For the most part, a quick glance at the cover of any romance novel is all it takes to reveal the formula that’s inside. For better or worse, it’s a genre of fantasied gender stereotypes and it has long had its place.
But The Guardian is now reporting on research that points to the books of Mills and Boon, a leading publisher of romances, as culprits of measurable negative impacts on women’s mental and sexual health. The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health found that even modernized releases with employed, relatively empowered female protagonists present “a deep strand of escapism, perfectionism and idealization” that mental health care professionals see affecting the expectations and experiences of an increasing number of clients.
With cases of unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and depression rising among their romance novel-enthusiast clients, and romance novels making up half of all book sales in certain places, some health care professionals are convinced there’s a correlation.