WARNING: This post discusses forced seduction fantasies in romance books. If the topic upsets you then please don't read it.
Heroes have a tough time of it in Romacelandia. I mean, what do women want? There’s a question for the ages. While the Alpha Male is a perennial favourite there are degrees of acceptability when it comes to primeval behaviour. In ‘Beautiful Disaster’ by Jamie McGuire (a great New Adult read by the way), the hero, Travis, is prone to bouts of insane jealousy and other extreme behaviour. He’s not only been sucker-punched by love but had a messy childhood. His feelings for Abby dominate his world. Generally he gets away with the dash of crazy and lack of control because he knows the fine art of the grovel and by the end of the book he's learnt better. Never underestimate the power of a good grovel. A real man knows when it’s time to appease his woman. I would posit that a hero who cannot reflect upon his dickheadish past doings, apologise and at least try to learn from them is no hero at all (same goes for heroines). A hero must ALWAYS be redeemable or he is not a hero. This point is crucial.
It’s a common fantasy to have a steamy hot male fall so in love with you that all else in his world is reduced to meh. So overcome with your allure is he that possession is the only cure. His love for you is so great that he is out of control. In the real world we call this stalking and kidnapping. It’s scary and illegal. But in romance books we explore this fantasy with Forced Seduction. The hero in some manner forces himself on the heroine, be it kisses or more. With most publishers these days the heroine MUST clearly give consent before penetration. I think we can all agree this is a very good thing. It allows us to explore the fantasy safely. In other words... Oh you beast stop kissing me. Leave my neck alone. Yuck, I don’t even like having my collar bone licked. Don’t you dare touch my boobies! Roughian! Desist I say! Damn it, you've get me all wet. All right then, let’s do it.
Let me make this perfectly clear before we go a step further:
Rape as titillation is wrong. Sexual fantasies are complex and we need to be able to safely explore them. But if a real person in real life says no, then that is that. Got it?
In days of yore, circa the 70’s and 80’s, rape was big in romance. Think 'The Flame and the Flower' by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Good girls weren’t supposed to have sex, let alone enjoy it. It was an effective manner of circumventing these prejudices; think what you will it definitely had its fans. These days, capture fantasies and forced seductions are a little different, courtesy of the rise of BDSM, women’s equality and a whole other bundle of reasons for which I am grateful. When people pick up a romance book, however, they know through long experience that there is a happy ending and that the hero is redeemable. In real life you don’t get those types of guarantees, which is why it can be safer to explore these dynamics in this way.
In romance books, we’re often exploring extreme situations. Sometimes we wander into grey areas. In BDSM people have a safe word to call an immediate halt to all activities. In ‘The Siren’ by Tiffany Reisz (an excellent book I highly recommend) the heroine is in love with a sadist. Sadists like to inflict pain. Coming home with a fat lip, welts and bruises is the norm for this girl. But if she utters her safeword, he will respect it. We are shown this. It allows an awful lot of racy power dynamics to occur while still being explicit that the girl in question has an irremovable right to deny consent. Our hero is redeemed because despite his penchant for violence at the end of the day, he respects her wishes. Mind you, a lot of readers online seem to dislike the character intensely.
In Skin, the sequel to Flesh, Nick keeps Roslyn chained to the bed. It’s a long chain. She can wander around the cabin but go no further. Her liberty is most definitely been infringed upon. She hasn’t agreed to this. What our hero is doing is both wrong and illegal. But this is set Post-Zombie-Apocalypse. There are no police, nor anyone else to come to her rescue. It's odd, I hadn't actually thought of it as a forced seduction until a Crit Partner named it as one. Blazingly obvious however that it is. To try and redeem a man who would go to such extreme lengths to be with a woman was a big challenge for me. It was important to show that Nick would never hurt her and would ultimately always respect her wishes. Roll on 1st February 2013.