Avidly Reads Guilty Pleasures

New York University Press
New York
Publication year

Chapter 1 is "about the cultural history of the rough-sex fictions we call 'bodice-rippers' - explicitly sexual romance novels primarily set in the nineteenth century - and why femme readers so love them."


Bodice- ripper sex scenes— which are rarely if ever closely interpreted when these novels are written about— offer valuable insight into how the desire for rough sex with dangerous men functions and why it exists. Both Steve and Ginny use their sexual relationship as a way to work out their understanding of how they fit into the world, and their sexual relationship is charged by their constant grappling over power. (58)


Because the dark hero represents the circumstances of oppression that the heroine seeks relief from in the form of sexual release, his erection becomes the one sign of “things a man cannot control” and, therefore, her control over him. Just as often as the heroine doesn’t offer her consent in their initial encounters, so too does the hero become powerless over what the sight of her body does to his body. As the genre evolves, the erections are still front and center, but they even more explicitly signal female control. (65)


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