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There’s clearly a psychological reason why those themes still sell. Whether women find it freeing, or titillating or whatever. I’ll leave it to our old friend Nancy Friday to deduce.
And I don’t think it’s exclusively the “remnants” of “older un P.C.” women. Clearly there are young women or girls who are consuming this type of fiction despite a dramatic change in pretty much all parts of society. Here’s just one reason why I think this-
I am not really a reader of Manga or a watcher of anime but there are a couple of things I have seen on social media or you tube that were “a thing” for a while. One is “Kabe-don” which started in anime and was transferred into live action. It’s an aggressive move where the guy forces the woman against the wall, hemming her in with his arms and slapping the wall at the same time.
There is also something similar in South Korean Manga and Anime, I don’t know the name but it’s also an aggressive lean over, power move by the guy. I’ve seen young women on you tube saying they loved it (American and European women as well) when they saw it and wanted to act it out with their boyfriends. Even if it was just the boyfriend kissing them up against a wall.
Now these are very young women in their early 20’s or younger (who saw or read it as far back as in their teens) who responded to this aggressive, bossy boyfriend behavior and translated it into a fantasy they wanted to read more about or even act out. This doesn’t mean they wanted to be sexually assaulted or harassed. Something about it appealed to them on some level and they wanted to “experience” it in a situation where they call the shots. They’re not going out onto the streets (presumably) to ask random guys to be aggressive. They’re exploring it through fiction or with significant others.
And to be fair it’s a fairly tame fantasy as far as they go, but in this modern world it’s not a politically correct one to say “I want my boyfriend to slam his hands down on the wall and cage me in his arms”. But it’s definitely along this theme of men being controlling and/or aggressive.
We all know that no one is going to publicly approve of a woman buying or consuming books with any of these kind of actions from the mild to the extreme lest they be seen as “anti woman” “regressive” or “oppressed” but we can see that thanks to ebooks and Amazon, it is being consumed. So there is a dichotomy, as there often is, between what is acceptable publicly and what is done or consumed privately.