‘Whatever the Approach, Tab B Still Fits into Slot A’: Twenty Years of Sex Scripts in Romance Novels
- 552 Downloads
In 2009, romance novels accounted for $1.36 billion worth of book sales, giving this genre the largest market share by a wide margin. However, despite their popularity, very little research has been done on the sexual behaviours depicted in these books or on the context in which these behaviours occur. The goals of this study were to gain an understanding of how sex and sexuality are portrayed in contemporary romance novels and to determine whether these portrayals have changed over the last 20 years. It was hypothesized that most depictions of sexuality in romance novels would adhere to Western sexual scripts (Gagnon 1977; Gagnon and Simon 1973; Simon and Gagnon 1986, 1987) and that this would not change over time. The sample consisted of books that had won the Romance Writers of America award for best contemporary single-title romance from 1989 to 2009. A quantitative content analysis revealed that hypotheses were supported with respect to characterization of the male and female protagonists, characterization and context of the romantic relationships, and order and nature of sexual behaviours. The implications of these results for further research on depictions of sex and sexuality in the media are considered.
KeywordsRomance novels Sex scripts Representations of sex and sexuality in fiction
We would like to thank Peggy Kleinplatz, Ph.D., Rebecca Plante, Ph.D., John Hunsley, Ph.D., and Mylène Laforest, B.A. for their assistance in strengthening this paper. We would also like to thank the Romance Writers of America for their kind assistance.
- Assiter, A. (1988). Romance fiction. Porn for women? In G. Day & C. Bloom (Eds.), Perspectives on pornography: Sexuality in film and literature (pp. 101–109). London: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
- Bielay, G., & Herold, E. S. (1995). Popular magazines as a source of sexual information for university women. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 4(4), 247–262.Google Scholar
- Brockmann, S. (2000). Bodyguard. New York: Random House, Inc.Google Scholar
- Castleman, M. (2004). Great sex. New York: Rodale Inc.Google Scholar
- Crusie, J. (2005). Bet me. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
- Gagnon, J. H. (1977). Human sexualities. Glenview, Il: Scott, Foresman and Company.Google Scholar
- Gagnon, J., & Simon, W. (1973). Sexual conduct: The social sources of human sexuality. Chicago, Il: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Phillips, D. (2006). Women’s fiction 1945–2005: Writing romance. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
- Phillips, S. E. (2001). First lady. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
- Riffe, D., Lacy, S., & Fico, F. G. (1998). Analyzing media messages: Using quantitative content analysis in research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Roberts, N. (2004). Birthright. New York: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
- Romance Writers of America (RWA). (2011a). About the romance genre. Retrieved January 7, 2011 from http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre.
- Romance Writers of America (RWA). (2011b). National contests and awards. Retrieved January 7, 2011 from http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre.
- Rosen, R. C., & Leiblum, S. R. (1988). A sexual scripting approach to problems of desire. In S. R. Leiblum & R. C. Rosen (Eds.), Sexual desire disorders (pp. 168–191). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Ruggiero, J. A., & Weston, L. C. (1983). Conflicting images of women in romance novels. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 6, 18–25.Google Scholar
- Thurston, C. (1987). The romance revolution: Erotic novels for women and the quest for a new sexual identity. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
- Wiederman, M. W. (2005). The gendered nature of sexual scripts. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 13, 496–502.Google Scholar
- Wiggs, S. (2006). Lakeside cottage. Don Mills, ON: Mira Books.Google Scholar
- Zilbergeld, B. (1999). The new male sexuality (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar