To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{October 30, 2010}   Sex and fiction, or, no wonder I’m neurotic.

So, I was reading this sci fi novel — a really good sci fi novel, that except for this bit I’d rec to anyone. Even on a social level I loved it — the level of racism, sexism, etc. There are a few minor things that I never would have noticed if I hadn’t been so involved in these things lately, but even then — I was pretty impressed! The book is really a joy to read. I want to stress that, because I’m about to bitch about part of it. 😉

Anyway, I was reading this book that I love (except for the quibble I’ll tell you about any minute now),  and then I hit this bit. Let me set the scene: Our Hero is an ex-military guy, under 28, who is Heroic. Our Heroine is 19, and pretty awesome.  They are slowly making googly eyes at each other. (Okay, sort of.) Our Heroine is talking to another character, Pam (another of Our Heroines, actually — it’s a large cast), about Our Hero.  Pam says the following:

“Just a warning — if you do start radiating make-a-move signals and Mike does try something, it’s not going to be a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek he has in mind, you know. Not that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, but he might be really pissed off if you suddenly got cold feet.”(1)

Later in the book, they do a little more than make googly eyes at each other, and she does call it off.

[Scene opens with:]

“I can’t! I’m sorry, so sorry!” (2)
[cue description of what’s going on, because that was the scene opener]
“Look, it’s OK!”
No it isn’t,
he thought, and his voice probably gave the words the lie.(3) [cue her apologizing again, him reassuring her and telling her to go back to camp.]
“Signe, I said head on down.
He waited until her footsteps had faded in the darkness before he drew his sword and looked at the twisted stump at the foot of the rock that blocked off the view to the west.
“Is it worth the risk to the blade?” he murmured. “Yes.” A pause for thought. “Hell yes.”
Then he spent twenty minutes of methodical ferocity hacking the hard sun-dried wood into matchstick splinters. (4)
[end scene]

Now, let me just take a look at what I learned:

(1) It is expected that men would be pissed if you start making out and say ‘no,’ even if you don’t want sex when you start making out. Not only expected, but okay. Women should be warned of this, because it will be their fault. Furthermore, if you’re making out with a man they will expect sex, not just making out, and saying no will make them pissed off. See above.

(2) Saying no is cause for extreme anxiety, and women should feel really bad about doing it.

(3) Even if a man says it’s okay, he’ll be lying. It’s not okay to say no.

(4) Saying no will result in you being sent away because the guy can’t stand to look at you, due to the fact that he is so turned on (which, again, is your fault for not going through with it). Furthermore, the man will be so upset that he has to do violence to anything that’s around.

Now, the thing is, this trope isn’t uncommon. In fact, our stories are rife with it. And I shouldn’t say ‘men’ because in my mind, it’s always ‘whoever you are with.’ I still have problems saying no to Q, even though she’s never given me any indication she wishes I would say yes. (That’s what vibrators are for, but apparently Our Heroes have broken hands and can’t just jack off.) (In a related note, have I mentioned lately how awesome Q is about my occasional moments of flailing? Because she’s been so awesome and the pressure is off that I need to Get Better Now/Be Perfect Now, I’ve been able to just relax and enjoy myself, and my moments of flailing are getting milder, fewer, and farther between.)

There is something seriously wrong with our culture, that this is the norm. That this is what we’re teaching people. Both for men and women — what guy wants to know that he should be this upset about a woman saying no, that he should be so incredibly into it that he’d be angry or in pain if you couldn’t just make out?

I’ve heard the feminist concept that all sex is rape, and I don’t agree with it at all. However, I read things like this and I understand it. How can you say that sex is consensual when we’re taught that saying no will result in bad things happening? *sighs* It’s very frustrating.

On the other hand, it’s making me a one woman army. I write romance novels, as I think you all know, and I’m very aware of my sex scenes and when my heroes are pushing — and therefore aware to make them not push. I once read a novel by Jude Deveroux, one of my favorite romance authors (because her heroes are guys I just want to hug), and her heroine was a romance novel author. There was a period of time where the “in” thing for heroes was to have them rape the heroines. Supposedly it showed how studly and masculine they were. So in this book, the Heroine (an author) tells her editor, “But he can’t rape the heroine! He’s the good guy!” Or something similar. I nearly killed myself laughing, because I always thought the same thing — and I so very much suspected that was a discussion Jude and her editor had had.

Anyway. Sex is fucked up in our culture, you know that? Have any of you read Twilight? Did you know that it, and many many many many other YA books, romanticize being stalked, emotionally abused, and in other books physically abused? In the Twilight series, he stalks her, climbs into her room to stand over her bed, tells her who she can and can’t be friends with, yells at her, and in other similar books there’s that — and even pushing, kidnapping, etc. And people say, “But it’s okay, because it’s love.” I’m sorry, but love is NOT abuse. It is not stalking, screaming, pushing, or controlling.  It is listening, trusting, accepting, and stepping back when someone asks. And yet, we’re teaching our young women that this is okay, if the guy says he loves you.

*sighs* There’s a whole host of other authors who have spoken about this far more eloquently than I feel I can, and I can dig up links for anyone who asks. (Of note, though, I’d recommend Bookshop, who is a book blogger and very good.)

I really love the book I’m reading. The bit that I copied out is probably the worst written, and out of character to be honest. This is such a good book, and I was so sad to see that. (Though out of, so far, 300 pages that’s the only bit that’s really dinged my bell. There were other minor things — there always are — but nothing else that really got me.)

Hmm. Maybe I ought to make my next writing column about this. 😉



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