An Ugly Contrast

>> Monday, August 24, 2009

There is a reason I don't read much romance any more unless I really trust the author.

As you may have noticed, I've been on something of a writing/talking about writing kick for a while (and, no, I'm not done), but I'm going to take a little side trip because I'm just thoroughly disgusted and I need to purge it.

See, although I read a lot of books, my daughter has gotten me hooked on a wee bit of manga. I've mentioned this before. Actually, I was really only hooked on one series, Fruits Basket, by Natsuki Takaya. I was completely sucked in to this series, intended for teenage girls, loved the anime, but the manga thoroughly captured me. I am not an artist, by even the most generous measure and don't surround myself in "art" (or even get a lot of it), but I was thoroughly entranced by the artwork in this series, finding whole segments spoke to me in the pictures themselves. I've talked about Fruits Basket before, so I won't go into it again, but I'm a fan and own every single book.

Although I've liked several other anime, like Ouran Host Club, I hadn't found myself compelled by the manga. The artwork, not the same. Well, they've released some earlier work by my apparently favorite manga artist, Natsuki Takaya, two more series, Phantom Dream, which has lovely artwork but is so disjointed as to be very challenging to read - as a first work, it shows - and Tsubasa: Those With Wings, with which I'm completely captivated. Again.

I read and loved the first volume, finding the genius/expert Raimon completely charming (yes, he reminds me of my husband) despite his apparent disinterest in everyone but the warm-hearted and enthusiastic Kotobuki. Trite, but I love it. I got the second volume when I was in the midst of a rewrite of my second novel and promised myself I wouldn't read my new Tsubasa until I was done. Well, I finished it and was caught up all over again. Loved it. I was filled with romance and charm and excited and turned to one of my many many other writing projects brimming over with enthusiasm. And jumped my--sorry, TMI.

So, anyway, I got that reminder that comes to most married people once in a while that their spouses aren't quite the devoted love-you-no-matter-what types we all like to think they are, which was depressing. So, since it sucked my interest in writing away (that and preparing a query for an agent - I hate marketing), I decided to pick up one of the books my mother-in-law loaned me. Now, let me start by saying that I've never really been a Christine Feehan fan, but then the number of romance authors I can stomach is almost infinitesimally small, so I try to read with an open mind. Her work really hadn't stuck in my head, other than I know she does paranormal romances, which I like in principle, but haven't enjoyed in reality so much. In fact, the only exception I know of is Nora Roberts. I don't like this book I pick up, but I try to stick with it, give it a chance, only to run across the big thing that ruins more romances for me than any other thing. The brutalize-your-lover-in-the-name-of-romance thing.


Sex is fine in a book; I'm not a prude. But to have a woman begging him to stop/slow down (to no avail), while he breathes "mine" and bites "marks of possession" all over her and pretend that's romantic, I have to go GAG. I'm sure some people find that romantic, but I am not one of them. (They make a big play about this is the side effect of being half "leopard" but that doesn't fly with me. In nature, females call the shots way more than males, much as we'd like to think differently or use it as an excuse. Primates are one of the only exceptions.)

Admittedly, this is a pet peeve of mine. I hate the prevalence of rape and sort of rape in fiction and, maybe you're a fan, but I'm not. And I worry about impressionable girls who think that's what love is about. Maybe it doesn't have that effect. Maybe no girl ends up miserable from sex she thought would be romantic but ended up being traumatized instead, blurring the line between date rape and volition because she thought being forced was somehow romantic. Maybe it's all in my head.

And I find it particularly irksome when women promote this kind of thinking. It's one thing to have men treat women like property in many parts of the world; it's another when the women in that environment aid and abet that thinking but they do. It's one thing to have female circumcision and beating considered part of life in many parts of the world; it's more frustrating to have women promote it but they do. It's bad enough that force and aggression in this country are prevalent; it absolutely sickens me that, in a supposed enlightened culture like ours, women are the number one provider of this propaganda to other women.

The contrast between the portrayal of protagonists in these two works (both penned by women) is all the more pronounced.

But I hate it. It sickens me. Call me a prude. Call me an old fogey. Call me anything you like, but you won't find ANY of my favorite characters doing anything like that, and rapists do not fare well in my own fiction. That's a conscious choice. And I will not be reading any more Christine Feehan. And I'll be more careful what romances I pick up.

But I can't wait for volume 3 of Tsubasa, Those with Wings. So there.


  • Aron Sora

    I think those types of books lead into the whole "the girl wanted to get raped" fallacy. On one hand, it is possible that a girl would like the loss of some control in an controlled environment (e.g. using safe words and having the event scripted out). You can have that sense by changing positions. But I assume that the romantic novel didn't have a scene where the couple planned out their "encounter". But, what you described is defiantly rape and it is painting rape as something that is ok.

  • Stephanie B

    That's what I think, too, Aron. I have friends in the S&M world, but this doesn't fit with that either.

    I gotta be honest. It absolutely sickens me, and I hate that there are girls out there who think that being brutalized is what love is all about.

    In my opinion, there's nothing romantic about rape.

  • Quadmama

    I understand when a violent encounter is used to show the struggles a character faces in life. But romanticizing rape? Nope. I'm with you... Ick.

  • Stephanie B

    I have included some pretty dark stuff in my novels, including rape and child abuse. It happens and I don't want to pretend it doesn't. But I think rape and the like is at the minimum dividing line between "good guys" and "bad guys". So, my good guys never do this sort of thing and my bad guys, well, they don't live to the end of the novel.

  • Richard

    Hmm... guess I'm a little darker than you in my writing Stephanie. Even my good guys don't always live to the end of the novel. ;) Then again, I haven't ventured near rape in my writing. It dosen't have much appeal as a subject.
    To each their own, I suppose.

  • Jeff King

    it makes me sick to see any thing close to romanticizing rape !!

    a wowan should be treated like a queen. with respect and honor, never disrespected and never hit.. EVER.
    and all females should never except any for of control over them, or any kind of abuse either pysical or verbal.

  • The Mother

    I don't think you're a prude.

    There is a difference between great erotica (and there is a LOT of great erotica from different ages) and the macho-ego trip-male domination scene you just described.

    Real men treat their women with respect. Especially in the bedroom.

  • Phyl

    I quite agree -- this isn't prudery, this is wisdom. It's simply not good to romanticize rape. No means no means no, unless, as Aron first mentioned, it's part of a scene being played out, with recognized safe words to get out of it.

    I've heard reports that girls are indeed being carried away b this romanticizing. How did it come back into such a surge of popularity again, after the feminists of the 60s and 70s did so much to push it out of the mainstream?? It's disgusting.

    But on a more positive note -- now I think I have to find some way of getting hold of the Tsubasa manga! It sounds beautiful. :-)

  • Stephanie B

    Phyl, I live to please. Volume 1 and Volume 2. There are five volumes total but only the first two are out so far. The third one will be coming out soon (I can't wait!).

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