Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sex, Violence & The Divine Feminine

By Cheryl Brooks

In my upcoming novel, Warrior, I write about a witch. Tisana is not the Halloween variety, but is a witch in the original sense of the word in that she is the local wise woman, skilled in herbal medicine and healing. She is in tune with nature, but can also summon fire and communicate with animals—powers which come from her alien ancestry. She's an Earth Mother, waiting for the “One” to come to father her child, and she finds him in the form of Leo, a Zetithian slave who is brought to her for healing. I had a strong affinity for the character of Tisana because most of what I do is nurture—my family, my animals, my garden, and my patients. These things I, and other women, do without any magical powers, and while it's great fun to write about a powerful woman, let's face it, we haven't got much power in this world. We may think we've come a long way, baby, but in all honesty, we haven't even begun the fight.

Witches—who were all women, of course!—have been cruelly persecuted in our world's past, and if you've read The Da Vinci Code or seen the movie, you have some idea as to why. The book may be fictional, but what facts are included are quite enough to see why we women are still second class citizens writing second class novels.

Whoa! Did I hear some snarls out there? It's true, and we all know it. The “domestic god” is a hope we all have who will begin to predominate and will someday level the playing field. If we have men who adore us, then things may go back to the way they were when women were revered for their skill and knowledge and their ability to bring forth life and nurture it, and not be seen as something to be dominated or abused. The fact remains that the domestic god is a rare specimen at one end of the male spectrum who is, sadly, far outnumbered by his wife-abusing counterpart at the opposite end.

Don't get me wrong: there are a lot of good men out there, and we should celebrate them. This is one reason why my heroes aren't aggressive or belligerent. I believe we should celebrate the men who love women and life in all its forms, who fight only when they have to, and not those who make war for the fun of it and grudgingly fall in love only because their hormones insist upon it.

Why do I bring up this topic? Because it's something that has bothered me for a long, long time, and watching The Da Vinci Code was a revelation for me. So, that is why women are mistreated and reviled! That is why sex became a dirty word! It never ceases to amaze me that violence is less censored in our society than sex. No one seems to be afraid to write about acts of violence—or to be seen reading about them. When grisly, horrific crimes can be described in gory detail, but the worst swear word anyone can think of is one which refers to the act of procreation, and the portrayal of the act of love is more taboo than that of taking someone's life, I think something has gone very wrong.

I have to laugh at the reverence expressed each Father's Day and Mother's Day and at the ooo's and ahh's over a new baby. It took sex for those things to happen, but we can't talk about that—that's a dirty, filthy subject!

When I write, I do so for enjoyment, and I do not enjoy writing about murder and mayhem; I prefer a sensuous love story with a healthy dose of humor. Who says the two can't go together? I've done my best to add a few laughs to what I write, and I've read reviews of Slave written by people who thought it was hilarious, but weren't sure I meant it that way. Of course I did! For the record, Slave was written to be as funny, sexy, and imaginative as I could make it, but, unfortunately, it does contain some violence. I wish it didn't, but as you know, there must be bad guys and a devious plot!

I've written a number of contemporary romances where there are no aliens, no magical beings, the men are nice guys that you might find working in your local grocery store, the women are just like your best friend, and there is no crime of any kind, but they'll probably never be published. Why? Because a romance by itself is seen as boring, and I find that very sad, indeed. Love is the very best thing this life has to offer. Why should it be depicted as anything less?

Not to provoke a religious discussion, but in writing this blog, I did a bit of reading about the Divine Feminine, and ran across a site by the Rev Laurie Sue Brockway.
There's a lot of thought-provoking stuff there; you might want to take a look at it.

I know this post isn't particularly upbeat, probably won't sell any books, and might ruffle a few feathers, but it's a topic that's been on my mind for a long, long time. What are your thoughts?


  1. Hey Cheryl,
    Great post on a great topic. I lived in Europe for three years where the view of sex and sexuality is much more liberal than it is here. I totally agree with you and funny what you said about birthdays, Mother's and Father's Days--all because someone had SEX people!

    I worry a lot about the ribbing I will take about the sexy parts of Line of Scrimmage. In fact, people have already asked me if I've done everything my characters do. My reply is always (and I stole this from another writer) that I practice my sex scenes the same way Stephen King practices his murders. That always shuts them up!

    As for the "regular" romances--that's what I write. Deb uses this line to describe me and my work: ordinary people, extraordinary love stories. I firmly believe there is a place in our genre for regular people and their love stories. No, Ryan in LOS is not "ordinary" in the sense that he is a celebrity, but he is very ordinary in that he has insecurities, doubts and the same need to be loved that everyone has. That makes him very ordinary indeed. Great topic!

    Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

  2. Here, here! Spoon clanking on coffee cup!!! If you've read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle or The Third Jesus by Deepak Chopra, you'll find that both men talk about the denigration of women in society and how religion pushed women out of their roles as spiritual leaders. I'm watching Mad Men, the AMC hit about advertising men (and their women) on Madison Avenue in 1960 and you can clearly see there how women were treated just 40 years ago. Sexual objects with no brain power. Sad, really. I reviewed To Hell With All That, Loving and Loathing the Inner Housewife on Athena's Bookshelf, which I highly recommend to see how and why we've gotten to where we are today with all things domestic. A really insightful read.
    You wouldn't believe the number of men, in this day and age!, who think it's a shame that I named my consulting company the ATHENA Institute (after the goddess of wisdom) and from there I named my book review site for women after her as well. Now I'm even writing about goddesses. Not because I worship them, because I don't, but I like that at one time, women were revered much more highly than they are today and I believe there is an inner goddess in each of us!
    I believe there is nothing more worthy than writing about than relationships. No apologies necessary!

  3. Marie,
    I'm gonna have to remember that Stephen King line! The one I normally use is that I get ideas from all kinds of people. I wrote one book for a friend who didn't care what happened as long as the guy got tied up and spanked! Never done that....*sigh*

  4. Malena,
    I guess there's a bit of Earth Mother Goddess in all of us. We just have to make the guys realize that being an Earth Mother also means there has to be an Earth Father, too!
    I do find it interesting that at one time they thought enough of women to make the "wisdom" deity a female!

  5. Way to go Cheryl. The article is fantastic and who cares about ruffling feathers.
    I do have to say that I really love books that have true romance in them where the man and woman are in tune with each others feelings. Too bad that there couldn't be more of this type of thing in reality.
    I do dislike intensly anything that is violent and will not read it. Blood, guts and war just aren't my idea of great reading material and I very seldom watch tv. When I do watch tv it will be the weather channel or food network and along those lines.
    I do believe that nature is of the female sort since nature is caring, loving, nuturing, birthing of all species and so much more.

    Malenalott, I find no fault with you naming things Athena as that is my youngest daughter's name. I chose to name her Athena for the Goddess of Wisdom and Dawn for the new beginning. I just hope my dauther will continue to rise up to her name and continue to gather the wisdom that comes with learning throughout our lives and may the Dawn of each day of her life bring her new beginnings that will fulfill her and her wisdom to new heights.

    Lastly I just want to say sorry about rambling on but I feel very adament about my feelings with the Devine Feminine and I love what all of you have written here.

  6. Girl Power, Cheryl!
    Really great post- it's about time for women to be strong and have fun while they do it. Great insight into the way you've written your books :)


  7. Terra,
    I don't watch TV either--unless it's the Dirty Jobs guy! I like a guy who's willing to get dirty. He cracks me up! :-)
    Thanks, Danielle!
    Now if I could just be that strong all the time....

  8. I don't know how much truth was contained in the DaVinci Code, but I, too, appreciated the sentiments expressed by it. I really liked what you said about the heroes you create:

    "This is one reason why my heroes aren't aggressive or belligerent. I believe we should celebrate the men who love women and life in all its forms, who fight only when they have to, and not those who make war for the fun of it and grudgingly fall in love only because their hormones insist upon it."

    Here! Here! Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who doesn't love overbearing Alpha Males. I just can't imagine living with one. I much prefer the heroes who try to make the heroine laugh and take care of her, putting her first and treating her with respect. I'll keep an eye out for your books - I want more kind and loving heroes!

  9. You said a mouthful, Cheryl. The weird and mixed-up views that we as a society have about women and sex have deep, deep roots. I find conflicting emotions about the whole thing in myself--incongruous differences in the way I want the world to be, and the way I'm sort of comfortable with and accustomed to, thanks to my childhood and background and the part of the world I live in. We must behave the way we want to be treated, is my rule of thumb. But nothing worthwhile is easy . . .

  10. Ciara,
    Can't STAND alphas! I'm like, who died and made you king? That's the main reason I started writing!

  11. Christina,
    Yes, the roots are deep, but even the toughest weed can be rooted out eventually. And the do unto others thing is subtle, but effective. Of course, men learn many of their behaviors from their fathers, often creating a vicious, persistent cycle. It takes courage to break the mold.

  12. This is a great post, Cheryl. And really makes one think.

    No snarls from me unless I start thinking about the idiotic mechanics who think I don't have a brain when I bring my car in.


  13. Cheryl,

    LOVE this post. I've been fascinated by the concept of the divine feminine for a long time, and while I didn't absolutely lurve The Da Vinci Code the way a lot of people did, the historical background on the way women were systematically eradicated from organized religion was a revelation. A total, "WOW, so THAT'S why!" moment. And I was re-reminded about why I continue to be a really lapsed Catholic. *sigh*

    You're completely right, of course, about the denigration of "female" things like love and romance in our society. American culture is so can still tell it was founded by a bunch of Puritans with sexual hang-ups and who (IMHO) were inclined to deal with the psychological repurcussions of denying themselves any sort of pleasure in some pretty nasty ways. It's still reverberating.

    I love that you wrote about this, honestly, because I think about all this stuff a lot too. It's why in my second book, Dark Highland Fire, my heroine belongs to a matriarchal tribe of demi-goddesses who are all descended from and worship a major goddess. They only give birth to female children, and they don't marry or even recognize the (multiple) fathers of their children. And they're totally revered. It was a cool concept to play with. I don't really do traditional Alphas...there's a lot of mush under the muscle. I prefer to think of my heroes and heroines as two strong, equal halves of the same whole. Part of the whole "everything in the universe has both a male and female aspect" thing, I guess!

    Thanks for writing this!!

  14. Thanks, Kendra!
    Doncha just love living in a post-Puritanical society?
    I've done some of the same things with my books, but wasn't really aware of why I was doing it! I guess those feelings run pretty deep, too!