Romance novels, for heat between the covers


So the thrill is gone. The fire is out. The electric blanket is the only hot thing in the boudoir.

Listen to the doctor and take a romance novel to bed. These books just may turn up the body heat, says Dr. Gay Guzinski, a gynecologist at the University of Maryland Hospital. They can be especially helpful for women turned off by the "this goes here, that goes there" illustrated sex manuals.

"The people I would recommend these to are women who don't have a good sense of their bodies, who might be embarrassed by them, who aren't receiving pleasure but feel they are missing something," Dr. Guzinski says.

"At first, some are even embarrassed to mention they are not having an orgasm. These women may not be comfortable sharing this information with a male gynecologist, but they share this with me," the doctor says.

"And there's a group of women who just don't fantasize," she adds. "They . . . feel as if they are sort of stuck in the same routine."

Romance novels, the doctor says, can give some women permission to be more sexually expressive with their husbands or significant others. "These women may have regarded sex as just a duty," she says.

Of course, Dr. Guzinski first determines there's nothing physically wrong with them before suggesting a few good bodice-ripping, deep-kissing, subtle yet sexy romance novels.

And it's not just older women who may feel sexually repressed, says Dr. Guzinski, who talks about this in the November "Glamour" magazine.

They could be younger women who married and had children early, menopausal women, widows or those contemplating a new relationship. Although there are many good, informational sexual aids on the market, Dr. Guzinski says, these woman are embarrassed to go out and, say, rent an explicit video. Romance novels are inexpensive and socially sanctioned.

"Anybody can drop one into their shopping cart while at the grocery store" -- even Dr. Guzinski, who reads what she recommends. "I absolutely would only recommend something that I had read," she says.

Local romance novelist Mary Jo Putney is one of the writers she suggests.

"Well, there has been a survey that says women who read romance novels make love more often than those who don't!" says Ms. Putney, whose new book "Petals in the Storm," (Penguin, USA) is due out in December.

Another reason some women might be helped by romance novels is because females are verbally oriented while men are visually oriented, says Dr. Michael Plaut, a certified sex therapist and professor at the University of Maryland.

"Of course, that's not always the case," says Dr. Plaut, a psychologist. But he agrees that romance novels are a valid sexual aid.

One sex therapist, however, says there could be some drawbacks. "Depending on how graphic they are, even romance novels can be too much of a leap for some people," says Dr. Eileen Mager, also a certified sex therapist and psychologist.

"And we have to consider that they might promote unrealistic expectations."

But romance novels have a place in her practice, also, and Dr. Mager will recommend them to some patients -- "Someone who is already aware that she wants to explore her sexuality," she says.

"All kinds of literature and media can be enhancing," says the doctor. And it's a good idea for doctors to "suggest" different enhancements not "prescribe" them as a sure-fire cure-all, Dr. Mager says.

For Dr. Plaut, the novels are at least one way of opening the lines of communication between couples. "Sex is such a difficult thing to talk about in our society."

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