The Spy Who Loved Me, published in 1962, represented a marked deviation from the original, and so far rather successful, Bond formula. For his tenth adventure, Bond would not appear until two-thirds of the way through, as the novel was concerned with the plight of 23-year-old Canadienne Vivienne Michel. Fleming found writing from the perspective of this unusual protagonist came easily — and the fact worried him. Sure enough, the book was met with universal criticism and a decline in sales. Some thought it was too explicit, others too inane. Convinced his literary experiment had failed, Fleming would only allow the title of the book, and not the plot, to be used for its eventual film adaptation.
However, in terms of studying the Bond female psyche, Viv’s account proves invaluable. Fleming’s notion that women love rape reappears, but this time from a female mouthpiece! After narrowly escaping the clutches of the lecherous Sluggsy and Horror, Vivienne surrenders to the embrace of her mysterious savior, whom she has only known for about six hours and who really made a hatchet job of the rescue operation, and their love-making culminates with one of the bizarrest romantic passages of all time:
“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.”
But there are other reasons The Spy Who Loved Me is a critical text for Bond girl study:
- It defines more activities that are not, apparently, rape (or even semi-rape)
- It offers the experience and assumptions Bond girls have before meeting James Bond
- It provides a rather specific reference point for how other men compare James as sexual partners
Consent in the 1960s
Up until this point, Viv’s descriptions of past sexual encounters reflected a more realistic, if infinitely more disheartening, reality. She describes her first love, Derek, who pressures her into having sex for the first time, and an older German paramour, Kurt, who insists she have an abortion after their meticulously structured sexual encounters do not go to plan. The original Bond novels were published in the 50s and early 60s, just shortly preceding the arrivals of second-wave feminism the postwar social movements which would begin to reimagine women’s sexual rights, with one major difference – we now view rape as an act of violence, not a sexual act.
Genuine rape is more the explicit, Hollywood variety — drunk, unattractive older man. Fleming wouldn’t classify Viv’s encounter with Derek as rape though it would certainly fall under the spectrum by our modern standards; the increasing availability of contraceptives made it even harder to say no because pregnancy was not a risk.