Interlude: Let Me Tell You, Internets

Or, Rape Forceful Seduction Culture And You: A Post By Someone Who Didn’t Know Much About It Before Now

Alright, Internets. Let’s chat. I want to get back into The Funny – and I read ahead a little bit, there’s definitely The Funny to get back into – but I really need to get this out of my system first.

Gather ’round, and get something to snack on, ’cause I’ve needed to work something out for myself.

Got it? Good.

I had a minor rageout on the last installment of Very Virile Viking: A Voracious and Vivid Viewing of, to use the Vernacular, a Veritable Volume of the Vocation of a Venerated Vocabularian. (Damnit, I know that last one isn’t a word but I’m doing this off the top of my head and can’t think of a proper V-synonym for writer.)

It occurs to me (read: it has been pointed out to me) that the subject matter – that of the dividing line between forceful seduction and rape fantasy – has been a staple of romance novels for a long time. This is, of course, news to me, seeing as this is the first romance novel I’ve ever seriously read, and I had always assumed the term “Bodice Rippers” meant simply that the lovemaking was so passionate that there was collateral damage to various bits of clothing.

It’s obviously a hot-button subject. Considering this has been prevalent in the genre for a while (although somewhat dwindling in past decades, thankfully), it must be Socially Acceptable in some fashion, which leads me to the following point:

I get it. I do. I may not like it, but I understand a lot of it – especially after a couple recent conversations with some good friends about it.

At least, I think I understand it so far. This is new subject matter for me, even if it’s not for all of you guys, so let me know if I’m on track here, okay?

There’s a lot about forceful seduction, ravishment, and sometimes even rape fantasy that appeals to unconscious (or maybe even active) desires. It’s wish-fulfillment, in some form or another; the idea that a man wants you so much he is driven to physically grabbing you and taking you right there on the spot? That in itself is hot, especially if the men around you (or the man you may be pining after) tend more towards the passive and uncertain. I’m certainly not denying that.

And no, I don’t think women are stupid. I know people aren’t going to read scenes like this and think, “Wow, no wonder my sex life has been so horrible, this is how it’s supposed to be!” It’s adult stories for adult readers with adult concepts in them, and they’re fantasy and fiction which means OBVIOUSLY THIS IS NOT TRUE. I mean, sure, it’s one thing if impressionable teenagers and younger girls (who are already confused enough about sex and love and romance as it is) are being deluged with books about how stalking is okay so long as he’s hot, and how if you tell teachers that a boy is being creepy to you and stalking you they will only put you in situations that facilitate it and call you a priss for not being able to understand THAT IT MEANS HE LIKES YOU, because while teenagers are not stupid by default, that whole age period is about learning what is right and what is wrong SO PLEASE STOP TELLING THEM THAT THIS IS RIGHT AND OKAY, IT IS NOT OKAY.

It is an interesting point (as long as I’m bringing up Twilight) that on average I’ve noticed it’s the people my age (roughly 20-35) that have the most problems with the stalking and codependency and forceful seduction and one-dimensional characters, while the older women (40+ mothers) and youngest girls (7-16) don’t really seem to find any fault with it. (Please note: These are personal observations, generalizations for sake of easy reference, and backed by absolutely no research whatsoever. Don’t worry about correcting me with specific individual experiences.)

Why is this the case? I had a conversation the other night with Trekkiegirl about that, actually, which shed some perspective on it; this was how relationships were back then. What was romantic and desirable decades ago would be considered stalking today – I know I was able to use this to my advantage with my parents for a stand-up routine. It gets exponentially worse the further back I go; I’ve been on a Mad Men binge lately. That’s how it was portrayed back then. It may have still sucked back then but people didn’t even think about changing it. That’s why it is such a staple of romantic fiction, is because women (at least older women) are familiar and even comfortable with it.

Taking it even further, Trekkiegirl provided me with a more personal observation; her mother was a huge fan of General Hospital, and especially Luke and Laura, TV’s Original OTP. Enough so that she even named her daughter Laura (although it was also partly because she was a huge fan of the movie Laura) and was seriously considering naming her son Luke. For those of you like myself who have never watched General Hospital, Luke originally raped Laura, but fan feedback was so positive to the idea of them being a couple that the writers retconned it to make it okay. The controversy over this goes on to this day, especially over the fact that it was so okay to viewers at the time.

It’s pretty horrifying for me, a self-labelled feminist man who is barely through his 20s. Especially because of all the truly strong, independent female role models I grew up surrounded by. It’s why I had that immediate reaction reading that section, and why it took me a bit to actually sit down and think (and have the awesome discussions) and formulate my thoughts on the matter.

So, to recap, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • It was not rape, as it turned out.
  • Even “rape fantasy” is consensual, because the woman okays it. This is still talking about fantasy and fictional scenarios and possibly consensual bedroom roleplaying, I really don’t want to dwell too much on it at the moment.
  • Sometimes women want to be “swept away”, even – and maybe especially – if it means losing control.
  • I need to man up and move on.
  • REAL LIFE RAPE IS STILL NOT OKAY. RAPE CULTURE IS STILL NOT OKAY.
  • Francisco Franco is still dead.

…I think that’s about it. Next up: Dry Humping!

(I wish I was kidding about that.)

7 thoughts on “Interlude: Let Me Tell You, Internets

  1. Nor do I blame you for being outraged at the time, even though I very much agree to a live-and-let-live approach to other peoples fantasies. I used to find my mother’s Harlequin romance novels strewn all about the house and would frequently read the titles, taglines, and synopsises for kicks. One day I came across one that stopped me cold. I believe it was written in the late 70s, early 80s, and will never forget the wording, well, the gist as I’m paraphrasing:

    “She wanted independence, instead she found love.”

    I had to take a moment and then I had to share this magnificent artifact with friends. It may have been the overreaction of a hormonal teenager at the time and I find it hilarious in retrospect but for that one moment the idea that any woman’s fantasy wouldn’t have room for both was… sobering.

  2. It kind of weirds me out that I think you’re awesome just for being male and understanding Rape Is Bad, but I suppose that that’s just our culture, depressingly.

    So. Um. Go you! You are a decent human being! I mean that non-sarcasticly.

  3. It’s a weird fantasy to have even if you never want it to really happen I think. Though this is coming from someone who has had men deem it ok to come and stalk me and/or come “save me” at moments when mental disorders were taking their toll.
    To me this type, fictional or real, is just predatory. When you are actually with someone like that you feel less human and more like well… game. So even if it is a blanket scolding I definitely would encourage women to get off more on a guy being so crazy about them they try to make them happy and respect them at every turn than getting off on the thought of the matter in bodice ripper books. (Which I’ve been lent before and have in turn been horrified by before.)

    You sir are much more diplomatic than I.
    (Looking forward to continued funny though.)

  4. Hon, the fact that you had such a visceral reaction to that scene makes me proud of both you and of today’s men. In your case you probably learned a lot from your female role models, but maybe this means the NO MEANS NO assemblies and the Take Back the Night walks are accomplishing *something*. I had always thought that things like that were kind of useless — ok, we get it, rape is bad — but from your historical examples, I guess at some point we as a culture needed to be told. I don’t know. Anyway.

  5. Coming late into this game, I just wanted to point something out from the standpoint of someone who very much enjoys the *fantasy* of forcible seduction (which is the best of several bad phrases). Most of the people I’ve talked to who share the enjoyment of that fantasy (both men and women) have a very crystal clear understanding that
    1) we’re a little weird,
    2) it’s perfectly okay to have these fantasies,
    3) it is COMPLETELY NOT EVER OKAY to act this way in Real Life (at least, not without some significant “Okay, honey, when you bust in the bedroom door, you have to be wearing the pirate hat or I’ll think you are a burglar and SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE” kind of planning), and
    4) this kind of fiction is not for kids (by which I mean teenagers and younger).

    Let me repeat this last one; this kind of fiction was not written for kids, it doesn’t have kids in mind, it shouldn’t be read by kids, and if you are the kind of parent who just tosses these novels at your kids without vetting them first, you’re at best a lazy parent and at worst an utter waste of otherwise breathable air.

    This kind of fiction is a bit like a huge slice of chocolate cake. It’s not terribly good for you, too much of it will make you sick, but if you like chocolate a little indulgence isn’t going to hurt you. And trying to ram it down everyone else’s throat is a pretty douchey thing to do at best, and actively criminal at worst.

    For a prime literary example of this kind of thing, try Bertrice Small’s work. She at least has the decency to pick a historically appropriate period, and her historical research is sound, which is better than average for the genre.

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