Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On "Coerced Seduction."

Anyone remember the old "bodice rippers" of the 70's and 80's? It seemed that there was a rape scene guaranteed  in almost every one. I've read some particularly horrible ones in my lifetime. One of the worst in my memory is that the hero brutally raped the heroine and then dipped his signet ring in her virgin blood and stamped his "mark" on the sheets for some other guy to see. Yikes!!! Squick!

It is now practically universally agreed in the romance community that it is wrong for the hero to rape the heroine. But the issue still raises debates to this day of why those books featured rape so frequently in the first place. Google "rape in romance novels" The theories are fascinating.

But today there is still a sort of gray area on what is often called "forced seduction" in romances. What is "forced seduction?" As I told a twitterfriend who inquired when I mentioned doing this very post, I and many readers define "forced seduction" as "almost rape but not quite."

Notice, though that I titled the post "Coerced Seduction." Why? Because in my research for this blog I did not run across a clear definition separating forced seduction from rape. One post stated, "use of the word 'force' indicates that is IS rape." Ah, semantics. So I made up my own term.

"Coerced Seduction," in my opinion is anything from flat out blackmail: "Sleep with me and I will give you this" to the whole "no, no, no, YES!" scenario. (I always picture the scene from SPACEBALLS with Dark Helmet playing with his action figures with this one.)

But are these scenarios "okay?" My answer: It all depends on how they are written. Do the characters learn and grow from these experiences, or was it thrown in there to show that the hero is "Alpha" and the heroine just takes it? Women do want to be seduced, and don't want a wimpy guy who stammers as he asks to kiss her on the cheek. There is something flattering about a guy so consumed with passion that he "couldn't help himself." My (now ex) husband actually said that before our first kiss (the "I can't help myself," not the "consumed with passion" bit.) But that was just a kiss. If he'd thrown me on the ground and ripped my clothes off, not only would we not have gotten married, but he'd likely be maimed and in prison.

What inspired this discussion is a misunderstanding between my characters in my current project*. I won't get too detailed here, but the basics are that they hopped into bed together right away (there was a misunderstanding there too) and when a side character hears about it she brings up the question as to whether or not the hero would have raped the heroine if she had said, "no." Don't worry, dear reader, he wouldn't have. I think the point I made was that if you hop into bed with someone you just met, the potential for disastrous misunderstanding is epic.

* That novel is IRONIC SACRIFICE.

Also, what defines the hero being too "forceful" or "coercive" in his seduction? It's not like good sex, in romance novels or real life is planned. How many sexual encounters have you had where the partner actually asks, "please may I make love to you?" (I do have the hero say that in this novel after they hash out the misunderstanding.)

Thoughts, please?

Side note: When looking for an image for this post featuring a lady who appeared reluctant, I came across this one:
 *Sarcastic voice* Hmmm...what's wrong here?


  1. I definitely think a little "coerced" seduction is hot in romance, but brutality and humiliation are not.

    This issue reminds me of the old Popeye cartoons. You know that Brutus would have raped Olive Oyl in every episode if that had been an adult cartoon. Yes, that was random but still kind of relevant. Anyway, that's my two cents.

  2. LOL, I totally forgot his name was Brutus. Apropos much? That totally trumped my Spaceballs reference. :)
    I agree. I loved the excerpt in your blog, btw.

  3. LOL. "Your helmet is sooo big!"

  4. Do you remember the name of the author whose book you referenced in the beginning of this:

    One of the worst in my memory is that the hero brutally raped the heroine and then dipped his signet ring in her virgin blood and stamped his "mark" on the sheets for some other guy to see. Yikes!!! Squick!

    I know I've read this book before. I probably threw it in a corner somewhere, or gave it away after I read it, but I can't for the life of me remember the name or author.

    I'm working on a list for my blog with rape and infidelity in historical romance.

    Thanks in advance for the help.

  5. Yeah, it was The Falcon and The Flower by Virginia Henley. I usually enjoy her books, but that one... not so much.

  6. coerced seductions sounds kinda nice.

  7. I'm all for coerced seduction because the bottom line is the woman still has a choice. The "forced" seduction (just a more PC way of saying rape) used to really make me angry.

    The worst one I ever read was the hero raped the woman, then branded her thigh with his signet ring, and they still ended up married at the end!

  8. That cover is still one of the most... shocking... we've had on our site. I know we're more Politically Correct nowadays, but COME ON. How the heck did THAT cover get past the publishers??? Did they really think that a cover like that was going to stand up to the approval of time?

  9. I really want to read that book just to see how awful it was... I looked it up on Amazon and discovered that it has a different cover. :)

  10. Uh, yeah, I can't imagine that this cover would be... embraced... in today's clime. I'm not puritanical in any way, and am generally not considered PC, but even I can see that this cover was... not well thought out. I'd offer to send you our copy -- but it was a reader submission. :-P

  11. Oh, and you totally got the first cover from our site, didn't you? lol I recognize the creases and folds from my scan. :-P