Friday, April 19, 2013

Sympathy for the Rapist

I have such a strong, visceral memory of when I first read Oscar Hijuelos' 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. In particular, I remember how blown away I was by the sympathy Hijuelos was able to make me feel for a rapist. Cesar Castillo is a man of the 1950s, a womanizer, a misogynist, a man steeped in the machismo of his Cuban roots. His brother dead, his chance at musical fame just a distant memory, he begins a relationship with a devoutly Christian woman, one who will engage in sex with him as long as it does not involve actual penetration. Cesar initially agrees to her terms, but after one too many refusals, Cesar takes what he assumes he as a man has a right to—his girlfriend's vagina. In no way does Hijuelos' text suggest that Cesar's act is justified; the pain and shame it causes his girlfriend is made utterly clear, and Cesar's betrayal brings the relationship to an abrupt and shattering end. But at the same time, Hijuelos' book-long re-creation of the milieu of privileged masculinity in which Cesar was raised and lived, a masculinity which Cesar constantly needs to assert in order to push back against the indignities and degradations of a Hispanic immigrant's life, made me as a reader understand why such a man could commit such a heinous act. Mambo Kings made me feel a deep sympathy for Cesar, even while I condemned what he had done.

The memory of this reading experience came rushing back to me after I finished Patricia Gaffney's first Wyckerly novel, To Love and To Cherish. A reader of this blog had recommended the book to me, although by the time I got around to reading it, I couldn't quite remember why. At first I thought it had been in response to my post about virgin heroes; To Love's hero, Christy Morrell, is a small-town vicar who had obviously remained chaste, at least since taking his vows. But as I came to the novel's shocking climax, I realized that the recommendation had come from a discussion of historical romance novels in which venereal disease, and rape, played a role.

To Love's heroine, Anne Verlaine, is married to a clearly abusive man. For most of the novel, her husband, Geoffrey, is away at war, and Anne actually believes him dead when she begins an impassioned sexual relationship with Christy. As Anne gradually comes to reveal the secrets of her broken marriage, we learn that Geoffrey's recurrent bouts of illness are not in fact caused by malaria, as he has told everyone, including Anne, but rather syphilis, which he contracted during his first military stint abroad after marrying Anne. Her husband's doctor kindly warned Anne of the dangers of engaging in sexual relations with her husband, and Anne refuses to do so, always without admitting to Geoffrey that she knows the real reason he falls regularly ill.

As a romance reader, I wasn't at all surprised when the presumed-dead Geoffrey rises from the grave, just as Anne and Christy are about to announce their engagement to his congregation. Nor was I surprised that Geoffrey's discovery of their relationship leads straight to a violent physical and sexual assault on Anne. But I was surprised by my initial sympathetic reaction to Geoffrey's act. Or rather, I was surprised by how much I just took it for granted that I should feel sympathy for Geoffrey. Only after I had finished reading the novel, and the memory of my response to the similar scene in Mambo Kings flashed into my head, did I realize that there was something upsetting about being made to feel what I was feeling for Geoffrey. Comparing the two scenes helped me to understand just what was at stake in my readerly response.

Unlike many romance novelists, who create heroes and heroines with few flaws and villains without any redeeming characteristics, Gaffney does great work in this novel in presenting multi-faceted, nuanced characters. Her heroine, Anne, is hardly without flaw; often angry, feeling both attraction to and frustration with, her clerical suitor, Anne's caustic tongue and complex feelings make for a prickly heroine. And husband Geoffrey isn't simply a cardboard cut-out villain, twirling his mustache as he abuses his wife without care. The bitterness both Geoffrey and Anne feel, towards themselves and each other, is deeply rooted in the disappointments a marriage made in haste can often bring, as well as in their own weaknesses and strengths. Before a reader finds out the cause of Geoffrey's illness, we almost feel sorry for him when he reaches out to Anne, hoping for a rapprochement, or perhaps just a kind touch at the beginning of the novel.

Gaffney makes Geoffrey's weak character painfully clear upon his "miraculous" return; he reveals to Christy that after experiencing the horrors of the Crimean War, he faked amnesia to avoid being sent back to the front. Yet when he discovers that his wife and his best friend have become lovers in his absence, Geoffrey's anguish is painfully clear: the double valence of his cry, "I'll make you like me" (I'll make you care for me? Or I'll infect you with disease?) signaling both Geoffrey's villainy and his human longing for meaningful connection (298). He cries as he rapes her, apologizing all the while, then tries to comfort her after he finally stops, unable to ejaculate. Even rereading the scene while writing this post, I find myself empathizing with Geoffrey's suffering, his fear of dying, his frustration at not being loved.

And perhaps what I am upset about, after all, is not the sympathy Gaffney makes me feel for Geoffrey. For I felt a similar sympathy for Hijuelos' Cesar, too, one that didn't strike me as nearly so problematic. Perhaps what is truly upsetting me about this scene is how Anne responds to it, a response far different from that of Cesar's girlfriend. Even while Geoffrey "mashed her breasts with his hands," Anne stops fighting after he cries "I'll make you love me" (298). She "let him press her thighs apart," almost consenting to her own violation. After he stops, unable to climax, I come to see why: "At least Christy's God would be satisfied now," Anne thinks, "for she'd gotten what she deserved. After all the years of coldness and rejection, Geoffrey's disease and his defilement were to be her punishment. Her just deserts. Everything was gone now, her last hope finished" (299). Though the novel, through Geoffrey, immediately reassures me that Anne cannot catch the pox from him ("I'm not contagious any longer, I've gone— I've gone— beyond that stage"[299]), Anne's self-abnegating response to his sexual violation still makes me feel rather sick. Even while I admire Anne's ability to forgive Geoffrey, to sympathize with his pain, I find myself refusing to agree with Anne that she in any way deserved to be raped.

Does the novel want its readers to agree with Anne? Or does it push us to reject her conclusion? I think it wants us to do the latter; by novel's end, Anne comes to accept "Christy's God," a benevolent, rather than a vengeful, deity. Yet the narrative still forces her to experience rape, and to feel that she deserved it. And it forces us as readers to experience the rape, and her feelings, along with her, before offering her, and us, a happy ending. For me, this feels like too high a price to pay.

What romance novels have made you feel things that seem at odds with your own personal beliefs? And what did you do once you realized it?

Photo credits:
"I need feminism": ThinkBannedThoughts blog

Next time on RNFF
Working Class Feminism: Cara McKenna's After Hours


  1. Thanks for this post! I haven't read To Love and to Cherish, although I would like to now. Painting a rapist as pure villain is very problematic. One, it's factually inaccurate. Given how common sexual assault is, it's impossible that all rapists are purely bad men. The problem with depicting them as such is that 1) "normal" men don't see themselves as capable of rape, because they perceive themselves to be good people, 2) many rape survivors don't feel entitled to call what happened to them rape because their abuser is a "good guy," and 3) friends, family and observers don't define an event as rape if the rapist is a "good guy," so they blame or refuse to believe the survivor instead.

    As difficult as it is to read stories in which we feel a measure of sympathy for the rapist, or in which the survivor feels that sympathy, it's essential to understanding the reality of sexual assault. As a reader, it does make me uncomfortable, but that's because sexual assault is complex and difficult, and it's uncomfortable to really look at that.

    1. Rebecca:

      Wow, your idea that it is problematic to portray rapists as pure villains, and your reasons explaining why this, are really important, and worth thinking about in more detail. I've seen this issue (men thinking they're good guys, so they can't be rapists) portrayed in YA lit (Chris Lynch's INEXCUSABLE); I can't think of any comparable romances, though. More often the hero ends up beating up the rapist on the heroine's behalf...

      You're also making me think about how much the "rape is not about sex, it's about power" line frustrates me, because it refuses to engage with the complexities of the crime, and the motivations behind it, especially the ways that power and sex can become linked together.

  2. I haven't read To Love and To Cherish, but it strikes me that Anne's response to the rape, though difficult to read, is believable in the context of the book. There's obviously complicated and painful history between Anne and Geoffrey, which would make the assault feel more ambiguous and maybe justified to those involved, if not to readers, who can be more objective. The historical context adds another dimension, in which Anne, who has violated many expectations of a "good wife" and a "proper lady," might well be half anticipating some retribution, whether human or divine.

    I'd be interested to read this book and see for myself how the story plays out.

    1. Teresa:

      Your comment that Anne's response to the rape is believable would work for me, if I felt that the book itself encouraged me as a reader to think differently about it than Anne does. What makes it feel problematic for me is that I can't find that opening in the text; I have to forcibly make it myself, read against the text to do it.

      Will be interested to hear your thoughts about the book if you have a chance to read it...

  3. It's one thing for a rapist to not be portrayed as pure villan because sure, real people are nuanced and I want to read about nuanced characters.

    But these sorts of stories' attempts to induce sympathy or forgiveness for the rapists - be it on the part of characters or the readers - freaks me out. That's triggery for me. I don't want to read anything sympathetic about rapists. I battle rape-apologists day in and day out on social media...when I curl up with a book, I want to escape, not be smacked yet again with anything that reeks of rape being forgivable or excusable.

    If rape is in a book, I want it to be portrayed as evil and unforgivable. I'm fine with a lot of nuance as to what leads to the rape, but in a romance for me there's a clear line between a man who can be brought to the point of decision to rape or not and decide no versus yes. The man who decides yes cannot be a hero for me. Ever. Under any circumstances. And that very thing is what keeps me from reading as many romances as I'd like. I keep finding rape or rapeyness portrayed as not so bad and it makes me want to hide and cry.

    I contrast that with non-romances I really like, such as the Richard Sharpe books, where Sharpe either kills or beats the crap out of rapists. He's a hero. I want to read about guys like him: angsty, self-doubting, but in the end very clear that Rape Is Evil and being unwilling to tolerate it, not even against his enemies. It's hardly that Sharpe is a feminist: he exists in the Napoleonic era and is a product of his time through and through. But I'll take him any day over any supposedly romantic story where rape is excusable even for one moment.

    1. Kimberly:

      Given what I've read on your blog, I can totally understand your wish not to read about rape being condoned or apologized for in any way. In TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH (spoiler alert...)

      Geoffrey immediately goes and kills himself after committing the rape against Anne. He realizes that it is wrong, and the author has him kill himself off as fit justice for his crime. So by your paradigm, would this make him a hero of sorts? I do think the text portrays this act as heroic in some ways.

      Not as fond as you are of the heroes who beat the crap out of the men who rape their women; feels too much like male homosocial behavior, where the woman is just an object through which the two men mediate their own power relationships.

      Have you read Courtney Milan's THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR? A very different take on how a woman who has been sexually abused might respond...

    2. I would not say his suicide makes him heroic, no. Seems like shirking responsibility for his crime at that point.

      And I didn't say anything about men beating people who rape "their" women. Not anything of the sort, because I too find that possessive and icky. Rather, I like Sharpe because he and his friends simply do not tolerate rape by anyone under any circumstances. He'll hang his own men for it. He may turn a blind eye to his hungry men stealing a chicken out of a yard (another hangable offense under regulations of the time) but rape is just not allowed, period.

      I like that in a hero. I like it when heroes don't quibble about it.

      Now if only I could have Sharpe books with some actual romance in them, I'd be quite happy.

  4. Kimberly: I think what often happens is that when people feel sympathy for the rapist, our next step is to start questioning the rape survivor. The logic is that if he's not a total villain, then she must have done something to contribute to or encourage the attack, or else why would he have done it?

    A recent example of this is Steubenville. People could not accept that those boys could have done what they did, because they appeared to be such normal, upstanding people. They had friends and families and a future, and it just didn't jibe with our cultural view of the rapist as sneering villain. Seeing that these boys were "good," people immediately turned to the survivor and blamed her. In addition to the misogyny at work there, I think this was due in part to our cultural inability to see how complicated rape can be.

    I too have a visceral reaction to rape in literature and I want the perpetrators to be punished. The problem, in my view, is that when we depict rape in such black and white terms, it negatively impacts survivors whose lived experience of rape is complicated. Many sexual abusers are family members of the abused, or close friends or members of the community who are respected and loved. They can't easily be dismissed as villains, and so survivors and their communities can't see them as rapists, and so the crime is not called rape.

    Rape itself is evil, and it is never, never excusable. The rape survivor is not to blame, and no matter who the rapist is, or what his reasons are, it is not the survivor's fault. But I think we need to come to this conclusion in the context of what rapists look like in real life. Statistically speaking, rapists are usually "normal" men. These men can be people we love. They can be people who have done good things in their lives. The situation itself can be murky and complicated. And it is still rape. And it's still inexcusable. And it's still a crime. And the consequences for the survivor are devastating and lifelong.

    I never want to see rape justified in a story, and I personally never want to see a hero who rapes and then goes on to "win" the heroine. But I do want to see stories that reflect the true experience of survivors, so that they don't compare the clear-cut depictions they see in stories to their own experience and then decide that what happened to them was not rape, or that since what happened to them was not clear-cut, it must be their fault. It is never their fault.

    One way to deal with this issue in romance, I think, is to show the real consequences of rape. A common complaint is that many romance novels throw in a sexual assault as a way to add drama or false character depth, but don't realistically explore the ways rape impacts the heroine's sense of herself and her body, her relationships, her family life, her struggle with intimacy, etc. If we really did sit with these consequences in our books, it would be clear how evil rape is. We could see that even in what appears to be a murky situation, a rape is still a rape, and in order to recover from it, we and the heroine have to call it what it is and acknowledge the true impact it has on every aspect of a woman's life. It is a devastating, life-altering event.

    The problem is, these kinds of meditations are not very pleasurable, and since a lot of people do read romance for pleasure (myself included) they're not always welcome in the genre. It's a bit of a catch-22. The sneering villain who rightfully gets his comeuppance is a very compelling story. In the short term, it's much more satisfying to read about. My concern is that, in the long term, this depiction does more harm to survivors than good.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca, for your eloquence and compassion. Yes, depictions of rape trauma are definitely not what people tend to think of when they think of "romance novel." And reading a story with the "rapist as total villain" trope is not a problem in itself; it can be really compelling, as you note. The problem is when there are no other patterns, no other examples, in the genre, so readers end up thinking that this is the one, RIGHT way to think about rape. It's hard to see yourself when the mirror continually faces in just one direction.

      I think it could be deeply romantic for a romance hero to be shown being there for a woman who is struggling to deal with the aftermath of being violated; a different kind of "falling in love," for sure, but surely not beyond the possible?

    2. Indeed, Rebecca, I'm fine with rapists being portrayed as nuanced humans. In fact I'd find sheer black-or-whiteness to be unsatisfactory to read.

      But the act itself I don't ever want to read as anything other than negative for the reasons you list. My supposed best friend called me a slut after I was date raped and that wasn't even a term back then. I know what it is to be held accountable as a victim so when I read a book, the last thing I want is for the reader to be given leeway to do that as well.

      That being said, I fully expect people around the victim to treat her like that. Sadly, that's part of the normalcy of the whole thing. I daresay if I read about a rape in a book and all of the victim's friends and acquaintances were entirely supportive and sympathetic, that'd be quite the fantasy world indeed. But even there, I don't want to read a book where those people acting like that is something the reader is supposed to sympathize with.

    3. Perhaps the goal for a writer, then, should be to include a variety of reactions from others? To show both how many people still continue to engage in the "blaming the victim" game, even while others have become more sensitized to rape's causes and consequences?

  5. Pardon me -- I addressed that comment to Kimberly because her thoughtful post got me thinking. But it's really just general ideas about the topic.

    Best wishes, Rebecca

  6. I would find it really difficult to excuse rape in a male MC in a romance. The problem is, while it's possible to write it in a way that I might be able to live with -- historical setting (it wouldn't work for me in a contemporary), a couple who already know and have slept with each other, a recognition on the man's part that he had overstepped, and not just groveling but some meaningful action to acknowledge how he's wronged her and that he can be trusted in the future -- I might well feel that he still hadn't redeemed himself and therefore not be able to root for their happy ending and/or feel that a woman who reconciled with her rapist under those circumstances was either delusional or didn't process what had happened as rape, which undermines the narrative if the act is in fact presented as rape instead of rape fantasy or roleplay.

    Or, to put it another way, a reaction on her part that is at odds with how women react to rape in the real world when the text presents what happened as rape can only tend to undermine the believability of the narrative about the rape, which makes us question our conclusion that that the sex was non-consensual. I think this is at least part of what Rebecca is getting at. And like Kimberly, I'd rather not read novels that have these problematic aspects to them.

    However, I am equally troubled by the solution of a hero beating up or killing the rapist. (I realize the Sharpe books aren't romances, but I'm sure there are romances where the male MC does this kind of thing.) If his actions amount to after-the-fact vigilantism rather than justifiable defense of others (i.e., at the time of the rape), that bothers me. Putting the woman out of the rapist's reach (assuming the law is no help) is heroic; proving in the court of public opinion that the man is a predator is heroic. Killing someone in cold blood or beating the crap out of him, no matter how deserved, is not something I can cheer or view as heroic. I'm sure my legal training colors my feelings in this regard.

    Some readers like this so-called "forced seduction" trope. Some appreciate it because it can be hot; some find consent on behalf of the character in her reactions or inner thoughts despite resistance or saying no; some appreciate the way it gives them and/or the character permission to enjoy themselves without having to say yes. I'm sure there are other reasons. I seriously doubt any of them would work for me, but it's not my place to police what other readers like.

    I suspect that the fated mate trope in paranormals wouldn't work for me either because of the consent issues unless the narrative convinces me that the characters (or maybe even just one character) had some control over the existence of the soul bond. I've read m/m where the relationship came first, with the pair bond being invoked later and thereby legitimizing their relationship. (The problem was as much if not more that one was human while the other was a shifter than that they both were men.)

    Use of this trope outside of a romance is less problematic to me, although even then I find it hard to see a woman reconciling with her rapist in any way unless it could truly be painted as a misunderstanding, and even then I would probably object to it in a contemporary because it comes too close to denying that a rape happened.

    I believe part of the problem is the use of the term "hero" to describe the male MC. Use of the terms "hero" and "heroine" not only elevates romantic love over everything else and cheapens the meaning of heroism. Falling in love is something people do all over the world everyday. Let's stop making heroes (and I'm using the single gender term here deliberately) out of them for it.

    1. Some of the best romances coming out today are deeply invested in exploring the nature of consent. I'm off to write today's post about one of them, Cara McKenna's AFTER HOURS...

  7. There are some m/m romances that explore the nature of consent as well. Oddly (or tellingly) enough, the only m/m stories (not necessarily romances) I've read with consent issues that are glossed over or excused were written by gay men, not women.

    1. Any specific books you'd recommend that feature such explorations, lawless?

    2. There are a number of books, most dealing with BDSM, that deal with an MC breaking away from and dealing with a prior abusive relationship. Probably the best exploration of the nature of consent I've read is Jaime Samms' Fix This, Sir, which falls into this category. What I particularly like about it is that in the end, the physical therapist and Dom who winds up bringing his wheelchair-bound patient home realizes that good intentions are not enough; in the end, even though his patient moved in with him of his own free will, his patient needed to be the one to initiate his choices in order to be able to heal fully.

      Other books dealing with issues of consent in the aftermath of abusive relationships include Good Boy by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock (BDSM), Fettered by Lyn Gala (BDSM), Better and Finders, Keepers by Jaime Samms, the latter of which is an earlier book in the same series as Fix This, Sir (both BDSM), Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan, where the current relationship is BDSM but the prior abusive relationship was not and the consent issues have to do with autonomy and the MC's OCD; the Impulse series by Amelia C. Gormley (Inertia, Acceleration, and Velocity), where the abuse has more to do with the ex manipulating one of the characters into unprotected sex rather than BDSM, although there are BDSM elements to the MCs' relationship, and Camwolf by J.L. Merrow, which deals with werewolves.

      Snow on the Mountain and The Rare Event by P.D. Singer (sexual harassment in the workplace), The Island by Lisa Henry (MC is a prisoner of a drug dealer and gunrunner the other MC wishes to do business with), Out of Balance and Gathering Storm by Lyn Gala (both BDSM), Screwing the System by Josephine Myles (BDSM), Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (negotiation of what sex acts one MC is willing to engage in), and A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan (past child sexual abuse by the other MC's father) also deal with consent issues.

      As for werewolf stories, which I tend to read sparingly. Midnight in Berlin by J.L Merrow shows a consensual sexual relationship, but one MC turns the other MC into a werewolf non-consensually after he makes the mistake of assuming that he's a werewolf and brings him back to his pack. The book mentioned in my previous comment in which a werewolf turns a human with his consent in order to establish a pair bond that will keep him safe from the rest of the pack is Unacceptable Risk by Kaje Harper.

    3. Whoops, I forgot to mention some non-traditional vampire stories by my favorite m/m author, Jordan Castillo Price: her series Channeling Morpheus (ten books worth, but they're all novellas in the 10,000 to 20,000 word range) and her standalone Hemovore. There the consent issues have to do with healtha nd contamination (both feature vampire/human pairs in which the vampire does his best not to infect the human even though he has incomplete information about transmission pathways. Hemovore in particular draws obvious but non-heavy-handed parallels to HIV/AIDS). I love that Castillo Price never takes the easy way out and usually puts a fresh twist or interpretation on what she writes.

      Channeling Morpheus is straight-out erotic romance with plot and characterization; in Hemovore, the sex doesn't occur until the very end. Be warned; there's a threesome in books one and six of Channeling Morpheus, although it's clear that the MCs are committed to each other.

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  9. Though I read this book several years ago, I cannot recall feeling sympathy for Geoffrey other than what I would feel for anyone who is lost as to the effort necessary to match desires to outcomes.

    I remember viewing this book as the tale of Anne's journey beyond the self-loathing that was grounded in her relationship with her father and husband. I thought her frustrations with Christy's relationship with his church and God reflected a frustration with her limited view of her own worth. Her response to the rape and Geoffrey's death were the catalysts that forced her to transcend her old self-view and allowed her to commit to a life that integrated love, community and some sense of personal spirituality. If this book showed a struggle toward transcendence and a spiritual reconciliation, then Anne came to fully repudiate her view that she deserved punishment. I appreciated that she did not struggle alone because Christy's views on balancing a spiritual and an earthly life also matured.

    Perhaps my take on To Love was influenced by reading the next book in the series (To Have and To Hold) before I read this one. It will be interesting to read To Love again with your view in the back of my mind. Just as we cannot cross the same stream twice, life changes and feedback from others changes the experience of a book.

    And, as you are on the topic of books depicting rape, To Have and To Hold has a rape scene that's been hotly debated by bloggers. I usually avoid fiction depicting rape or any form of violence intended to harm both body and psyche. I read for exploration of personal transformation and I thought both To Love... and To Have... showed people with a fractured sense of self learning to become more fully present. But I struggle with fiction that uses rape as a catalyst for transformation. While even the most heinous experience can begin a journey of positive transformation, I feel fictional depictions of rape run the risk of desensitizing us to its horror. The transformation pay-off has to be big for me to keep reading past the violence.

  10. Kathryn:

    Thanks for adding your thoughts on Geoffrey and Anne to the mix. I agree that the primary thrust of the book is to depict Anne's growth away from self-loathing. But the catalyst for her change didn't seem to me be the rape or Geoffrey's death, but rather the miraculous saving of Christy and the Welsh miner after the mine cave-in. The rape almost gets erased in the wake of this dramatic plot climax. I'd have to go back to the book to doublecheck this, but I don't remember a specific moment after she is reunited with Christy in which Anne repudiates the idea that she was being punished. I wonder if the idea is implied, though, by the fact that Anne engages sexually with Christy fairly soon after she's been raped, suggesting that she doesn't feel sullied by the attack? I thought it was so odd that she trusted the typically lying Geoffrey when he said that she couldn't become sick because of the rape, because his syphilis was no longer contagious. She went ahead and had sex with Christy without even consulting a doctor about it...

    TO HAVE AND TO HOLD isn't available through my library system, so I'll have to wait until the e-book version comes out (in June, I think?) to wade in on that one. Yeah, rape as a catalyst for personal transformation is not a pretty trope, is it? Desensitization indeed...

    1. Yes, I will definitely have to re-read. Odd that I didn't recall the mine incident, given that I was an occupational safety and health professional before I retired. But I recalled that rape. And I remember looking up whether or not tertiary syphilis was still infectious because I was so disturbed by her acceptance of Geoffrey's claim. As you say, not a pretty trope and it has the power to overwhelm other aspects of a story.

  11. sorry for my bad english, I'm learningSeptember 10, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    I was watching Outlander this week, and loving the show, so I started reading Diana Gabaldon's book to know whats gonna happen in the next episodes.


    In the plot, before getting married to the "hero", Claire, the protagonist, is a great female character, a smart woman, who enjoys having sex (she even asks for oral sex for a previous partner. and receives it. She is happy, she is free, she has a job, she had a great childhood). Jamie, the ''hero'', is a virgin guy who seems to respect her, and the book made us really like him. Their first sexual date is consensual and nice. Everything was alright. but...

    Unfortunately, after some pages, their relationship goes so wrong. First, he beats her. And she forgives him agreeing that 'he was right in being mad with her, because she made a mistake' (!!!!). Then, he enjoys being called 'sadist' assuming he really liked to punish her. Then he rapes her. She asks him to stop because he was hurting her and he continues. He says over and over again ''I can do what I want with you whenever I want because you belong to me". I know it could be seen as ''romantic'' in another context (controversial), but never associated with pain, 'please stop', 'i dont want to'. It was rape. The book show this as ''love''. Claire is ok with it. She says she loves him many times, but he never says that to her. She says she is happier than ever. The whole thing suggests the reader should feel sympathy for Jamie and understand his actions.
    It ruined the book to me. I stopped reading. I don't know if I wanna continue to watch the tv show either (maybe the screenwriter can change this). I was disgusted. I started reading seeking for love, romance, not violence, misogyny and rape culture.