Contemporary Erotic Romance: Cunning Linguists or Fifty Shades of Feminist Dismay?

Natasha Turner

Abstract


The opening lines of most contemporary critical theory on the erotic romance genre are about as predictable as erotic romance texts themselves. Critics such as Jayne Ann Krentz (1992), Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan (2009) inform us that the genre is scorned, misunderstood, and that readers of the genre are made to feel ashamed (Krentz, 1992: 1). However, three years after the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy[1], when millions of women now unashamedly access erotic romance on their Kindles, and popular titles make it into mainstream bestseller lists, does this over-protective defence of the genre still hold true? With more fame should come more responsibility; the genre needs to be brought up to date with its new modern readers rather than continuing to justify its well-worn narratives as being ‘subversive’ and ‘empowering’ for women. Therefore, I return to a literary critique of the genre, in particular the three texts, In Too Deep (2008) by Portia Da Costa, Seven Years to Sin (2011[a])[2] by Sylvia Day, and a collection of seventeen short stories edited by Kristina Wright called Best Erotic Romance (2011), to show that for a genre that reflects shifts is social discourses surrounding feminism and female sexuality (Sonnet, 1999, p.171), contemporary erotic romance is behind the times when it comes to modern sex-positive feminism and gender theory.


[1] Sometimes categorised in the sub-genre fan-fiction erotica rather than erotic romance.

[2] Hereafter referred to as ‘Seven Years’.


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References


Primary texts

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Caperton, A. (2011) ‘Guest Services’ in Wright, K. (ed.), Best Erotic Romance, California: Cleis Press, Inc., pp.77-87.

Da Costa, P. (2008) In Too Deep. UK: Black Lace.

Day, S. (2011[a]) Seven Years to Sin. London: Penguin Books.

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Wright, K. (2011[b]) ‘The Curve of Her Belly’ in Wright, K. (ed.), Best Erotic Romance, California: Cleis Press, Inc., pp.188-196.

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