bodice ripper

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From the fact that the female protagonists in such novels would often have their bodices (blouses or corsets) removed with some force before sexual activity commenced.



bodice ripper (plural bodice rippers)

  1. (informal) A romantic novel, usually in a historical setting, with frank depictions of sexual activity, especially one in which the female protagonist is seduced; (by extension) a film, television programme, etc., featuring such activity.
    Synonym: hysterical historical
    My aunt would bring a stack of torrid bodice rippers with her to the beach, and would unfailingly blush if disturbed in her reading.
    • 1978 February 8, Charitey Simmons, “Dizzying passion ruffles the pages of the ‘hot’ historical novel”, in Chicago Tribune[1], Chicago, Ill.: Tribune Publishing, ISSN 1085-6706, OCLC 7960243, section 2, page 4:
      Publishers call them hot historicals as opposed to either the virginal variety Barbara Cartland writes or to the bodice rippers "because that's usually what happens to the heroines," Price explained.
    • 1984, Margaret Ann Jensen, “Rivals and Writers”, in Love’s $weet Return: The Harlequin Story, Bowling Green, Oh.: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, →ISBN, page 66:
      The name "bodice ripper" was derived from the frequent rapes and sexual assaults that the heroines experienced. "Bodice-ripper" heroines were portrayed to be stronger and more active characters than gothic heroines. Editors of category romances, noting the popularity of the "bodice rippers," have borrowed the longer lengths, the overt sexuality and the assertive heroine from these romances.
    • 1993, William O’Rourke, “Catholics Coming of Age”, in Signs of the Literary Times: Essays, Reviews, Profiles 1970–1992, Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, →ISBN, page 48:
      Soon bodice-rippers, the gothics, the "romance" novel advanced from paperback to hardback, from supermarket racks to book club selections.
    • 1997, Stella Bruzzi, “Introduction: Clothing and Cinema”, in Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies, Abingdon, Oxfordshire; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, published 2009, →ISBN, page xiii:
      This book is the last stage of a long and varied journey that began with the first UK screening of The Piano. Never having been an ardent fan of conventional ‘bodice rippers’ or nostalgic fossilisations of a past we never had, I was surprised by my reaction to the costumes.
    • 1999 January, Joanna Elm, chapter 17, in Delusion (A Tor Book), mass market edition, New York, N.Y.: Tom Doherty Associates, →ISBN, page 136:
      Indeed, Travis had been a model as a college student, working his way through John Jay Criminal College, posing for the bodice-ripper covers of romantic novels.
    • 1999, Paulette Richards, “Literary Contexts”, in Kathleen Gregory Klein, editor, Terry McMillan: A Critical Companion (Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers), Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, →ISBN, ISSN 1082-4979, page 23:
      These novels became known as "bodice rippers" because they were much more sexually explicit than earlier romances had been. Instead of experiencing a delicious kiss or a mystical wedding night at the end of the story, heroines in the bodice rippers were regularly ravished by the hero. Some feminist critics objected to these books as a romanticization of rape, but readers identified strongly with the heroine's powerlessness as a woman in a rigidly patriarchal society. Unlike the sweet virgins of earlier romances, the heroines of the bodice rippers were notoriously feisty.
    • 2006, Jan Kozma, “Translator’s Introduction”, in Marianna Sirca; Jan Kozma, transl., Grazia Deledda, Madison; Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, →ISBN, page 9:
      Grazia [Deledda] discovered early that a short story appeared in the last pages of each magazine; these tales were of a decidedly Romantic bent, much like today's supermarket bodice-rippers.
    • 2015, Seamus McGraw, “Sundance”, in Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change, Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, DOI:10.7560/756618, →ISBN, page 5:
      [M]y mother chased her dream of becoming a character in one of those frontier romance novels—buckskin bodice rippers, she called them—that she so adored.
    • 2016 February 26, Beth Wesson, “Selling Outlander to the Masses … Or Selling Out?”, in My Outlander Blog[2], archived from the original on 5 March 2018:
      They stubbornly hung on to the idea that Outlander was a Harlequinesque bodiceripper that would only appeal to middle-age bored housewives.

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