The Endorphin Rush

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Why do I read romance?

According to Thomas Stewart’s article for The Richest, I am not alone in my love for this genre. The romance/erotica fiction business is a $1.44-billion-dollar industry and is top of the list, beating crime, horror and fantasy.

So what is it that draws the predominantly (but not exclusively) female readership to romance novels?

It’s too simplistic to dismiss the whole genre as ‘mummy porn’. Romance novels range from incredibly sweet to explicit and includes the popular new adult and young adult subgenres.

And if women simply wanted porn, wouldn’t they just read or watch porn?

My own theory, not an original one by the way, is that many women, myself included, are drawn by the endorphin rush that comes when they get lost in a love story with a happy ever after (or an emotionally satisfying ending).

Endorphins, according to the Wikipedia, are a group of endogenous (i.e. produced in the body) opioid neuropeptides (hormones produced by the brain that inhibit the transmission of pain signals and produce a sense of euphoria). In short, they are your own legal and free source of narcotics!

It’s the same high experienced by athletes, yogis and chocolate lovers, and can also be induced by moderate levels of alcohol, a good massage and an orgasm.

Reading a great book, or watching a great movie, sucks us into the story. We get lost, becoming so invested in the outcomes of the characters, that when the boy gets the girl or the girl staves off dragons to save the boy, we experience a rush of chemicals so strong the following occurs in our bodies:

 

  • Pain sensations are blocked, or reduced
  • Our limbic system (part of the brain concerned with emotion) lights up giving us a rush of pleasure
  • Sleep improves
  • Our appetite is reduced
  • The negative effects of stress lessen
  • Our immune system is boosted
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Memory improves.

Wow. All that from a romance novel with a HEA—sign me up!

No wonder I’m addicted.

JC Harroway writes contemporary romance with incandescently happy endings. Find her at jcharroway.com or on social media.

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