Friday, November 10, 2006

Bad Sex

Back in the day, by which I refer here to the eighties or so, it was considered acceptable in romance novels for the hero and heroine's first sexual encounter to be rape. There was usually some very unusual misunderstanding that led to the hero raping the heroine and in some cases there were apologies offered afterwords.
Well, as readers, and one imagine writers, complained that rape is really not romantic no matter the circumstances, this fell out of favor. But there remains a subtle variation which I shall refer to as a "taking". In a taking the heroine never utters the word no, thereby absolving the hero of being properly accused. She may have told the hero on several occasions that she is not interested in him, or is unwilling to accept the circumstances that would surround their relationship. But then she always kisses the hero, or doesn't struggle much when he kisses her, so it is okay that he ignores her statements.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting - in fiction or in real life - that contracts and terms or a constant, "is this okay?" is required for consensual sex. But the idea that the hero's behavior is now kosher because he pressed her up against a wall before she could protest and then held her against the wall in such a way that she was unable to struggle bugs the crap out of me.
I am currently reading a book in which the hero and heroine met while he was undercover. His cover involves a (fictitious) wife. In this short time he has already slept with the wife of one of the other guests. So, the fact the the heroine, while attracted to him, does not want to be in a realtionship with him is quite understandable. And when he decides they need to have sex so that he can find out the truth about her, it's not sweet. (To be fair the book does not protray it as such).
But, I find myself over-identifying with the heroine's internal struggle here. She is mad at the hero for fucking her (on a number of levels). And she is mad at herself - she never said no. (His internal monologue stated that he knew she would want to struggle so he held her in such a way as to make that impossible - so there is no real misunderstanding here). However, when she mentions to him that she feels raped, he throws back that she didn't say no. Why is that the sole determining factor. Rape is sex had without your consent - not being able to voice your dissent does not make it not rape. And so the heroine has been berating herself for "allowing this" and I'm berating myself becuase I'm still reading. Other than this, the book is written really well. And I keep hoping that there will be a conversation or something that will snap the characters out of this stupid justification. I'll let you know if that happens.