Bodice Ripper

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If there is a perjorative term in romance fiction, "bodice ripper" is it. The term, officially, refers to a specific era in romance fiction where the hero forcibly "takes" the heroine, or rips her bodice in prelude to raping her. It is not clear why this particular scenario gained popularity, but today's romance authors and readers view the term "bodice ripper" with disgust due to the violent implications of the phrase.

Authors whose names are commonly associated with the term include Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers. Though "bodice rippers" technically can only refer to historical romance (modern women rarely wearing bodices), the press continues to use the term when discussing the romance genre. As early as 1981, The New York Times made it clear that as far as readers of romance were concerned, the "bodice ripper" was out[1]. The newspaper, however, continues to use the phrase whenever discussing the romance genre.

This may have to do with the general lack of respect for the genre, which is still widely referred to as trashy. Most non-romance readers have a very narrow understanding of the range of topics and styles covered, and are reluctant to reconsider their position.

There has been a good deal of public discussion, some of it quite contentious, on whether it is possible to raise the general estimation of the genre, and how best to do that. The RWA has undertaken several approaches to this, including the Look Who's Reading Romance campaign.

Sources

Bodice Ripper at Wikipedia

RWA campaign reference from eNotes, an RWA publication: [2]

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