Back when calling a romance a “bodice-ripper” was actually accurate, rape was often an element in the unfolding of the romance between the hero and heroine. In those books, the hero—a pirate, a duke, or some other big boss in charge—would find the heroine irresistible and have to have her, despite her protests. Eventually, of course, the heroine would find the hero equally irresistible, and the two would engage in consensual relations.
Most romance readers read, and enjoyed, those books at the time. And the rape fantasy has emerged as an element in erotic romance, and there continue to be elements of forced seduction in current titles (such as Anne Stuart).
But what about when the heroine rapes the hero?
There are a surprising amount of those examples in romance (given that one might expect there to be none), and interestingly, that moment irrevocably colors the remainder of the book, unlike the norm of hero raping heroine, when it's seen as something the hero can't control and is dismissed as the hero and heroine grow to love one another (keep in mind that very few current romances have the hero behaving as he used to back in the 1980s).
In Jo Beverley's Forbidden, Serena is desperate to escape a forced marriage, so she runs away, and runs into Francis, the hero, an honorable man (and also a virgin) who refuses her request for her to become his mistress.
So, while they're sleeping in the same bed (because of a sequence of events neither could control), she touches him, gets him aroused as he's sleeping, and then has sex with him.
He had just been seduced.
He'd as good as been raped.
Eventually, this moment requires them to marry, and Serena is devastated by what she's done to him. Because of this moment, Francis doesn't trust her at all, and believes her to be a whore in mind as well as in name. Despite talking about that evening with others, neither one of them ever shares that Serena was the aggressor. She apologizes profusely, and eventually Francis tells her to just get over it, it happened, and they have to move on. But his attitude remains suspicious.
Larissa Ione's Lethal Rider deals with the aftermath of the events at the end of Immortal Rider, when the guardian Regan is tasked with the assignment of relieving Thanatos of his virginity. As Lethal Rider opens, Thanatos is furious:
He'd guarded his dick like it was the freaking Hope Diamond. He might have been an unpinned grenade ready to blow with sexual need, but dammit, he'd kept himself all virginal and shit.
Until Regan came along, with her seductive body, her devious plot, and her druged mead. She'd managed to get him naked, get him immobilized, and get him off.
Until this moment, Thanatos has thought the future of mankind has depended on his not losing his virginity, so he is rightly upset when Regan rapes him. He is, again, rightfully suspicious of Regan through the course of their book, but eventually they resolve their issues in (to my mind) a satisfactory way. Because this is a paranormal, it is possible for the two of them to have franker discussions than Francis and Serena did in Forbidden. That helps to ameliorate the actions.
In Julia Quinn's The Duke and I, the hero Simon does not want to father children. His wife, Daphne, does. They do have sexual relations, but he's been withdrawing so as to prevent conception. One night, however, he is drunk, and tries to pull out, but Daphne holds him in place with her legs. This scene doesn't have the same repercussions as the previous two, but obviously it's a pivotal moment for the trust between them.
The entire plot of Johanna Lindsey's Prisoner of My Desire is based on the heroine's plans to have a child with the unwilling hero:
Spirited Rowena Belleme must produce an heir—or incur the dangerous wrath of a ruthless stepbrother, who stands to forfeit his ill-gotten wealth. And the magnificent Warrick deChaville is the perfect choice to sire her child—though it means imprisoning the handsome knight...and forcing him to bend to her amorous whims.
Prisoner of My Desire was published in 1991, so the overblown decadence of its plot is understandable for its time period. And the rest of the synopsis promises that Warrick will turn the tables, “eagerly awaiting the time when his sensuous captor becomes his helpless captive ... and is made to suffer the same rapturous torment and exquisite ecstasy that he himself has endured.”
Susan Elizabeth Phillips's This Heart of Mine is a polarizing book in romance, at least in part because the heroine takes advantage of the hero while he's sleeping. Like Serena and Regan, the heroine apologizes for her actions, but there are consequences to the growing romance.
Forced seduction is rape, no matter who does it, but if the heroine is the aggressor, the scene becomes integral to the ensuing events.
Have you read any of these books? How is the scene different than when it is the hero forcibly seducing the heroine?
Megan Frampton is the Community Manager for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.