If feminist porn is first and foremost about highlighting women’s sexual pleasure and about the politics of producing that pleasure… then no cultural production better matches this mandate than romantic fiction… Central to romance fiction, as to feminist porn, is the depiction not simply of sexual activity but of women’s sexual satisfaction

Catherine M. Roach (Happily Ever After, pg 94)

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Although technically “romance novels,” these books stand out in the genre. As much as they overlap in plot structure with more traditional romances, they diverge in sexual tone. In this, the books help readers process their experience of a sexualized culture, and allow them to retreat from that culture temporarily. The characters lead moral lives, wear modest clothing, and abstain from sexual expression unless they’re married. Descriptions of women’s physical attributes—the bedrock on which most romance novels are built—are almost absent, which offers a refreshing lack of body objectification. As one characters says of his fiancée in Lewis’s The Shunning, “Of course, a woman’s beauty was not the main consideration when taking a mate, but when a woman was as pretty as Katie Lapp, the spark was stronger.” Additionally, the text is written without even the suggestion of sex, in keeping with the preferences of the genre’s mostly evangelical Christian readership. On her wedding day, for instance, Katie is embarrassed to have to admit she had not remained “pure,” because she had kissed a boy a few years ago. Fifty Shades of Rumspringa, this is not.

So what lies behind the allure of the Amish among evangelical and mainstream audiences alike? Perhaps it’s that the Amish seem like a convenient vehicle for citizens of a quickly modernizing culture to process their own insecurities and the changes they see around them, especially in terms of technology, gender, sexuality, race, and religion.

Interesting take on the current popularity of Amish-themed romances.

Fifty Shades of Remix: The Intersecting Pleasures of Commercial and Fan Romances by Katherine Morrissey

Fifty Shades of Grey’s past as a work of Twilight fan fiction has turned a spotlight onto the conversion of fan works for the commercial romance market. Fifty Shades reminds us of the increasing flow of texts, readers, and writers across these two categories of storytelling. Blurring traditional genre categories, stories like Fifty Shades represent a challenge for fan and popular romance studies. While scholars need to be attentive to medium specific contexts, the impulse to deny intersection may signal problematic assumptions and artificially segregate these storytelling forms. This paper reexamines past work on the differences between fan fiction and romance, arguing for greater attentiveness to the ways these two modes of storytelling intersect. Focusing on the importance of intertextuality and play with form in romantic storytelling, the paper argues that greater attention to these qualities offers new ways for us to study texts like Fifty Shades of Grey and may help scholars reconceptualize the relationship between fan and commercial work.

My article on Fifty Shades came out in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies this week. :)

Why female pleasure — not sex — is the real taboo on primetime television

Why female pleasure — not sex — is the real taboo on primetime television