I haven’t kept up with all the posts and comments around the blogosphere, but I still wanted to touch on a few—I’m talking about the rape in romance discussion spurred on (I think) by Robin’s review of Claiming the Courtesan at Dear Author. There was further discussion with Jane’s post, A Reader in the Middle.
Jenny Crusie defends the right of writers to write books that she doesn’t want to read. And, also, touches on what rape fantasy is:
To bar rape from romance is to bar a very common fantasy for women. (If “rape fantasy” makes you twitch, try “surrender fantasy” or “lack of responsibility fantasy” or “Alan Rickman Showed Up At My Front Door and Even Though I’m Happily Married With Two Kids He Ravished Me and There Was Nothing I Could Do About It fantasy.”) Very few women fantasize about being attacked in a parking garage by an overweight drug addict with a bad skin rash and an STD. It’s always somebody gorgeous who smells good: Russell Crowe/Brad Pitt/Daniel Craig/Sex Object of Your Choice Here. It is, in short, a fantasy, and women know that.
Laurie Gold also commented on this, not so much in terms of rape, but of BDSM and extreme alpha heroes.
In a strong sense these stories feed into the same fantasy as the bodice-rippers and forced seduction of years past, which, as we know plays into the fantasy of being forced to accept pleasure. Women are generally the caretakers of the world – yes, we are the ones who eat the heels of a loaf of bread – and we often have a hard time accepting our own sexual needs as they can seem “selfish”. So for many, the idea of a dominant hero forcing us to be pleasured works.
In general, I will say that rape fantasy or the extreme alpha male hero doesn’t work for me. Too often in this type of book I get distracted by how, in real life, I would be running for the hills from this type of guy, no matter how hot he was. However, there are paranormal exceptions, because the ground rules of the world are changed. In Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, the lychae hero has been tortured for decades and is half-insane before he meets his mate. He’s no rapist, Cole makes that clear, but he comes on very strong.