Welcome to yet another exciting recap of A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey, a historical romance novel first published in 1978.
When last we left Bettina, she was on the Windsong and heading for the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean.
Chapter four makes a jump to two weeks into her journey. Bettina’s burned out on the lack of proper bathing (I really can’t blame her) and getting a touch of cabin fever (no pun intended). Every time she goes up on deck, however, the captain flips out because he’s convinced that the crew are going to mutiny and rape her and steal her gold. This is portrayed like it’s just a natural consequence of how hot Bettina is, but that’s really not how reality works. If this is something Captain Jacques Marivaux needs to worry about, he got himself a really, really bad crew.
Troublingly, nobody will tell Bettina about why they’re actually concerned:
“It’s not for you to concern yourself with,ma cherie,” Madeleine said. “You just do as the capitaine instructs.”
“But you do know the reason, don’t you, Maddy?” Bettina pressed her.
“Yes, I suppose I do.”
“Then why do you hesitate to tell me? I am not a child anymore.”
Madeleine shook her head. “You are innocent of life, and a child in many ways. You know nothing of men, and the less you know, the better.”
“You cannot protect me forever, Maddy. I will have a husband soon. Must I be completely ignorant?”
“No—no, I suppose you are right. But do not expect this old woman to tell you everything you want to know.”
“Very well, just tell me why I cannot have the freedom of the ship,” Bettina replied.
“Because you must not tempt the crew with your beauty, my pet. Men have strong desires that make them want to make love to a woman, especially one as lovely as you.”
No, Madeleine. You’re not worried that these men will want to “make love” to Bettina. You’re worried they’ll assault her. She probably doesn’t know what rape is, but she does know what violence is. The absurd victim blaming going on there is probably both historically accurate to the seventeenth century and accurate to societal attitude’s in the ’70s, but it’s still gross and makes me sad. As a human being, Bettina deserves better than this.
As an illustration of how wrong this view of rape is (men have STRONG DESIRES and a really beautiful woman will just MAKE THEM RAPE), here’s a picture of a dog with a hot dog on his nose:
Look at that dog’s eyes. He wants that fucking hot dog like you have never wanted anything in your life. This is an apex predator, being taunted by a bit of delicious processed meat that can’t run away. And why isn’t he eating it? Because he hasn’t been told he can yet. He’s waiting for consent from his human. This is an animal that licks his own butt and he knows he can’t have that hot dog without permission, even if it’s right there on his damn face.
So unless your argument is that men are actually dumber than dogs–holy misandry, Batman–anybody creeping on Bettina is an untrustworthy asshole, not a victim of “strong desires.” They never should have been hired if they can’t be trusted with the passengers.
A week after that conversation, one of the crew members bursts into Bettina’s cabin and grabs her. She screams, he’s caught, and the captain’s really charming:
Captain Marivaux appeared beside Bettina, scowling. “It is most unfortunate that this has happened, mademoiselle. Comte de Lambert will be furious when he learns that you were nearly raped.”
The crew member is whipped in a horrible, bloody detail while Bettina is beside herself. She begs them to stop, not understanding what’s going on. It’s incredibly dark. After the whipping, blood splattering, and Bettina’s puking are all done, she goes to Madeleine to ask her for an explanation of it all
“But the man did nothing, and now he is marred for life because of me!”
“He disobeyed the capitaine’s orders, and for that he was whipped. The crew was warned not to go near you, Bettina, but this man did not heed the warning. He would have made love to you if the capitaine had not heard your scream,” Madeleine said quietly.
“Then why didn’t the capitaine say that, instead of saying he nearly raped me?”
“Did you want that man to touch you?”
“Of course not,” Bettina replied.
“Well, he would not have taken your wishes into consideration. He would have forced himself on you against your will, and that is rape.”
A romance novel that has a love-at-first-rape plot actually accurately defines rape? There’s no wiggle room there at all. If somebody’s touching you without your consent, it’s assault. Boom. Right there in the fourth chapter, though I’m still gagging at the “make love” phrasing. It also leads to this introspection from Bettina hammering Madeleine’s definition home:
Bettina leaned back on her own cot, her mind in a whirl. So that’s what rape was—making love to women who did not want to be made love to. How awful!
I kind of want to close the book right now, cheer Johanna Lindsey on for taking on rape culture in the 1970s when people in the 21st century still struggle with what she’s laid out so simply in black and white here. But…this is not the end of the book. Alas. We haven’t even met Tristan yet.
Come back for another chapter tomorrow!