Geneva the Rapist

I understand there’s a current recrudescence of the question as to whether Jamie’s sexual encounter with Geneva Dunsany was rape.
No, it wasn’t.
There are two parts to this question, and I’ll answer them both, but separately.

Part I: Reality

1. The situation is laid out pretty clearly: Geneva wants Jamie to have sex with her because she’s about to be married (very much against her will) to a man old enough to be her grandfather, and the only thing she can control is who she gives her maidenhead to. She’s spoiled, impulsive and doesn’t care about anyone but herself, so makes up her mind to deprive her elderly husband of the virgin he thinks he’s getting.

2. Jamie is a prisoner on parole, employed as a groom on her father’s estate. She’s sexually attracted to him, and has been flirting blatantly with him for some time—all of which he ignores. He’s the best prospect she has for what she has in mind—and she doesn’t like being flouted--so she orders him to come to her room and deflower her.

3. Naturally enough, he’s having none of this and turns her down flat. (Note that point, please…)

4. She responds by producing a letter that she’s intercepted, sent to Jamie by his sister, which not only pinpoints his family and Lallybroch, but contains enough information to get Jamie’s entire family arrested—and quite possibly hanged _en masse_--for treason, should the wrong people see it. Which, Geneva tells him, they _will_, if he doesn’t show up in her room at night, ready to do what she requires.

5. Sick with terror for his family—and helpless; he can’t strangle the girl, and even if he took the letter from her by force, she could (and would) tell the authorities everything in it. Given their relative social positions, she’d be believed, and Jamie and his family would be toast.

6. He goes to her room, and does what she wants.

OK. Now, personally, I have trouble seeing how anyone looks at that situation and emerges with the notion that it’s _Jamie_ who’s committing rape. By the mores of the early 21st century (more about that in Part II), plainly Geneva is a sexual predator, and Jamie is the one who very clearly says “No.” (“No means no,” right? Right? More about that in a moment…)

Geneva is blackmailing an innocent person, and a man who is a captive, without power or resources, coercing him into committing a serious crime (fornication with an unmarried young woman being technically a crime, even if consensual) as well as an immoral act—as well as something he patently, clearly, totally doesn’t want to do and has so stated in the baldest of terms.

It’s obvious that it’s Geneva who’s committing rape, not Jamie. Q.E.D.

So, why do a number of people think he is? See Part II.

Part II: Cultural Ideology

The notion that Jamie is raping Geneva rests on one brief moment during that fateful night.

1. Jamie comes to Geneva’s room. She has the letter and promises to give it to him. His only real alternative to doing what she wants would be to kill her, and while he might get away with it, he isn’t a murderer. So he doggedly sets about his half of the bargain.

2. In spite of the situation, and his feelings about it, he is

a. A gentleman

b. An essentially kind and decent man

c. Twice Geneva’s age, and

d. Very pragmatic, by necessity and experience

He therefore doesn’t treat her roughly (as a less pragmatic man might have done) and does treat her with respect and gentleness (partly from pragmatism—what might she do if she were dissatisfied with his performance?—but mostly from innate decency). He tells her at the beginning that he’ll treat her well, not because of her threats, but for his own honor as a man, and hers as a woman. (Sex is an important—and hitherto, sacred—thing for Jamie. We’ve seen this in him through roughly 800,000 words by this time, so I think we might trust our impressions.)

3. He does treat her gently, with consideration and physical tenderness. However…

4. She _is_ a virgin, which means that there’s an unavoidable point where push comes to shove, literally.

5. This _is_ the whole point, as far as Geneva was originally concerned; she wants to be deflowered, and is compelling Jamie to be the agent of her defloration. She didn’t merely “ask for it,” she demanded it, bluntly and with threats. So…

6. He does what’s necessary to accomplish this.

7. Momentarily panicked by the initial hint of pain—though she’d told him she knew it would hurt and didn’t mind—she cries out, “Stop! It’s too big! Take it out!”

8. Now, she _is_ panicked. Jamie can tell that, and so can the reader (because I told them so). He realizes—on the basis of her contrary behavior through the entirety of their acquaintance, and his knowledge of women in general—that if he backs off, she’s just going to spend the rest of the night jacking him around before she finally lets him finish this bloody bargain and go.

9. He doesn’t stop. [Here I will pause, for the gasp! of shock from whose innocence, cultural conditioning (see below) or lack of experience has led them to believe that this is rape. Are we momentarily recovered now? Good. Then let us go on…]

10. They’re in Geneva’s bedroom; there are servants and family well within hearing. If she wanted to, one piercing scream would bring help and very likely get Jamie beaten to death on the spot. Does she do that? Why, no…

11. Afterward, she cuddles with Jamie, attempts to call him by his real name (which he refuses to let her do), and tells him that she loves him (an endearment that he also refuses, though gently, telling her that love is not this).

12. She then asks him to do it again.

13. Quite obviously, Geneva doesn’t think she was raped. Q.E.D.

So…why the heck do some of you guys think Jamie raped her?

Because she said “stop” and he didn’t. Forget everything else that did and didn’t happen, forget the personalities of the people involved, forget the innate power imbalance of the situation, forget the exploitation of an enslaved person, forget _everything_ except the shibboleth (you might want to look that one up, if you haven’t seen it before) that “no means no.” (As long as it’s a female who says it.)

Those of you who are satisfied with the above analysis probably want to stop reading at this point, because if you held the opinion that Jamie committed rape, you’re not going to like the following—and I warn you, this is analysis, not an invitation to engage me in ideological discussion. I have work to do, and I won’t answer any such attempts.

In short, “no means no” is not—as some people seem to think—an immutable law of physics, true throughout all times and places. It’s not even statutory law. It’s a useful fiction, developed in response to a very limited cultural context (emergent over the last fifty years) in which promiscuous casual sex has been widely accepted as both normal and not immoral.

This context has—not surprisingly—made the question of consensual sex a thorny one for young men, and young men being what they are, sometimes they assume it’s consensual and the female party either doesn’t (but got pretty far involved before saying so), or changes her mind. Sometimes she changes her mind _after_ sex. Sometimes—yes, this is heresy, make the most of it—she says “no,” but _doesn’t actually mean it_! (NB: circumstances aren’t limited to the ones described. Sex is an intricate business, and one with a vast array of possible emotions and meanings.)

Essentially, within this specific little ideological space, “no” is a safe-word. It’s meant to stop things getting out of hand, and if ideally employed, often it does.

However, no safe-word is effective unless both parties recognize the same rules of engagement.

And finally…as noted, this cultural context developed since 1960 or thereabouts; I know, I was there. <g> It definitely _wasn’t_ in existence in 1757 in the Lake District of England.

Ergo, to judge an encounter between people who are not operating by the conventions of your personal limited ideological context, by those conventions, is somewhat unreasonable, not to say illogical.


*(That means “_Quod erat demonstrandum_”—“Thus it has been shown.” It’s what you put at the end of the proof of an algebraic theorem, as an indication that you _have_ proved it.)


Now, VOYAGER was published in 1993, so you’d think this question might well have been answered before, and that the answer might be easily findable on the web. You’d be right in both those assumptions.

BUT, people don’t always behave logically. After all, it’s so much more fun to leap to conclusions and start fights and adrenalate all over the internet—and this tendency is well known to those who make money by producing “content” by exploiting the work of people who actually do produce something real.

In this instance, the question seems to have originated (if such a word can be used in such a context) with a blogger seeking eyeballs by instigating controversy—mostly by posting insulting opinions of the books, the show, and (by implication) me, in hopes of provoking people to comment and repost.

It’s a cheap trick, but effective—in the short run. You’ll notice I’m not giving the name of said blog, nor yet a link to them. I’m sure you’ll find it if you want to.

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