Romance Novels and Female Sexuality: Vicarious Participation?

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This study explores the association between time spent reading romance novels and female sexuality. The respondents were 436 white female college students, age 18-47. Several variables of interest are used to indicate sexuality: 1) age when thoughts of sex first occurred, 2) age at first intercourse, 3) strength of sex drive, 4) sex addiction, 5) number of orgasms, 6) number of sex partners, and 7) femininity. Our results show that readers of romance novels self-reported greater sex addiction, greater sex drive, and greater number of orgasms required for sexual satisfaction than non readers. However, readers had fewer sex partners, and were older when they had their first thoughts about sex and had their first sexual intercourse. This pattern fits the Harlequin romance stereotype of nourishing a satisfying sex life in the context if romantic monogamous fidelity while at the same time vicariously fulfilling desires through fictitious characters.

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