This year Anne Bishop excreted another collection set in the world of her much-loved saga of rape, child abuse, and misogyny. In the course of skimming reviews and discussions around the collection I’ve learned:
1. the only lesbian character has to have sex with a man she trusts so she can get through her Virgin Night unbroken
I’m sorry, Bishop, but this? Is just so so gross even by itself, and doubly gross in light of my thoughts on lesbian representation in general and in grimdark fiction in particular. I mean really, piss off. Whatever, just stop writing. It’s not just the rape thing but the idea that Karla, being a lesbian, can only lose her virginity to a man. Because lesbian sex? Not real sex, so having sex with women obviously doesn’t fucking count and you’ll come out of it still a virgin however hard you fucked. Oh my god, Bishop. You stain.
2. the mechanism of the Virgin Night is about women panicking and breaking their own minds
Explanation given by someone who’s apparently a fan.
It’s done a number of ways. One way is rape by a darker-Jeweled male who can slip beneath the witch’s inner most web.
Another way is causing the rape to be so violent that the witch panics and breaks her own inner web, which was one of the things that was worried about with Karla and why Lucivar had to see her through her Virgin Night and protect her from herself.
Another way is probably a gang bang, so many hitting the mind at the same time the body is being violated.
What. And in case you think her reading or mine is faulty, take it from the horse’s mouth:
Q. Can a man be broken?
A. Yes, a male can be broken–i.e., stripped of his Jeweled strength–but witches are far more vulnerable because they can be broken fairly easily on their Virgin Night, which isn’t true for males.
Then we have this charming tidbit:
Q. Can broken witches have children?
A. A broken witch can get pregnant only once, after that she is barren whether or not the child lives or is miscarried.
Female magic is tied to your uterus!
Q. Can a male be a natural Healer?
A. Males can certainly learn healing Craft, and some have a lot of skill, but I don’t know if there’s ever been a male who was a born Healer.
Healing is a girly thing because gender essentialism is very feminist!
Q. There are hints in the story that Tersa would have been a powerful witch if she hadn’t been broken. What Jewels did she wear?
A. Tersa has never revealed any information about who she was before she was broken — except that she came from Dhemlan. So the answer remains a mystery, at least until she decides to tell her story.
Being raped on your Virgin Night (and therefore broken: remember girls, if you have been sexually assaulted you are spoiled goods forever) limits your chances so severely that you can never recover from it. Ever. If that’s still not clear.
Now let’s have some quotes! This is from Dreams Made Flesh.
“Lucivar,” Saetan said, his voice painfully calm, “Karla is a Gray-Jeweled Queen. Her Territory is divided between the Blood who supported her uncle and the vile changes he was making in their society and the Blood who have waited desperately for Karla to come of age and stand as Glacia’s Queen. Until she has her Virgin Night, she is vulnerable and could be broken, could be stripped of the Gray. Without her strength, civil war could erupt in Glacia and devastate her people.”
He knew all of that, but it didn’t make it easier. “She doesn’t like men,” he muttered. “Not that way.”
“Which will make this even harder for her, since she doesn’t have interest in the male body to quicken her own body’s response.”
Normally, the Virgin Night was a witch’s initiation to sex as well as the act that would protect her power, but the likelihood of Karla ever taking another man to bed were slim to none, so bedroom skills weren’t as necessary as a warrior’s skills. He just had to get her safely from one side of this battlefield to the other.
So, again, if the point hasn’t already been driven home until it goes out the other side in that FAQ of grossness: the Virgin Night is when a woman is at her most vulnerable. Being broken would strip Karla of “the Gray” (i.e. her power level). We also establish that Karla is not bisexual. Explicitly she is a lesbian. As in she only likes women. Now normally, a reasonable writer–one who isn’t a raging homophobe for instance–would have mooted the issue. Karla likes women. So logically, she’d spend her Virgin Night with a woman! Who would sex her up and then she wouldn’t be a virgin anymore. Problem solved.
Not in Anne Bishop’s world. Remember, lesbian sex isn’t real sex. All lesbians are virgins until they have had a cock up them. Feminist literature, ladies.
Saetan had chosen a guest room in another wing of the Hall. Lucivar felt grateful for that since he wouldn’t have to remember whatever happened here every time he looked at his own bed. And neither would Karla when she stayed in the suite of rooms she’d been given as her own here at the Hall. But the lack of personal effects in the room also made him feel a bit… dirty. Just another male acting the slut.
Leaning one arm against the mantel, he glanced at the small table that held two goblets and a heavy glass container, its contents being kept warm by a small tongue of witchfire.
Night of Fire. The aphrodisiac brew used for a Virgin Night. Remembering the kinds of aphrodisiacs the witches in Terreille used on a man, he shuddered. It didn’t matter that Saetan had made this brew. The thought of drinking it produced a stab of fear in him. The problem was, he wasn’t sure he’d be any use to Karla if he didn’t drink it.
“I’m sorry,” Karla said. “If there was another way…” He shook his head as he looked at her. Her fair skin had a touch of sickly green. She looked so young, standing there in a simple cotton nightgown, waiting for him to open her body and spill the virginal blood that would protect her power as a witch.
You will be entirely shocked, I am sure, that this author–remember, this super feminist author according to her fans–is making the whole ordeal All About the Man. How he feels. The terrible pain. The awfulness of being used and made to feel like “another male acting the slut.” Despite this being really difficult for Karla, since you know, she doesn’t like men one little bit. Logically, you would expect a feminist writer to focus on her responses and write this from her point of view. Anne Bishop is not that writer. I’m not sure she even knows how to spell “feminism.”
Would it make it easier for both of them if he explained? “I’ve only done this once before.”
Karla swallowed hard. “And it went badly?”
Lucivar looked away. “Not for her.” The memory he’d pushed away so long ago rose up, choking him
“So I put aside my own expectations and saw her through her Virgin Night.”
“So what went wrong?” Karla asked.
Shame clogged his throat. He swallowed it, just as he’d swallowed it centuries ago. “The next morning, when I went to join the other warriors for a meal before heading back to the hunting camp… She was serving up food with the other women. I went over to her, just to talk to someone who would think kindly of me. But the other women must have told her who I was. What I was. Must have teased her about giving herself to a half-breed bastard. So instead of saying anything or even smiling at me, she… spit on me.”
The memory swamped him. The disgust in her eyes. The cruel laughter of the men. The reminder that they had to accept his status as a warrior but would never accept him.
Yeah see, all about the man. His manpain! From the horrible, awful trauma of… being spat on this once. Like. You know. Being spat on. Awful thing. Can you imagine anything more horrifying, more scarring, more emotionally shattering? Like being a lesbian who has to have sex with a man? Aw nah. Who cares about how women feel. FEMINIST LITERATURE, GUYS. SO FEMINIST IT HURTS.
Karla and Saetan proceed to call this nameless woman a bitch. Repeatedly:
“That bitch spit on him after he got her through her Virgin Night!” Karla shouted.
“The bitch deserves having her heart ripped out…if she has a heart.”
“You’re not going to let that bitch get away with this, are you, Uncle Saetan?” Karla demanded.
“You never saw another witch through her Virgin Night because of that bitch,” Saetan continued. “Isn’t that true?”
Because she spat on him and that traumatized him forever. It can’t be because she was suffering from peer pressure or anything, oh no. Women who are mean to men? The very worst of all women. In fact that’s a running theme: all the female villains are pretty much defined by being mean to men, and all the good girls defined by being nice and sweet to men. HEY HEY, ARE WE IN FEMINISTROPOLIS YET?
They drink an aphrosidiac.
“What can I do to help you?” she asked, looking at him with lightly glazed eyes.
“Kiss me.” The feel of her mouth on his, hesitant, exploring. The feel of her body as his hands caressed her. Desire, thick and golden, swam in his blood as his hand cupped her breast. Her tongue in his mouth… Tart and sweet, just like the woman. He picked her up and took her to the bed, vanishing her nightgown as he set her down on the sheets. Vanishing his own clothes, he stretched out beside her, putting an Ebon-gray shield around his left hand and forearm before he pinned her wrists above her head. Being a Black Widow as well as a Queen, she had a snake tooth beneath the ring finger of her right hand. He didn’t need her pumping venom into him in a moment of panic.
Her body responded to him as he kissed, caressed, and suckled, but he felt a tension rising in her. She’d fight him when the time came. Even knowing he was doing this for her, she’d still fight him…unless she was sufficiently distracted. There were different ways of protecting a witch during that moment when her life hung by a hymenal thread, but this way…Yes. If she trusted him enough to let him in, she’d be captured, distracted, and protected.
“Karla,” he said, his hand still caressing her. “Will you let me in?” She panted, but it wasn’t excitement that made her breathless. “What?” A psychic touch. A soft brush against her first inner barrier. “Will you let me in?” She flinched at that light touch, too aware that he was strong enough to force open those barriers. But she opened herself to him, let him glide through the surface layers of her mind. She began to shake when he got close to her core. In another moment, she would try to push him out.
He moved with a warrior’s speed and training, wrapping his power around her so fast, she had no time to evade. In his mind, he held a picture of his arms wrapped around her naked body, her back pressed against his chest as tendrils of power strapped her legs to his, leaving her helpless.
This is supposed to be consensual, if unpleasant, sex.
It’s incredibly fucking rapey, from the guy’s actions to the choice of language. He picks her up (because girls can’t walk on their own in bedrooms!), magically dissolves her clothes, and pins her wrists over her head. Only by allowing herself to be “captured” and made helpless can she be “protected.” Everything, every single thing about it, screams RAPEYNESS THIS WAY COMES. It’d have done that even if Karla were straight–and she, as aforementioned and explicitly stated without any ambiguity, is not. The only reason “her body [responds] to him” (gag) is due to the aphrosidiac.
This is misogynistic, homophobic diarrhea.
Yes, some people believe, honestly, in their heart of hearts that these books are feminist. Subversive even. Disrupting of patriarchy too! Could someone tell me what is subversive about perpetuating the idea that women are more vulnerable, and particularly more easily broken by rape, than men? How does this… disrupt patriarchal values? Oh, someone finds the sex scene “fun” too. The original post? Whines at great length that Daemon goes on to have sex and a kid with a woman other than his destined soulmate, while entirely neglecting to comment on the troubling gender politics or–you know–the whole turd of rapeyness I just quoted up here. Fucking romance readers.
Here’s another story in the same collection, which begins promisingly with oh who am I kidding it’s Anne fucking Bishop.
Marian looked at the sugar spilled on the kitchen floor and wanted to cry. Such a little thing. A bobble of the hand that held the sugar bowl. Normally, it would have caused no more than a moment’s annoyance before she cleaned it up. But not today. Not when a taloned fist had curled around her womb and was squeezing hard.
She closed her eyes and braced a hand against the kitchen counter. Maybe once in a year, the physical discomfort that came with her moon-time escalated to nauseating pain. When it hit, it made her grateful she didn’t wear a Jewel darker than the Purple Dusk because the pain balanced the power that could be wielded the rest of the time, and darker-Jeweled witches always suffered more during the first three days. And no witch could use her Jeweled strength during those first three days without causing herself hideous pain.
Remember: menstruating women are helpless and weak. Because. Female magic linked to uterus.
Maybe this is part of some strange feminist mystique disseminated at secret conventions I have no access to, evidently being the wrong kind of feminist (like, the kind that believes lesbian sex is sex and women are not inherently more vulnerable to trauma than men)? The Gor college of feminism perhaps? Or maybe, I don’t know, anyone who thinks this is feminist is breathing through their anus.