Bernie's erotica from 1972 mimics some of the most popular "romance" scenarios before feminism.

Bernie’s erotica from 1972 mimics some of the most popular “romance” scenarios before feminism.

“When Bernie got into this race, he understood that there would be efforts to distracts voters and the press from the real issues confronting the nation today,” the spokesman said. “He is determined to run a campaign that takes on the big problems facing the American people and not a campaign of salacious gossip and innuendo.” [CNN]

WELCOME TO the big leads, Senator Sanders. So you want to be president? Well, the American people have an appetite that must be satiated and it starts with everything in your past, including your very normal rape fantasies, at least for 1972. Back when women were just beginning to claim their passion for sex beyond getting laid on the way to motherhood, Bernie’s erotica is as bad as Bill O’Reilly’s.


Romance expert Kelly Faircloth wrote an amazing history of Harlequin over at Jezebel that’s being devoured by anyone who ever picked up a romance novel. She writes

In The Romantic Fiction of Mills & Boon, onetime editor Jay Dixon characterizes this period like so: “In the plots of the Mills & Boon novels during the 1970s the hero is the one in command. His power over the heroine is exercised mainly through sexual domination, but he is also the richer and more powerful of the two; often, he is her boss.”

There are always exceptions when you talk about something so diverse as Harlequin, but I think it’s fair to say the 1970s were peak jerk. The absolute low point of reporting this article was reading a 1973 Harlequin Presents by Anne Hampson, in which the “hero” kidnaps the heroine and tells her either they get married or he rapes her. I couldn’t even make it halfway through.

Bernie’s erotica contends that a “typical fantasy” of a woman includes her “tied up” and “abused” (quotes from CNN), preferably by more than one man. According to what women were allowed to feel and experience in the minds of Americans, actually, that’s about right for the 1970s.

Faircloth rightly points to the provocative shift, which included the Pill, let me add, that thrust romance into a new era, something that is still evolving.

Another development in this period: Harlequins weren’t so chaste anymore. The world had changed since Mary Bonnycastle was handpicking doctor-nurse romances. Peyton Place was published in 1956; Woodstock happened in 1969; Deep Throat hit theaters in 1972. Other romance publishers were getting raunchy, too, and this is where the “bodice ripper” comes in. Though I hate this snotty term, it’s useful as a way to point to a different strain within the romance genre—a type of book totally distinct from Harlequins. The term sprang from the sweeping, sexed-up historical romances of the mid-to-late 1970s, a boom that kicked off when Avon editor Nancy Coffey fished Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower out of the slush pile. These books were the farthest thing from innocent, chock full of bedroom scenes. (Honestly, I find some of them tougher going than the syrupy doctor-nurse romances of the 1950s, because they traffic heavily in “forced seduction.” If you’re a newcomer to the genre, you’d probably find them alarmingly flippant about consent.)

Back in the mid-90s when I was one of the first soft-core online editors and one of the only ones helping run an all-female company, the younger the better was the motto, as I describe in my latest book. Digging deeper, my foray delving into the sex industry, after my Relationship Consultant stint, I learned all about the “barely legal” bottom line when it came to men.

Like all other forms of art and American culture, the romance genre still hasn’t matured to the point that they offer boomers interesting characters and romance plots for women over 40, let alone over 50, the largest underserved demographic in erotic romance. That is, unless you like fantasizing what a 20- or 30-something woman fantasizes and experiences through romance fantasies, which, I assure you, is quite different after 50.

Bernie’s erotica, his rape ruminations, are really no big deal, especially considering his generation.

That the world would be interested in what he wrote isn’t shocking.

If he was a Republican, Bernie’s erotica would be explosive news, likely with the subtitle “war against women.”