The Semi-Rape Predicament

The conquest of her body, because of the central privacy in her, would each time have the sweet tang of rape.

Casino Royale, p. 157

“All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped.”

Darko Kerim, From Russia, With Love, p.102

“All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful.”

Viv Michel, The Spy Who Loved Me, p. 128

Robert Harling, a wartime friend who served with Fleming in the 30 Assault Unit, argued sadomasochistic tendencies were a product of the British aristocracy’s repressed need for affection: “impulses towards this important emotional release are frequently stifled for them at about the age of eight when boys go away to boarding school… The boys grow up, professing to hate what they so need” (239).

Fig. 1. “If James Bond Were ‘Updated’ for the Politically Correct ‘90’s.”

The “semi-rape” sentiment can be somewhat contextualized by Fleming’s interest in sadomasochism, which he shared with Anne. Although explicit elements of S&M, which might establish a more obvious link between the practice and Bond’s mode of sex, don’t appear in every book, the aggressive dominant/submissive dynamic underlies most of Bond’s sexual relationships. Because these encounters are all heterosexual, the dominant and submissive roles are inevitably tied to gender – usually, the man is dominant and the woman submissive. One notable exception is Honeychile Rider, who tells Bond “you owe me slave-time.” Ian and Anne would similarly switch roles in this dynamic.

However, the dominatrix seems to be the one element of S&M power play that Fleming handles as purely a construction of the bedroom. In the literary Bond universe, the male-dominant female-submissive sexual fantasy is presented as the natural order of the genders, and is an undercurrent for all of Bond’s interactions with women. Sex, in Bond’s universe, is inseparable from this reality. If all psychologically sound women are interested in sex with men, as Bond believes (and the author figure seems to verify), then all mentally sound women want men to dominate them, which culminates in “semi-rape.” Women are portrayed as child- or animal-like, and lesbians as either a “sexual challenge” to be conquered, like Pussy, or sexually confused if they do not ultimately succumb, like Tilly Masterton (Fleming, Goldfinger 144).

Given that Bond is successful in most of his sexual endeavors launched under this premise, and given the universality of “semi-rape” remark, which emerges in different forms from Bond, Darko Kerim, and Viv Michel on separate occasions, it would not be a stretch to surmise Fleming shares this view. He describes Bond’s straightforward, aggressive, yet detached way of handling women as the inevitable product of a “violent age,” arguing “seduction has, to a marked extent, replaced courtship” (“Playboy Interview: Ian Fleming” 100).

It should be clear, however, that “semi-rape” (or the clumsier “sweet tang of rape”) in the Bond literature refers to consensual, if slightly more risqué, sex. Bond exists in a world where all desirable women are at least latently heterosexual and eager to indulge him, as well as Fleming, in this fantasy structure. Despite his apparent willingness to use this term, Fleming is coy when making reference to real sexual assault: Pussy Galore describes her experience as a child in euphemistic terms. Honey Rider is similarly vague: “He knocked me unconscious and then I think he did things to me. I mean I know he did. Next day I wanted to kill myself when I saw my face and when I found what he had done.” Genuine rape, where it exists, is treated as a threat (The Spy Who Loved Me), an injustice which justifies murder (Dr. No), and a cause of trauma (Goldfinger).

Darko Kerim “won” a Bessarabian girl in a fight, knocked her out, took her clothes and kept her chained naked under a table. “She had to learn who was master… [and] when the time came, she refused to leave me. An interesting lesson in female psychology.” 103

A common theory on the appeal of BDSM – that it removes the guilt of having and enjoying sex because the scenario is “forced.”

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