Love as the Practice of Bondage: Popular Romance Narratives and the Conundrum of Erotic Love

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Is love the practice of freedom? If so, in what sense? What does it mean to "practice" freedom? When, under what conditions, does love become the practice of the opposite, namely some type of bondage? Can one distinguish "good bondage" from "bad bondage" in the practice of love? And how do these issues play out in the narratives about romance in popular culture and especially in genre fiction, including in BDSM erotica novels that feature literal bondage?

Against the backdrop of these questions, my thesis is this: romantic love is an ambiguous - and sometimes dangerous - practice of freedom and bondage. The pop culture narrative of "find your one true love and live happily ever after" risks turning into "love as bad bondage," but can also model and teach the ideal of "love as good bondage," in all its complicated glories and pitfalls of commitment and constraint. (369)