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It wasn’t until the Sexual Revolution had swept through youth culture that romance novels got explicit about sexuality

It wasn’t until the Sexual Revolution had swept through youth culture that romance novels got explicit about sexuality

Mental health is central to the wholesome romance’s fantasy of safety, as manifested in relationships built on emotional intimacy

The so-called bodice ripper was born in 1972, with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower-which follows an 18th-century maiden who falls for the ship captain who kidnaps and ravages her. By the Reagan ’80s and the Clinton ’90s, as economic prosperity helped cloister Middle America from the tragic fallout of epidemics like AIDS and crack, erotic thrillers from Body Heat to Cruising needled the collective subconscious about infidelity, queerness, female empowerment. The dominant romance franchises of the early 21st century, Twilight and Fifty Shades, put regular girls at the mercy of powerful men who hurt them, consensually or otherwise.

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