Defending the Indefensible

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Look. I get it. Sometimes we enjoy a book that we really shouldn’t. It has horrible themes or the so-called romantic hero does something that in real life we’d want to see him in prison for. Stormfire is one of the most revolting books I’ve ever read, and yet I can see why it’s so popular.

Stormfire by Christine Monson

I. Get. It.

But can we not say: ‘Sure, it’s terrible, but I enjoy the book DESPITE those horrible things’??

Is that really so very hard to say?

I say this now because the Outlander television show has put the wife-beating and marital rape in the book back in the spotlight. And so many women that I despair of my gender are scrambling to come up with a million new excuses for it.

I’m not going to rehash the whole thing. If you haven’t heard of Outlander, here’s the plot in a nutshell:

  • 1940s Englishwoman is accidentally transported back to the 1740s in Scotland.
  • She’s forced to marry a (conveniently sexy) man for her own protection.
  • She tries to get back to her own time and her husband there, and gets captured by those “evil” Englishmen along the way.
  • Her new husband rescues her and “has to” punish her (for being captured and nearly raped!) by putting a knee in her back and beating her with his sword belt.
  • This turns him on, and he congratulates himself for not raping her then and there.
  • But not to worry: he has sex with her soon after, even though she’s begging him to stop because he’s hurting her.

That is absolutely not the whole plot, and I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the book, and I have subscribed to the show – despite the subpar lead actress. I occasionally reread my favourite parts of the book.

Outlander Starz Jamie and Claire Episode One Sonya Heaney -

But please go HERE and HERE and HERE.

Because too many romance readers are falling over themselves to excuse a wife-beater because they’re worried they can’t enjoy the book unless they do. The people who prompted this particular post are contributors to a major romance blog, and their defence of it all… well. Anybody who says we don’t need feminism needs to ask why we still live in a world where women will excuse violence against women as long as the man doing it is hot.

I’m not really saying anything new here. But I’d just like to remind people that sure, read what you like. But you don’t need to become a rape apologist while you do it.