Scripting Black Love in the 1990s: Pleasure, Respectability, and Responsibility in an Era of HIV/AIDS

Publication year

The linkage of pleasure, responsibility, and respectability in [Brenda] Jackson's first novel was not an anomaly. Several of her subsequent novels emphasize the same connections, and they, too, do so in the context of safe sex. In effect, then, these novels script "Black sexual politics" that prescribe respectful sexual and moral behaviors for African American women readers with romance fiction serving as a guide to Jackson's audience about social practices for marriage, safe sex, and the conditions under which black women and men are expected to receive and give love and pleasure. The script offered by Jackson's romance novels thus subverts popular culture stereotypes of blacks as hypersexual, irresponsible, and deviant. Given the sexual health environment of the mid to late 1990s, the years in which Jackson's first novels were published, these eroticized and romanticized depictions of safe sex practices might well be read as a deliberate, didactic intervention by the novelist. (112)