The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that “we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies.
Beauty is whatever gives joy.