Dec 14 2013 11:45am

Waistcoat Ripper: When Heroines Rape the Hero in Romance

Forbidden by Jo BeverleyBack 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.

Lethal Rider by Larissa IoneLarissa 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.

Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna LindseyThe 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.

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Myretta Robens
1. Myretta
Reading this reminded of of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's This Heart of Mine. In this, the heroine, Mollie Somerville rapes quarterback Kevin Tucker. Even as she's doing it, she realizes its inexcusable, and yet she goes through with it (and ends up pregnant and forced into marriage). Okay, now I've given you the first third of the book. Regardless of this start, I liked the book and liked the way Mollie and Kevin work through this awful beginning.
2. KateRothwell
There was a Sasha Lord book that started with heroine raping the hero. Lord was all the rage for a couple of years and then seemes to have vanished.

I only read part of one and that was the fairly unforgettable scene (only now I've forgotten the title)

Okay, got it--In a Wild Wood. She finds the guy tied to a tree and drags him home to play. She starts out raping him and he ends up basically raping her.
3. carmenlire
One of the cynster books had a witch who slept with--I think Harry?-- when he was a guest at her home/sleeping. She did it because she needed an heir.
SEP has another book, Anybody's Baby But Mine, in which the heroine jane deliberately seeks out the hero because she wants a child, but doesn't want the child to be too smart like her and feel like a freak and she doesn't want a father haning around. The hero is understanably livif when he finds out she's pregnant. It's actually one of my favorite books by SEP
4. willaful
I've read all of them! What does this say about me. :-)

Perhaps the most bizarre of all is Vampire Lover by Charlotte Lamb, which does a thorough genre-subversion.

It seems that female-male rapes in romance are largely motivated by wanting children -- or in Serena's case, security. This Heart of Mine and Vampire Lover are interesting in that the motive is actually desire/power.
5. rubymydear
Yes, Alexis Hall wrote an interesting post on Vampire Lover for Wonkomance:
Donna Bailey
6. donnarb60
The SEP title with Jane and Cal is "Nobody's Baby but Mine", and whatever she writes is great, regardless of the setup. I adored "This Heart of Mine", Mollie and Kevin end up as equals in love and war, awesome!
7. Torifl
Heroine's raping heroes infuriates me. I think because women as a whole have always had that threat hangng over their head. W e know the feeling of being powerless and forced to do things we don't want to do. So to know those feelings and still force that on someone else is unexcusable in my book. But, rape period is inexcusable and I'm stabby when anyone does it-male or female.

I read This Heart Of Mine and Mollie was never able to win me over. I found her selfish, self destructive, immature, and if I was Kevin, I would have dropped her from a high cliff.
Tasha Turner
8. TashaTurner
I have problems with the prevelance of rape in romance books. I don't care who does it it's just wrong and ruins what might be an otherwise good book for me.

I haven't read any of the books mentioned so I can't comment on them. But at least it sounds like they somewhat deal with/address the issue unlike most of the guy rapes girl books.

I long for romance between characters who treat each other with respect. In real life we can have problems and get respect so why can't more of our books feature that?
9. Jennifer R
Other woman-raping-men fiction I can think of:
Farscape-Crichton gets raped by Grayza and her seduction gland.
I'll Take Manhattan and Scruples 2 by Judith Krantz. Though in the first case, the guy calls it rape but it seems pretty dang mutual. The second case, however, was flat on "climb aboard while the guy is asleep" rape.
10. Rainytown
I don't like rape no matter who's involved, especially in contemporaries. There are too many women who know what sexual attack is, and it's not romantic. I'd like to think that there are other methods available to get the hero and heroine into bed without resorting to forced sex.
11. Judy19
I hated Nobody's Baby But Mine - I hated Jane and her attitude towards Cal. I've avoided This Heart of Mine because I hate Mollie from all I've read about her w/o ever reading the book. I loved Prisoner of My Desire - that was a life/death/etc. justification of what the heroine did. Lethal Weapon was awesome and Forbidden was great. I guess my issue of the lady raping is in contemporaries which are supposed to be more real to life. PNR and Historicals make it seem better.
12. Reba15
I really liked The Duke and I, but it bothered me that Quinn did not acknowledge or even address the essential rape of Simon by Daphne. What follows is Daphne being angry at Simon and his apologizing for his behavior. Yes, she had reason for her anger and he should have apologized, but Daphne never apologized nor were her actions painted as wrong to the reader. Diminished what would have otherwise been a perfect pairing.
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