Male-Female Relationships in Best-Selling "Modern Gothic" Novels

Publication year
Sex Roles

Here's the abstract:

This study is a content analysis of 24 randomly selected best-selling "modern Gothic" or "romantic suspense" novels published between 1950 and May 1974. The focus was on the interrelationships between the male and female characters in terms of their sex-role characterization and the attitudes and behavior of the hero towards the heroine and the supporting female actor. The findings indicate that (1) the hero displays more positive attitudes and behavior toward the non- traditional woman (generally the heroine) than towards the traditional one (generally the minor female) and (2) the hero who chooses the less traditional female is usually characterized as traditional. (647)

And here's a brief quotation:

On the basis of the novels analyzed in this study, the "message" to women readers appears to be twofold: (1) be your own person, be independent, have a career, find fulfillment, but do not worry; for, (2), your chances for a happy marriage and a family will not be ruined. In fact, they may even be enhanced, since many men (even traditional ones) will choose you over more traditional females. In other words, the message might be seen as offering an intermediate step on the way to female liberation. The authors seem to be suggesting that less traditional women do not have to pay the price of being deprived of the rewards a still fairly traditional society holds important. (654)