Time of the Temptress: Paper 1
Terynne T. Wilkosk
Introduction to Literature
December 16, 1994
Do Me or Kiss Me Punishingly;I’m Powerless
From the onset, the underlying theme inViolet Winspear’s romance novel, Time of the Temptress,is female submission and powerlessness, especially in the sexualtension between Eve Tarrant and Wade O’Mara. Although no explicitsexual relations are allowed in the line of “Harlequin Presents…” romances, the overall tone and interpersonal dynamics of thenovel infer a rape motif. Eve is completely at the mercy of Wadeto save her from the jungle and she yearns to express her gratitudein a sexual manner, but contrary to the original biblical outcome,this Eve has no power over her Adam.
The first step to conceive a sexually submissivewoman is to equate female powerlessness with normality in hermind. To simplify the procedure, Winspear has bred Eve with thatmindset. Eve believes men and woman have always had “functionsin life” –“very dissimilar” ones which “accountedfor the fact that men had aggressive ways to which women submiteither willingly or unwillingly.” As long as Eve retainsthose lessons, Wade has no qualms about aiding her escape fromthe jungle. Wade quickly informs Eve that she must adopt theframe of mind of an Indian squaw because “Squaws are humbleand obedient creatures.” Simone de Beauvoir, while discussingthe theory of a superior “One” and a submissive “Other,”explains that the “Other . . . must be submissive enoughto accept . . . [an] alien point of view,” the view of thesuperior “One” (244). Eve readily accepts her roleas the oppressed and finds nothing odd about the unspoken castesystem.
Thus we come to the second step, passive-aggressive behavior: degrade her and then apologize; or repeatedly remindher that she failed, but then reassure her it’s resolved and seeif she agrees with your reasoning. After Eve takes a dip in theriver while Wade sleeps and monkeys steal her clothes, Wade screamsat her, “dammit, Eve, we’ll lose about an hour of our trekbecause of your female irresponsibility!” (64). While lookingfor her clothes, Wade also loses his compass, doing what a “rawrecruit would have avoided” (74). Of course this also isall Eve’s fault and she is reminded of it repeatedly throughouttheir jungle trek. Wade even calls her a “jackass”at one point (64). Following his verbal abuse he spins 180 degreesand admits he’s a “damn careless fool” (84), enticingEve to jump in, as she does, and take some of the blame for thehumble mercenary’s admitted mistake by stating, “I disobeyedan order of yours, Major, and that’s why we’re in this predicament”(84). In the end, Wade is verbally abusive while Eve takes responsibilityfor his error while looking the fool. He appears macho, but sensitive,and she appears always the silly female.
The final step to achieving a perfectlysubmissive female: cause her to believe sexual relations thrivewhen you cannot control their onset. After Wade finds Eve diggingthrough his wallet for a picture of his family, he drags her fromthe ground and kisses her passionately. The same instant, he”thrust her away from him,” shouting, “Get awayfrom me!” When she stammers “Y–you kissed me–,”he retorts, “You were asking for it, and I’m not made ofironwood” (117). Then, as if to warn her of his uncontrollablelust, he says, “now you know what could happen to you”(117). This is a classic rape scenario: a man loses control ofhis lust and tells the woman it was her fault, that she was unconsciouslybegging for sex and got what she deserved. Many real-life rapevictims struggle with those feelings of guilt years after theirbodies are violated, believing somehow they “asked for it.” Maybe they dressed too suggestively or acted like a “tease”;maybe they were partially to blame, since men can’t control themselvesin tempting situations. But Eve believes she cannot control Wade’slust and finds the thought of this erotic. She forgets any ounceof self-respect she may have had when she asks Wade after he breakstheir passionate, naked embrace, “Y–you won’t let me thankyou for all you’ve done for me” (136). She truly believesshe should thank him for her rescue by sleeping with him.
The blatant chauvinism and degrading toneof Violet Winspear’s Time of the Temptress should scarewomen. Women are the principal readers of the Harlequin seriesand obviously enjoy and accept the images portrayed, as over 100,000,000books are purchased each year (Woodruff 27). Women find the forcefulman to be erotic, apparently. But God help women when the thoughtof having no power over a heroic, macho man and wanting him tolose control, “ravishing your body” against your betterjudgment, is the romantic ideal.
de Beauvoir, Simone. “Women as Other.” Writing About the World. Ed. Susan McLeod et al. FortWorth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. 242-247.
Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1977.
Woodruff, Juliette. “A Spate of Words,Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Or, How to Read aHarlequin.” Journal of Popular Culture 19.2 (1985):25-32.