Lately I've been picking up some vintage smut paperbacks, many of which revolve around the narrator's loss of control and power. And at first glance, you can see why I assumed Man Rape would be a pretty sexy read, what with the purposefully provocative title and the frankly baffling octopussy art. Boy, was I wrong!
This "Scandanavian bestseller," written by Märta Tikkanen in 1975, is in fact a furious feminist polemic on marriage, heterosexuality, and power. Yup. Not what I was expecting at all (although I would like to read that book some day!). Along with being a bloody bleak read, it's also a truly bizarre way to start series on panty-creaming publications. Talk about your cold showers. For days after reading it I walked around giving men the stink-eye, and I'm a Women's Studies major - I know from depressing!
Since I don't think this book is in high circulation these days, I'll just give away the entire plot: Eva Randers, a divorced librarian with two sons, is raped (I guess you could call it a date rape) by a male acquaintance. She eventually decides to revenge-rape him and then inform the police, thereby sending a message to the public (men are as vulnerable to rape as women) and to male rapists (watch out!). Eva succeeds in raping the man, but fails to convince the police of her crime despite ample proof; they dismiss her confession and chalk the incident up to kinky sex. To top it off, when Eva gets home her younger son informs her that he's raped his girlfriend and is going to be charged.
So, yeah... Not the most subtle book in a lot of ways, although some of the narrator's observations are pretty shrewd and a lot of this stuff still rings true today, unfortunately. One of Tikkanen's main theses -- that men are vulnerable to sexual violence by women -- is almost as radical a concept today as it was over 30 years ago. Yeesh.
The biggest selling point of this book has to be the scene of Eva's revenge, which was an entirely new experience for me as a reader (I can't even count the number of times I've read the reverse). Tikkanen does a very convincing job of taking us through Eva's psychological trajectory, and by the time I reached the actual event I was pretty agitated and I had to put the book down a few times. A LOT of vitriol is crammed into this passage, which weaves back and forth between the present and Eva's memories of her own sexual assault:
"... has anyone ever had their prick bitten off, and she's siezed with a wild desire to see what would happen... it would be a fine way to repay him for what she had to swallow the last time, she can still remember the taste and how she wanted to spew it out again, choking, smelling of those bushes with their stinking yellow flowers, sperm... he screams."
What more can I say? If you're looking for a fun, sexy romp -- not for you! If you're looking for a brutally honest and graphic description of something you may never have encountered in fiction before... give it a whirl.
Tune in next week for another review -- it'll be juicier, I promise!