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23rd February
2011
written by Steph

Just say no?

We all know by now that I fell in love with Deborah Harkness's magical reading sensation A Discovery of Witches when I read it a few months back. After finishing that book, I was struck with curiosity regarding another series I have long known existed but was never really had any interest in. That series is the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. To me these books seemed like big romance novels not really meant for serious readers, but after legitimately enjoying the romance between the two leads in Witches, I got to thinking, what's so bad about having a little romance in the books that I read? I don't want to make a steady diet of romance-heavy books, but I have nothing against them in principle. So you'd think that I'd just dive into Outlander and see what all the fuss is about. I even went so far as to borrow an ebook version of it from my local library. But I'm hesitating and here's why: from what I've read, I know that this book will have scenes involving gratuitous sex. And I'm not a prude, I've experience plenty of people getting it on in the pages of books I've read, though we all remember that I was less than impressed by the so-called sexiness of the Sookie Stackhouse books whose primary m.o. is to titillate. But reading people rubbing their bits on each other isn't really what's holding me back. No, instead I'm worried because I know that these books will involve not just sex, but graphic depictions of rape. And I don't need to tell you (but I will) that the idea of rape is as far from sexy as I can get. Again, I've read books (and seen movies) that involve rape scenes, but it's always been clear in those scenes that these are a violation of the body and spirit. I am concerned that the way rape is depicted in Outlander may not be quite so clear-cut, but that perhaps we are meant to find it a bit of a turn on. I know there are some women who have rape fantasies, and I don't want to judge, but I am clearly not one of them. I don't think there's anything sexy or exciting about non-consensual physical relations or mixing sex with abuse or degradation. My understanding is that there may be both male and female rape scenes in the first book, and my concern is largely with the latter, though I admit that the former is certainly troubling in its own right. So I guess what I'm asking is for those of you have read these books to chime in and let me know what you thought when reading them. I am ok with them being escapist romps, but I truly feel anxious about the idea of getting invested in a story (I mean, Outlander is like 700 pages or something) that goes to a scary psychological place where forced sexual encounters are condoned or even considered arousing. I could of course venture forth myself and make my own proclamations, but I am feeling reluctant and want to gather some more opinions. So, if you have any thoughts on this series at all, please share them!

18 Comments

  1. 02/23/2011

    I haven’t read the series and so I can’t help, but I’ll be interested to see what the other commenters tell you. That’s definitely something that would really put me off as well.

  2. 02/23/2011

    I’m another who hasn’t read the books and so can’t weigh in, though I too am interested to see what others have to say. I’ve been considering reading Outlander as well.

  3. 02/23/2011

    One word: Shudder.

    Of course, you know I can’t stop with one word. I “read” Outlander preblog, so I don’t have a review a refer you to–and read is in quotation marks because I skimmed the last half and skipped the “sexy” scenes altogether (which meant what seemed like half of the last half). Besides the graphic sex and sexual-violence (including a supposedly titillating beating), the book was terrible at the time travel elements. Claire, who as I recall is a bit of a Mary Sue, gets whipped back into time and within what seemed like half a day, she has totally adapted to it. And so many all-too-convenient contrivances. And… shudder. Did. Not. Like.

  4. 02/23/2011

    I think I read the first one of these when I was 14 or so. I don’t remember much about it, but I didn’t go on to read the other ones.

  5. 02/23/2011

    I can’t help you with this, unfortunately. Like Teresa, I tried to read the first one, but just couldn’t get into it. I also really didn’t like Claire, but I think what made me giggle was the dialect. I couldn’t (couldna) take it seriously, unfortunately. I heard that in addition to rape, there is also a scene of the hero hitting the heroine and her not really seeming to care… but I am not sure I am correct on that.

  6. 02/23/2011

    And here I thought I was the only person in the world who hadn’t read these. I say you should stick the exclusive non-reader club. 😀

  7. kay
    02/24/2011

    Oh my! I started reading these books a long while ago, and in French translation at that time (I think the last one is the only one I haven’t read). I remember that I enjoyed them as escapist reads, while still disagreeing with parts of it (I am really not a fan of the rape fantasies, either).

    I know what I enjoyed most was the historical aspect of it, plus some characters. But after a few books, I felt there was way too much drama going on. They are constantly being put in life-or-death situations, people trouble their relationship, there’s war, sicknesses, deaths, etc. Well, you are going through their whole life after all, so there would be some events of the kind, but after thousands of pages of omg-will-their-love-make-it-through-!?, I only felt relieved to know that my own life wasn’t as tormented.

    I really don’t know that you would or wouldn’t enjoy it. If I were to bet my 2 cents though, I’d bet on “wouldn’t”. But then we would also be blessed with an awesome review of yours, so for that I selfishly say, read it! 😀

  8. 02/24/2011

    Yikes! These books do not sound like my cup of tea – no wonder you balked at reading them. Truthfully, I hadn’t ever considered reading them before, since I wasn’t even sure what they were about. I thought they were cheesy romance reads, which don’t get me wrong, I indulge in my fair share of chick lit, but romance, sappy reads are not exactly at the top of my reading lists. From what I’ve read in the comments you’ve received, I’m glad to find out I’m not the only one who hasn’t read the books and didn’t know much about them 🙂 I’m pretty sure I’m going to NOT read Gabaldon’s series. What did you decide?

  9. 02/24/2011

    I love these books, and am in the middle of the series after gorging myself on them all the way through to the fifth book. I see them as my reading candy. Yes, there are depictions of male and female rape in them, but I think you might be surprised in the way that they are handled,at least in the way that the male rape is handled. The female lead in this book is a modern woman, so the way that she experiences the issue is far more like a female of today’s time would handle it, which I think is different than the way that a person who actually hails from that time would see things. It would be interesting to hear your take on these books, and see what you think. I am in the camp that doesn’t really see these books as romance books, rather I look at them as historical fiction with a lot of adventure. I am not sure if they would be your cup of tea though, as I don’t think you are a big historical fiction or romance reader. You will have to let us know what you decide!

  10. 02/24/2011

    I’ve only read the first book in the series which I thought was alright and went on to read two other mysteries featuring a side character, Lord John, but not the rest of the series (mainly because I couldn’t find the second volume in my library). Yes, there are a lot of sex scenes (as in most romances) but I think the rape scene was handled sensitively and I was surprised at how Gabaldon wrote it. I’m not sure if I’ll continue the books (I should have read it when I was going through my Highlander phase!) but I know it’s a very popular series, so maybe you should try it and see for yourself!

  11. 02/24/2011

    These books are a cult favorite for a reason; they are insanely popular escapist reads. You will learn a little about about Scotland, but other than that these books will not make you smarter what-so-ever… hence the appeal. They are solely for those times that you need a break.

    I, personally, flew through Outlander. You will not like the rape scene (I can tell from your post). I absolutely did not… however I have friends (who were reading it at the same time) who barely noticed it. It did make me love Jamie a little less, but a friend of mine reminded me that it was supposed to have been written with the culture of the time as the judge. I don’t think that it will ruin the overall experience of the book for you (like you said it’s roughly 700 pages and the scene takes up maybe 1 of them).

    If you’ve read Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you will not be phased in the slightest by this scene… it is not graphic (relatively speaking). I think Gabaldon was stupid to include it as it does nothing to advance the story, but she can’t take it out now (some 20 years later) I suppose.

  12. I wasn’t a fan of Outlander. I struggled to finish it. My review is here: http://www.farmlanebooks.co.uk/?p=3438 and it also gives an example of the weird sex scenes. I think the brief rape scene is the least of your worries – the writing is terrible and I think you’ll struggle with the characterisation. Why not try it though – you’ll realise quite quickly whether or not it is irritating!

  13. 02/24/2011

    I don’t know. I just love these books. They are the only romance type books I have every liked and I am addicted. I have read them all and listened to them all on audio. I think I basically glaze over on the sex scenes and don’t really analyze them. They become much less bodice-ripping as the series progresses. I love Gabaldon’s writing and I love the characters. I really don’t care if the sex scenes are well written or not. Now I’ll go see what others had to say

  14. 02/25/2011

    I often go into books to see what the fuss is about 🙂

    I’ve read the first two: had fun with the first (although you can’t help role your eyes once in a while – don’t expect Nobel-material 🙂 ), found the second terribly boring and never picked up the others. I can clearly remember the male rape scene and true, it’s disturbing. Honestly don’t remember the female rape (does that already tell you something?).

  15. 02/25/2011

    They don’t sound my cup of tea either, but I know they’re extremely popular. However a series of doorstops is a lot of pages to read should you get hooked … I’d prefer to read more different books.

  16. 02/25/2011

    I know nothing of those books, and I have to say, your description of them didn’t appeal to me much. After Teresa’s comment, I’m guessing these books aren’t for me. I agree with you, though, about romance. Nothing wrong with a little of it now and then!

  17. 02/28/2011

    Ouch, I haven’t read these books, but titillating rape/beating scenes are so not my cup of tea, and from what I have read on your blog … it doesn’t sound like yours either.

  18. 02/28/2011

    Thanks to everyone who has left feedback so far. Whether you’ve loved the books or hated them, I’m finding these comments really edifying. I am probably going to have to try these just so that I can weigh in at some point! I am not certain that these will be books that I enjoy, but I suppose I owe it to myself (and my readers!) to give them a shot and report back.

    But probably not for a while… Lots of other books to read in the interim, but if the urge strikes me, I’ll certainly go with the flow.

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