24 May 2008, Comments Off on Soon, though, Julia realises that she’s more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin

Soon, though, Julia realises that she’s more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin

Author: Helen

Here’s a real head-scratcher for you: This article, by Elizabeth Farrelly, author of Blubberland.

After following a winding path through contemporary women artists (narcissists), feminists, who have “often wanted it both ways” (contradict themselves, don’t know what they want) and Germaine Greer (“Owns” the subject of feminism and sexuality), Farrelly ends with Mills and Boon and the bodice-ripper genre in general:

In Mills & Boon-land, they want to be wanted so much that neither the rampant male nor the unwilling female can keep the passion in check. The romance is there, but it is there to eroticise the sex. As writer Julie Bindel notes, there is “in every book a scene where the heroine is ‘broken in’, both emotionally and physically, by the hero”.

This is the origin of the rape fantasy, the urge to be “cavemanned”, which most women feel now and then. Traditional feminists such as Bindel deplore it as misogynistic propaganda while “pro-sex” post-feminists such as Daisy Cummins (herself an M&B author) find it intensely enjoyable. Two hundred million readers, mostly female, think she’s right.

Both are wrong- denial on the one hand, subjugation on the other. And both are right. There are evolutionary “reasons” for the rape fantasy- for the female to be overpowered inclines her to the strongest sperm, and the strongest offspring. So Cummins versus Bindel might be seen less as a problem requiring resolution than the age-old clash between our propelling primate brain and our civilising neo-cortex, to be seen, understood and even enjoyed.

Yet another demonstration, then, that most things, thank God power and sex included- are more complicated than they seem. To give is also to receive, to oppress is also to be oppressed.

I don’t really know what this has to do with the main premise of the article, which is that women visual artists are narcissists – is it something to do with taking these narcissistic women down a peg? And the two quoted writers are not exactly the alpha and omega of world feminism and its many ideas on sexuality, are they?

I cringe when I think how hurtful and insulting this stuff must be for women who have actually been raped, but I also want to draw your attention to the way Farrelly oh-so-casually drops “evolutionary reasons” into that paragraph. As many people will know who read academic, science and feminist blogs, EvPsych is a stream of academic thought which is beleaguered with badly designed studies, bias, long-bow-drawing and the fictional “just-so stories”, as some people call them. It doesn’t seem as rife here in the Australian media as it is in the US, where every second lifestyle article seems to want to justify gender constructs as originating from life on the “savannah” or something to do with mammoths or sabre-tooth tigers – most originating from a second-hand reading of studies which were discredited years ago.

It’s not a good sign that another strain of pseudoscientific garbage is creeping into the Australian arena. Just another wheelbarrowload of shit for Australian feminists to shovel.

To say, as one M&B writer does, that “I imagine in all women, deep down inside us, is a primitive desire to be arrogantly bullied”, is not to voice some deep unacknowledged sociological truth. It’s a manifestation of a need for psychological help, however much it might give her the edge in rape-fiction writing.

As for Farrelly’s concluding sentence,

It’s the kind of paradox that absolutely characterises woman, which is why male orthodoxy has always found her so threatening. Hence the burqa, the witch-hunt, the ducking stool. But my question, for all those oppressors out there, is this. If we’re the cat meat, who’s the pussy?

Definitely a head-scratcher. But I’m still going to avoid the seraglio, thanks.

The title is from the article linked above.

Comments (0)

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    > “I only shake hands with members of the same sex.”
    > …
    > This exchange is so unremarkable that few of us,
    > including Carole, would give it a second thought.

    excuse me? I am very glad I do not live in a society
    where this is unremarkable. And the article is clearly
    worthless in more than just this regard.

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    Another comment: All of us have a part that is drawn to strong leadership. It’s a very dirty secret, especially since the events of the 1850’s to 1950’s. For women it is sexualised – hence M&B. For men, it’s just a secret.

  • JahTeh says:

    After a steady diet of Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland, I was given my first bodice ripper and absolutely hated it. I went back to the witty banter of GH and the pure love of BC and I wasn’t expecting anything in those books to happen in real life, it just made me happy to read them.

  • JahTeh says:

    I went back and read that article a second time and it made less sense.

  • Laura says:

    I have a lot of time for Elizabeth Farrelly’s work in general so I’ll just say that if I ever have the opportunity to meet her I will be happy to explain exactly what the words “rape fantasy” do to my head.

  • Helen says:

    I agree in principle with her other articles about over-consumption, although I think other peoples’ criticisms that she’s a bit high handed about it are justified. But it is a hard choice we, as a society, have to make.

    Another comment: All of us have a part that is drawn to strong leadership. It’s a very dirty secret, especially since the events of the 1850’s to 1950’s. For women it is sexualised – hence M&B. For men, it’s just a secret.

    That’s a very perceptive comment. The male variant would be the alpha male’s vassal, or something, as opposed to his vessel. Ahem.

  • JM says:

    “in every book a scene where the heroine is ‘broken in’, both emotionally and physically, by the hero”.”

    Which is not surprising. M&B are written to a formula. When you sign up to be an M&B author they send you a little pack which includes instructions on the formula, covering plot structure, essential scenes and when they should appear, level of erotic content etc. That scene is *mandated* by the publisher.

  • Helen says:

    Yes. My mum knows someone who writes the things. Which is a hoot, since my mum tends to befriend lovely Anglican churchy ladies who wear navy blue skirts, floral shirts with a round collar, and sensible sandals.

  • Laura says:

    How did you know what I’m wearing today?? Now that is truly eerie.

  • Ariel says:

    I’m afraid I found that book pretty woolly all round – started it but couldn’t finish it. It’s not that she didn’t have some good points (over-consumption being one) but that it seemed to be argued in such a round-in-circles, meandering-to-the point, kind of fashion.

    But ye-ees, these excerpts are dodgy for another reason.

    Head-scratcher indeed.

  • Helen says:

    Laura and Ariel, I’m sure you could write completely kick-ass M&B. (If that’s not an oxymoron). Nice little earner. Laura could do the period ones.

  • Ariel says:

    Hee hee. It is an oxymoron but a good one! I like the idea of a choose-your-own adventure romance. You know, you either make choices that lead to the sensible one you should be in love with or the charming Heathcliff type character. Oops, I’ve given it too much thought already …

  • Helen says:

    No, I think you’re onto a good little earner there.

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