Reading the BDSM Romance

Reading the BDSM Romance

This article presents the results of survey data from readers of the Fifty Shades novel series. It is almost 30 years since Janice Radway’s (1984) Reading the Romance was published and audience studies have burgeoned. However, public discourse about E L James’s trilogy was couched in assumptions about ‘formulaic’ genre fiction, alongside debates about its ‘mainstreaming’ of BDSM, and little of this discussion drew upon the voices of readers. Our research reveals readers’ complex, often contradictory, responses to the novels. For these readers, the acts of reading and discussing the novels offer a range of (dis)pleasures, from erotic enjoyment to the amusements of critique; from self-gratification to participation in cultural dialogue.

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