Evo-psych is a favorite pet topic of R Scott Bakker and assorted shitlords. It’s the domain of the uneducated who nevertheless believe they are brilliant; evo-psych is popular pseudo-science at its worst, used to justify roughly every form of bigotry you can imagine (and a few you can’t), with special attention paid to misogyny.
Imagine my surprise to discover that it’s also an obsession in the lofty genre of paranormal romance/urban fantasy.
“Don’t you understand? You, your subconscious or whatever wanted a life mate, and you wanted me bad. Something deep inside you wants to be loved, manu. All you have to do is let me.” –Shirin Dubbin, Dream’s Dark Kiss
Apart from being rapist logic, this line of thinking–“your subconscious wanted a life mate”–lines up neatly with the rhetoric and reasoning of real-world misogynistic creeps. Shirin Dubbin’s Keeper of the Way exhibits the genre-typical obsession with a certain kind of masculinity and a preoccupation with women as the protected, and the male whether romantic or paternal as protector–
Severin laid Nii down so softly it seemed he was tucking her in for a night’s sleep. He looked to her father, who didn’t need to be asked to protect her with his life. He always had—always would. The two males shared an understanding.
–and objectifying male attention as flattery rather than disturbing or unwelcome:
Wynn shrugged in his peculiar way. “Every male has checked you out. If the Elders didn’t have him pinned the qilin would be trying to ride you like you were one of my bikes.”
How about the idea of “mating”?
Dragon thorns worked with efficiency. She would be dead from poison-induced paralysis in a matter of heartbeats. And she felt no pain…nothing…other than the agony of her bond-mate.
“Soul meets soul when eyes meet eyes. When your bond-mate shows up, those sunshades won’t make a pixie’s shrug of difference.”
The trope of the predestined mate runs rampant throughout paranormal romance: the idea that when you meet THE ONE!!! your consent will cease to matter. Your ability to make decisions and judgment will drop away because he is THE ONE!!! and you can’t deny the inevitable bond. This, again, circles back to rapist logic; the character attempts to protect herself from forming a “bond” by wearing shades (so as not to make direct eye contact) but this is portrayed as (and the other characters tell her it is) foolish and unnecessary. Silly girl, trying to resist fate. Silly girl trying to resist what amounts to forced marriage.
she sensed a man enter the dry cleaners. A sensuous chill rode up her spine. The longing in the sensation rendered her speechless. [...] His addictive-as-dark-chocolate scent made her want to get naked…. That was a lie. His scent made her want to go five or six steps past naked and straight into ‘how’d they do that?’ Mmm, but it was more than the way he smelled. In her eighty-eight years of life she’d known no emotion so… so untamed.
Once he shows up she does find out she can’t resist him: the reaction is pheromonal because he’s such a “bastion of all things male” and “seriously male.” Evo-psych excrement swirling all the way down, and heteronormative as a matter of course. It should be noted that this lust at first sight (which treats things like “compatible personalities” and the like as optional and irrelevant) will always turn out to be correct; THE ONE!!! is indeed the one. The man’s reactions are similar: “Severin’s gaze followed the elfin female as she left the dry cleaners. He inhaled, taking in scents of ceasing and quickening, death and birth.” So he’s a dog. “The sway of her hips and the sexiness of her power nearly hypnotized him” as well, and it’s to be noted that her magical power’s primary significance is that it makes her sexy, not that it makes her powerful.
“Kill the male…shred and claw…the woman…mate and breed.”
The woman in question tightened her fingers around her weapon of choice. Mate and breed? Not bloody likely.
–Dreams’ Dark Kiss
This is another common component in paranormal romance: the female protagonist is broadly desired, usually by a number of alpha males but failing that, she is the target of some sort of rape prophecy. These women may possess some magical power of their own, but she’ll almost always be characterized by her specialness as a broodmare, thus necessitating that THE ONE!!! must protect her.
“When do I get to choose? You’re telling me the ankou hold my life in their grasp.” She screamed in frustration. The piercing sound dug furrows into Keoni’s brow but she couldn’t be bothered. “The Dream Guardian Guild forces a mate on me, and you order me around under the guise of protection. No! I won’t stand for it. I want to choose. My life on my terms. It should be on my terms!” She stamped her foot. “I don’t want this. I want to kill them all! And I. Don’t. Want. You.”
–Dreams’ Dark Kiss
This is portrayed as a horrible, hurtful thing to say to THE ONE!!! (a result, again, of her trauma having distorted her judgment). When her soulmate badgers and pesters and bullies her enough she eventually comes to accept that they are meant to be an item, with an accompaniment of paranormal evo-psych: ““You. Chose. Me!” His eyes burned. “Somnian males are chosen, we don’t do the choosing. You think we wanted to parade ourselves before you, peacocks spreading our feathers in hopes of your acceptance?” When did she choose him? Well, when she accepted his help during a rape attempt. “Whether you realize it or not, you sent out a mating imperative with your distress call.” Biotruth-assisted rapist logic.
He and the rest of his Somnian brahs recognized it the moment her distress call went out. Each of the alpha bachelors—Jay, Alexi, Archer and Keo—had responded to her cry for aid and the mating imperative held within.
“Alpha bachelors.” Really.
The Werewolf Penis and the Zipper that Bites
I discovered Marked via Dear Author, whose reviewer fails entirely to acknowledge that its central “romance” is based on sexual assault and date rape. Let’s just say the reviewer is an inferior reader and possibly illiterate, which is the most charitable that can be said of the majority of that site’s content. Aline Hunter’s Marked is about, as the Dear Author review obliviously describes it:
Along with the birth mark have come some incredibly vivid dreams of a faceless man who does all sorts of luscious things to her. [...] Imagine Chloe’s shock when she walks into The Wolf’s Den and the man she’s been dreaming of is in front of her. Even without ever having seen his face, she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jackson Donovan is that man. To go along with her shock, her birthmark is now painful and sore. Jackson is, of course, Chloe’s mate. He’s known for some time that he was mated, as he’s been enjoying dreamsharing with Chloe. Even though he didn’t know her name, he knew for sure that she would come to him at his place of business.
Essentially, what you and I might call rape, paranormal romance readers and writers will call “mating.” Marked invests even more deeply into rapist logic than Dreams’ Dark Kiss, which is no small feat. The crux of it, much like in Dubbin’s work, is mainly that the woman secretly wants it and if she says no, then badger, pester, and otherwise intimidate her into saying yes–the same line of thinking that forms the backbone of PUA.
She followed as he guided her to a room on the left of the hallway. She wondered why it didn’t frighten her when he closed the door behind them. He was a stranger, after all.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said softly and spun her around. Their hands brushed in a whisper of skin against skin. In an instant, a connection was made. Something inside her reached out to him, desperate for a deeper link. The fuzzy sensation in her stomach exploded, a tidal wave of heat erupting from her pussy. Time seemed to stand still, the walls of the midsized room closing in. She swayed, afraid she might fall flat-faced on the floor.
Instant, biotruthy connection put next to her behaving as if she’s been drugged–
Frown lines deepened, tugging at the corners of her mouth. “This is so weird. I know you but I don’t. And I feel so strange. It’s like I took a trip down the rabbit hole.”
She cocked her head to the side, a puzzled expression on her face. “I don’t think so.” Something seemed to dawn on her. Her brows lifted, her plush lips parting. “Wait. Am I dreaming? Is that why you’re here?”
“Are you sure?” She looked around the room and then peered up at him, her grass-green eyes wide, pupils dilated. Her legs shifted as though she was trying to stem her sexual excitement. “Because this doesn’t feel normal.”
“This isn’t like me.” She shook her head, trying to clear mental cobwebs woven with lust. “Something’s wrong. I don’t feel right.” “Nothing’s wrong. It’s the moon heat, and it’s only going to get worse. You’re in the early stages.”
I think we can all agree that if the pupils are dilating, the person might not be in a condition to give meaningful consent. When she attempts to leave:
“Actually, I think I’m going to go,” Chloe said and started to inch around him, the sharp smell of her fear spreading through the room. “Coming here was a bad idea.”
Jackson reached out, snagging her by the wrist. The contact did exactly what he knew it would. She whimpered and cried out, sagging as he tugged her toward him. The days preceding the full moon were difficult on a female in season. She had to be feeling the changes, drawn by the desire to mate, beginning the transformation to her other form if she was able to change. Until a male—preferably the female’s mate—spent his seed inside of her, the ache would only worsen. That’s why he’d held himself back, trying to give her space. The first touch had muddled her thoughts. A second would throw her completely off balance, until all she could think about was the sexual frustration she was sure to be experiencing. And the poor thing didn’t have a clue what she was dealing with. She didn’t fight or struggle, resting against his chest as he urged her closer. She felt perfect against him—exactly right. A growl of contentment carried up his throat, his wolf eager for her touch.
“What’s the matter with me? This has to be a dream. I just have to wake up.”
Again, she’s behaving as if she’s been drugged and the werewolf rapist knows that touching her will make the magical roofie even stronger, so he goes ahead and does that. What’s important isn’t her ability to give consent or make decisions; it is that she “felt perfect against him.”
“Whoa, wait.” She squirmed against him, slapping at his chest. “I can’t leave with you!” When he tightened his grip, she screamed, “What do you think you’re doing? Put me down! Right now!”
“Let go!” Chloe shrieked. “Get your hands off me!” She landed an elbow to his gut but he didn’t stop, striding for the door.
They made it to his car without incident but the instant her feet touched the ground she tried to run. He caught her with ease, forcing her against the side of the vehicle. There was no time like the present to establish who was boss. He wedged his thighs between hers so she could feel the hard ridge of his cock. Her eyes went wide, her full lips parting in surprise.
This is very similar to what happens in Dubbin’s Dreams’ Dark Kiss; the language is one of sexual assault, only more overt–“establish who was boss,” “forced her against the side of the vehicle,” “wedged his thighs between hers.” Notably, just as with Dubbin’s work, the woman’s anger and violence are simultaneously portrayed as trivial (easily shrugged off by the man) and irrational even though reacting with violence is perfectly rational when someone is trying to rape you. Let’s get started on the rape apologia.
Jackson Donovan attempted to shake off his shock. He’d known his mate would find him. Dreamsharing only occurred when a female was ready to mate, and his had come at him like a freight train. She’d been nervous but eager in their encounters, shaking off her inhibitions as though she wasn’t aware the dreams were real. He’d known it was in a female wolf’s nature to play hard to get, so he’d bided his time. Once a woman got a taste of her male, she’d instinctually track him down. Distance wasn’t a factor. Instinct paved the way.
In the real world, shitheads come up with approximately five billion excuses to justify that the target of their sexual assault “really wants it deep down” so it’s “not really rape-rape” (this is a real thing). In paranormal romance, the excuses become objective facts: “a female was ready to mate,” “she’d instinctually track him down”–never mind that the psychic sex they had was something she thought was just wet dreams.
He drew a breath, taking in her scent. Pure feminine heat assailed him, clean and rich, the hot fragrance of her cunt slamming into his lungs. She smelled good enough to eat, as sweet and warm as honey. [...] His muscles tensed, his wolf growling in his head. He fought for control, trying to ice his desire. She was human, not wolf. He could scare her if he didn’t watch himself. If he wasn’t careful he could also hurt her, and a werewolf never harmed his mate. He was shaken by his lack of control, caught off guard by how she affected him. His primal urges rushed to the forefront, his wolf ready to take over. Realization hit, hard and fast. Damn. She’s on the brink of her season.
And then, when Mr Rapist is thinking of fucking her, it’s “her season” of course, and her pheromones or their super-special “mating bond” affecting him. It’s not his fault and he may not be held accountable; it’s his wolf that’s doing the urging, and it won’t take no for an answer–
He suppressed a snarl, fighting for control. He wasn’t letting his mate walk out of his life. Not after he’d waited so long for her. Somehow he’d make things work. It was his responsibility to protect his female and his people. At his age, he’d seen and survived a lot of shit. He’d be damned if he let his mating come in the way of what he’d worked so hard to accomplish.
Not just a rapist, but an abusive controlling shit as well: and all of that is, again, portrayed as good and right because she’s “his mate” and it’s “his responsibility to protect his female.” In-universe paranormal biology, such as it is, is the dreams of evo-psych shitlords come true: a world where their misbegotten “science” is truth and people really behave according to their “mating instincts” and all actions are motivated by genitals while human intelligence is erased.
He forced his hands into fists, trembling with the effort not to pull her into his arms. His fingers itched with the need to touch her, his cock straining against the sharp bite of his zipper. The metal teeth subdued his wolf, the sharp lance of pain into his engorged flesh more than welcome. She needed patient and gentle—two traits he seriously lacked.
His rock-hard dick jerked inside his pants, fueled by his female’s scent. He hadn’t been able to see her face until now. That was the way it worked with dreamsharing. The big reveal didn’t happen until a couple came face-to-face. It was nature’s way of promoting a bond that defied all things superficial, bonding a couple together on a deeper mental level.
Because paranormal romance operates on logic that says rape is romantic, a man who can barely wait to hump a woman’s legs (whether or not she can consent) becomes the height of sexy. “Isn’t it flattering,” the rapist coos, “that I want you so bad I’m about to take my pants off and fuck you right now whether or not you say yes, because secretly–deep down–I know you really want this?”
“I understand this is confusing but what you’re feeling isn’t going to go away. You need this.” He shoved his hips forward, pushing his pulsating length against her belly, grinding his teeth at the contact. “Over and over again. And you need it from me.” “This is crazy,” she whispered, fingers shaking as she rested her hands on his chest. The sweet smell of her pussy drifted to his nose. She might be shaken but she was also hotter than the asphalt in summer. “We don’t even know each other.”
Just as telling is that the woman feels threatened throughout–
She gawked, unable to focus on anything but him. Another wave of heat rushed through her, making her lightheaded. “Keep looking at me like that, and I’m going to give you what I promised, Chloe girl.” He lowered his hand and growled, gold eyes sweeping over her. “I’m trying real hard to be a gentleman but you’re testing my control.” “I…” She tried to think of something to say, realizing she was alone with this gargantuan man inside his home. He could do anything he wanted and she wouldn’t be able to stop him. Not to mention he was a werewolf. Not smart. Not smart at all.
Like the “alpha bachelor” in Dreams’ Dark Kiss explaining to “his female” what is what, in both scenarios the woman submits to the man’s paternalism: he is placed in a position of superior power, “mentoring” the woman in supernatural ways. The key is that the woman in each case is the “innocent” or at least the ignorant one–she doesn’t know about her own werewolf heritage or her combination of special dream powers or whatever, and so she needs the man to help protect her from her emerging power. The next step is that he will “awaken her to her own desires,” because he knows her sexuality better than she does and it’s of crucial importance that a woman’s sexuality centers entirely around what a man wants to tell her about it. I would say it’s mansplaining taken several steps beyond the normal sort, but it also has all the components of PUA techniques–manipulation, gaslighting, objectification.
It’s no coincidence that in both Dubbin’s and Hunter’s books the woman at first resists, even violently, only to be subdued and then bullied into sex and what’s essentially forced marriage, which becomes something of a comedy when you think that westerners always lose their shit over the idea of arranged marriages in those horrid backward primitive savage brown-people countries. But as long as the woman is given a magical roofie, it’s suddenly beautiful and sexy to westerners.
Across various romance writers and writer wannabes I gleaned from Dear Author we’ve got excrement such as “the single most masculine creature she’d ever seen in her life,” “this rich masculine scent,” “his face was perfectly masculine.” From one of their typically vacuous reviewers we’ve also got “the very masculine, absolutely gorgeous hero.” Yet another book offers up, very tellingly, “[a mouth that] might have been thought almost feminine in its beauty, were it not for the firm, purely masculine line of the jaw beneath.” Similar descriptions can be found in Anita Blake, of men who are “beautiful but too masculine to be feminine.” (NO HOMO, NO HOMO.)
In addition, the closer that Caroline and Simon grow, the more beta male he became. I felt as if you defanged the manslut hero in order to make him hero material, but in doing so, you lost the things that I found appealing about him in the first place. By the end of the book, Simon is wimpy and needy and I was longing for the arrogant manslut of the first few chapters.
One might consider whether the straight women who read and write these things are insecure about their heterosexuality, but what’s certain is that they believe in a rigid gender binary–and that for a man to be desirable to a woman he must be obviously and emphatically “masculine.” These being cis men constructed within an oppressive, heterocentric imagination, manliness is defined by their physical stature–towering over the women generally–muscles, or a “strong jaw.” The werewolf rapist in Marked is an embodiment of machismo: “protecting his female” and “[fighting] any would-be suitor who wanted to take his place.” Machismo is, rather than deconstructed or denied, endorsed and touted as desirable: what women would want in a real man. And, of course, they are “alpha males” who despite having come under criticism from genre readers, bloggers and the like continue to be incredibly pervasive. Nobody obsesses over the “alpha male”–itself a scientifically unsound concept–as much as misogynistic creeps and the romance genre. Nobody.
The sexual evolution of females where they have as much freedom of choice in the bedroom as men — especially in romance novels. Heroines are as sexually active as heroes are these days. The old standard of the virginal heroine and the stud hero are long gone. [...] But romance novels are still focused upon the age old dance of the hormones and heart, where the man (men) wins the woman, and they live happily ever after (for now). That’s not feminist at all. That’s biology. That’s tradition.
Full-on biotruthy shitlady with a side of homophobia, fuck yeah.
Neurological studies have shown men and women have very different brains which process emotion in very different ways. So when a man reads a romance novel, the emotional experiences the book describes are not how he experiences the same things. So he just doesn’t get it.
A man reads a romance and thinks, “This is not how I perceive reality. This is just smut for women.”
As a result, romance is viewed as unworthy, stupid, purple, florid….I could go on, but I’m getting depressed. Anyway, the end result is that only 9 percent of the romance readership is male, according to the Romance Writers of America.
Feminist critics are just as likely to deplore our fiction as men are. I suspect few of these women have read a romance published after, say, 1990. For one thing, many feminist literary critics proclaim our heroes are all rapists, something that has been unacceptable in romance fiction since 1988 or so.
Evo-psych again! Aline Hunter’s Marked was published in November 2012, Shirin Dubbin’s Dreams’ Dark Kiss in December 2010. Illiteracy or no real understanding of rape culture? You be the judge.
As some of you may know, I’m a biological scientist, and so I tend think of things from a biological perspective. [...] But at the end of the 60s, two independent changes occurred. The contraceptive Pill became widely available, and modern feminism was born. Those who were around at the time, and yes, I was, will remember that early feminism had a very clear message: that a woman didn’t need a man, marriage or children to be fulfilled. While no one would question the value of either the Pill or feminism, together they posed a potent biological threat if too many women followed the strict feminist path and gave up having children altogether. Biologically, societies would be doomed. The Pill and feminism hit at the end of the 60s. By the middle to late 70s, the birthrate of all western nations had fallen to 1.7. Governments took serious notice, but 1.7 for a short time isn’t reason for panic – the birthrate had been much higher in the previous decade – so most countries decided it was a case of a biological pendulum – if left alone, it would swing back.
The US did nothing, but allowed romance novels to respond to women’s need to hear the biologically, socially critical lesson that love, marriage and family are worthy and desirable goals. And the US thrives. Australia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, facing the same threats, also did nothing, but specifically removed romance novels from the equation. These societies are facing social extinction. France replaced romance novels with government propaganda and assistance. It might survive, but by the skin of its teeth and only at great financial cost. Propaganda is never as effective as reaffirmation. The conclusion is obvious. It’s read romance or perish. That’s an inconvenient truth a lot of people won’t want to hear. But as with that other inconvenient truth, perhaps it’s time we stopped closing our eyes to the incredibly potent, survival support system we’ve spent the last 40-plus millennia perfecting.
As we’ve just seen, pretending that system doesn’t exist, and isn’t important, can be socially fatal. As the guardians of genre fiction in your communities, I hope you take back with you a strengthened belief in the social and biological importance of keeping a wide range of genre fiction, and of romance in particular, on your shelves. Not only will it improve mental health and enhance your communities’ creativity, but it will also insure that your country continues as a biologically stable nation.
Biotruthy shitlady dinosaur with reality distortion field on, and unsurprisingly, no real understanding of biology despite her claims to being a scientist. There’s probably some racism in there too actually, and much of this reasoning sounds very Aryan Nations (what with the horror that WESTERN CIVILIZATION MAY FALL!!!) as well as heterocentric as all fuck. Avid defenders of romance!