Are Romance Novels Hazardous To Your Health?

You knew your summer beach read wasn't exactly brain food, but could it actually be bad for your health?

In an essay published in the latest edition of the UK Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health, relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam ripped into the bodice-ripping genre, suggesting that it can encourage unsafe sex practices among readers. She writes:

To be blunt, we like condoms -- for protection and for contraception -- and they don't. In one recent survey, only 11.5% of romantic novels studied mentioned condom use, and within these scenarios the heroine typically rejected the idea because she wanted 'no barrier' between her and the hero.

She also points out that this same survey found a correlation between avid romance readers and a negative attitude toward condoms, and argues that the genre as a whole can create unrealistic expectations about romance, marriage and sexual pleasure.

Quilliam urges romance and non-romance readers to pay attention, as the genre could be providing a form of sex education:

In some Western countries, romance accounts for nearly half of all fiction bought; some fans read up to 30 titles a month, one book every two days. So while women's exposure to formal sex and relationships education (SRE) may be as little as a few hours in a lifetime, exposure to the brand of SRE offered in romantic novels may be as much as a day every week.

But that doesn't mean you have to give up on the Fabio fantasy just yet. According to an NPR blog, the data referenced in this piece is out-of-date, evaluating books that were published between 1981 and 1996 (meaning largely before there was a widespread understanding of AIDS and other STDs). On top of that, the sample size was a mere 78 books.

What do you think?