Squawk Radio

Friday, July 07, 2006


Dear Friends,

Now that we’re on our summer schedule, I go to bed at the same time as my children, because I have to wake up at four to start writing. (Thankfully I'll get back on a normal schedule once they start school.) My early bedtime means I miss all the great shows, like “Rescue Me”, the acclaimed and controversial drama about firefighters, starring Denis Leary in all his offbeat sexiness.

Apparently there’s been a furor in the blogosphere over a recent episode of “Rescue Me” in which Denis’s character has a sex scene with his ex-wife. To my regret, I didn’t see the scene, nor do I know anything about the show, but I don’t see why that should stop me from having an opinion about it. Heh.

From what I can gather, the scene was presented as a rape, in that it started out with the ex-wife being unwilling, physical force was used throughout, and--here’s the controversial part--at some point the ex-wife seems to enjoy it.

Now we find ourselves on the tricky, difficult ground of sexual reality-vs-sexual fantasy.

The idea of actual rape, reality rape, terrifies and disgusts me. It doesn’t belong in the same category as sex--it is a crime that causes damage both physically and emotionally, and there is never an acceptable excuse for it.

And yet in the dynamics of sex play, in sex as it is portrayed in books and movies, the elements of dominance and submission are a turn-on for most people. In the debate of what is acceptable in reality and fantasy, I think this is a crucial point : movies, books and TV shows are not meant to be instruction manuals for how people should behave. When I write a novel, I want my readers to enjoy it, to have fun, and hopefully to find the love scenes erotic. Obviously these books are not meant as a guide to life, nor should they be taken that way.

So here am I, a Wellesley College graduate and a feminist, admitting that in the depths of my working-mom psyche, I think the concept of what’s been called “forced seduction” is a turn-on. The idea of being overwhelmed, seduced, pleasured by a dominating alpha male, while the female has no choice and no responsibility, is a potent concept. It’s one of those things that I would never ever ever ever ever ever want to happen to me in real life, but in the realm of fantasy, it works for me.

All that being said, what position should we take on a creative work, such as “Rescue Me,” that portrays a rape in a sexually stimulating manner? Is it dangerous to women, in that it may influence men toward real-life rape? Or will most people view it in the context of a TV story with invented characters leading fantasy lives? Have any of you actually seen the episode I’m referring to, and if so, what’s your take on it? Also, do you have a problem with “forced seduction” in romance novels, or do you find it arousing?
Lisa Kleypas, 6:20 AM