I teach an undergraduate seminar on “Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture” with a unit on the romance genre. This year, for the first time ever, the class consists entirely of women. Also new this year is an exercise we invented of an online, collaborative romance narrative. One question that came up in our writing experiment was how, when, and why to include sex scenes. We talked a lot about depictions of sexuality in romance fiction, as well as in the sex-saturated corridors of popular culture. How are the love scenes in romance different from those in pornography or erotica?
...I’m interested in the notion that a feminist is a woman who writes—a woman who dares explore ideas and fantasies that run contrary to patriarchal scripts for feminine docility, submissiveness, and sexual passivity. These scripts are still alive in the impossible contradictions and double standards my students report: be sexy but also pure, demands the culture. If guys sleep around it’s a sign of mastery and control, but if you do it you’re a slut.