Is it ever justified?
I should confess something here. The EC novel Anna J. and I wrote, that comes out in January, will most likely garner an X rating in part for this reason–violence against women. Sexual violence against women, specifically (but not limited to, and not rape of a woman.) It’s not the only reason, but it is part of it.
When two people get off on violence, on hitting and being hit, is it wrong for them to hit each other?
How about if the woman is only of average physical strength but the man is particularly strong? (This isn’t the sitch in the EC book, I’m just thinking out loud here.) Is it worse if, say, your superstrong vampire hero punches a woman, as opposed to your average guy?
How bad does a woman have to be before it’s “acceptable” for a man to hit her? Just bitchy? Evil? Really evil? Mutilating puppies evil? I’m not talking about spanking or whipping or any type of ritualized BDSM play. I’m talking about hauling off and punching someone.
See, my immediate response–which I firmly believe is the response of every right-thinking person–is that it’s never right. Men should not hit women. Only the most low-down, no-good type of worthless man would hit a woman.
But then the writery part steps in. And, okay, the slightly kinky part too. Maybe there is a situation where he could. Maybe there is a way to make it work. Maybe there’s even a way it could be sexy.
Because what is violence but the triumph of emotion over reason? Emotion out of control? And high emotion is sexy. It makes the heart pound, the breath quicken.
The problem is, it’s a very, veri fine line to walk. Most people would immediately see the man as lesser. Not a man. Certainly not likeable anymore. Not appealing. And then there’s the old belief that when a man hits a woman once, he’ll do it again. (Personally, I don’t believe it’s true 100% of the time. A large proportion, sure. But not 100%.)
This is an awkward thing to even write about, because I certainly don’t want to sound like I condone or approve of domestic violence in any way, shape or form. I wouldn’t like to be hit, and I don’t know that I could ever forgive a man who hit me, or how long if ever it would be before I trusted him again (this is assuming it’s my husband, where just walking out and ending it isn’t an option.)
But I don’t live the kind of lives my characters lead, either. My life isn’t full of danger and intrigue and violence anyway. My husband isn’t a vampire or a demon or a witch, or anyone for whom violence is a regular part of life. He’s just a man. A very appealing one, but a man nonetheless.
Does it make a difference if violence is an accepted behavior in the society which the hero inhabits? Forty years ago, we thought almost nothing of seeing men hit women in movies. The “she slaps him, so he slaps her, then they kiss” scene wasn’t uncommon (it wasn’t in every movie you saw, but it wasn’t uncommon.) I believe James Bond hit a couple of women in his sixties incarnation. I’m pretty sure there are others, too. Cary Grant hit Leslie Caron in Father Goose, and I still adore that movie.
Does it make a difference if she hits him first? If he then justified?
See, I guess part of me thinks it wouldn’t bother me that much to read it, if it was done right. Because novels are novels; they’re not reality. Much as there are still “forced seduction” novels out there to provide women with (let’s be honest) a safe way to experience a rape fantasy (and I’m not saying this is the only reason, but then, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with rape fantasies either. I fantasize about all sorts of things I’d never want to do in real life), is it possible that the use of something like that–and we’re talking one hit here, not a crazed beating–might be worth exploring, if only to demonstrate high emotional intensity? To give a bad boy a reason to reform? To give a heroine the upper hand?
What do you guys think?