The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity

University of Illinois Press
Urbana and Chicago
Publication year

Here's a link to a review by Judi M. Roller in American Literature 60.2 (1988): 317-318 and here is a link to a review by Catherine Belsey in The Modern Language Review 85.4 (1990): 906-907.

Here are some quotations from the Introduction:

in the face of overwhelming testimony to the contrary among literary scholars, sociologists Ruggiero and Weston were bold indeed to suggest that modern gothic romances might even be considered forerunners of the new women's movement.

The data, analyses, and conclusions about popular romantic fiction and its readers presented here follow in this heretical tradition, questioning and challenging the traditional verities, and suggesting instead that under certain conditions popular culture acts in concert with other social forces as a powerful agent of change, especially during periods of social and political turbulence, precisely because of its power to legitimize. The evidence indicates that one new and very popular type of romance narrative, the erotic romance, has been moving away from traditional sex-role portrayals and values for more than a decade. (6)


this type of novel has traced the evolution of the "liberated" American woman with a responsiveness unmatched by any other mass entertainment medium, changing as both its most articulate consumers and the marketplace changed. (7)


Though yet another transformation now appears to be underway, the popular romance genre since 1972 has been divided into two basic types - the sweet romance and the erotic romance - with the fundamental difference between them being the presence or absence of specific sexual behavioral norms and explicit sexual activities. Sexual content is the most important classifying characteristic, however, because of the kind of sex-role portrayal that came to be associated with it. (7)


The data that inform the text were gathered using four research methodologies: systematic content analyses of more than 100 romance texts published between 1972 and 1985; assessment by readers of the personality traits of heroines and heroes, in both erotic historical romances and erotic contemporary series romances, using a set of semantic differential (opposing adjective) scales; two mail surveys of a national sample of 600 romance readers, conducted in 1982 and 1985; and personal interviews with selected authors, editors and publishers. (12)


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