Liminal eRoticism: Emerging Forms of Gender Identity and Performance in e-Romances and Their Feminist Electronic Communities

Publication year
Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education

In the last 20 years of ‘women’s literature,’ romances’ content has grown into  postmodern stories whose heroines (and male protagonists) are in a wider array than ever before: Asian-American, Latina, multiracial, women who love women, shapeshifters, women with superpowers, and women who explore the boundaries of being sexually submissive or dominant (Ellora’s Cave, 2012; Fitzgerald, 2006; Laws, 2007). When women edit, read, and own Internet-based publishing houses, the electronic format proliferates forms of feminism by producing material that subverts the alpha male domination present in traditional brick-and-mortar romance novels. Furthermore, narratives of female desire and performance are disrupted and legitimated; thus creating powerfully disruptive narratives of gender and gender identity from the social periphery.

This article has three contentions about the social feminism in e–romance novels. First, e-romances are postmodern artifacts; a signpost of socio-sexual and technological advancement that is being increasingly consumed by Third and Fourth Wave generations of romance readers. With almost $6.7 million dollars of revenues in 2006 alone, the trend of e-publishing at houses founded by women such as Man Love Romance, Wicked Women of Color, and Loose Id are growing in popularity and patronage (Fitzgerald, 2006; Henley, 2007; Schoenberger, 2007). Many sources here will reflect and seek to legitimate femmecentric electronic worlds and voices.

Second, this article examines how women who write e-romances create characters that extol feminist and womanist ideals birthed from the Second Wave of American feminism and its concomitant literature forms. The heroine’s relational practices contest the traditional roles of women in “women’s literature” like romance novels.

Third, I maintain that the performances of gender and sex role expectations in e-romances are no longer hegemonically constrained by heteronormativity and are performed in fluid liminal spaces. (55)