as happens with any drug) and crave another hit.

Women are more stimulated by romance than sex, so when they read romantic stories (and they don’t have to be explicit to work) they can experience the same addicting chemical release as men do…..

Pornography addiction counselor Vickie Burress said reading romance novels or viewing pornography may eventually lead to an affair for some women.

“Women involved in pornography have a hard time keeping their family together,” she said.

That’s a whole bunch of bad logic spackled over with a thin, cracking patina of terrible science. This is like equating sex and chocolate. Having sex releases endorphins, a euphoric drug in the body. Eating chocolate can also release endorphins. People who have affairs, some of whom eat chocolate, may ruin their marriage. The implication is clear: eating chocolate will make it hard to keep your marriage together.

I eagerly await the next article from Kimberly Sayer-Giles equating romance novels and snuff films.

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8 Comments

  1. on June 1, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    While I would NEVER want to support Focus on the Family, they’re tackling a question I have always wondered about. Is there a porn analogue for women? I have always thought it was interesting that women don’t seek the direct visual stimulation that men do, and I’ve often wondered about the physical effects of a steamy tale, or even just a romantic comedy.

    Of course, any experiment that attempts to directly equate the sexes is doomed to failure, but I’ve often wondered whether or not women seek a similar effect from emotional scenarios. You can prove categorically that women don’t seek out porn as much as men, but I don’t think that comes close to clearing them from seeking a physical reaction. Is the social stigma of pornography only halfway applied to the sexes?

  2. joyeuse
    on June 1, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Of course there’s a porn equivalent for women. It’s called “porn.” It just happens to be the kind with more words than pictures. (And no, I don’t mean romance novels, although they can come close sometimes! Maybe “erotica” is a better word.)

    And, ahem, yes. There is a physical effect.

  3. Tombstone
    on June 1, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    There’s simply no way that any real comparison could be made between romance novels and snuff films.

    Snuff films are *CLEARLY* better.

  4. Ally
    on June 1, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    holy shitsnacks…so THIS is why I can’t hold down a relationship. Thank you, Dr. Slattery, for clearing that up for me. It all makes so much more sense now. I’ll just go burn all my romance novels and delete my porn bookmarks from my web browser.

  5. on June 1, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    @Joyeuse: So, erotica is more about sex than romance novels? Is it still largely scenario-based? Which would you say is more effective for *ahem* stimulation?

    @Tombstone: No way! Death in romance novels is way more creative!

    @Ally: Obviously, seventy percent of America is on the verge of breaking out into feverish boning with non-spousal types. Obviously. The only way to save your puritanical marriage is to get rid of all the fun stuff!

  6. Ally
    on June 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    In a similar vein, check out this blog using science! to prove why abstinence is the correct choice http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/31/my-take-there%e2%80%99s-nothing-brief-about-a-hookup/

  7. on June 2, 2011 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    So that’s why my friend wife had an affair! Too much chocolate, makes perfect sense now. Perhaps she also had a stash of Mills & Boon under her bed…….

  8. on June 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Did you know that marriage is also under attack by oral contraceptives?

    http://www.thepillkills.org

    There’s one particularly funny line: “A host of health-related side effects from the pill can negatively impact the relationship between spouses.” I’d like to pint out that pregnancy also has a host of health-related side effects.