Gender and sexuality

Publication year

The introduction to the volume says that:

Jonathan A. Allan in his incisive investigation of the complex social construction and performance of gender and sexuality in romance novels (Chapter 20) [...] begins with a discussion of how foundational works of popular romance scholarship by Snitow, Modleski, and Radway theorized and critiqued gender and sexuality in ways that essentialized gender. He argues that Snitow’s “Mass Market Romance: Pornography for Women is Different” marked out the terms in which gender and sexuality in romance novels is discussed by establishing the language of critique, creating a binary between romance and pornography that dominated subsequent discussions and defenses of gender and sexuality in romance. However, the twenty-first century has seen a move toward more diversified methods of analyzing romance novels, influenced by queer approaches, as well as more scholarly interest in gender and sexuality in LGBTQIA novels. His chapter ends with the observation that scholars are only beginning to study constructions of men and masculinities, not only in the genre but also in the romance industry, and that much more work is needed in this emerging field. (17-18)


As scholars have shown, often romance novels essentialize both gender and sexuality; by contrast, this chapter is explicitly interested in gender and sexuality in popular romance novels as social constructs, rather than essential categories. Simply put, this chapter understands that gender and sexuality are something characters do, and it will explore how foundational works of popular romance scholarship have understood and theorized gender and sexuality, as well as pay attention to the lacunae in that scholarly record, which new generations of scholars have now begun to explore. The popular romance novel is a complicated archive that offers scholars of gender and sexuality much to think about, theorize, and critique. To these ends, this chapter will cover masculinity and femininity, as well as queer approaches to gender in the popular romance, while also providing something of a historical overview of the treatment of gender and sexuality in the scholarship. (428)