As Mr. Kurtz so famously put it, "The horror! The horror!"
There's so much here that's horror-inducing that I think that might be the genre.
I was actually excited to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. People said that the author was smart! You know, she has a PhD--in SCIENCE! That the premise was unusual! You know, WWII nurse sucked into henge-y highland vortex and transported 200 years into the past!
But really it's just a super boring, super bloated paean to how great it is to be dominated by some big dude in a skirt and no underwear and learn to call him master. Marital rape is AWESOME because even though it HURTS to have your husband fuck you super hard when you're already in pain and begging him to stop, the extra-super intense orgasm you have from it and the special closeness you feel to your
husband lord and master afterward makes it all worth it. Same thing with having him beat you: yeah, it hurts, but if you deserved it, well, it just helps you see what a lucky lady you are to have a such a strong, domineering husband. Check it out:
"Aye, I mean to use ye hard, my Sassenach," he whispered. "I want to own you, to possess you, body and soul." I struggled slightly and he pressed me down, hammering me, a solid, inexorable pounding [!] that reached my womb with each stroke. [I really truly am not making that up. Someone wrote that sentence and managed to get it published in a book.] "I mean to make ye call me 'Master,' Sassenach." His soft voice was a threat of revenge for the agonies of the last minutes. "I mean to make you mine."
That's how the rape begins. And here's how it's continued the next morning:
"I'll be verra gentle," he wheedled, dragging me inexorably under the quilt. And he was gentle, as only big men can be, [!] cradling me like a quail's egg, paying me court with a humble patience that I recognized as reparation--and a gentle insistence that I knew was a continuation of the lesson so brutally begun the night before. Gentle he would be, denied he would not.
Yeah! What lady doesn't love "brutal lessons" about how she has to submit to her husband?! The whole time-travel aspect is there only so that some 20th century woman can go on and on about how great it turns out to be to get "a solid, inexorable pounding" against her will.
And even though being raped into submission and learning to like it makes Claire Beauchamp feel like a natural woman, being gay-raped into submission and learning to like it makes her husband--her real husband, Jamie, not the effete 20th-century Frank, with whom she has obligatory, boring non-rapey sex--want to die. Given that Gabaldon demonstrates that there's clearly nothing degrading about rape itself, it must be that gay sex is degrading. Because real sex is about the fact that real men have it because the womb is such an awesome place and "They want to come back."
A friend who has herself published a romance novel told me that today, the major romance presses would never publish a novel that contained some of the horrible, backwards ideas you find in this novel. Thank god for that. But I have to say it's hard to believe someone could write such outdated shit even 20 years ago, in the the late 20th century.
People sometimes say that Beauty and the Beast is essentially a story about Stockholm Syndrome--it's all about learning to fall in love with your kidnapper. Well, Outlander is like 50 Shades of Stockholm Syndrome. There's S&M just like in 50 Shades, plus the writing is terrible: getting a PhD didn't teach Diana Gabaldon how to use a freakin' semicolon, the book abounds with both really distracting Americanisms and even more distracting attempts by Gabaldon to sound Scottish (I didna ken someone could waste so verra goddamn much time establishing a dialect), and I got SO BLOODY TIRED of all the long, boring passages that were clearly included only because she wanted to show off all the research she had done and was unwilling to sacrifice them for the sake of producing a stronger, more readable work.
And Clair Beauchamp is an awful, insipid heroine who belongs among the sisterhood of Bella Swann and Anastasia Steele. She never seems like someone who'd been sucked into another time. She seemed like someone who signed up for the Peace Corps and was mildly surprised that the place she ended up was slightly more primitive than she had expected. Here's what she has to say about the difference between the world that produced her and the one with the big husband with the big dick: "Jamie was real, all right, more real than anything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945. Jamie, tender lover and perfidious blackguard."
Seriously? This is a woman who was a WWII combat nurse--and the Holocaust didn't seem "real" to her? The country had barely begun to end six years of rationing--and she never misses a decent cup of tea? Or maxipads, even the crappy ones from the 1940s? Or toilets that flush?
This is shit, shamefully bad shit.