Sexualization is changing the way we think about romantic love. According to recent research, young people are increasingly confronted by narrowing ideals of sexual attractiveness making romantic intimacy increasingly difficult forcing a choice between ‘raunch or romance’. This article investigates the alleged distinction between romance and sexualization, in the process challenging claims that the current crisis of sexualization is a product of societal change in late modernity. Responding to a call to consider sexualization from a hitherto neglected historical perspective, the paper employs critical discourse analysis to identify the formation of gendered meanings and practices in How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter, a late medieval advice text for young women, and twenty-first-century advice from the MyBliss website. Focusing on sexualized clothing, contact with others, reputation and social status, the paper argues that in both medieval and modern advice, discourses of romantic love and sexualization are mutually dependent. In addition, similarities between medieval and modern advice reveal that our current sexualization crisis is not solely a product of modern life, but is part of a longer pattern of gender normativity and inequality.
- romantic love
- critical discourse analysis