Friday, 13 April 2012

Seduction, Rape and the Alpha Hero - Are we too PC for serious Alpha males?

Note: Links will take you to the books mentioned or typical. As some comments constitute spoilers I leave it to your discretion as to whether you click. The link for Violet Winspear will take you to romancewiki.

Violet Winspear wrote 70 romance novels for Mill's and Boon from 1961 to 1987. One of the greats of the romance genre, Winspear was vilified when she was quoted as saying her heroes would be capable of rape.

This is what she said:
"I get my heroes so that they're lean and hard muscled and mocking and sardonic and tough and tigerish and single, of course. Oh and they've got to be rich and then I make it that they're only cynical and smooth on the surface. But underneath they're well, you know, sort of lost and lonely. In need of love but, when roused, capable of breathtaking passion and potency. Most of my heroes, well all of them really, are like that. They frighten but fascinate. They must be the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it's dangerous to be alone in the room with."

In fact I can name two Winspear books off hand where you spend the entire book thinking that the hero had in fact raped the heroine resulting in pregnancy.
Winspear was not alone in this kind of scenario.  Anne Hampson and Margaret Rome wrote quite a number of books with situations where the heroine is reluctant to consummate the arranged or unwanted marriage and is (to put it politely) forced into intimacy against their will. In most cases the heroine is already in love or falling in love with the hero (and vice versa) though may not admit it.  It is usually revealed at some point that the lovemaking was actually not repugnant to the heroine in spite of her often denying this while still rebelling against the hero.
In the case of one of Winspears, the heroine admits that she felt ashamed that she had succumbed to the hero and had been frightened not just of his passion but her own which is why she cried rape.  The other is more problematic but the situation is of a young girl, unawakened ,who loves her guardian but is unsure of him.  When she decides to flee he is overcome with his desire for the young woman he's loved for years and in his anger and fear of losing her he loses control. Justified in the story line by the fact that he loved her and in fact she loved him.  It is more a case of an innocent shocked by the passion of her lover than any physical harm to the heroine.
Now of course you would never ever find this kind of scenario in a modern Harlequin Mills & Boon. Or do you?  I suggest that we do get exactly these scenarios but the different level of show and tell in modern romances allows us to see what happens inside the bedroom. Once we had to imagine the intimacies of the bedroom, tastefully blurred over and relegated to a morning after memory and in the case of a reluctant heroine a usually biased view of the happenings of the night coloured by her resentment at her response to the heroes lovemaking.
Now that we enter the bedroom with the lovers, we see that the reluctant heroine is overcome by the sensual potency of the hero and in fact responds, even though sometimes unwilling still in mind, (rebelling against the hero still! Will these heroines ever learn?).  The heated passion of the alpha male is matched in modern romances by the now acceptable passion of the heroine.  Our modern heroines don't have the disadvantage of believing that passion and desire are somehow "not nice" for "nice" young women.  Which may explain why we never have a modern heroine crying rape. 

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