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From the onset, the underlying theme in Violet Winspear's romance novel, Time of the Temptress, is female submission and powerlessness, especially in the sexual tension between Eve Tarrant and Wade O'Mara. Although no explicit sexual relations are allowed in the line of "Harlequin Presents..." romances, the overall tone and interpersonal dynamics of the novel infer a rape motif. Eve is completely at the mercy of Wade to save her from the jungle and she yearns to express her gratitude in a sexual manner, but contrary to the original biblical outcome, this Eve has no power over her Adam.
The first step to conceive a sexually submissive woman is to equate female powerlessness with normality in her mind. To simplify the procedure, Winspear has bred Eve with that mindset. Eve believes men and woman have always had "functions in life" --"very dissimilar" ones which "accounted for the fact that men had aggressive ways to which women submit either willingly or unwillingly." As long as Eve retains those lessons, Wade has no qualms about aiding her escape from the jungle. Wade quickly informs Eve that she must adopt the frame of mind of an Indian squaw because "Squaws are humble and obedient creatures." Simone de Beauvoir, while discussing the theory of a superior "One" and a submissive "Other," explains that the "Other . . . must be submissive enough to accept . . . [an] alien point of view," the view of the superior "One" (244). Eve readily accepts her role as the oppressed and finds nothing odd about the unspoken caste system.
Thus we come to the second step, passive-aggressive behavior: degrade her and then apologize; or repeatedly remind her that she failed, but then reassure her it's resolved and see if she agrees with your reasoning. After Eve takes a dip in the river while Wade sleeps and monkeys steal her clothes, Wade screams at her, "dammit, Eve, we'll lose about an hour of our trek because of your female irresponsibility!" (64). While looking for her clothes, Wade also loses his compass, doing what a "raw recruit would have avoided" (74). Of course this also is all Eve's fault and she is reminded of it repeatedly throughout their jungle trek.
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The final step to achieving a perfectly submissive female: cause her to believe sexual relations thrive when you cannot control their onset. After Wade finds Eve digging through his wallet for a picture of his family, he drags her from the ground and kisses her passionately. The same instant, he "thrust her away from him," shouting, "Get away from me!" When she stammers "Y--you kissed me--," he retorts, "You were asking for it, and I'm not made of ironwood" (117). Then, as if to warn her of his uncontrollable lust, he says, "now you know what could happen to you" (117). This is a classic rape scenario: a man loses control of his lust and tells the woman it was her fault, that she was unconsciously begging for sex and got what she deserved. Many real-life rape victims struggle with those feelings of guilt years after their bodies are violated, believing somehow they "asked for it." Maybe they dressed too suggestively or acted like a "tease"; maybe they were partially to blame, since men can't control themselves in tempting situations. But Eve believes she cannot control Wade's lust and finds the thought of this erotic. She forgets any ounce of self-respect she may have had when she asks Wade after he breaks their passionate, naked embrace, "Y--you won't let me thank you for all you've done for me" (136). She truly believes she should thank him for her rescue by sleeping with him.
The blatant chauvinism and degrading tone of Violet Winspear's Time of the Temptress should scare women. Women are the principal readers of the Harlequin series and obviously enjoy and accept the images portrayed, as over 100,000,000 books are purchased each year (Woodruff 27). Women find the forceful man to be erotic, apparently. But God help women when the thought of having no power over a heroic, macho man and wanting him to lose control, "ravishing your body" against your better judgment, is the romantic ideal.
de Beauvoir, Simone. "Women as Other." Writing About the World. Ed. Susan McLeod et al. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. 242-247.
Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1977.
Woodruff, Juliette. "A Spate of Words, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Or, How to Read a Harlequin." Journal of Popular Culture 19.2 (1985): 25-32.