Huei-Hsia Wu


This analysis gauges gender difference in time spent reading romance novels and sexuality. Respondents were 770 white American college students, including 436 females and 334 males, age 17–49. Males are viewed as a reference group. Drawing upon the “plastic sexuality” thesis and feminist theory, this study hypothesizes that female readers of romance novels have higher levels of interest in sexuality (at least in the attitudes) than male readers, and non-readers but such a sexual interest is not necessarily converted into a more active sexual behavior. Most romance novels promote deeply constraining patriarchal values, reading romance novels plays a role in shaping the meaning of the self, sexual identity and attitudes and behavior relative to this patriarchy. The results indicate that due to a higher degree of plastic sexuality, female readers of romance novels self-reported greater sex drive, and greater number or orgasms required for sexual satisfaction than male readers and female non-readers. However, female readers had fewer sex partners, and were older when they first thought about sex and had their first sexual intercourse. This pattern fits the Harlequin romance characterization: female readers nourish a fulfilling sex life in the context of idealistic monogamous faithfulness, while at the same time vividly satisfying desires and sexual fantasy through fabricated characters.

Author Biography

Huei-Hsia Wu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Boise State University.