July 01, 2008

Tanya Modleski on Representing Rape in Harlequin Romances

The novels [Harlequin Romances] perpetuate ideological confusion about male sexuality and male violence, while insisting that there is no problem (they are very “different”). The rapist mentality – the intention to dominate, “humiliate and degrade,” which as Susan Brownmiller shows, is often disguised as sexual desire – is turned into its opposite- sexual desire disguised as the intention to dominate and hurt. The message is the same one parents sometimes give to girls who are singled out for mistreatment by a bully: “he really has a crush on you.” This belief is of course an enormously difficult one to sustain in real life, and romantic literature performs a crucial function in assuring us that although some men may actually enjoy inflicting pain on women, there are also “bullies” whose meanness is nothing more than the overflow of their love or the measure of their resistance to our extraordinary charms. (Modleski 1982: 34-35)

Modleski, Tanya. 2008 (1982). Loving with a Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies for Women. London: Routledge.


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