I continue to not get it. Seriously, I've complained about this before and chances are I'll complain about it again but I have, once again, tried to read a few very, very, very popular books and had to give up because of the gratuitous abuse and violence that filled the stories—always performed by men against sweet, naive women. What is it about this theme that readers love so much?
As a writer I've written violent scenes—Baptiste tried to strangle a guy who was attempting to force himself on Clair, Gabe hauled an abusive husband out of Maggie's studio and slammed him into a wall, Oliver shot a bear who was about to kill Henry (I caught hell on that one from a few readers)—but I want to think that the scenes were not gratuitous and in all cases the victim asked for it (well, the bear had been injured before and was in a lot of pain.) Over the past few weeks I tried reading a number of books that were both very popular and very cheap (whew) and in nearly every case I was honestly astonished by the flat-out cruelty of one of the main characters.
Now, in a few cases, the abuser did get a comeuppance—in one a guy who abused both his sweet, innocent wife and his beautiful horse, got killed and certainly had it coming to him. But there are also a number of them in which the abusee falls in love with her abuser.
Naturally, this theme has been around forever. I remember back in junior high when my girlfriend Suzy and I found her mother's copy of The Sheik by E.M. Hull. We read it and were deliciously scandalized. In it “The Sheik” is handsome and dangerous and powerful and he kidnaps Lady Diana, carries her to his tent, and repeatedly rapes her until she finally escapes. Of course he comes after her, re-kidnaps her and would re-rape her except she realizes that she loves him. Naturally, since the book was written in 1919 it never actually says he raped her—in fact, as I recall, the raciest line in the story was when she woke up the next morning and saw the “indentation of his head” in the pillow next the hers. Trust me, Suzy and I didn't need anyone to tell us what THAT meant!!! By the way you can get The Sheik free for Kindle.
Then in the 1970s all the bodice-ripper romances came out. They were filled with huge, muscular brutes sweeping sweet innocent maidens into their manly arms and “having their way” with them. Some even got pretty explicit but eventually the brute fell madly in love with the maiden and they rode off into the sunset—'twas beauty that tamed the beast.
And, of course, there was the insanely popular “marital rape” scene in Gone With the Wind. But something has changed in the new sexual violence novel—even after the brute falls for the maiden, he continues to abuse her. She tells him she doesn't know why he has to continue punishing her and he says because he “requires” it. In one that I came across even after they were married he continued to punish her regularly. She asked him why he kept doing this when she was so obedient and didn't need punishment to “be good” and he replied that she might not need it, but he did.
What is this about? What is the zeitgeist of our era that makes contemporary young women get a flutter in the tummy, and a lot lower down, too, over brutality? I keep trying to figure it out—is this Jung's Shadow-side of female liberation? In past times the rape fantasy was a popular way for good girls to be bad—they were raped, they had no choice. But these days there aren't that many good girls who haven't walked a little bit on the wild side. And even if they are, once they've been “claimed” why do they want the abuse to go on? Is it the only way they can continue to not take control of their own lives?
|Watch. If I squeeze her shoulders |
her boobs pop out!
I've been thinking about that. Back in the bodice-ripper era, when the brute ravished the maiden and was then conquered by her sweetness, women weren't expected to do anything more than be a good wife and mother so she could stay in the castle or cave or tent and bear lots and lots of little baby brutes and baby maidens and live happily ever after. But these days, being married does not exempt a woman from finishing up her PhD, starting her own corporation, and running for public office. But if she has to stay home in a garter belt and stockings, chained to the radiator, while she licks his.... boots, well, then she can't very well conquer the world, can she? Strange times, strange times.
Thanks for reading.