Hot Under the Bonnet | Bitch Media

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.

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

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

I am not against interpretation. But what courts recognize as legitimate interpretation, it turns out, has predictable sexual and gendered components– to be a “public woman” is a far different thing than to be a “public man,” just as a “streetwalker” is different from a “man in the street.” Thus, in Leibovitz, a woman’s proud celebration of her pregnant body necessarily invited negative commentary from passersby. We already know that Barbie is sexual, says Judge Kozinski, so her proprietors have no right to complain when someone makes that more explicit. An unchaste doll cannot be raped.

Of course, a plastic doll cannot be raped, chaste or not. Bodies are funny, sex is funny, and anyone who deals in bodies can expect some rude surprises. But in a culture full of disputes over sexuality and gender norms, it should be no surprise that our copyright cases are not exempt from those battles and that women in particular may find themselves mocked mercilessly or exposed beyond what they were willing to reveal.

Rebecca Tushnet (“My Fair Ladies: Sex, Gender, and Fair Use in Copyright,” 293)

The inseparability of sex and gender in practice is one of the things that romance genres make obsessively visible, and one of the ways in which romance is itself pornographic. Romance is always seeking to display the imperative bind between sex and gender without, perhaps, naming it as such. The imperative to visibility in porn is also embedded in the themes of revelation and discovery that shape a romance narrative, always exposing the truth of feelings, desires, and character, and always manipulating the audience’s desire to know what they already know… both romance and porn consume the question of sexed and gendered relationships more for its epistemological context than its content.

Catherine Driscoll (“One True Pairing,” 94)