Heroines making choices are critical for feminist romance authors. Dryden says that she, like MacLean, writes heroines who make choices, "even if the choices available to her are limited by convention or circumstance. She acts, rather than be acted upon." Anna Cowan, who blogs regularly about romance, will soon release her debut novel, My Lady Untamed. Cowan believes that feminist romance "tells its readers: you can make your own decisions, and expect your world to respect your right and ability to make your own decisions." Victoria Dahl is a bestselling author of both historical romance and contemporary including A Rake's Guide to Pleasure and Good Girls Don't. Dahl says that "my characters are always, always feminists. Not in the declarative sense, but in the living-that-life-every-day sense." She says her "books aren't about selfless women who are just trying to do what's right for others. They want to do what's right for themselves." In Dahl's Good Girls Don't, the heroine, an accountant and co-owner of her family's brewery, pursues the hero despite objections from her brothers. She demands that they respect her decision, she enforces boundaries, and she doesn't apologize. Her family eventually comes around.
Perhaps there is no greater example of the impact of feminism on the romance genre than in the way it "routinely foregrounds women's sexual desire," Olivia Waite says. Waite is the author of historical and historical paranormal romances including Hearts and Harbingers and Damned If You Do. Horne says that when she returned to reading romances in the late 1990s, she "was shocked by the explicitness of the sex, at least initially." But the very radical nature of these scenes drew her in as a reader: "A book that showed a man giving a woman oral sex, and both enjoying the experience? Taking both physical and emotional pleasure in it? I was hooked." Waite says that romance novels are the place in our culture where "women are seen enjoying sex, desiring a partner, and having orgasms that are about feeling orgasmic rather than merely looking orgasmic." Grant puts it succinctly, "romance is one of the few places where a woman is a subject in sex, rather than an object." As often as one is likely to see a romance trope that feels old and regressive, one will read a scene where the hero cannot wait to pleasure the heroine with oral sex. Looking around at pop culture at large, there is no other space where such scenes happen, especially not regularly.
Ruthie Knox, author of contemporary romances including Ride With Me and Along Came Trouble, says that if a romance novel is to be labeled as "feminist," the sex in the book "should be mutually pleasurable or that its failure to be mutually pleasurable should be presented as an issue in the novel, rather than the natural state of things." Knox's female characters are vocal about their wants and their dislikes with their partners. Through her characters, Knox shows her readers how to communicate about sex, something women are rarely taught to do in pop culture. Grant echoes that romance novels have the ability to not only turn their readers on but, in fact, show their readers what exactly turns them on: "romance (being written by women as it is) is a way for women to explore what we'd like sex to look like, and to define sexual success or validation for ourselves."