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Read Enough Romances and Rape Is No Longer Rape

I was a bit flummoxed to read a post on columnist, Michelle Buonfiglio’s blog today.

there is a scene that could be read by the uninitiated romance fiction reader as flat-out rape.

That is the line from the post entitled “You Know She Wanted It”.

The post itself is about controversial debut book by Anna Campbell, Claiming the Courtesan, whose story from Avon lacks both a virgin and a widow. Robin is offering up a guest review this afternoon which captures the deep psychological underpinnings of a complicated and uncomfortable romance between a man just on the grip of insanity and a woman trying to regain hers.

In Claiming the Courtesan, there is a scene in which the hero forces himself on the heroine.

His brows contracted, and fool that she was, she read sorrow rather than fury in his face. “Well, if I must take you as a thief, then I shall be a thief.”

He pushed her legs apart, moved between them and thrust inside her.

There is no romance, no joy in this act. It is the only way that Justin believes that he can dominate Verity and in his feverish mind, make her his again. That is rape. No ifs, ands, but fors, or nors about it. That Campbell is able to redeem Justin; to make us believe in his HEA with Verity is a credit to Campbell’s skill with the pen.

One of the questions asked at the end of the blog post is

What kind of learning curve did you have to experience before you understood the nuances of historical romance?

The implication in this question is that if you’ve read sufficient romances, you would understand that rape is done out of love and that the heroine asked for it.

Was it historically accurate for Justin to behave in such a manner? Absolutely. It would also be accurate to say that Justin’s sexual conquest of Verity in that instance was not about sexual pleasuure, but the need to gain power over her to bind her to him. Rape is all about power. It was an act of physical dominance in the 1800s just as it is today. The psychological underpinnings of rape likely have not changed in centuries.

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with having the rape fantasy or even the forced seduction fantasy but with a fantasy, the underlying acknowledgment is that you want it. In fact, it is quite brave to embrace such an idea that physical domination in an unacceptable way can be titillating to a reader. I.e., reading a forced seduction scene can be compelling to the reader without the reader justifying the characters’ actions.
What I find most offensive is the idea that regular romance fiction readers will understand that this is not rape. That regular romance readers are so innured to the idea of men in romances taking their pleasure without regard for the other party that the protests are really masquerading as acquiescence.

You know she wanted it? No, I really don’t know that. I think the author was quite clear that Verity did not. To argue that she did actually reduces the power of the story. It’s a dark story and a complicated one.

Let’s not sugar coat it. Anna Campbell’s hero rapes the heroine. There are no nuances that suggest it is not rape. Whether Campbell redeems Justin to a readers’ satisfaction is up to each individual reader. But romance readers are not so blind, are we, to repellant behavior that we actually excuse it to make it palatable?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

71 Comments

  1. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 14:48:30

    There certainly isn’t anything wrong with having the rape fantasy or even the forced seduction fantasy but with a fantasy, the underlying acknowledgment is that you want it. In fact, it is quite brave to embrace such an idea that physical domination in an unacceptable way can be titillating to a reader. I.e., reading a forced seduction scene can be compelling to the reader without the reader justifying the characters’ actions.

    Exactly! I believe that the key to enjoying forced seduction and rape in Romance as a fantasy lies completely in the idea that either the heroine OR the reader consents to the act. There is a point beyond which only the reader meaningfully or consciously consents, which is what makes it a fantasy for the reader to enjoy, even as the heroine might not. I’m still pretty riled up about the original column, but my response over there is as follows:

    I have no problem with people who find forced seduction or Romance rape an appealing construct. But arguing that those constructs are “historically accurate” as a basis for justifying them makes me feel like my head will explode.

    Rape is historically accurate at every point in history. So is breathing. So is homicide. So would we countenance a Romance hero who committed serial murders at the same time as the Boston Strangler because it’s “historically accurate”?

    That men have always raped women is obvious. But here’s the thing that seems inconsistent to me, logically, at least: if you argue that forced seduction is a fantasy within the genre and totally separate from real life, how can you then talk about historical accuracy? Because it seems to me that the whole point of the fantasy in Romance is that it’s NOT about historical reality, which is why readers can find it romantic at all.

  2. Jackie
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 15:50:36

    Rape is rape. If it’s forced sexual intercourse, it’s rape. If it’s under duress, it’s rape. If a person is coerced into having sex, it’s rape. Rape is ugly, and horrific, and despicable.

    Yes, it can have its place in a story, whether historical fiction or contemporary. Yes, the act has been around for a long, long time. But rape is rape.

    Yes, the rapist could even be forgiven or redeemed, if the author is very talented. But rape is rape.

    And that means she didn’t want it. Period.

  3. MCHalliday
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 15:57:22

    My response: Outrage!

    As stats show, many women have been survivors of sexual assault and I am among them, so perhaps I can offer an informed point of view. It is not pleasant, titillating, redeeming nor is it ever forgivable. An HEA is not possible by any stretch of the imagination whether the act be written in the past, present or future.

    Women have never desired ‘to be taken’ against their will-must we perpetuate the myth? And give the so-called hero an excuse for his actions?

    As Jane (?) wrote, “Rape is all about power. It was an act of physical dominance in the 1800s just as it is today. The psychological underpinnings of rape likely have not changed in centuries."

    There is no place for rape in romance. It is not romantic and never will be romantic.

  4. Janine
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:05:55

    There is no place for rape in romance. It is not romantic and never will be romantic.

    While I agree that rape is not romantic, I don’t agree that there is no place for it in romance. I’m in agreement with Jane’s statement that whether redemption is possible for a character who rapes is up to each reader.

  5. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:18:10

    MCHalliday’s comment is a perfect reflection of why I think it’s a dangerous game to ground forced seduction and Romance rape in history. Because to me, anyway, what often goes on in Romance as forced seduction is a *fantasy* pure and simple, and detached from anything we would call rape or sexual force or assault in real life. In Romance, either the heroine or the reader consents, and in that consent creates the fantasy construct as acceptable to that particular reader. Now I also think there is rape in Romance that’s not supposed to be at all romantic, and I see Campbell’s book as a clear example of that. But as a sexual fantasy, the FS construct is a separate entity, IMO. That doesn’t mean that some readers won’t see it all as rape and as unacceptable, but that’s where, IMO, the importance of the reader’s consent comes in. You consent and it becomes a viable fantasy; you don’t and it’s force.

  6. Jane
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:23:29

    I am so sorry, MC Halliday, for what happened to you. I can imagine that this type of story would not be to your taste.

    I do think, though, that for some readers, the fantasy works but each reader must decide for herself whether it does.

  7. MCHalliday
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:23:57

    Did I just enter the twilight zone? Rape is not romantic but there is a place for it in romance…who would think it was even a tad romantic? There are possibilites for the inclusion of such a violent act for character motivation, but HEA? Except perhaps, if one is writing a book on hell. And that’s what it would be for our heroine. Actions indicate moral fibre and the heroine should run, run, run and never look back.

  8. May
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:47:32

    I don’t think readers excuse it, but that when a reader reads and enjoys a forced seduction story, the reader believes that the hero and heroine really do love each other, and that the hero was redeemed.

    Can’t speak for the Now-Me because it’s been years since I read one of these, but I do intend to get the Campbell book.

  9. Bev(BB)
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:50:35

    Not, sure and this may be my only post, at least today because I feel brain dead for some strange reason ;p, but I tend to believe that the stronger fantasy here, dear ones, isn’t the fantasy of rape as we’ve always been led to believe but the fantasy of the redemption of rapist.

    To which I say, bah-humbug and toss the book from the moment the RAPE scene occurs. End of story. Can you tell it’s never been one of my fantasies?

    I’ll never forget the time I spoke up for tossing A Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh for exactly this reason. Don’t care if he thought she was a whore. To me it was still rape and there was no way I could finish that book. No way I was going to buy liking that “hero” from that point onward. I don’t care if she gave him sainthood. What’s the difference between that and what we’re talking about here?

    But, mark my words, you watch the reactions that will come to what I just said and tell me I’m wrong about the fantasy we’re really talking about . . .

  10. LesleyW
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:51:37

    This is a tough one to talk about. I haven’t read Claiming the Courtesan so it’s difficult for me to comment on that book. I don’t know the motives of either the hero or heroine.

    Rape fantasy – it’s my understanding that this is more about the relinquishing of power, of having the need to make a decision taken away. It is not a fantasy about being raped as such.

    Can a hero who rapes a heroine be forgiven? It’s my opinion that in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series that David helps to rape Joanne in the first book. It is not a physical rape, he did not have sex with her. But he physically helped to force a demon mark into her against her will. He was compelled to do this – as a djinn he couldn’t refuse an order from his master. But Rachel Caine’s books aren’t romance. In a way David was as much a victim as Joanne.

    I’m not a fan of historicals so probably haven’t been exposed to as many forced seductions. The rape scenes I have read have not been titilating.

    Gina Vitagliano’s rape in Over the Edge.
    Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series. (though this is more pre and post rape)
    Lena’s rape in the Grant County series by Karin Slaughter.
    Zsadist’s rape in the Black Dagger Brotherhood books

    None of these were titlating they were difficult to read.

    I do think it’s insulting to people who read romances to suggest that we somehow become inured to rape scenes and somehow lose the ability to differentiate them from forced seduction.

  11. Emily
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 16:58:07

    Sure, some people want rape fantasies–no problem. I *do* hate having that sort of scene sprung on me when the blurb didn’t intimate anything of the sort. IMHO rape fantasy is a kink that should be catered to those who want it, not an acceptable norm for the whole genre. If every book I write needs a huge M/M “warning” why do I keep ending up with sexualised rape stories without any hint or clue–is there a code word I don’t know?

  12. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:01:16

    I tend to believe that the stronger fantasy here, dear ones, isn’t the fantasy of rape as we’ve always been led to believe but the fantasy of the redemption of rapist.

    Maybe, Bev, there’s the sexual fantasy of forced seduction (i.e. being able to enjoy sex without guilt by having one’s will taken away, etc.) and the romantic fantasy of redeeming the rapist? That distinction makes sense to me, although I don’t know which I’d say is more powerful. Maybe it depends on the book and the reader?

    One of the reasons I’ve always thought rape in Romance (and forced seduction) is so popular is because it transforms something that is absolutely and totally unsafe for women in real life into something that *becomes* safe in Romance as the rapist reforms and is redeemed. In other words, it’s a way to symbolically take control of something that women have no control over in real life. I’m not commenting on the success or failure of that strategy, but I’ve always felt it’s a part of what’s going on there.

  13. LesleyW
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:05:06

    Apologies if this is posted twice.

    This is a tough one to talk about. I haven’t read Claiming the Courtesan so it’s difficult for me to comment on that book. I don’t know the motives of either the hero or heroine.

    Rape fantasy – it’s my understanding that this is more about the relinquishing of power, of having the need to make a decision taken away. It is not a fantasy about being raped as such.

    Can a hero who rapes a heroine be forgiven? It’s my opinion that in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series that David helps to rape Joanne in the first book. It is not a physical rape, he did not have sex with her. But he physically helped to force a demon mark into her against her will. He was compelled to do this – as a djinn he couldn’t refuse an order from his master. But Rachel Caine’s books aren’t romance. In a way David was as much a victim as Joanne.

    I’m not a fan of historicals so probably haven’t been exposed to as many forced seductions. The rape scenes I have read have not been titilating.

    Gina Vitagliano’s rape in Over the Edge.
    Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series. (though this is more pre and post rape)
    Lena’s rape in the Grant County series by Karin Slaughter.
    Zsadist’s rape in the Black Dagger Brotherhood books

    None of these were titlating they were difficult to read.

    I do think it’s insulting to people who read romances to suggest that we somehow become inured to rape scenes and somehow lose the ability to differentiate them from forced seduction.

  14. MCHalliday
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:07:58

    Jackie wrote, “Rape is rape. Rape is ugly, and horrific, and despicable.” On those grounds alone, could it ever be forgivable?
    And to Janine, who wrote, “I agree that rape is not romantic, I don’t agree that there is no place for it in romance.” Please, tell me there is not some small part of you that feels you could not ever deeply love and trust a man who had raped you.
    And to Jane, who said, “I am so sorry, MC Halliday, for what happened to you. I can imagine that this type of story would not be to your taste.” It is not my experience that influences my taste. It is the perpetuating the patriarchal belief that women long to be taken…with or without consent. We should not continue it. That said, literary expression should be encouraged and I voice my opinion only to suggest women consider this type of writing as mainstream and not romance.

  15. Rape and Forced Seduction « Milady Insanity
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:09:11

    […] marvelous** Jane says: Let’s not sugar coat it. Anna Campbell’s hero rapes the heroine. There are no nuances that […]

  16. Janine
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:13:01

    [quote comment="25636"]Did I just enter the twilight zone? Rape is not romantic but there is a place for it in romance…who would think it was even a tad romantic? There are possibilites for the inclusion of such a violent act for character motivation, but HEA? Except perhaps, if one is writing a book on hell. And that’s what it would be for our heroine. Actions indicate moral fibre and the heroine should run, run, run and never look back.[/quote]

    I’m sorry, MC, I did not read your earlier post carefully and missed the fact that you have been through this horrible thing. I have much sympathy for you and what you suffered.

    At the same time, though, I feel that artists (and I include romance authors in this category) need to be given the free reign to portray the fantasies or nightmares that call to their imaginations. The end results can then be judged by readers.

  17. Janine
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:20:24

    And to Janine, who wrote, “I agree that rape is not romantic, I don’t agree that there is no place for it in romance." Please, tell me there is not some small part of you that feels you could not ever deeply love and trust a man who had raped you.

    It’s not an issue of how I feel about this myself in my own life. The success or failure of such a plot depends on whether an author can convince me that, in the fictional world she has created, the main female character could deeply love and trust a man who had raped her. That depends very much on how the characterization is handled, but a deft enough writer could convince me of anything (For example Shakepeare has me sympathizing with villains who do horrific things), regardless of how I feel about it in real life.

  18. Bev(BB)
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:49:58

    [quote comment="25643"]Maybe, Bev, there’s the sexual fantasy of forced seduction (i.e. being able to enjoy sex without guilt by having one’s will taken away, etc.) and the romantic fantasy of redeeming the rapist? That distinction makes sense to me, although I don’t know which I’d say is more powerful. Maybe it depends on the book and the reader?[/quote]

    Okay, posting again anyway, partly to get the subscription to the comments to kick in but also because I just had to respond to this. I’m not sure I even like the phrase forced seduction because it’s one of those terms that no one agrees on. Not in the same way that they don’t agree on rape. Rape after all does have a legal definition.

    Forced seduction, after all, is something we made up online solely for use in romance novel discussion and it’s lead a varied and notorious life. It does mean something. The thing is that I’m not sure anyone is really clear on what it does mean. The closest I’ve ever come is the difference between breaking and gentling horses. Rape being breaking and forced seduction being gentling. We should get Suisan to talk about those some time for the simple reason that it takes it away from the emotions that we attach to the topic.

    Anyway, the thing is both are power plays, plain and simple. There is no enjoyment without guilt. That’s another fantasy. There is yielding or not. One is completely unequal. One less so. However, there is still no escape from either. Otherwise we wouldn’t be using the word force.

    What we strive for in romance nowadays is more equal footing all the way around. Even in our sexual fantasies that involve erotic images of bondage or even psuedo-rape. Those are powerful sexual fantasies. They are a far cry from actually portraying the event happening for real to the character.

    I think what’s probably all the more startling in a time when we have romances that actually cater to those types of equal fantasies is to suddenly have a discussion crop up about a real rape in a romance that literally sounds very akin to the romances of the seventies. If not a little disturbing.

  19. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 17:55:29

    Jackie wrote, “Rape is rape. Rape is ugly, and horrific, and despicable." On those grounds alone, could it ever be forgivable?

    Yes, rape is rape, and it’s illegal and morally wrong. But psychologically there are different sorts of rape, depending on the relationship between the rapist and the person being raped. A man who premeditatedly plans to go out, find a woman he doesn’t know, and rape her presumably has a different mindset from a man who, as in this case, has been involved in a relationship with a woman for a year and has previously paid for sex with her, which is different again from a date-rape case in which both parties have been drunk and the woman doesn’t express her lack of consent (maybe because while still conscious she’s not in full possession of her faculties) and the rapist is also drunk, so isn’t thinking clearly.

    I haven’t read this book, so I can’t comment on whether it’s psychologically plausible that a woman in these circumstances would forgive and fall in love with her rapist. The act of rape itself is never legal or, in my opinion, romantic. But I do think it’s possible that an author could include enough mitigating circumstances and subsequent personality change and contrition in the hero that such a relationship doesn’t seem completely unrealistic.

    I can think of an example of rape in one romance in which the hero is delirious from a fever and he and the heroine are hiding from their enemies in a tiny, enclosed space so the heroine must ensure that they make no noise and she can’t escape from the hero. The hero, being delirious, doesn’t realise that he’s having sex with the heroine in fact rather than a dream, and they do love each other prior to this. Technically, what the hero does is rape. But the heroine doesn’t hold the hero responsible (even though he feels hugely guilty when she tells him what happened), because he wasn’t fully conscious at the time. That’s at the extreme end of the range of possible mitigating circumstances, but it does demonstrate that the issues involved may be quite complex.

  20. Jane
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 18:03:20

    Isn’t the real subversiveness in the romanticization of rape into forced seduction rather than the inclusion of rape in romance. I.e., by stating that the rape scene, if read correctly, was actually a forced seduction that the act is excusable. It is not excusable and I don’t feel like Campbell wrote it in that way.

    But the exclusion of rape as opposed to other crimes seems odd. There are murderers, despoilers of innocents, adulterers, and other blackguards that are acceptable in romances. Whether a hero or heroine can be redeemed is based on the reader. In Julia Quinn’s Duke and I, the heroine seduces the hero and the takes his seed inside her body, something that he vehemently did not wish. Wasn’t that a rape of some sort?

    Even worse is the opening scene in SEP’s book featuring Molly and Kevin where Kevin is drunk and Molly takes advantage of that and has sex with him which I viewed as a rape (it would be legally – he had not the capacity to consent).

  21. MCHalliday
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 18:46:33

    I made other comments on Shakespeare…where did they go?
    I feel I must respond (hopefully it will download) to Jane. She wrote, “But the exclusion of rape as opposed to other crimes seems odd. There are murderers, despoilers of innocents, adulterers, and other blackguards that are acceptable in romances.” But do those atrocities happen to the heroine? No. Does her admirable hero despoil or murder innocents? No. And if it happens to be so, the heroine should have her head examined (according to the time).
    Rape is not acceptable in romance!
    I liked what Bev had to say about it. “To which I say, bah-humbug and toss the book from the moment the RAPE scene occurs.”
    Women in romance are not lesser beings. They are us.
    And I mentioned in the non downloaded segment, literary expression is to be valued, just not accepted as romance in this instance. Mainstream, perhaps?

  22. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:05:55

    Does her admirable hero despoil or murder innocents? No. And if it happens to be so, the heroine should have her head examined

    I’ve not read them myself (and I’m not planning on reading them, because I try to avoid depictions of extreme violence, whether that be rape, murder or torture) but from the recent reviews of Anne Stuart’s ‘Ice’ books that have been posted on Dear Author it seems that the heroes of these books have murdered innocents and some plan on murdering the heroine. Then again, a lot of readers thought that these heroines did need their heads examining.

  23. Devon
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:29:34

    I was going to stay out of this, ‘cuz I wasn’t planning on reading the book (though my mind is changing about that) but here I go:

    But psychologically there are different sorts of rape, depending on the relationship between the rapist and the person being raped. A man who premeditatedly plans to go out, find a woman he doesn’t know, and rape her presumably has a different mindset from a man who, as in this case, has been involved in a relationship with a woman for a year and has previously paid for sex with her, which is different again from a date-rape case in which both parties have been drunk and the woman doesn’t express her lack of consent (maybe because while still conscious she’s not in full possession of her faculties) and the rapist is also drunk, so isn’t thinking clearly.

    I suppose we could go on and on about the nuances of the perpetrator’s mindset, but the end result is the same–the forcing of oneself sexually upon a person who has not given consent. As has already been pointed out, rape has nothing to do with love or sex, and is about a show of power, taking away a person’s physical consent. And though the rapist may justify it in his mind as love, or affection or something else, I doubt that matters much to the victim, whose body and will have been violated. So I don’t see the rapist’s mindset as mitigating circumstances, rape is driven by anger and other distorted emotions.

    I’m not a big fan of the whole rape/forced seduction scenario. The only reason I’d try this one is because according to Janet, the author makes the rapist’s guilt quite clear. I think I could almost buy his redemption a bit more than those scenarios where the heroine realizes she really wanted it after all, so it was never really rape, no harm, no foul. This is definitely a “to each his own” for me. Because I have forgiven soap opera rapists, it’s never quite worked for me in books. It would take some writer to make rape romantic to me.

    Although I do find the fantasy of giving up control appealling. I read BDSM stuff on a fairly regular basis, and I eventually realize that even more extreme scenes don’t bother me as much as your typical FS because the lines of consent are clearly drawn.

  24. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:32:29

    Okay, posting again anyway, partly to get the subscription to the comments to kick in but also because I just had to respond to this. I’m not sure I even like the phrase forced seduction because it’s one of those terms that no one agrees on. Not in the same way that they don’t agree on rape. Rape after all does have a legal definition.

    Forced seduction, after all, is something we made up online solely for use in romance novel discussion and it’s lead a varied and notorious life. It does mean something. The thing is that I’m not sure anyone is really clear on what it does mean. The closest I’ve ever come is the difference between breaking and gentling horses. Rape being breaking and forced seduction being gentling. We should get Suisan to talk about those some time for the simple reason that it takes it away from the emotions that we attach to the topic.

    I agree with you, Bev, that no one can agree on what forced seduction is — and on the fact that this is a very emotional topic for many readers. I’d only add that I think the legal definition of rape is as unclear as the Romance definition.

    As a legal criminal category rape actually has numerous definitions, depending on the jurisdiction (i.e. statutory language), on the judicial interpretation of certain acts, and on the historical development of the law. In other words, the law doesn’t even agree on what constitutes rape in any general way. Previous to the 1990s, for example, a woman basically had to prove that she physically fought off her attacker in order to claim rape. Some statutes currently focus on consent, others on physical force, and some even delineate many acts as “sexual assault” that you would probably deem rape. So if you want to go the legal route, IMO all it does is mirror the complexity of the issue as we discuss it in Romance. But in real life, of course, the stakes are so much higher and the lack of clarity so much more troubling. Which is why I distinguish the real-life crime of rape even from what I call Romance rape.

    As for “forced seduction,” while I don’t know the exact origin of the term, I do know it’s used in other arenas, including legal history/theory and cultural studies and feminist theory. And the paradigm, that is the forced nature of sexual satisfaction, has been around a lot longer than Romance. So I think it’s far more than a made-up online term. But yes, it seems to be fuzzy for people. But then, so does rape in Romance, apparently. For example, I don’t think the infamous chair sex scene in Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart is forced seduction, but other readers think it’s that and more. I HATED the forced seduction in Christina Dodd’s Well Pleasured Lady and thought it was forced on the character and thoughtlessly portrayed in the book. In fact, it comes close to my own personal line of rape. But many, many readers think that scene is super-sexy.

    Your analogy to horse training is interesting, because when you gentle a horse, you would with the horse’s will, not against it at all. Horses are by nature herd animals, and when you gentle a horse, you establish yourself as the leader and the horse is hard-wired to defer to the alpha (true alpha horses are not all that common, actually). Humans are so much more complicated, aren’t they? I mean, we have consciousness and all sorts of contradictory wants and desires and all these things we don’t feel completely comfortable with — like sexual fantasies.

    To me, the difference in Romance between forced seduction and rape is one of consent. If the heroine can be said to consent, then I see it as FS, but if she doesn’t, and if the reader is the one in the position of consenting or not, then I see it as rape. But everyone’s different on that one, too. I actually think that the rape fantasy or FS fantasy in Romance *can be* very subversive. For example, when a rapist reforms, that gives the heroine an incredible amount of power, doesn’t it? Basically, it turns the tables completely around so that she is no longer the victim. And in terms of the *sexual fantasy* that rape and FS represent for many readers, you get into that whole issue of when abdicating control can actually be liberating for some readers.

    I remember Laura Kinsale talking on AAR around how archetypal rape is in mythology, as the story Leda and the Swan, for example, illustrates. She was resisting the idea of taking certain things too literally in Romance, and I was in partial agreement with her argument. She was certainly right, though, in indicating that something about rape as a literary archetype continues to arrest our culture, including women, and in some ways, I wonder if Romance isn’t struggling with figuring out how to make it work FOR us in some symbolic way because we’re so often victimized because of our sex (i.e. gender) in real life.

  25. Devon
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:42:06

    I remember that scene in the Duke & I and not liking it one bit, but I got over it.

    And I haven’t read that particular SEP, but I wouldn’t have liked it. Actually this kinda OT, but the whole drunken sex thing, is another device severely disliked by me. Especially when it results in a pregnancy. I think I’ve seen the real-life fall-out from drunksex too many times, and it rarely equals true love. More guilt, shame , resentment and anger. An exception would be Brockmann’s Sam and Alyssa.

  26. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:42:35

    Your analogy to horse training is interesting, because when you gentle a horse, you would with the horse’s will, not against it at all.

    That should be “WORK with the horse’s will. . .”

  27. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:57:26

    I suppose we could go on and on about the nuances of the perpetrator’s mindset, but the end result is the same-the forcing of oneself sexually upon a person who has not given consent. […] And though the rapist may justify it in his mind as love, or affection or something else, I doubt that matters much to the victim, whose body and will have been violated.

    Well I did give an example of a romance novel I’d read in which the circumstances did make a difference to the heroine and it made sense to me, because the hero wasn’t fully conscious. So I do think the mindset makes a difference. It’s different, but not completely different from the distinction between manslaughter and murder. You could argue that it doesn’t matter much to the victim, because the end result is the same, but the perpetrator’s mindset does matter to the judge and does affect the likelihood of reoffending.

    On the whole, I’d agree that I think a rapist hero being rewarded with the love of the heroine he’s raped is extremely (a) implausible and (b) distasteful and can send out some worrying messages about rape. I’m just saying that there may be some borderline cases where there are extenuating circumstances, such as the one I mentioned. I can’t comment on the case in Claiming the Courtesan because I haven’t read it and it sounds far too harrowing for my tastes.

  28. Bev(BB)
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 20:12:07

    I’m off to bed but I had to leave you with this thought.

    Your analogy to horse training is interesting, because when you gentle a horse, you work with the horse’s will, not against it at all.

    It depends on whether you’re working with a domesticated or wild horse. And really even a domesticated one isn’t any guarantee of cooperation but Suisan could tell you more about that. I’ve seen wild ones “gentled” and there most definitely has to be enforcement of the trainer’s will against the horse’s involved. They’re wild. Plus, you’re talking about an animal that outweighs the human by what? More than I want to contemplate, anyway. It’s intense and it’s stressful for the horse, too. Just because it might be the best thing for them in our eyes doesn’t mean they want to be there or want it to happen.

    Sound like a familiar dynamic?

    The big distinction from the other well-known technique is simply that the trainer isn’t trying to break the animal’s spirit for the most part by brutally wearing them down, which is why I’ve always thought the analogy was eerily close. Not perfect, mind you, but definitely interestingly close enough for illustration purposes.

    And now I bid you good night and will catch up tomorrow after I’d had some beauty sleep. Or what passes for it anyway. :D

  29. MCHalliday
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 20:14:43

    Are we no longer considered chattel? Now were are cattle: “Your analogy to horse training is interesting, because when you gentle a horse, you would with the horse’s will, not against it at all.” Robin added, “That should be “WORK with the horse’s will.”
    As in, a man might work with a woman’s will? Okay, you added to the wording…but let’s get some respect for ourselves as women!
    If I may be so bold, we are glorious, totally desirable and perfect. No more comparisons to beasts!
    And as Laura wrote, “On the whole, I’d agree that I think a rapist hero being rewarded with the love of the heroine he’s raped is extremely (a) implausible and (b) distasteful and can send out some worrying messages about rape.”
    That is completely my point, made succinctly by Laura Vivanco. kudos!

  30. Miki
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 20:33:57

    Women have never desired ‘to be taken’ against their will-must we perpetuate the myth?

    I certainly don’t want to “be taken” against my will. Nor do I fantasize about it. Reading books with “forced seduction”, “rape”, and “dominant/submissive” activities in them makes me physically ill.

    On the other hand, I’ve come to realize, especially as I’ve spent time in various forums online, that not all women feel the same about their fantasies and definition of what is exciting and romantic. I keep seeing articles which state that rape fantasies are one of women’s top ten sexual fantasies.

    I doubt I’ll ever “get it”, and to be honest, I don’t see why I’d want to. But I can appreciate that there will be a large number of women who enjoy these kinds of stories.

  31. Robin
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 20:45:21

    Are we no longer considered chattel? Now were are cattle: “Your analogy to horse training is interesting, because when you gentle a horse, you would with the horse’s will, not against it at all." Robin added, “That should be “WORK with the horse’s will."
    As in, a man might work with a woman’s will? Okay, you added to the wording-but let’s get some respect for ourselves as women!
    If I may be so bold, we are glorious, totally desirable and perfect. No more comparisons to beasts!

    Actually, I don’t think horse training and rape/forced seduction in Romance are literally comparable. But I also don’t think that the literary representation of rape/forced seduction is literally comparable to these crimes — and they are crimes — in real life. And so I think of them and consider them differently — on a case by case basis, especially. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t many instances in Romance where I am disgusted by the hero’s actions and wish the heroine would run far far away. Catherine Coulter’s Rosehaven, for example, literally made my head throb in righteous pain, as did Brenda Joyce’s The Conqueror, a book that made me want to lock Joyce in a room with every feminist text ever written! But my intellectual and emotional responses are often different when I’m reading v. when I’m trying to understand something in fiction. I realize not everyone is like that, but I can’t be any different myself, either.

    It depends on whether you’re working with a domesticated or wild horse. And really even a domesticated one isn’t any guarantee of cooperation but Suisan could tell you more about that. I’ve seen wild ones “gentled" and there most definitely has to be enforcement of the trainer’s will against the horse’s involved. They’re wild. Plus, you’re talking about an animal that outweighs the human by what? More than I want to contemplate, anyway. It’s intense and it’s stressful for the horse, too. Just because it might be the best thing for them in our eyes doesn’t mean they want to be there or want it to happen.

    I have no doubt that Suisan is a very accomplished horseperson, but one guy I know pretty well, who has trained horses for more than 50 years, would tell you that most of what passes for horse gentling isn’t gentle at all (don’t even get me started on The Horse Whisperer). His key is to actually reduce tension and stress in the horse through the gentling process and to enter the horse’s world, rather than vice versa. Laura Kinsale did a pretty good job of illustrating John Lyons’ style in Prince of Midnight, for example. I don’t know if Lyons is the most gentle in the world, but he’s not terrible, certainly. Now, if you mean horse training human style, then yes, I agree that often involves force and the idea that the human knows best. Is it similar to what happens in forced seduction in Romance? In some cases, certainly. But as a literary trope more generally, it’s hard for me to take something that has a certain archetypal significance and compare it to what often passes for horse gentling. Especially, because even in thinking of Campbell’s novel, the dynamic is different. If anything, Justin is trying to turn the domesticated horse into the wild mustang, which is itself sort of a subversion, IMO, even as I found what he did to be inexcusable.

  32. Lila
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 21:05:13

    If the villain, who for whatever reason had a deep and twisted love for the heroine, were to rape her the story would not be complete until the hero avenged her. Yet if its the hero, the man the heroine loves (hopeful there is an apparent reason for her loving him) or will come to love (how? when he is so clearly very untrustworthy and unable to treat a woman with respect or as an equal) it is forgivable, and in fact, the heroine is an unfeeling bitch if she does not understand the reasons he did it to her and forgive her accordingly.

    Then again maybe this is my mistaken impression.

  33. Chantal
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 21:24:54

    Well, that is one book I know never to read.
    It is rape. I’m disgusted that the book is being marketed as a romance.

    If I had read that I would have marched right back to the store and asked for a refund.

  34. Tara Marie
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 21:57:50

    I can’t say whether or not I’ll read this book, but I find my reaction to the Michelle Buonfiglio’s original post very similar to Jane’s.

    One of the questions asked at the end of the blog post is

    What kind of learning curve did you have to experience before you understood the nuances of historical romance?

    The implication in this question is that if you’ve read sufficient romances, you would understand that rape is done out of love and that the heroine asked for it.

    It’s not about learning curves or the nuances of historical romance,it’s not about fantasy, it’s about the WRITING and whether or not the author can redeem the hero enough to believe a woman can love a man after a forced seduction or rape.

  35. Jane
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 22:22:43

    I think I am going to have to buy the book, The Lucifer Effect, The author, psychologist Phillip Zombardo who ran the 7 day Stanford Prison Experiment, argues that evil is not born but rather created by circumstance and environment. Inside each of us, we have the capability of being the villian or the hero.

    Isn’t that what Campbell is trying to convey? or any author who attempts to “redeem” someone?

  36. Meril
    Mar 30, 2007 @ 23:42:59

    I agree with Emily; this sort of thing is a kink. It’s not my kink, though, and not all women share it.

    I have enough problems with people criticizing my romance reading because people think ALL romance involves rape. The move back to this sort of thing, despite it being a fantasy some women want, isn’t helping the perceptions of the genre.

  37. LesleyW
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 02:30:26

    I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that there should be no rape in romance. I don’t believe it should be there as a titilation. But I think it should be there as a subject for writers to deal with. Some may deal with it better than others, but I don’t think we can say there should be no rape in romance, full stop.

    For me romances should be about the relationships between people, and anything that can affect a relationship, or how a person sees themselves should be up for discussion. Do I think some topics are hard – yes! Do I think readers should avoid those topics if they’ve heard that they’re not handled well – this is a toughie, but I think I do. A recently released book dealt with a character who had an eating disorder which most reviews said was handled poorly. I don’t blame the author, it was a category romance and she probably didn’t have enough pages to deal with it in a detailed manner. But I made the decision not to buy the book, rather than buy it and perhaps throw it against a wall. But I don’t think books with heros/heroines who suffer eating disorders should be banned. I think when dealing with difficult subjects the writer needs to take more care.

    If someone is writing an historical romance then they should be accurate (if possible) to the time portrayed and attitudes to women and sex are radically different today than in earlier times. If you aren’t going to explore these attitudes – why not write a contemporary?

  38. Tara Marie
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 05:26:33

    I’ve finally read all the comments here and on Michelle Buonfiglio’s blog post without the haze of sleep.

    There are a couple of things about the conversation that drive me crazy.

    What exactly does rape or forced seduction have with historical accuracy? Rape has happened in all levels of society during all time periods of history. It is what it is, a violent act of power control. It has nothing to do with history. How society and people of different times handle/treat the victims and perpetrators is what makes it historically accurate. By saying it’s historical fact you’re saying nobody considered it wrong and I don’t see that as accurate at all.

    “You Know She Wanted It" how can a statement like this not make people cringe. No she didn’t want it. It was forced on her.

    I’ve been reading romance for 25+ years, I read boddice rippers when they were new, not oldies. I’ve read the “no…no…yes” books and outright rape stories, and they only work when the author can make you believe in the power of redemption and ultimately forgiveness. And, I certainly can understand why some readers can never believe this possible.

    I think part of the problem is that so many of the older “no…no…yes” books are filled with the stereotypical fiesty yet TSTL heroine and the bullying alpha hero.

  39. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 06:46:46

    Rape has happened in all levels of society during all time periods of history. It is what it is, a violent act of power control. […] How society and people of different times handle/treat the victims and perpetrators is what makes it historically accurate. By saying it’s historical fact you’re saying nobody considered it wrong and I don’t see that as accurate at all.

    Just thinking about medieval Castile, which is the historical period and location I know best, Among the Visigoths adulterium (illicit sexual intercourse of many kinds) and stuprum (usually fornication with an unmarried woman or widow) were most serious matters and, while illegal sexual relations were an implicit danger in the grave offence of abduction, kidnapping for the purpose of matrimony was the pernicious offence in raptus. Marriage between an abductor and his victim, whether or not he had raped or had sexual relations with her, was categorically denounced and prohibited. (Heath Dillard, Daughters of the Reconquest)

    Visigothic law underlay most of the municipal statutes in medieval Castile and rape was considered a crime. Rape was neither legally permissible nor considered socially acceptable.

    One big difference existed with regard to what we would consider marital rape, but even then, violence against a wife who had done nothing wrong would have been considered dishnourable. In the Poema de Mio Cid the Cid’s daughters are married to men who carry out marital rape and this is not taken at all lightly – the daughters are allowed a divorce. However, marriages were expected to be consummated, and I can imagine a historical romance dealing with a hero and heroine who are forced into marriage and then have to consummate it, even if neither is really ready or willing. In those circumstances I imagine that the heroine wouldn’t blame the hero for what happens (and it wouldn’t be the case that he’d carried out the act to shame or humiliate or have power over her), as in some ways he’s as much a victim of the customs as she is. On the other hand, even within the historical context of a lack of recognition of marital rape, I think that if a husband rapes a wife when he’s not under duress, she would find it hard to accept that emotionally. She might accept that he had a legal right to sex, but the way he’d forced her would make her distrust him and she’d associate him with the violence he’d perpetrated against her.

    So, again, as in the case of the hero who was delirious, a hero who has to consummate a marriage is another really rare circumstance where there might be some mitigating circumstances in which the hero’s action, while technically rape by our legal standards, is one where he isn’t acting out of a wish to dominate/control the heroine. And in those very, very limited circumstances I would be able to understand it if the heroine came to love the hero despite the rape. Even so there would almost certainly be negative emotional consequences, and I’d expect the author to deal with those before there could be a really happy ending.

    Again, I’m brought up an unusual example, but I’m not doing this in order to justify rape of the kind perpetrated by Anna Campbell’s hero, where it’s clear that the hero is conscious, not under duress, knows the heroine does not want sex, and still forces it on her. If anything, the unusual examples are the exceptions which prove the rule, which is that for me, rape by a hero is not acceptable.

  40. Bev(BB)
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 07:03:53

    But romance readers are not so blind, are we, to repellant behavior that we actually excuse it to make it palatable?

    No, we’re not.

    See what a good night’s sleep will do to clear the old brain? ;p

  41. Emily
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 09:08:17

    quote: “Please, tell me there is not some small part of you that feels you could not ever deeply love and trust a man who had raped you.”

    If you are asking if I could ever love a man who raped me, the answer is: No, no, no and absolutely not, never. No. No really does means no, never.

    I fully and totally accept that some women find the idea of actual rape exciting.

    I but I expect, in return, total acceptance of my position of finding it so disgusting that I will not even read fiction about it, let alone “comfort” fiction like HEA genre-romance.

  42. Robin
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 10:22:26

    I fully and totally accept that some women find the idea of actual rape exciting.

    Obviously I can’t speak for all women here, but I don’t think the vast majority of women who accept/like/embrace/read, etc. rape/FS in their Romance find it exciting as a *real life* thing — as rape in the *actual* sense. The *fantasy* element, the fact that there are narrow boundaries for the characters and the fact that there will be a HEA the reader can count on and the fact that the reader accepts that the hero loves the heroine, etc. are requirements for readers, I think. I am one of those readers who *doesn’t* find the rape/FS a turn on, but it is SO MUCH a staple of Romance that I’ve become interested in understanding it. And I think most readers who are drawn to it would put a whole bunch of conditions on it. Like I don’t think other people who injure or try to rape the heroine are acceptable (other than the hero). And I think readers have all sorts of various tolerance levels for the force thing. Some like the FS, some can go further, etc. And some authors are clearly introducing rape into their books NOT to titillate the reader, but rather to explore something else. There are a number of ways the rape/FS tropes get played out in Romance, but they tend to get all merged together sometimes in discussions. I more than understand why you despise it in Romance, and I, too, have VERY few circumstances under which I can emotionally accept a hero who has raped or even bullied a heroine, but for readers who do it really is about a fantasy and not something they would ever consider in real life.

    Inside each of us, we have the capability of being the villian or the hero.

    Isn’t that what Campbell is trying to convey? or any author who attempts to “redeem" someone?

    Oooh, fascinating, Jane. Your comment reminded me of the POV question, too, and the issue of with whom the reader identifies in those scenes. Is it the hero or the heroine? Or both? If the reader accepts the hero, then in some way, she has to see the whole thing from his POV, too, yes? Which has always made me think that part of the appeal in these scenes is the ability to be BOTH powerful and powerless at the same time, thus making the fantasy even more appealing and safe for the reader. Kind of a Jungian “you are all parts of the dream” thing.

  43. Janine
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 11:47:45

    [quote comment="25676"]I think I am going to have to buy the book, The Lucifer Effect, The author, psychologist Phillip Zombardo who ran the 7 day Stanford Prison Experiment, argues that evil is not born but rather created by circumstance and environment. Inside each of us, we have the capability of being the villian or the hero.[/quote]

    There is also a book I have been interested in reading, Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist, written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes. It’s the true story of a criminologist who researched how people become violent.

  44. Janine
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 12:03:51

    I meant to say, in my post above, that the criminologist in Rhodes’ Why They Kill came to similar conclusions as the ones you mentioned with regard to The Lucifer Effect, Jane. That violent criminals are made, not born.

  45. MCHalliday
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 14:20:20

    Now we are onto the question of nature vs nurture. IMO evil occurs only if one is so inclined…born with a psychological predilection, if you will. There are thousands of cases where abject abuse does not result in the victim becoming an abuser or in any way, evil. I believe humanity is a testament to that, after all we are decendants of those who inflicted the horrors of the Inquisition and the atrocities of barbaric political wars, to cite the most obvious.
    To be perfectly frank, I survived a severely abusive father…confinement, psychological torture, beatings, covert sexual abuse, deprivation. And I know I have no ability in me to hurt others in any way.
    Although I understand that some people feel they could lose control, at a critical point.
    Back to the basic premise of this topic…rape indicates lack of compassion and empathy. Harm is inflicted without thought of the victim. This may not be ‘evil’ in the truest sense of the word but it sure as hell indicates the raper has huge problems. And unless I wanted to find out what further harm he could do to me or others, I would not even take the time to pack my bags before running away, fast.

  46. Janine
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 17:07:26

    Just because some people survive violent and abusive childhoods without becoming violent or abusive themselves, does not mean that those types of childhood don’t trigger others to turn violent.

    From reading the Amazon book summary and comments, it sound like the criminologist in the book I mentioned (Why They Kill by Richard Rhodes), as well as the author of the book, were both subjected to violence as children but neither turned out violent. In the case of the criminologist this was because he decided to study and examine the violence around him and its effects on others.

    So, as I understand it the book does not contend that everyone who experiences violence will turn violent. I think it does, however, posit that a lot of people who would otherwise be peaceful and law abiding, can turn into violent criminals because of such circumstances.

  47. CM
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 17:34:26

    There’s something else that’s going on in this book. I don’t think Verity ever actually ends up “loving” Justin as we all understand love to be–a vibrant, healthy enterprise. When I read the book, I was just a little disturbed. It wasn’t until a friend pointed me to All About Romance’s review that I figured out exactly what bothered me about it.

    All About Romance hit the nail right on the head–Verity develops Stockholm syndrome. She starts identifying with her captor. And looking back, the language that Anna Campbell uses is so clear that it seems to me that she must have intended it.

    This is a book about how excessively screwed-up people–a woman who has essentially split her personality to survive, and a man who is dangerously insane, and obsessed–find love. It’s not a book about the redemptive power of love. In my mind, Justin is never redeemed. He just manages to drag Verity down to his level, to the point where she’s dirty enough for him.

    It’s a romance with an “Ever After” but no happily in sight.

    And I think Anna Campbell intended it that way.

    I think this one is well outside the normal “forced seduction” scenario.

  48. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 18:30:36

    All About Romance hit the nail right on the head-Verity develops Stockholm syndrome.

    I was curious, so I went to have a look at their review. Hope it’s OK to post the link, in case others are also curious: it’s here.

  49. MCHalliday
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 18:46:40

    !!!!Found something exceedingly appropo in Mrs G’s Rants…this quote from an interview with Julia Quinn by Lewd Grossman (yuck, but do read as this is only what Ms Quinn says)!!!!

    “People who don’t read romance novels still have the perception that they are what they were in the 1970s or ’80s,” Julia Quinn says.”The heroines were doormats, with all these alpha males bossing them around. I can’t imagine a romance novel published today where the hero rapes the heroine and she falls in love with him.”

  50. Robin
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 18:57:04

    Re. the Stockholm Syndrome theory for Campbell’s book, as much as I think Campbell was not excusing Justin. I also don’t think Verity is brainwashed into identifying with him. For one thing, they had a year long relationship as context, which while not precisely romantic, was one that showed how drawn they both were to one another on a deeper level than just the physical and one that established a certain level of intimacy. Verity senses that there is something tormented in Justin during that first year, and Justin recognizes that there is more to Verity, even though it is not until each reveals his/her whole story that those instincts become realized as knowledge and understanding. Had Verity and Justin been strangers, and had the period of captivity been longer, I would probably believe that it was Stockholm Syndrome. I don’t want to reveal spoilers, but if you think about what Verity was doing before her feelings toward Justin begin to change, she was hardly the passive victim. And at the point her feelings begin to change, Justin is well into the groveling process.

    OTOH, I so agree with you about the “two screwed-up people” part of your comments, CM, and I don’t think Campbell handled the transformation of Verity and Justin’s relationship with the finesse that, say, Patricia Gaffney does in To Have And To Hold, but I can’t see this book as about the debasement of Verity. I see it as about two very damaged people who find that their experiences mirror each other in such a way that they can change together, even if it will take much longer than the book allows. As you said, both of them are split in some way, and I think they both end up having their defenses broken down during the course of the book.

  51. Robin
    Mar 31, 2007 @ 19:08:48

    For anyone interested, here’s an interesting article on Stockholm Syndrome: http://counsellingresource.com/quizzes/stockholm/index.html

  52. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 05:01:40

    CM said:

    Verity develops Stockholm syndrome. She starts identifying with her captor. And looking back, the language that Anna Campbell uses is so clear that it seems to me that she must have intended it.

    This is a book about how excessively screwed-up people-a woman who has essentially split her personality to survive, and a man who is dangerously insane, and obsessed-find love. It’s not a book about the redemptive power of love. In my mind, Justin is never redeemed.

    Anna Campbell has said that:

    It’s a compelling story of love and courage and ultimate redemption […] The book charts his redemption and the growth in his self-awareness until he’s a fit partner to the woman who is his other half. Yes, he’s an alpha, perhaps even an ultra alpha. I’m not apologizing for that. He makes some bad decisions but he will suffer extremes of emotional pain as a consequence. And after all his suffering, he emerges from the fire a better man.

    From what she’s saying, Anne Campbell seems to be thinking of this hero as a sexy alpha who ‘makes some bad decisions’. Seems to me that that’s a very mild way of describing a rapist and abductor.

  53. Bev(BB)
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 07:14:34

    I actually started typing a comment that had the words Stockholm Syndrome in it yesterday and ended up deleting it. That was partly because I didn’t have time to finish it then and partly because I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into the issue. Well, what the heck.

    I’ve only actually read one “romance” in all my years of reading them that actually made me think it quailified. The Shiek’s Revenge by Emma Darcy was a doozy and, as far as I’ve been able to determine, atypical for even that author. I still have the book. Not because I liked it but as a reminder of just how evil something can feel when it’s so “well-written” that’s it’s absolutely mesmerizing to read and yet you still know it’s wrong. All wrong. It is so not about romance. It’s not even about sex. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The attitudes are just wrong. Twisted. Sometimes subtly twisted, maybe, and sometimes blatantly, but twisted all the same. And maybe that’s part of the fascination but they’re still wrong.

    However, I will also admit that everyone one has to make that judgement on their own. They have to find their own compass to steer by. And that’s part of the reason I haven’t gotten rid of that book. I actively decided I wanted to keep it because I never wanted to forget the “feeling” of actually falling even slightly under the spell of that psychosis and then realizing as I finished it how disgusted I was that anyone would call it romance.

    When I started reading the descriptions of this new book, I immediately started thinking of that older one. And not because of the rape. What I found interesting was that no one else had mentioned the other element until the AAR review came up. Fascinating.

    One more thing, I could imagine a someone truly holding someone captive and managing to brainwash them that way could also be well spoken, too, which is why the “well-written” argument doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me any more, either. After the above experience, there are simply certain acts by certain characters that I simply refuse to read past and telling me the author is good at the “redeeming” the character only makes me more leery of reading further. Not less.

    For good reason, I tend to think.

    But that’s just me.

  54. LesleyW
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 07:28:49

    I do think we need to take some care here.

    I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know the reason’s/motivations for Justin’s insanity / mental illness. Neither do I know Verity’s reasons for wanting to remain with him. It might be that if I did read the book I would find the explanations offered by the author acceptable.

    I think it would be very easy for an internet backlash to occur as I’ve seen in the past, by people who haven’t actually read the book.

    I’m not suggesting that reviewers shouldn’t comment, or that people who find such subjects hard to deal with should read the book. But I feel like we’re teetering on the edge of the book banning debate.

    Is rape romantic – No.

    But neither do I think it’s a subject that shouldn’t be dealt with.

  55. Bev(BB)
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 08:05:06

    [quote comment="25738"]I think it would be very easy for an internet backlash to occur as I’ve seen in the past, by people who haven’t actually read the book.[/quote]

    I’m not sure I understand. No one is saying the book shouldn’t have been written, published or even read. That’s completely up the individuals. However, the issues involved are up for discussion. And since anyone who has read the book is welcome to come forward and clarify points, what’s the problem?

    As to any backlash, it’s been my experience that those only tend to give publicity to things more, so no harm there.

  56. MCHalliday
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 09:27:15

    But I feel like we’re teetering on the edge of the book banning debate.

    I don’t believe there has been a hint of book banning. Some book tossing, perhaps. These are simply viewpoints to the posed question, “Romance readers are not so blind, are we, to repellant behavior that we actually excuse it to make it palatable?” Some think it can be explored in romance, some not. And some have come up with possibilities for a plausible HEA. A very lively discussion, most enjoyable!

  57. LesleyW
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 10:18:12

    Sorry :blushes:

    The discussion was getting a bit heated and I went into panic mode.

    Glad to know it’s only book tossing.

  58. Robin
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 10:38:38

    From what she’s saying, Anne Campbell seems to be thinking of this hero as a sexy alpha who ‘makes some bad decisions’. Seems to me that that’s a very mild way of describing a rapist and abductor.

    I don’t think she’s dismissing or belittling Justin’s actions toward Verity at all (in fact, after my review posted, Campbell thanked me for saying that the book wasn’t condoning rape as a means to love — and I hope she doesn’t mind me revealing that). I DO, though, think that she writes him as a character who changes, who absolutely sees the wrongness of what he did, and who does not, after a certain point in the book, mistreat or disrespect Verity in any way. And what’s interesting — to me, at least — about Campbell’s book is that Justin, for all his horrible ways during part of it, doesn’t EVER want a passive, conventional, easily bendable woman. He’s inviting the battle, really, craving it, which makes sense to me because of where he came from and what he endured as a child. As bad as he is — for ONE portion of the book — he doesn’t, IMO, fit the profile of a batterer, either, and the dynamic between him and Verity, even as he has her prisoner, is not at all one in which he wants her to a) be consistently afraid of him, b) be completely supplicant to him, c) acknowledge him as her master or d) see himself as superior to her. It’s like he wants to *force* her to be *herself* — that is, the unified person he sees in her. Which is part of his *dis-unification* as a person, his own psychological and emotional split. When he comes to realize the real effects of what he’s done, he begins to change and heal, as well, and he and Verity really do that together. Whether that’s realistic — well, how much redemption of anyone is real in Romance? How much of what goes on in general is “realistic” by objective real-life standards?

    For all the furor over Campbell’s book, I still find some of Linda Howard’s books, for example, tougher to take emotionally, because her autocratic heroes stay pretty autocratic and bullying. To me, the guy who never is relieved of that emotional bullying is tougher on me than anything in Campbell’s book, in part because I never get the sense that Howard’s heroes are being chastized for their autocratic personalities. Yes their appearance might be more civilized, but I still find Dream Man, for example, a very disturbing book to read in how IMO Dane bullies and manipulates Marlie throughout the book. There’s one point in the book where he throws her on the bed and takes her from behind “with battering force” — I still cringe when I read that line, especially given Marlie’s past as a torture and rape victim. And yet, there are people who love, love, love that book and see Dane as the most wonderful hero ever.

  59. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 11:48:36

    I don’t think she’s dismissing or belittling Justin’s actions toward Verity at all (in fact, after my review posted, Campbell thanked me for saying that the book wasn’t condoning rape as a means to love

    Thanks for explaining this in more detail, Robin. In the interview she gave to Nalini Singh and the one at Redwyne she was focussing on the sexiness of the ultra-alpha hero. I still can’t get my head around that because in the romances I’ve read in which the hero rapes the heroine I’ve been so upset by it that even if the heroine can forgive him, I can’t forget what he’s done and, therefore, I can’t find him sexy. I’m still scared of him.

    Maybe other readers find it compelling to read about a man who is so in love with/obsessed with one woman that he will do anything in his power to have her. Maybe they can see that as him paying her a supreme compliment. So on an intellectual level, I think I can just about understand the attraction of an extreme alpha. But as a reader, emotionally, I just can’t ‘get’ it at all. And I can’t suspend disbelief and think of this as mostly a fantasy, because for me these sorts of behaviours make me think about stalking and domestic violence. But again, that’s got a lot to do with my reading behaviour. I don’t relate to the books as though they were about fantasies (though obviously I know they’re not real ;-) ) rather, I evaluate the characters and their actions in terms of how I would feel about them if I met them, because I feel like they’re real within the context of the story. I can step back and make a more intellectual/detached assessment of the story later, but not while I’m reading it for the first time.

  60. MCHalliday
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 12:16:53

    When he comes to realize the real effects of what he’s done, he begins to change and heal, as well, and he and Verity really do that together. Whether that’s realistic — well, how much redemption of anyone is real in Romance?

    Robin has a point. Anything is possible…Shakespeare knew it. Hamlet Act I, Sc. 5. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Still in all, repellant behavior in the extreme of hero rape and the subsequent fallout are not my idea of romance.

    Janine made a good point, as well.

    I feel that artists (and I include romance authors in this category) need to be given the free reign to portray the fantasies or nightmares that call to their imaginations. The end results can then be judged by readers.

    Artists, journalists, authors, reviewers and readers the world over are sure to agree. It is our right to express and explore, no matter the discomfort it might induce.

  61. Robin
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 12:17:29

    Maybe other readers find it compelling to read about a man who is so in love with/obsessed with one woman that he will do anything in his power to have her. Maybe they can see that as him paying her a supreme compliment.

    Laura, the way I read CtC, I always saw Justin’s behavior as whacko, not as romantic or sexy. Generally, I have a VERY high sensitivity to violence and sexual violence in Romance, which is why I was surprised by my positive reaction to CtC. But I didn’t find it personally romantic — more, I think, I felt I understood the psychological dynamics between Justin and Verity — that they were both really split, psychologically and emotionally, and that they had been drawn to one another from the start (even before their year-long affair). It worked for me logically, even if you couldn’t pay me enough to find a guy like that appealing in real life.

  62. MCHalliday
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 12:23:18

    Pardon me! Somehow, I boobed on the last block quote. It should read,

    I feel that artists (and I include romance authors in this category) need to be given the free reign to portray the fantasies or nightmares that call to their imaginations. The end results can then be judged by readers.

    Artists, journalists, authors, reviewers and readers the world over are sure to agree. It is our right to express and explore, no matter the discomfort it might induce.

  63. Lucinda Betts
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 22:27:43

    As an author who has used the forced seduction scenario in a novella (and I’m pretty sure Jane will hold that against me for quite a while:) ), I’d like to give an author’s take on this. (Please realize that I’m not trying to give THE author’s take on it—just one author’s take on it.)

    There are a lot of books on the market that hinge on the idea of a forced seduction. Rosemary Rogers was doing it decades ago. I think it’s “Wicked, Loving Lies” where the heroine starts off getting seduced against her will after she stowed away on the hero’s ship. She loves it. The entire book is one forced-seduction scene after another. She ends up happily married with the hero. Of course. I believe this premise was Rosemary’s stock and trade. “The Story of O” does it, a book that could easily be argued to be other than romance, but still. “A Journey around a Darker Sun,” does it, and it couldn’t be categorized as anything but romance.

    I would argue that what makes these stories different than “redeemed-rape-in-romance” stories is her mind set. Not his mind set. Hers. In real life if a girl says no, he’d damned well better stop. But these stories are fantasies. He can read her mind. He knows. She might be saying no, but she means yes. She’s wet and ready. If he walked away like she was asking for (begging for), she would be disappointed in the book.

    A fantasy like this has nothing in common with actual rape scenes as seen in books like “Into the Cut” and “She’s Come Undone.”

    I am not advocating mind-reading men for real life. In real life, if the girl says no, no is meant. Otherwise it’s a recipe for date rape, and it doesn’t take an English major or a shrink or a victim to see that. I’m going to guess (and speak surely for myself) that date rape or any other kind of rape isn’t what romance authors are going for when we use forced seduction contructs.

    It’s a fantasy. Anyone who’s been tied up by their SO and enjoyed it, knew they were safe, but maybe when they closed their eyes, they were pretending they weren’t. Maybe they were pretending they were the newest edition to the harem or the most sought after sex slave. It’s an edgy concept. It’s not a fantasy for everyone. But it is a common enough fantasy to have been working it’s way into true romances such as those by Rosemary Rogers. I can’t imagine how many handcuffs are sold in places like Good Vibrations and other adult stores, but it’s measurable, and I don’t think the majority or people who use them are hurting other people (or getting hurt).

    I don’t know if forced seduction is what Campbell did, or was trying to do. I know it’s what I was trying to do in “My Captor” in my NIGHT SPELL anthology. (Jane called her review of that book a “Maybe Related Post,” which is why I bring this up.) In that novella, the heroine is tied up and seduced and spanked. She has no choice in the matter and she loves it. And while I can agree that this scenario isn’t to everyone’s taste (like Jane, my mother wonders what’s wrong with me!), three major publishing houses tried to buy that novella. Three. Some people enjoy that edge.

    As I wrote that story, my heroine was wanting it and loving it. If she’d been repulsed by her captor, it would not have worked for me (nor for the three editors that tried to buy the book, I imagine). I’d go even farther. If my heroine hadn’t been turned on by her captor, he wouldn’t have had any fun either. He would have walked away.

    And lest you all think all of my novels are this twisted, I can assure you they’re not! My novella “The Bet” in PURE SEX just won the Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence for published authors, and MOON SHADOW earned a 4-star review from RT, which would not be possible if the heroines were tied up against her will!

    Happy reading,
    Lucinda

  64. Eva Gale
    Apr 02, 2007 @ 09:38:03

    That was a great post Lucinda, I was thinking along those lines but I couldn’t have said it as well as you did. Sometimes the only difference between a BDSM story and a forced seduction is in the contract. It’s hard to write a non-BDSM story where there is that consent-meaning the contract makes the heroine’s assent obvious. Maybe that’s why BDSM is such a hit now?

    I have a forced seduction in a novella being published too, and this post made me think about the specific points I had to write so that the reader would know that the heroine did desire the hero in that scenario. Mostly the scene was about her inner turmoil.

    Alot of interesing responses to consider.

    I also just read Secret Fantasy by Cheryl Holt which also has a forced seduction between two antagonists. (the girl being 16 and the man being in his 40’s I think?-the hero’s father) She sets it up where the consent is given because she will do anything to be a Countess. So, even though she’s a virgin, 16, and thinks sex is gross he bullys her into being tied and then into having sex because of her desire for the title. (And I’ll have to say, I hate virgins, but there were two in this story and at least they were amusing.) And since Holt is a lawyer, I’m going to assume she knew the balance beam she was walking.

    So after reading these posts, and then finishing that book I had a lot of food for thought. My personal conclusion came from the BDSM train of thought, that yes, those scenarios can be a part of a safe fantasy and that is what forced scenario authors are tapping into.

  65. skyerae
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 11:24:30

    I’m entering this discussion a bit late but I wanted to just add an additional comment that has been overlooked. From my point of view anyway. I won’t get into how I personally feel about rape and forced seduction in romance because it varies and is often based on personal nuances I couldn’t describe without detail.

    My comment resembles Robin’s comment about how reforming a rapist may give the heroine power, taking her out of the role of victim. One of the most crippling effects of rape is shame. It follows a rape victim for the rest of their lives and is IMO even worse than fear or degredation. It’s been said what’s written in romance novels might not always be in direct correlation with real life and I agree. Very few rape victims could ever fall in love with a perpetrator. However, in a romace novel with a rape by the hero there is a lack of shame. Obviously the heroine feels shame, her reputation is ruined, she has only a monstrous act of violence to associate with sex. The hero (who hopefully she loved to some degree before the rape) is abject with grief and guilt and they come together in forgiveness and love and she marries him. That shame she would have had to carry especially if she were ever to marry elsewhere can now be transerred to him. It is his shame, because he is the one who commited the act. He knows she didn’t want it and he knows how it happened and would never think her dirty or promiscuous because he knows better. This dynamic would not likely occur in real life, in the context of fiction however, it is certainly viable. In my opinion atleast. In a way, the dynamic can be empowering, maybe even subversive. How likely is it for a perpetrator to take on the shame of a victim.

    Also, I haven’t read the book in question and what I’ve stated here is not a reflection of its dynamics.

  66. Robin
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 13:24:25

    I also just read Secret Fantasy by Cheryl Holt which also has a forced seduction between two antagonists. (the girl being 16 and the man being in his 40’s I think?-the hero’s father) She sets it up where the consent is given because she will do anything to be a Countess. So, even though she’s a virgin, 16, and thinks sex is gross he bullys her into being tied and then into having sex because of her desire for the title. (And I’ll have to say, I hate virgins, but there were two in this story and at least they were amusing.) And since Holt is a lawyer, I’m going to assume she knew the balance beam she was walking.

    This is a great reminder — to me, anyway — about how much depends on a reader actually reading each book in question. Because this description absolutely horrified me(!), but I know that if I read the description of To Have and To Hold or CtC without reading the books, they probably would horrify me, as well. I assume that this Holt book is a historical Romance, especially given the age of the heroine? Because all I keep thinking about it how 16 year olds now don’t have the legal capacity to consent to a contract, let alone forced sex! Context is obviously crucial for these books.

  67. MCHalliday
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 16:01:54

    It seemed to me, just about everything on this post about rape or FS had been chewed over and nicely digested. But then I read…

    One of the most crippling effects of rape is shame. It follows a rape victim for the rest of their lives and is IMO even worse than fear or degredation.

    In my experience, it was not shame that was the worst effect.
    Nor was it fear or degradation.
    It was the total, whole and complete subjugation of my being. (But perhaps I should qualify that by adding I was held against my will for a period of time.)
    The worst of it to me was the abject control of my rights and wishes, the basic premise of freedom taken from me.

    On that basis, I surmise the hero who rapes can never redeem himself. Particularily if he has isolated, removed (from her comfortable surroundings) or kidnapped ther heroine.
    He stole her right to choose, decide or love as a human being, as person. (Yes, I know women were not recognized as persons under the law until the last century.)
    IMO, there is no chance for a woman to be truly herself with a man who has taken her sense of importance. And love him in spite of her feelings? Only if he has succeeded in making her a doormat.

  68. Eva Gale
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 18:02:52

    Robin said

    This is a great reminder — to me, anyway — about how much depends on a reader actually reading each book in question. Because this description absolutely horrified me(!), but I know that if I read the description of To Have and To Hold or CtC without reading the books, they probably would horrify me, as well. I assume that this Holt book is a historical Romance, especially given the age of the heroine? Because all I keep thinking about it how 16 year olds now don’t have the legal capacity to consent to a contract, let alone forced sex! Context is obviously crucial for these books.

    Well I didn’t luurve the story, it was ok, and like I said, although I pretty much hate virgins-the one was at least amusing. I did love the hero, although he made a huge mistake, his motivations were great.

    The part that you mistook was that is was NOT the heroine that was 16, the forced seduction was between two antagonists. (there were three in total) And it most definately WAS a historical.

  69. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 18:19:57

    I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot, and although I haven’t read Campbell’s novel, I have read other romances which include rape/forced seduction. Anyway, in case anyone’s interested, I thought I’d mention that I’ve ended up posting a very, very long blog post over at Teach Me Tonight about Elizabeth Thornton’s Fallen Angel. It got long partly because I was trying to give enough quotations to give a sense of what happens in the crucial scenes, and also because I wanted to explore some of the ideas which seem to lie behind the justification of the hero’s behaviour.

  70. skyerae
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 20:55:26

    In my experience, it was not shame that was the worst effect.
    Nor was it fear or degradation.
    It was the total, whole and complete subjugation of my being. (But perhaps I should qualify that by adding I was held against my will for a period of time.)
    The worst of it to me was the abject control of my rights and wishes, the basic premise of freedom taken from me.

    In my experience and others I have known shame was the hardest to deal with. I can see that from your point of view things would be different.

    In terms of fictionalization, my post was about what it meant for the heroine to have the hero shoulder her shame. Fiction is not real life and I am willing to allow things to happen in a book I would never even consider likely in real life. It’s about what I choose to believe. Fiction is rife with motif, symbolism and allegory. Under the right circumstances I am willing to put up with rape or forced seduction in a romance novel. Maybe even understand and agree with why it was used. You may not consider any reason good enough and I don’t blame you. Where you draw the line in your reading is entirely up to you.

  71. Robin
    Apr 04, 2007 @ 09:59:07

    The part that you mistook was that is was NOT the heroine that was 16, the forced seduction was between two antagonists. (there were three in total) And it most definately WAS a historical.

    LOL, Eva; In my slow-witted state, I saw that and thought that they were rivals, not antagonists in the sense of “those who create conflict for the protagonists.” Thanks for clearing that up. It reminds me a whole ‘nother issues about how “bad girls” are portrayed in Romance, though, especially in regard to sex and ambition. Can’t speak for the Holt book, but I do know that the villainnesses are often those who are willing to use sex more freely to get what they want.

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