Sometimes I come across something in the media (or a friend does) and my pants spontaneously combust with rage. I call this state ‘flamey-pants’. This week’s flamey-pants was caused by an article on a fairly innocuous site (www.medicaldaily.com) which appears to make a buck out of peddling pseudo health advice, not an uncommon type of site to see these days what with all that obnoxious internet advertising looking for content to ride on.

But this article instantly turned my pants to tinder, and not just because I’m a romance writer. In fact, I take issue with most of this article, based as it is on pseudoscience.

So I’m gonna take it down, one dodgy-as-shit pseudoscientific claim at a time, because while I’m not a journalist, or even a medical expert, I’ve got a spare ten minutes and debunking bullshit is fun.

The article was titled Romance Novels, Internet Porn Cause False Expectations In The Bedroom; When Fantasy Becomes Unhealthy but you don’t need to go and read it because I’ve rebutted each point below. Let the hating begin..

Article My comment
Men and women differ remarkably in what they consider sexually desirable, both in quality and physicality. Really? Where is your evidence for this? You don’t cite any. Am I meant to take your word for it or is this some kind of shitty ‘common sense’ based on gender essentialism?
And when they can’t find what they want in the real world, many of them fill that void with the fantasies of internet pornography and in the pages of romance novels. No evidence here either, but I know you must be right because I know I started watching porn ALL THE TIME after Richard Armitage failed to show up on my doorstep and propose.
Biological theories that have emerged throughout our history, such as natural selection, have given us a better understanding of our evolution during the last 1.8 million years. Sadly, those same theories have also led to some very dubious interpretations of their ideas (e.g. biological determinism) resulting in mountains of specious, pseudo-academic crap being written.
Each gender’s sexual behaviors are a tug-of-war between finding security with a mate and wanting to explore sexual desires. Again, no evidence cited, but I’m sure you wouldn’t just make something like that up. Would you? Though I’m sure if you assert that exploring sexual desires with a long-term mate is not possible then you must be right. However, I’m not sure what you even mean by ‘finding security with a mate’. Are you referring to marriage or building a bunker with someone you love?
Out of this, marriage was created to maintain control between a husband and wife and the endless competition. Really? That’s funny, none of the texts I’ve read about the origins of marriage have suggested this, they suggested that marriage was created to manage property and inheritance among the upper classes. And it’s almost like you’ve never heard of same-sex marriage. Or is that not ‘real’ marriage?
Yet, the search continues, if not in reality, then online or in the pages of a book. Really? So everyone wants to get married? (I don’t.) So out of the 105 million unmarried people in America 18 and older in 2013 (according to US Census data) all of them want to get married but suck at it?
For both men and women, however, they’re an unnatural fulfillment of each respective fantasy, which can lead to a damaged reality. ‘Unnatural’, huh? Wow, that must mean porn and romance novels are really bad, just like computers and hospitals are evil because they’re also unnatural. Please instruct me further on the ‘correct’ ways to fulfil my fantasies (I’m pretty sure this involves missionary sex with a member of the opposite sex who I am joined to in holy matrimony). I’m also concerned about my reality becoming damaged. Is there some kind of anti-rust or stain protector that I can buy to protect my reality?
Pornography, a $10 billion to $14 billion industry, accounts for 25 percent of all search engine requests and is the fourth top reason why people go on the internet. Is this a problem in some way?
It affects human sexual behavior because much of what’s available today doesn’t represent natural human behavior when it comes to mating — one of our two basic primal urges. Oh, of course it is a problem.

Please send me a diagram outlining ‘natural human behaviour’ so I can paste it on the wall and make sure I’m being ‘natural’ at all times and judge others’ behaviour accordingly.

I was pretty sure theories about deviance connected to types of sexuality (e.g. homosexuality) were de-bunked a couple of decades ago, but since you’re a journalist I must have got it wrong. I’m sure that the extensive literature about the social construction of sexual deviance is also not worth mentioning.

Humans’ two innate desires have always been to procreate and find food and water. I thought Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was a little more complex than that? And if all humans have the innate desire to procreate, how does that explain the growing number of people who choose to remain childfree (here’s a reference, since I like evidence) plus my own zero desire for crotch fruit? Are we all just ‘abnormal’?
Everything from grooming habits to climbing the corporate ladder go back to our need to attract a mate or ensure a meal at the end of the day, whether we realize it or not. Really? I brush my teeth to stop them from falling out and wear clothes to the office because it’s illegal not to. It’s true that I climbed the corporate ladder so that I got to eat. I love eating. But I may have forgotten to mate. The gene pool in my mating area was not fantastic and I only ever do things that make evolutionary sense, so I simply abstained from mating. I did once consider luring mates with my grooming behaviour to eat them, but climbing the corporate ladder seemed easier.
Porn, however, has molded sexual tendencies and preferences from years of people looking at it in magazines and watching it. Really? You cite no evidence and yet I find your assertion compelling because I know from my own experience of watching Inspector Rex for many years that my ideal partner is a German Shepherd.
Frequent porn users eventually begin to believe these images, and expect them to materialize in real life. What? You mean all that stuff that happens in porn is NOT real? Godammit!
Such a juxtaposition, between these overstimulating images and the reality of sex, can make life seem boring and ultimately affect the way they behave in the bedroom — as well as their partner. So porn is ‘overstimulating’ but the ‘reality of sex’ is not? Hmmmm, I think somebody may have a boring sex life.
This happens because of the way porn is processed in the brain. Each time a person watches it, dopamine — a neurotransmitter in the brain’s pleasure and reward center — is released. Continued viewing is often compared to addiction because of this, and it can lead to increased compulsiveness, loss of control, and withdrawal symptoms. But most importantly, it increases tolerance as connectivity throughout the brain’s neurons is altered. A constant supply of dopamine reinforces the behavior and leads to a biological feedback loop that’s always making that tolerance for visual stimulation higher. I totes have this problem with chocolate.
These biological effects then go on to affect the man’s social life. What? Only men get to have porn? Ripped off, I want to have me some porn too. But maybe that would be ‘unnatural’.
It can cause them to experience more frequent incidences of premature ejaculation or prolonged orgasms, and even increase their chances of cheating. Turning it off can reverse the damage, however. Overstimulated neural connections can rebuild a tolerance, similar to the way muscles are exercised. Oh, so that’s why only men cheat, because only men watch porn and get affected by it.

Prolonged orgasms sound horrible, ew!

Wow, my brain is just like my body, I can change it with exercise. Time for some brain pilates followed by some vigorous brain aqua-aerobics!

Romance novels are arguably just as effective as porn at degrading life’s reality. Degrading life’s reality. Huh? That sound kind of fun. Can I make my office job and taxes and mortgage less real?
This particular book genre, itself worth $1.3 billion, affects women’s sexual ideations in a similar way. Wow, ‘ideations’ is a big word, what does it mean? “the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas” according to Websters. So we’re talking about fantasies. I geddit. And romance is just like porn. Got it. I knew there was a reason my librarian always handed me my romance novels in a brown paper bag.
For a woman, the pages unfold to create heightened expectations about real life, as she compares her own romances sexual encounters to those created by the author. An apostrophe for the possessive, please. But this is true as I’ve been unable to enjoy sex since reading romances about sheikhs and pirates. Luckily, there’s never sex or talk about sex in magazines, movies or other kinds of books, and my friends never have sex and talk about it either. So all I had to do to stop the comparisons was stop reading romance.
An example of this is Fifty Shades of Grey, one the most popular romance novels of our time. The erotica trilogy sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and became one of the bestselling series in any genre throughout publishing history. Because no article on romance is complete without reference to FSoG—despite the tendency of journalists to call it romance and erotica (two separate genres) in one paragraph.
But while Internet porn and sexually explicit movies elicit their own dangerous proclivity, books offer readers something more exploratory, as it’s based in their own imaginations. I knew it! Porn is daaaaangerous. Are books too?
Romance novels can actually cause women to make poor health and relationship decisions, British relationship psychologist Dr. Susan Quilliam, based out of Cambridge, told Live Science. Of course they are! Because women never make poor decisions unless they’re avid romance readers, so it’s quite easy to prove the causal effect.
“They offer an idealized version of romance, which can make some women feel bad about themselves because their relationships aren’t perfect,” Quilliam said. “Nobody — man or woman, romance reader or non-romance reader — should be making their decisions based on an idealized version of romance. Really? Does that mean I shouldn’t base all my life decisions on ‘what would Christian Grey do?’?

Startlingly, the only time I feel bad about myself is when the book police tell me what I should and shouldn’t read. But once I clobber them over the head with a hardback romance novel I usually feel better immediately .

In an editorial for Live Science, Drs. Andrew Adesman and Alexis Tchaconas of Cohen Children’s Medical Center wrote that Fifty Shades of Grey, in both book and film form, could be detrimental to teens’ sexual development — even though the film was rated R, millions of 17-year-old high school students fled to theaters for its premiere. While adolescence is a time for sexual curiosity and discovery, the novel revolves around the sadomasochism of bondage. Teens may turn what the book defines as sexy into their own reality, which can lead to abnormal and potentially harmful early sexual experiences. So when Adesman and Tchaconas said that the film ‘could be detrimental’ that meant it definitely was, right?

So those millions of 17-year-old high school students are all screwed up now, huh? Unless what you meant by ‘abnormal and potentially harmful early sexual experiences’ was masturbating to Justin Bieber video clips.

Teenagers, just like their adult counterparts, may also develop warped attitudes toward sex. A 2012 study, for example, found that early exposure to sexual content in movies predicted the likeliness of teenagers engaging in risky sexual behavior. Another 2009 study found adolescents who visited sexually explicit websites were also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, including having sex with multiple partners and being under the influence of drugs during sex. ‘Warped’, ooh, now we’re getting judgey-judgey, aren’t we?

Is there sexual behaviour that isn’t risky? Because everyone knows that masturbation causes hair to grown on the palms.

Under the influence of which drugs? Nicotine? Asthma inhalent? Aspirin?

Multiple partners? Oh, dear Lord, don’t those young folk realise they should marry the first person they have sex with?

A recent study, published in the journal Current Opinion in Pediatrics, claimed that the past 20 years of technological advancement have brought with them a “dark side” as well, with implications for physical, psychological, developmental, and emotional health. Whether it’s porn or erotic romance novels, getting rid of these fantasies might be the only way to return to sexual normalcy. There’s really a journal called Current Opinion in Pediatrics? Is there one called Current Opinion in Physics?

And please do send me that guide to sexual normalcy that’s been blessed by the pope.