There Are Six Bodies in This Relationship: An Anthropological Approach to the Romance Genre

Publication year
Journal of Popular Romance Studies

Here's the abstract:

Following Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret M. Lock, we suggest that each romance protagonist has three bodies: a physical body, a social body, and a political body. In applying this insight to the romance genre we focus on the socio-sexual aspects of the social body and the socio-political aspects of the political body, and draw on existing analyses of romance novels in order to explore some of the continuities and variations in the representations of the bodies of romance protagonists and the interactions between those bodies. The primary texts cited span a period of over 200 years and include classics such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) as well as a range of more recent category and single-title romances. 

In what we term the “alchemical” model of romantic relationships, the heroine’s socio-sexual body (her Glittery HooHa) attracts, and ensures the monogamy of, the hero’s socio-sexual body (his Mighty Wang), allowing the heroine’s socio-political body (her Prism) to focus, and benefit from, the attributes of the hero’s socio-political body (his Phallus). This is not the only model of romantic relationships present in the genre and therefore a few of the alternative models are briefly examined. We conclude that the bodies of romance heroes and heroines are sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies.