To Sir Phillip, Get Lost You Creep

February 7, 2021 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Finally I’m up to Book 5, aka To Sir Phillip With Love aka the one about Eloise, at last.

Spoilers.

Also, content warning: depression, suicide, sex, childbirth, and rape.

No. Stop. Burn it. Burn them all.

Oh, this SUCKS. This sucks so much, it turns all previous non-sucky moments into pure suckitude.

Julia Quinn, what is WRONG with you?

Rest of the world, WHY did you buy these books?

The love interest is an actual, literal rapist. THIS is who intelligent, feminist Eloise is meant to live with? THIS is her happily ever after?

No.

Every single book in this series is just so rapey, but this one is worst of all.

There are ameliorating circumstances, to a limited extent. The rape happens when Sir Phillip’s first wife, who was always badly depressed, is even more depressed after giving birth to twins. Sir Phillip waits until he’s sure that she’s physically recovered from the birth* and then goes and has sex with her. Although she “doesn’t say no” it is “like having sex with a corpse” and he’s so sickened by the whole thing that he throws up afterwards, and then doesn’t have sex for eight years.

In case it’s not obvious, she is too depressed (and too aware of her “marital duties”—sadly women often WERE raped by their husbands, and still are today) to say no to him. But obviously, it’s still rape.

One of the most icky tropes plays out through this book: the idea that women are a strange exotic species that can’t possibly be understood by men.

It’s not romantic, it’s lazy. And it is directly linked to “grey rape” scenarios like the above, where the man supposedly doesn’t know he’s raping someone.

Even though he’s having sex with (or rather ‘at’) someone who is as responsive as, to quote the text again, “a corpse”. 

How long did he spend thrusting into his completely dry wife? We know he had an orgasm.

It is perfectly obvious when a woman is not into having sex with you. Any decent man knows that sex hurts for a woman if she’s not at least a little turned on. (Which begs the question of how many other times he used her like a blow-up doll in the past.) If you have sex, you make sure that the woman is ready before you penetrate her. EVERY decent human does that. Every time. She doesn’t even have to say anything. Her breath might quicken, she may give you a sexy look. She may open her legs.

It’s. Not. Rocket. Science.

It’s also not a modern invention. Yes, women have had it worse in historical times. But we’ve still had good and bad sex, and known the difference—and shown the difference in our behaviour, our words, and how we relate to our menfolk the rest of the time (shrinking away in horror? Avoiding him? Or seeking him out, touching him as we pass, exchanging secret we-totally-had-sex smiles across a crowded room).

So don’t give me “historical accuracy”. Jane Austen somehow managed never to be rapey, not even a little bit. 

But in every book, Quinn emphasises how big and tall the men are; how strong—which is all fine—and how they use their superior strength and status (as men, as husbands, as rich people, as a higher class) to intimidate the women they ‘love’—which is not.

Clearly Quinn thinks that a man threatening to rape his wife is sexy. Apparently she even thinks a decent man could rape his wife, get his orgasm, and all the while not realise that he’s raping her.

No.

I understand that there’s an appealing element to a strong, powerful man who totally could rape or kill or financially ruin a woman, and never ever will. But it’s not okay for a man to deliberately loom over a woman in an argument. That’s step one on the road to physical abuse (it starts with scaring her with a load voice or scary posture, then he breaks physical objects to intimidate her, then he physically hurts her). 

So I won’t be reading any more Bridgerton books.

(It’s worth mentioning that Daphne rapes Simon in both Book 1 and in the TV show’s Season 1. It’s slightly less cut and dried in the TV series… more like theft of his sperm, but at a very vulnerable moment that should have been sacred and loving. But it’s still using sex to gain power over another person. I forgave it in part because it was still physically possible for him to stop her, and it was clearly a one-off. Also he refused to have sex with her after that, which was rational. They didn’t have sex again until trust was restored.)

And yes, the character of Eloise was absolutely unrecognisable. It was almost better that way, because the alternative was to say that she “grew up” and that’s why she didn’t want to go to university or rail against the plight of women any more.

Sigh.

I’m so angry, and depressed, and scared. Scared because this whole rapey/power thing is considered okay, which it is NOT.

The good news is that I’m working on a story set in the Regency Era myself, and anger is a great motivator for creating better art.

*As someone who’s had kids, the first time after sex is a big deal and needs a lot of discussion before, during and afterwards. If you’re a man, try using a cheese grater on your genitals and then see how you feel about your sex life. (Even when it’s healed, it’ll never be the same.)

2 Comments

  1. Neil@kallaroo said,

    You need a comfort read; try something on https://theresasmithwrites.com/2021/02/07/6degrees-of-separation-from-redhead-by-the-side-of-the-road-to-home-stretch/

    I read the first Bridgetown novel, and it was OK, though I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to read any more. Now I’ve read this blog, I shall definitely abstain!

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