By Lisabet Sarai
Kathleen is responsible for our current topic, a discussion of how secondary female characters are stereotyped as conniving bitches in erotica and erotic romance. All I can say is, “Duh?”
I don't watch television, so I've never seen more than snippets of “True Blood”. However, I can't recall seeing this sort of trend in the erotica and erotic romance that I personally read. For instance, I just finished K.D. Grace's novel Surrogates. The heroine Francie is close friends with her employer Bel, even though Francie and Bel's husband are having a secret affair (with rather odd limits). Bel perhaps seems less appealing than Francie – she's a bit materialistic, and not completely honest with her husband – but I'd hardly call her a bitch. In fact, in the mistaken belief that Francie's suffering from loneliness and sexual frustration, Bel tries to set her friend up with a charming and handsome escort.
Meanwhile, in my own fiction, the other women who enter my heroine's life are more likely to end up as her lovers than her rivals or enemies. In Raw Silk, Kate finds herself in a steamy ménage a quartre with Thai maid Orapin. Miranda's roommate Lucy, in Incognito, role-plays a submissive student to Miranda's stern teacher as well as sharing her fiance with her studious friend. Even Francesca in my thriller Exposure, who is duplicitous and power hungry, and might, indeed, be a murderer, has a soft spot for my heroine Stella. The closest character to a bitch in any of my work might be Ruby Maxwell Chen in Ruby's Rules. However, she's the main character, not a secondary female.
In short, I just don't get it.
Given that I haven't really observed this pattern, there's not much I can say about it. However, to make your time worthwhile, I'll end with a quick excerpt from Exposure, highlighting the interactions between Stella and Francesca.
"Tell me more, Stella. I want to know everything." She leans forward, her tears gone.
Her eagerness makes me suspicious. Why in the world should I trust her? She has every reason to hate me, the floozy who was with her husband when he was murdered.
"That's it. After that – there was just two dead bodies and a lot of blood." I remember how Tony looked, empty, all his life and power gone. At the time I was too shocked to know I was afraid, but now the horror hits me, full force. I am confused and dizzy, and suddenly I am shaking again, my breath coming in gasps, close to hysteria.
I feel her arms around me. She's comforting me now; my head is on her chest. "Hush, Stella, it's okay. Don't worry. It's over. You're safe. It's terrible, but now you're safe."
I'm sobbing, gulping in air, trying to get control of myself. Still I notice that her breast is pleasantly round and firm beneath my cheek. Her scent envelops me in a sensuous cloud. She runs her fingers through my hair, working out the tangles, while she croons in my ear. I begin to feel a bit better, and then suddenly, she slips her hand inside my robe and begins to stroke my breast with cool, delicate fingers.
I raise my head and look into her eyes. Her lips curve into a half-smile. She leans down and kisses me, open-mouthed. I kiss her back.
It is as if I am watching myself from a distance. I feel the sensations, her smooth skin, her minty taste, the tickle of her hair as she bends to suck on my nipples. I can't understand why her touch arouses me so much. I'm still afraid, still suspicious, but the sensation of her tongue prodding my swollen flesh pushes everything else into the background. She nips at me. My cunt contracts into a tight knot, aching to be undone. She laps more gently, circling my nipples with her tongue. My sex relaxes, opens, trembles waiting for her next assault.
I am eager, wet and ready when her fingers find my cleft. I clutch desperately at her dress, arching my back and humping myself against her hand while she plays with my tits. She finds my rigid clit and works it with her thumb while her fingers play in my pussy. I squeeze my eyes shut, grinding against her, reaching for the climax that seems only a breath away. Pleasure washes over me, each wave more powerful than the last. Her fingers strum and stroke. My whole body vibrates with sensation, ready to shake itself apart, as I teeter on the edge for what feels like forever.
I feel all this and yet I am far away, wondering who this woman is, wondering why she wants to give me pleasure and why I am allowing her to. My orgasm is shattering and yet it seems to occur behind a wall of glass. I am divided from myself in a way that is totally foreign to me. It's a little frightening.
None of it seems real again until I find myself slumped in the chair, still panting, my robe hanging open, my thighs sticky. The kitchen reeks of sex. Francesca seems cool and collected. She smiles enigmatically and finishes her scotch.
Francesca is an opportunist, perhaps. A sensualist, definitely. But not, I think, the sort of bitch Kathleen is talking about.