How Damsels Love: The Transgressive Pleasure of Romance

Renata Elizabetta Ntelia


In this article, I look at contemporary romances as a source of transgressive pleasure that may inspire its audience to reject patriarchy. I focus solely on romances between a man and a woman with emphasis on the psychological dimension of the female character upon her trajectory from an object of desire to the man’s ideal partner. I argue that the pleasure of romance is, indeed, a means towards the dismissal of patriarchy. Drawing on feminist theory, I contend that romance constitutes a nucleus of a feminine ideal that women may use as a comparative reference point for their real-life relationships, revealing any problematic and inadequate behavior of real-life partners. Even though romance pertains to the prescripts of patriarchy, I argue that it can be seen as an intertext: a product of the interlanguage used to translate the male discourse to the female bodily experience. In producing and consuming the romance, women can contrast this experience of the feminine ideal with the lack of pleasure patriarchy entails for them. In this respect, the romance possesses a transgressive power that may facilitate women’s realization of their dissatisfaction and the refusal of their role as emotional labor.


romance, love, desire, monomyth, pleasure, feminist theory, psychoanalysis, intertext

Full Text:



Apuleius. 2007. The Golden Ass Or, A Book of Changes. Trans. Joel C. Relihan. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Ashman, Howard and Alan Menken. 1991. “Beauty and the Beast.” Track 9 on Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Walt Disney, compact disk.

Banting, Pamela. 1992. “The Body as Pictogram: Rethinking Hélène Cixous's écriture feminine.” Textual Practice 6 (2): 225-246. doi: 10.1080/09502369208582139.

Barthes, Roland. 1978. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Trans. Richard Howard. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

Berlant, Lauren. 1998. “Intimacy: A Special Issue.” Critical Inquiry 24 (2): 281-288.

Berlant, Lauren. 2012. Desire/Love. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books.

Bialowas, Barbara and Tomasz Mandes. 2020. 365 Days. Ekipa: Netflix.

Campbell, Joseph. 2004. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Chodorow Nancy. 1978. The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Cixous, Helen. 1976. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. Signs 1 (4): 875-893.

Cixous, Helen. 1981. “Castration or Decapitation.” Trans. Annette Kuhn. Signs 7 (1): 41-55.

Cook, Pam. 2005. Screening the Past: Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Crespi, Muriel. 1990. “Film Reviews.” American Anthropologist 92 (4): 1104. doi:10.1525/aa.1990.92.4.02a01020

De Villeneuve, Gabrielle S. 2014. La Belle et la Bête. Paris: Gallimard.

Doane, Mary A. 1987. The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940’s. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press.

Dundes, Alan. 1965. The Study of Folklore. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Douglas, Ann. 1980. “Soft-Porn Culture.” The New Republic 30: 25-29.

Ellwood, Robert. 1999. The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Fiedler, Leslie. 1948. “Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey!” In Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Case Study in Critical Controversy, eds. Gerald Graff and James Phelan, 528-534. New York, NY: Macmillan Education.

Flax, Jane. 1978. “The Conflict between Nurturance and Autonomy in Mother-Daughter Relationships and within Feminism.” Feminist Studies 4 (2): 171-189.

Frankel, Valerie E. 2010. From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc.

Girard, René. 1965. Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure. Trans. Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press.

Hudson, Kim. 2010. The Virgin's Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

Irigaray, Luce. 1985. The Sex Which is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Joannou, Maroula. 2018. “The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century.” In A History of the Bildungsroman, ed. Sarah Graham, 200-216. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kraus, Chris. 1997. I Love Dick. Los Angeles, CA: Tuskar Rock Press.

Larsen Stephen and Robin Larsen. 2002. Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

McKenzie, Jean-Philippe. 2020. “Will There Be a 365 Days Sequel? Here's What We Know.” The Oprah Magazine, July 1. doi:

Modleski, Tania. 1980. “The Disappearing Act: A Study of Harlequin Romances.” Signs 5: 435-48.

Murdock, Maureen.1990. The Heroine’s Journey. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications Inc.

Northup, Lesley A. 2006. “Myth-Placed Priorities: Religion and the Study of Myth.” Religious Studies Review 32 (1): 5–10. doi:10.1111/j.1748-0922.2006.00018.x

Paz, Octavio. 1995. The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism. Trans. Helen Lane. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace and Company.

Radway, Janice A. 1983. “Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context.” Feminist Studies 9 (1): 53-78.

Radway, Janice A. 1991. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Ramsdell, Kristin. 1999. Romance Fiction: A Guide To the Genre. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Roach, Catherine M. 2016. Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture. Bloomington, IA: Indiana University Press.

Róheim, Géza. 1971. The Origin and Function of Culture. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Sagar, Khusi. 2020. “365 Days 2: When is the sequel coming? More Updates!” Finance Rewind, 9 September. doi:

Simone, Gail. 1999. “Women in Refrigerators.” January 7 2021. doi:

Snitow, Ann B. 1979. “Mass Market Romances: Pornography for Women is Different.” Radical History Review 20: 141-161.

Spencer, Ashley. 2020. “How ‘365 Days’ Became One of Netflix’s Worst-Reviewed Big Hits.” The New York Times, July 2. doi:

Toelken, Barre. 1996. Dynamics of Folklore. Logan, UT: Utah University Press.

Vogler, Christopher. 2007. The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

Vyskočil, Tomáš. 2020. “Biggest Netflix Titles in 2020 According to the Netflix Top 10s.” What's on Netflix, October 9. doi:

Date of publication: 2021-10-10 16:24:51
Date of submission: 2021-02-28 17:50:46


Total abstract view - 1571
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Renata Elizabetta Ntelia

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.