Fifty Shades of Stigma

By Joanna Gregson and Jen Lois

For the past five years, we’ve been studying the culture of romance authors. Together, we’ve conducted over 50 interviews with authors and industry professionals, attended conferences and signing events for romance writers, and followed authors through social media.

One of the first things we observed—and that romance authors suggested as a topic for study when we asked their opinion—was the negative perception of the genre. Anyone who has heard of Fifty Shades of Grey knows what we’re talking about: people call the books “smutty,” “trashy,” and “porn for women.” Not surprisingly, romance writers are constantly confronted with people’s negative assumptions, too, which include a host of misconceptions about the sexual content: that it’s autobiographical, pornographic, and/or an invitation to sexualize the author. Though the romance genre contains a wide range of sexual content, from chaste Amish romances to BDSM-inspired romances like Fifty Shades, writers experience these stigmatizing interactions no matter the level of sexual explicitness in their books because the genre is known for its sexual content. Continue reading “Fifty Shades of Stigma”