Rowena, the woman, is young and slender, with waist- lengthblond hair. She stands over him and shakes her head when his eyes implore herto remove his gag. She strips the towel from him and tries to climb astride hisbody, but he struggles violently and she falls back. She tries again, and thistime his resistance is so strenuous that the entire bed moves along the floor,and his wrists and ankles become smeared with blood. “You stupid man,” she saysto him. “Why cause yourself pain over something you cannot prevent?”
She removes her clothing and tells him that, while he mayfight her, it will do him no good. She begins to caress
A. servant is sent to minister to Warrick’s injuries, tobathe him, feed him and help him with his bodily functions while he remainschained. The next night, his struggles start his wounds bleeding again asRowena visits him three times, coaxing an ejaculation from him on eachoccasion. The following evening, she returns another three times. She examineshim closely, remarks on his body, uses him. Despite the fury that burns in hiseyes, he is powerless to stop her. Not once is he permitted to speak to henLater, Rowena will recall how exhilarating it was to have him completely at hermercy.
On the fourth day, he is released, given a set of clothes andthreatened with death should he ever show his face in the vicinity again. Butthe year is 1152, and Warrick, kidnapped from an inn by bumblers unaware of hisidentity, is an English lord who does return—with his army. He orders Rowenatransported to his castle and locked in the dungeon. Before he leaves, he setsfire to the bed on which he had been confined and gathers up the chains.
After spending three weeks in the dungeon, Rowena is taken toWarrick’s room. He threatens to beat her if she faints and informs her heintends to repay her in kind. After warning her never to interrupt when he’sspeaking to her, he orders her to strip. He assures her that, should he notfind her sufficiently arousing, there’s nothing stopping him from having asmany as ten of his men rape her while he looks on. As she undresses, shewatches him positioning
242 THEPRINCESS AT THE WINDOW
Gradually her trepidation subsides as he begins to coax asexual response from her. He caresses her gently, persistently. She begins toarch against him. His touch becomes rougher. When he enters her, her eyes flyopen to see the triumph in his. “Now you know how it feels to have no controlof a traitorous body,” Warrick says to her. “You made me want this, despite myfury, so I have made you want it, despite your fear.”2 Soon she is screaming inorgasm. Afterward, she thinks it inconceivable that she found anythingpleasurable in such an experience.
Hours later, Warrick returns to the room where Rowena hasremained bound and gagged. When she closes her eyes to block him out, he ordersher to look at him. “Whenever you are in my presence, wench,” he says, “youwill look at me unless I tell you otherwise. Do not make me repeat it.”3 She isforced to do so as a servant feeds her and attends to her other needs, but shemanages to look through him rather than at him. He punishes her by havingintercourse with her again.
The next morning, he takes her before she is fully awake.Twice more he returns. The following day, its the same. On the fourth; she isreleased from the chains, but Warrick has a reputation for exacting revenge inexcess of the crimes committed against him. Rowena, who belongs to. the upperclass, is now dressed in the clothing of a servant. She is told that she is torefer to him as “my lord” and will be whipped if she fails to comply. She isnow his personal attendant, required to wait on him during meals in the dininghall, clean his room and launder his clothes.
She is ordered to prepare Warrick’s bath and told to
undress him. When she recoils against removing his lowergarments, he threatens to chain her to the bed again, and so she sinks to herknees as commanded. “‘Tis quite satisfying, seeing you in that tumbledposition,” he says. “Mayhap I will have you serve me at table just so.”4
She is forced to wash and then dryhim. “On your knees again,” he says. “And take care, wench, that you do notmiss a single drop of moisture. Do I catch a chill because of your negligence,I will beat you for it.” While she isperforming these tasks, however, it becomes clear they are both sexuallyaroused. When she balks, he tells her it’s his right to have sex with hisservants “at any time, in any place.”5
Hedrags her to the bed and uses his superior strength to keep her there. Then hekisses and caresses her ‘relentlessly until, overcome with sexual hunger, sheshames herself by obeying his command to beg him to take her.
Afterward, Warrick taunts her by remindingher of her capitulation and she thinks, “All the power was his. He had controlover her body, control over her emotions, control over everything she did. Shecould not even get angry without his leave, for he knew well enough how tofrighten the anger out of her,”6 He pulls her onto his lap in the dining hailand, in front of everyone, touches her intimately and then orders her to waitfor him in his bed. He humiliates, her by giving his daughters the fine gownsthat had once belonged to her. He tells her she is stupid. Even when she comesto him willingly, he restrains her hands during love-making.
The above narrative isn’t found ina pornographic video produced by chauvinists and then rented from seedytriple-X outlets by male sex offenders. Nor has it been stopped at the borderand examined by customs agents before being allowed into Canada, despite itsblatant domination and’ submission theme. Rather, all of the above takes placein a romance novel written by a woman for other women.
As we’ve seen earlier, feminism has been heavily influencedby people such as Catharine MacKinnon, who insists that “pornography, in thefeminist view, is a form of forced sex.”27 According to the Violence Panel,pornography is one of a number of under-acknowledged “forms of violence”against women. This report says that while
Other people considerthe fact that sexually explicit material has been found in the home of serialrapists—or that a few of these criminals have declared, in a new twist on"the devil made me do it" defence, that porn caused their horrificbehaviour—to be evidence of a link between crime and porn.
According to feminist anti-porn activists there’s only oneway to interpret a photograph depicting a woman restrained and gagged. Thenotion that it might be harmless
Such thinking extends beyond feminist circles, In whatis known as the Butler decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1992 thatpornographic materials that place Women “in positions of subordination, servilesubmission or humiliation” violate “the principles of equality and dignity ofall human beings.” It further proclaimed that “[c]onsent cannot save materialsthat otherwise contain degrading or dehumanizing scenes” since, in its opinion,“[s]ometimes the very appearance of consent makes the depicted acts even moredegrading or dehumanizing.”33
Referring to the findings of the controversialAmerican Meese Commission investigation into pornography, among others, thecourt said that since “a substantial body of opinion” considers such materialto be harmful to women, it isn’t necessary to actually prove this. In thecourt’s view, not just feminists but the Canadian public in general considersthis sort of porn dangerous.34 As aresult, such material (when it appears in gay publications, men’s magazines orexplicit videos-but not elsewhere, apparently) is illegal in this country.
In order to come to such a decision, though, Canada’shighest judicial body first had to arrive at a moralistic judgment. There’s nolaw against tying up another consenting adult and having sex with them. There’sno law against role-playing sexual fantasies in which one partner kisses the
Next, the court accepted the argument put forward bythe feminist Legal Education Action Fund (whose brief was co-authored byMacKinnon) that this is an issue of male freedom of speech versus
Such ideas should give any thinking woman pause,because underlying them is the notion that no self-respecting female would havethe slightest interest in sexual fantasies that involve power struggles. Thecourt seems convinced that no healthy woman would fantasize about chaining agorgeous man to the bed and having her way with him for seventy-two hours. Itclearly cannot conceive of any woman in her right mind day-dreaming about beingkidnapped by a tall, dark and handsome stranger who finds her so alluring hecan’t keep his hands off her, who is so overcome by desire that he rips theclothes from her body, pins her down and drives her wild with sexual pleasure.
Not long ago, “pure” women - the sort that men broughthome to their mothers - were expected to view sex as nothing more than anunpleasant duty. Those who acknowledged their ownlibidos were considered aberrant. In 1858, for example, a British surgeon named Isaac BakerBrown introduced clitoridectomies as a “cure” for female masturbation. Whilenineteenth-century medical and religious authorities also condemned malemasturbation, girls weren’t simply warned that such activity would cause themto go insane; there was concern they’d end up in brothels. 36
Today, women are being told - by mainstream feminismand the Supreme Court of Canada - that “good” girls aren’t interested in sexualfantasies that involve domination, submission or bondage. We’re told that onlymen (violent, nasty ones) get turned on by such things. We’re told that weshouldn’t look at these sorts of images, think these sorts of thoughts orparticipate in these sorts of activities, since they lead to a wide range ofsocial evils. We’re told that, if our sexuality isn’t as strait-laced as thecourt assumes it to be, we should feel ashamed, dirty, perverted, abnormal.
Let’s be clear about this: female consumers are the reason the $855-million (U.S.) per yearromance industry exists.39 While men purchase most of the material we normallythink of when we talk about pornography (such as Playboy, Penthouse and explicit videos), and while we may quibbleover who reads other types of erotic literature, there’s no question that womenbuy the vast majority of romance novels. If domination and submission held no
Elizabeth McNeill’s 9 1/2 Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair appeared in 1978. We’re told thatMcNeill is a pseudonym for the “New York career woman” who experienced theseevents. The book begins, “The first time we were in bed together he held myhands pinned down above my head. I liked it. I liked him.” The intense,obsessive, extreme relationship that follows includes blindfolding, bondage,spectacular sex, beatings, and public humiliation-all of which end when shesuffers a mental breakdown. The book remains popular and has engendered amovie, suggesting that large numbers of people find such ideas arousing.
Women have been dealt a full share of all those qualitiesthat make us human-the ones we are proudest of as well as those that mostdisturb us. Each individual possesses these qualities, although they may differin strength from person to person and ate affected by the way other tendenciescombine and interact within our psyches. That there are people-both male andfemale-who are left stone cold by the above sorts of explicit material isbeyond dispute. - Noting the enormous variety of sexual responses amongindividuals, anti-censorship feminist Carole Vance has formulated what shecalls her “One-Third Rule.” She says:
Among those who are turned on by such material, thereis infinite variety as well. Many people are titillated by specific elementsand repulsed by others. Some individuals are so discomfited by their positiveresponse that they’re barely able to admit to it. Others happily imagine, readabout or look at drawings, photos and videos of dominance and submissionscenes, but stop there. Some enjoy play-acting these sorts of scenarios withconsenting adult partners, while others push things even further byparticipating in activities that approximate the real thing-as the author of 91/2 Weeks did. Aswell, there are a minorityof individualswho step over the line from legal to illegal activity, who force unwillingsexual partners, or children, into taking part in this sort of activity. It isat this point that such behaviour becomes morally objectionable,
Although raised as a Roman Catholic, I abandoned theChurch during my teen years because I wasn’t prepared to accept its view that Ishould feel guilty shout impure thoughts as well as actual deeds, While murderis a terrible crime, I don’t view murder mystery writers--who think about thesematters a great deal--as having sinned. Nor do I believe that an actor who goesthrough the motions of killing someone is guilty of any transgression. There isa difference between thinking about something and actually doing it. There is adifference between fantasy, play or pretence and the real thing. In the wordsof one of the men interviewed by Wendy Dennis for Hot and Bothered: Sex and Love in the Nineties:
...I find the ideaof overpowering a woman sexually and taking her against her will extremelyerotic. That’s rape, and I would never dream of acting on that desire inreality because rape is vicious and horrible. There’s a difference, though,between having an erotic desire and acting on it. A fantasy is a pretendstory...52
As a rebellious teen, I was also disinclined to feel guilty
Some of us like spicy food and exotic flavours, whileothers prefer simpler fare. Similarly, people who abhor horseradish no doubtfind the slogan on the label of one brand that talks about enjoying “tears ofhappiness” incomprehensible. Why would anyone want to eat food that practicallycurls your hair, they might ask? How could it possibly be a pleasurableexperience? I suspect the answers to such questions have much in common withwhy some people enjoy being spanked or fantasize about having another person attheir mercy in a sexual context.