Tags: mills and boon

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.