Consuming Desires: Consumption, Romance, and Sexuality in Best-Selling Teen Romance Novels

Publication year
Women's Studies in Communication

The novels examined do not appear to be romances, but there is discussion about why this is:

Through my examination of femininity, romance, and consumption practices within recent teen romance novels, I argue that story lines have changed in significant ways from previous studies of romantic fiction. Like marketing and magazines that deliver teen and tween girl audiences to retailers, the contemporary teen romance novels examined here create specific links between specific brand names, romance,and sexuality. Furthermore, acts of consumption to prepare for romantic relationships are the primary focus of these novels rather than the relationships themselves.This analysis highlights how brand names and consumption are connected to cultural norms of femininity. (59)

While romance still remains an important aspect of the heroines’ lives, the overriding focus is the process of continuous consumption, mostly of expensive products and services, to strive for romantic success and competitive edge against other girls. Heroines no longer, as Christian-Smith (1988, 1990) asserted, become women through romance, they now become empowered and feminine through consumption. (68)