Feminism

Redeeming Love: Brothers and Bothers

[Content note: discussions of abuse and coercion]

Plot Summary:

  • Paul, Michael’s brother-in-law, returns.
  • He recognizes Angel, thinks she deceived Michael about her profession.
  • Paul leaves to get supplies, demands sex in order to take Angel with him.
  • The Palace burned down, so Angel’s money is gone.
  • She returns to prostitution.
  • Michael finds her, fights everyone in the saloon, takes her back to the farm.
  • Angel tells Michael about her past.

***

As you can see, stuff actually happens in these three chapters (14-16), and there’s so much to dig into. So much. It’s a little overwhelming, especially since this section pushed almost every single one of my buttons. One of the first is how magnificently obtuse Francine is about her own characters. We’ve seen this before, but it becomes a problem in this section when she introduces us to Paul. He’s been trying to “get rich quick” in the mountains, but is returning in an almost prodigal-son-like fashion to the farm, where he also has a cabin apparently.

Francine is attempting to give us a foil for Michael. We’ve only been watching how Michael interacts with Angel, so we’re given Paul in order to demonstrate just how wonderful and supportive and nice Michael actually is, because look at what this horrible brute does to Angel.

He makes an almost-incredible amount of assumptions about Angel– beginning with a bunch of (coughnothistoricallyaccuratecough) stereotypes about prostitutes, leading to the belief that Angel is deceiving Michael about what she used to do for a living, and ends with him convinced that she’s a stone-hearted bitch (a phrase Francine very awkwardly avoids using, which reminds me of the note in the beginning about her editor cleaning the book up for a “Christian” audience). He’s horrifically judgmental, calls her a liar repeatedly, and constantly thinks about being horribly violent toward her. It’s all capped off with him forcing Angel to have sex to “pay” him for the ride into town.

All of this is supposed to be in contrast with Michael … except it isn’t.

Since the very beginning, Michael has done nothing but make assumptions about Angel based on those not-historically-accurate stereotypes– she’s a prostitute, so she only understands one kind of “love.” She’s a prostitute, so she’s shallow and manipulative. She’s a prostitute, so she thinks being on a farm is boring drudgery. Etc. He’s also countermanded her about her own feelings and wants and ideas almost every single time she’s expressed any. A typical interaction is “I want XYZ” and he says “No, you don’t.” And then oh there’s this:

He didn’t want to pity her. He wanted to shake her until her teeth feel out. He wanted to kill her. (204).

This isn’t him being overly dramatic, either, because of what happened earlier: He’s taking her back to the farm while she repeatedly tells him to let her off the wagon. When he refuses, she throws herself off and runs away. He chases her down and starts dragging her back to the wagon while she resists, and then we read:

He almost hit her back, but he knew if he hit her once, he wouldn’t stop … If he had hit her back once, he would have killed her. (195) [On recalling finding her at the saloon] If he hadn’t seen her eyes or heard the way she said his name, he would have killed them both. (196)

Francine has made it as clear as she possibly could that Michael actually literally wanted to murder Angel, but through mountains of restraint somehow managed not to beat her to death. She does all of that, and yet the reader is still supposed to see Michael as fundamentally different and better than Paul. The way Michael and Paul treat Angel is fundamentally the same, but again, Michael didn’t have sex with her and reads the Bible a lot so he’s the nice one– ignore the murderous rages, those are fine.

***

One of the biggest problems with this section of the book is that it buys into common — but false– narratives about abuse. Setting aside the fact that Michael wants to beat his wife to death, he does actually restrain himself from physical violence toward her. Paul does not– during the ride into town, he “hits every hole in the road, bouncing and jarring her … He enjoyed her discomfort” (185). The book condemns his behavior here and in other places– physically hurting Angel is clearly out of bounds for Francine.

The narrative condemns physical abuse while giving us a character who emotionally abuses and psychologically torments his spouse and describing emotional abuse as not just normal, but praiseworthy. Francine utterly ignores the fact that not all abuse looks the same– and when Angel reacts to Michael, the text makes it clear that she’s reacting to her past with Duke, not Michael, and her reactions aren’t trustworthy. Her responses to Michael’s incredibly ominous behavior are supposed to be considered unreliable, instead of a realistic depiction of how a victim would react to someone who’s been emotionally abusing them. When I got to this scene, I wanted to cry:

“Because I love you,” he said thickly. He swung her around in front of him, his eyes tormented. “That simple, Amanda. I love you. When are you going to understand what that means?”

Her throat tightened, and she hung her head.

They walked the rest of the way in silence. He lifted her onto the wagon seat. She shifted over as he pulled himself up beside her. She looked at him bleakly. “Your kind of love can’t feel good.”

“Does your kind feel any better? … I felt like killing you when I walked in that room, but I didn’t. I feel like beating sense into you right now, but I won’t …” (197)

I wanted to scream. This is not what love is. If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a relevant scene:

Yondu: When I picked you up as a kid, these boys wanted to eat you. They ain’t never tasted Terran before. I saved your life!

Quill: Oh, will you shut up about that? God! Twenty years, you’ve been throwing that in my face, like it’s some great thing, not eating me! Normal people don’t even think about eating someone else! Much less that person having to be grateful for it!

I’m a big fan of that scene, because as extreme as the Ravagers eating Quill would have been, this thought is practically textbook abuse and Quill’s response is completely brilliant and true. When Michael defines “love,” he says that it’s not killing her and not beating her, like she’s supposed to be grateful.

There aren’t words to describe how horrific and excruciating it is that when Francine is describing what love means, her definition matches that of conservative Christianity’s perfectly. When they say that God loves us, what they mean is that despite all his wrath and fury, he doesn’t murder us where we stand, and we’re supposed to fall down on our faces in worship. “I want to kill you, but I won’t” is part of the bedrock of evangelical theology, and it’s incorporated into any theological discussion of God’s love. It’s sickening.

Another classic sign that Michael is an abuser appears in his internal dialogue after the return to the farm– Angel “betrayed” him. She doesn’t have a conscience. She cut him to ribbons. She should feel ashamed of herself, she was his wife and she left him and had sex with all those other men he could just kill her.

This is textbook abusive entitlement. He practically abducts a delirious woman, manipulates her into “marrying” him, absconds with her to an isolated area she can’t escape, refuses to help her, forces her to work for him, cook for him, refuses to even use her goddamn name, all while she is constantly telling him she doesn’t want to be there, she doesn’t want to be his wife, she wants to leave. And yet when she does exactly all of that it’s such a betrayal he wants to kill her.

And Michael is considered one of the most wildly romantic figures in all of Christian fiction.

***

I promised at the beginning of the series that we’d be talking about survival sex, and we’ve gotten there. Here’s a quick definition and two very good articles about it:

Survival sex is, quite simply, exchanging one’s body for basic subsistence needs, including clothing, food, and shelter.

So, pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Much of the conversation about survival sex focuses on homeless youth because they’re especially at risk, but I think many of us have known an adult woman who had sex with someone in order to have a place to live. It can also appear in abusive relationships– having sex in order to prevent verbal/physical beatings, or to extend to “honeymoon phase.” It’s sex that, given a more ideal set of circumstances, would not happen. It’s sex with consent, but without autonomy. Things like survival sex is why I balk at reductionist approaches to consent— it’s possible that someone can consent, but for their choices to be so bounded that they don’t actually have a choice. It’s consent coerced by circumstances.

This is clearly what is happening to Angel– when she returns to Pair-a-Dice, winter is approaching and she has nothing but the clothes on her back. No food, no shelter, no money. When the saloon owner offers an upstairs room for her to get “back in business” (190), she has no other option. It’s that or either die of starvation or exposure– even if she wanted to go back to the farm and the man who’s been emotionally abusing her, lying to her, and manhandling her, it’s 30 miles away. So, thinking “I’m never going to be free,” (191), she uses sex to survive.

After Michael beats up everyone in the saloon and forces her to come back with him, Francine writes this internal thought process for Angel:

Angel felt the building warm of the sun on her shoulders and remembered Michael dragging her with him through the night to face the sunrise. “That’s the life I want to give you.” She hadn’t understood then what he offered. She had not comprehended until she walked up the stairs at the Silver Dollar Saloon and sold her soul into slavery again …

What have I done? Why did I throw it all away? Paul’s words came back: “You’re not even worth two bits.” It was true … it hadn’t even taken a day for her to fall right back into her old ways …

It was all her fault. All the ifs flooded her: If she had never left Duke … if she had never gotten on that barkentine … if she hadn’t sold herself to any passerby on the muddy streets of San Francisco or gone with Duchess … if she had ignored Paul … if she had stayed here and never left … if she hadn’t gone back to Pair-a-Dice or gone up those stairs with Murphy …

Michael had taken her straight out of the abyss and offered her a chance– and she had thrown it away. (200-202)

Francine is oh-so-conveniently leaving out the rather important fact that what Angel chose for herself was a cabin in the woods– independence and freedom. Given the information she had access to, Michael was not the “chance” she’d thrown away. She had her own chance that she’d worked for. She had a plan that was simple and completely achievable. That the Palace burned down and the Duchess left with all of her money is not something she knew when she left the farm. She didn’t choose Murphy and the Saloon; circumstances limited her. But ten pages of the book make it clear that it was really all her fault and she needs redemption and forgiveness, with God repeating “seventy times seven” in Michael’s head.

This book is grotesque.

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  • Amanda Peltier

    Ugh, I remember reading books like this during my formative years, when I still didn’t always understand why adults would do things and had to take the author’s word for it whether a character was supposed to be laudable or despicable. I’m upset that there’s still a place in my brain that sort of approves or recognizes as logical the idea that “they just don’t know what’s good for them” is ever a good reason to override another person’s stated wishes without their consent.

    • Storm

      I’d argue there are rare situations where it’s true: parenting, for example – you can try and teach kids about why they need to do or not do certain things but sometimes the child is just too young to understand or the situation too urgent to explain.
      Someone who is suicidal (and does not have a terminal illness) – it’s usually considered good to get help for them even if they say they don’t want it. Many people owe their lives to a friend’s intervention that they now acknowledge was the right thing to do, but they were not in a mental state to accept help at the time.
      Someone who is drunk and attempting to drive home – obviously you should step in and stop them from doing so.

      So basically if the person is in a severely altered mental state, such as psychological problems, drugs, or not being an adult yet, then there are cases where it’s okay for another person to step in and try to look out for their best interests.
      Obviously this is not at all the case in this book – Angel is an adult, and although she has undergone trauma and abuse, that does not mean she’s incapable of making her own decisions. Only in the toxic evangelical framework is that true.

  • I guess insofar as the cabin in the woods would mean independence and autonomy, it’s considered as bad a choice for a woman as prostitution, from the perspective of conservative Christians.

  • Lmndrop

    Ugh. I remember when I was about 18 or 19 and walking away from religion, a friend trying to “help” (I.e. Save my soul) me suggested I read it. I borrowed it from him but got bored about halfway through, and don’t think I ever got to this part. So glad for that now. It makes me a little angry now reading this review and realizing what he thought I needed to read.

    That being said, this type of thinking is so rampant in conservative Christian circles and affected me anyway, since I grew up in it (homeschooled quite a bit of my time as a teen, etc). Maybe not always so blatantly as this book, but that’s the message sent. This was really hard to read, as some of these lines are almost word for word things both abusive exes I’ve had have said and the internalized messages things that made me stay. Things like saying how much I should be grateful he didn’t hit me because I made him want to (nevermind that ex was physical with me anyway lol). That I didn’t know what abuse was when I called him out on emotional/psychological/verbal abuse, because hey, at least I’m not hitting you! And the being trapped and not allowed to leave, either physically blocked or financially manipulated. And the coerced sex, knowing it’d lead to hours of threats if I said no forcefully enough to stop it. And the sex when I said no but he kept going anyway and I was too scared to force it more. And thinking anyone I told would see it as my fault because I didn’t ascribe to the no premarital sex thing anymore. I might have well have been a prostitute in their eyes since I did have sex willingly sometimes. So why would I think they’d see it was wrong or help me? Women internalize this even if it’s not the intent and then don’t ask for help when they’re subjected to domestic violence.

    It all hits way too close to home, and that’s because this is happening every day. To women who grew up reading this bs and thinking it’s acceptable because that’s what they’re taught.

  • J.B.

    Even short of the level of violence Michael seems to be inclined towards, his attitude towards Angel is much closer to parent-child than a relationship between adults. Even if he were lecturing and not fighting rage, it would still be seriously infantalizing.

  • Faye

    Since I was treated as male growing up, I got some awful ideas into my head, and I can see them here. It’s something I saw in IKDG too, and in a lot of Evangelical teaching on sex, dating, and marriage. It’s the idea that, by nature and by birth, men are monsters. That they all secretly want to be abusive, and the only thing holding them back is a flimsy set of rules (don’t have sex before marriage, and be a gentleman.) Take the traditional male role and mix it with total depravity, and it makes perfect sense.

    What finally proved that idea wrong, for me, was hitting my lowest point and realizing that, no matter how depressed and broken I felt, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. If I’d been naturally evil, that time would have brought out the very worst in me. Instead I was able to do the right thing without faltering. I never once considered knocking anyone’s teeth out. Michael’s just a sanctimonious creep.

  • Jackalope

    Thank you for coming back and posting again! I was hoping you would get around to it soon, although I know your life is crazy busy these days so trying not to think about it too much….

    And I hadn’t really thought about it before, but yes, Michael didn’t have a leg to stand on in being upset about Angel’s “betrayal”. She never chose him or this life anyway, except insofar as she didn’t want to die and he didn’t give her any other options (“I’m getting you out of here…. let me take you to a doctor/a good female friend’s place/someplace that doesn’t involve getting married when you can’t meaningfully consent….”). How is her leaving a situation that she’s said all along she didn’t want a betrayal?

  • Jacqueline

    I just found your blog and I remember reading Redeeming Love back when I was a young teenager and a conservative evangelical. I thought the book was so romantic and beautiful, and just like God’s love for me. I was thinking the other day about how twisted it was that I was taught to believe that I did not deserve God’s love at all but that he deigned to love me out of the goodness of his heart, instead of killing me and sending me to hell like I really deserved. It would be so horrific if my parent or my partner or somebody told me that I did not deserve their love at all, but that they were going to love me anyways. I am so glad to know differently now, and hopefully I’ll eventually really believe that I *deserve* love too. I really appreciate this review series.

  • Melody

    “Survival sex is, quite simply, exchanging one’s body for basic subsistence needs, including clothing, food, and shelter.”

    I think this is what some of the earliest feminists meant when they claimed that marriage could be simply another form of prostitution. A more condoned and acceptable form, but still a form of. Many women who grow up in abusive households also see this as a way to escape their situation. Changing one difficult situation for the next, hoping it will be better this time around.

    “[H]er definition matches that of conservative Christianity’s perfectly. When they say that God loves us, what they mean is that despite all his wrath and fury, he doesn’t murder us where we stand, and we’re supposed to fall down on our faces in worship. “I want to kill you, but I won’t” is part of the bedrock of evangelical theology, and it’s incorporated into any theological discussion of God’s love. It’s sickening.”

    ^^^^This. This is why I stopped believing altogether. A God like that isn’t worthy of worship. I realized that all this time that I had loved God, I had feared him even more. Much more. Like you say it was very much a bounded choice, a Stockholm Syndrome kind of relation. I loved God so he wouldn’t kill me and throw me into hell. That’s not really love. That’s just surviving a nasty situation. I think that because of abuse in my childhood, I never knew that different forms of love or power existed (at the time). All I knew was that if I was a good girl and kept my mouth shut I wouldn’t die just yet. And I didn’t want to die just yet. (This is also why although I tend to rant online under a pseudonym, I still find it quite hard to speak up in real life: I’m still too damn afraid half of the time. It’s not a walk in the park.)

    That is why for me not believing in a God anymore is so freeing. It means that the threat has gone and I do have more freedom than I thought. I can make my own choices and don’t have to be afraid anymore. I think it might also be why I couldn’t be a Progressive Christian, even though I longed to for a while. Even though that God would be much more loving and nearby and far better all together, this God would still be God, would still be some powerful entity with power over me. I’d still be afraid. There wouldn’t be any equality in the relationship. There simply can’t be with a God (in my opinion): there will always be a power difference no matter how you look at it. Sure a good God is better than a bad one, but, for me personally, no God is even better than that.

    Maybe it is just trauma speaking, but I don’t think so. I never liked or trusted authority much and my personal experiences have probably turned that into a warped kind of mistrust of any authority. In my experience power is easily abused and often will be misused. The people who long for power often aren’t the ones who should have it and yet they nearly always do end up in powerful positions.

    How do you see God’s power now? I know you care a lot about equality and abuse; how does God feature in that? As a protector and a judge, as a Liberation theology kind of God? How do you perceive the power difference between God and humankind?

    • I get being suspicious of authority. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I fully trust any leadership structure (and I think that’s healthy and ok).

      But I don’t object to the idea that God/ess is more powerful than us, or that it’s fundamentally a problem to have power because one can’t be equal with someone in power. Parents have power over their children, governments have power over their citizens, I have power on this blog to moderate comments and to shape ideas. I think power can exist without power being an abusive or coercive force.

      The Bible is just one source of information about “God,” and respecting it as the foundational sacred text of my religion doesn’t mean I automatically have to trust its depiction of the divine as being 100% accurate. I also have my own mind and conscience, the broad history of Christian tradition which includes Thomas Merton and Phyllis Trible, the study of other religions and other ethical systems … and I think all of that can point us to “God.”

      In my context, God is not a coercive force, and God does not abuse.

      • Alice

        I think the issue is that a god would have unlimited power, and humans do not. The world is unjust, but there are checks and balances, like the state can remove children from their parents’ custody under certain circumstances. Even the most powerful person in the world has to die eventually. I tend to believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        • Melody

          Exactly, and as a human you would have to hope that God won’t abuse its power. Perhaps a good God won’t, but the power differential in and of itself could already be harmful in a way. You can’t win from a God; because you are not a god yourself. This kind of absolute power still means that we as humans are at that powerful God’s mercy, whether it is a good god or not.

          Perhaps had I grown up with a different image of God I might still be a believer. I am not sure about that, but coming out of fundamentalism, I cannot see God in a different light personally, but do enjoyreading about new and other ways of looking at God and scripture.

      • Melody

        I think that we both strongly dislike the God as portrayed in fundamentalist circles. For me it is more or less impossible to see a different one, for you it is possible. And I am glad for you that you are able to do so. It’s one of the reasons I follow this blog; to see a different form of Christianity – and to read about feminism and how the two interact – one that I can like and respect even if I no longer believe. And to read about seminary since I wanted to be a preacher when I was a little girl, so it’s interesting to me.

        It still feels strange to me that when I began following your blog a few years ago you were a more progressive Christian than I was and some of the things you claimed felt a little too progressive at the time and yet somewhere along the line I stopped believing completely. Like I said, I cannot make myself see and believe in a different type of God, which is why I stopped believing all together and it feels right for me.

        A few years ago, I wrote a paper about the Quakers (Friends) for a religion class and how they had female preachers back in the late 1600’s, hundreds of years ago. They were attacked with the very same Bible verses that were thrown at women in our church and it was very interesting to see how they’d dealt with that. So I’ll try and see if I can find this article of Phyllis Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation” somewhere because it sounds intriguing.

    • It’s interesting what you say: even though I’ve concluded hell is an obscene doctrine and find it unlikely, I still, every so often, fear it.

      Concerning the first paragraph and Sam’s quote, that’s basically why I abandoned the penal substitution model for Christus Victor, as the former sounded like Jesus talked God into beating Him instead.

      • Melody

        “[A]s the former sounded like Jesus talked God into beating Him instead.”

        Yep, as in Christ paid the price because God just had to go and punish someone: He had to dish out his wrath because He had a right to it. In other words a vengeful, jealous God which is also how He describes himself and is described in the OT.

        I saw the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings somewhere during my deconversion and God was portrayed as a whining, temper tantrum throwing child and it felt both blasphemous and quite accurate simultaneously. When you take it all literally God the Father isn’t very pleasantly portrayed; Jesus is already very different.

        I can understand that you find Christus Victor a better model as it has a greater emphasis on the relationship between God and humans and less on sin and God’s need for wrath and revenge. In my search for a hell-less Christianity I stumbled upon Origin who wondered if there was a possibility for mercy for Satan as well: the God he wanted sounded much more merciful than the one I’d been raised with. A God who abhors hell just as much as most people do.

        • My first exposure to hell-less Christianity was reading Jehovah’s Witnesses’s literature, in which they make a case for annihilation. I also read a site called Bible Truths, in which a guy makes a case for universalism. (I think the guy is too harsh on Bill Wiese from 23 Minutes in Hell.) However, this guy is traditional on same sex unions.

          Concerning atonement theories I have also considered the Moral Influence Theory.

          • Melody

            Annihilation though not pleasant when you may get a ticket to heaven, is far better than hell, I think. It isn’t as much of a punishment: heaven is only there as a reward, but there isn’t really a punishment for non-believers.

            I didn’t know that there were all that many atonement theories when I was an Evangelical; that didn’t come untill much later. There’s a wealth of different views to consider. The Moral Influence Theory would definitely be on the Too Progressive To Consider list when someone is a fundie though 😉 God has to have his justice after all.

  • It’s so frustrating that Angel is a somewhat realistically-drawn abuse survivor – like Francine *actually* constructed her pretty well. And then…the way she’s dealt with is maddening. “Abuse breeds distrust” is damn accurate, and we as the audience can and do emphasize with her, but God/Michael is so focused on making her love him, he never tries to understand her. Like what.

    (Also: If I recall correctly, Paul and Angel’s sex was manipulative and borderline coerced; even as a teen I never understood why she’s supposed to be half at fault for this).

    • I think many Christians like Francine, in general, are capable of seeing and recognizing the behavior of abuse victims as being somewhat unique to the fact that they survived abuse/trauma. However, the problem enters when they start postulating possible reasons for why abuse victims react in certain ways. Instead of listening to survivors or experts talk about things like hypervigilance, they say “it’s because they haven’t forgiven their abuser, so they’re bitter” … and I start throwing things.

      • I’ll join you in throwing things. >(

      • Melody

        I read this quote on Bruce’s (Gerencser) blog yesterday in a comment and I thought it was quite fitting. You might like it too.

        “You can tell how bitter someone is by the frequency with which they use the word.”

        I rather enjoyed that one.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    The “I want to kill you, but I won’t” paragraph was my favorite. It isn’t just a side note of evangelical theology – it’s near the very heart. Whole papers could be written about the side effects of this, and I’m selfishly hoping you get the opportunity to do so as part of your seminary studies.

    Who wants to bet that, at some point in the book, Paul is temporarily blinded and it leads to a conversion experience?

    P.S. I think “Brothers and Bothers” was Gary Gygax’s first game, but it didn’t sell well, so he spiced it up a little.

  • Madeline Costa

    I’ve been really enjoying your book review, thank you for your insight! I read this book a couple of times as a teen, while I was living with an abusive parent. I guess being in that situation I didn’t see how wrong the book was. I’m thinking I will go back to this book and examine it again through a feminist lens.

    Also, this book can be about how a kidnapper abuses his victim until she gets Stockholm Syndrome. I think that is more accurate than a love story.

  • Anna

    I’ve been re-watching the early seasons of “Criminal Minds” lately and now I feel like a modern version of this would probably fit very well as an episode of that show. I half expect Michael to turn out to be a serial killer who has bodies buried all over his farm.

    • I’m trying to think of quotes to go along with this.

  • Timothy Swanson

    This book is as creepy as hell. I guess I didn’t read any romance novels (of any sort, “Christian” or otherwise), but I don’t get how this stuff sells.

    Also, I am seriously annoyed at the violence this does to the story of Hosea. Don’t people get how symbolism works?

    • Jackalope

      As to how it sells… I’ve outgrown Francine Rivers in many ways, but she has decent skill as an author; she can write compelling, intriguing characters that you can get interested in and enjoy being around. And I don’t really get the whole romance novel thing either, but from their popularity it seems that a large number of people will regularly pay money to read quick-paced books about people falling in love, often in what seem to me painfully gender-stereotyped ways. In particular, women who are swept off their feet by strong, decisive, MANLY men who act the way we’re trained to think men should act. Meh. Not my thing, as I mentioned, but sadly that part isn’t too far off from the little tiny bit I’ve seen of romance novels in the past.

      (I will hasten to mention that this doesn’t describe all romance novels, but it definitely is a certain portion of them….)

    • I love the romance novel genre, although I’ve referred to it as “mac n’ cheese for the brain.” I even wrote a post talking about my experience with romance novels: http://samanthapfield.com/2013/03/01/escaping/

      I think with “this stuff” you’re maybe not referring to romance as a genre but to the particular sub-category: “romance” that’s really just abuse? If that’s the case, I share your confusion. It’s eternally frustrating to me that people can read Twilight or Fifty Shades and not see those relationships as abusive. Unfortunately, the concept “abuse is really romantic” is prevalent in every form of media, and when violence against women is entrenched this deeply in culture, it makes sense that women would look to media sources that say the horrible things that are happening to them is really just their asshole of a partner being “passionately in love.”

  • It occurred to me in re-reading this post that I forgot to mention something really important.

    In the scene when Michael is dragging her back to the wagon, Francine frames Michael as the epitome as manly restraint– this hooligan of a woman is daring to hit him, but he’s so wonderful he doesn’t even hit her back. She’s attacking him, but he refused to hurt her.

    The narrative completely ignored the fact that Angel had just thrown herself out of a moving wagon to get away from Michael and was being forcibly dragged back agains her firmly-verbally-declared will. He is being violent already. Angel is acting in self-defense against his violence, but Francine wants the reader to think that Angel is the one initiating the violence here.

    This is something abusers do. They get their victims to believe that resistance to their violence is the victim actually being the “hurtful” one. God. The more I think about this book, the more Francine makes me sick.

  • Thanks for introducing me to the phrase ‘survival sex’. I’m very familiar with the concept, but I hadn’t heard the specific phrase before. I’ve struggled in the past to clearly articulate the idea of ” sex with consent, but without autonomy,” and your description is very helpful.