The economy's down. Still. So what are women turning to? Romance novels, of course! Harlequin Enterprises, the publishers behind those cheesy paperbacks, reported earnings up 32 percent, and romance book sales are up 3.2 percent overall.

Why the hike? The books are cheap, for one. And "people want to escape," in stressful times, says Laurie Parkin, VP of Kensington Publishing. Dr. Judith Orloff even suggests the stories help people find a place of calm.

That's all nice and good but c'mon, ladies. We all know why women really buy romance novels, and it's true it can help you "escape" and "find calm." Read the real reason behind this trend after the jump.

As a matter of fact, it was sneaking a peek at Mom's old romance novels that led some of us to our first childhood O's. To this day, we credit those softcover books as our introduction to soft-core porn, even if we had to contend with euphemistic sex scenes and boring plot lines.

That's right -- masturbation is still the cheapest, most exciting pastime during a recession. And for the large portions of women in this country who don't feel comfortable with hard-core pornography, romance novels are still the, erm, "aid" of choice.

Did you (or do you?) read romance novels? What's your motivation?