Cara McDaniel
English 199
Feb. 19, 1998

Sexual Roles in Time of the Temptress

Violet Winspear's Time of the Temptress may not be considered a literary masterpiece by many critics, but it does give a specific example of male dominant and female submissive sexual roles. Even though the novel contains no explicit or even implied sexual scenes occurring between the main characters, the actions and speech of Wade and Eve serve as a substitute for erotic passages.

Eve is labeled as an obvious submissive character as soon as she was introduced in the novel. She appears as a helpless woman in the company of nuns. Nuns might be considered some of the purest and most vulnerable creatures alive, second only to children. Her affiliation with these women imply that she is innocent and as helpless as they. Eve and the nuns are at the mercy of the brave warrior who rescued them from their mission. When Eve volunteers to walk across the jungle, even her act of courage seems weak. " 'Please'-Eve caught on impulse at the khaki-clad arm, 'if room can be found for Sister Mercy and the others , then I am sure I can trek the rest of the way' " (6). She asks, or begs, for permission to make a sacrifice, and through out the novel she never stops apologizing for it.

Before they begin their trek, Eve becomes quickly furious with the man who saved her and she declares that she is "not helpless" (12). In spite of her outburst, the rest of the novel makes her out to be anything but helpful. For example, she cannot bathe without a monkey stealing her Bond street apparel. It is impossible for her to search for them naked, and to top it all off, the fearless Wade O'Mara has to save her from toe-snapping crabs before finding her pants for her. Later on Eve acknowledges her situation. "She was glad he was so tough and self-reliant, but at the same time he was so disturbing and awoke in her a feeling of being a helpless and vulnerable female" (38). She is correct. She doesn't make their dinner, the only useful thing she does is sweep out a hut and slaughter a few of the harmless insects that lived there. She is so amazingly incapable that when she makes an attempt at lessening her degree of ineffectualness by staying out of Wade's way while he fashions a canoe with his all purpose panga, she is almost raped and/or killed. Savior Wade is forced to act once again on her behalf.

Eve is weakness personified, and Wade is at the other end of the spectrum. He supplies Eve with everything she needs. He finds her suitable, yet fashionable, clothes appropriate for a wild jungle trek (at least they were stylish until some monkeys destroyed the backside). He spontaneously creates a pair of insoles with his amazing knife so she can walk along the deadly ground without falling out of her sandals. Eve drinks "hot smoky coffee, made from wild beans which Wade had roasted and ground to powder between a couple of stones" (130). He can supply them both with caffeine as well as fabricate a canoe and ores. He pure male strength powers them swiftly towards Tanga, and Eve is capable of doing nothing but hindering him. "Now and again on a smooth stretch he allowed her to paddle for a while, so that she kept supple and didn't grow stiff crouched all the time on the low seat he had fashioned, with a bar across so that she could hold on when they ran into the rapids" (123-124). Even the rowing that Eve does Wade lets her do for her own good and not because he cannot handle doing it himself.

The dominance and submission of Wade and Eve can also be noticed in the dialogue as well. Eve has weak speech verbs. She "whimpers," "mumbles," "gasps," "asks," and "begs" where gallant Wade "orders," "barks," "shouts," "growls," and "mocks." Also, Eve often stutters dozens of times and says things like "I-I'm all right" (33). Wade is never trips over the first letter of his sentence, he has too much testosterone raging through his hardened veins for that sort of behavior. Wade and Eve refer to each other in a way that cements their roles. Wade refers to her as a child or slave and she talks to him as if he were her master. "Eve heard him laugh softly to himself, for in the Masai language he had called her his girl, and she had called him her boss" (58). This kind of language more than proves the existence of a master-slave relationship.

Often, Wade is almost violent and brutish towards Eve. For example, for no reason Wade lashes out with "I know your feet are hurting and your spirits are wilting . . . but this I have to do. On your feet, deb!' He enclosed her shoulder with his sunburned hand and forced her to rise" (25). Throughout the novel, he grasps her wrists, gives her a rough shake, and pushes her away from him. Why does Wade O'Mara behave this way, and why does Eve find it attractive?

The answer is sexual domination. When the masculine inferno Wade O'Mara shows sugar-coated Eve who is boss, it makes her aware of how virile he is. She might reply with a slightly sassy remark or humble answer letting Wade know how absolutely feminine she is. Her feminine need for protection combined with the topaz eyes, titian hair, and milky skin makes Wade so wild that it is difficult for him to keep his khaki pants in place. Eve states that "men believed that it excited a girl the thought of being at the mercy of a tough and ruthless character, and she didn't dare to look at Wade in case she actually felt a stirring curiosity about what it would feel like if he suddenly flung her down in the rampant ferns and took her with a all the forceful assurance with which he tackled everything" (27). Obviously Eve believes it too. Not only would she like Wade to free them both of their suitable jungle attire, she thinks about being forcefully tackled and taken in the ferns.

This domineering male makes Eve feel feminine; "never before had she felt so aware of being a woman as in this jungle with a tough mercenary" (32). Eve is not overly sensitive that her breasts bounce when she keeps stride with Wade, or is she suffering from cramps and notices the lack of Midol, but she is sensing Major Wade O'Mara's testosterone enhanced aura. She also finds it attractive. She believes that "men and women didn't only look and behave differently, but had a function in life that was also so very dissimilar and accounted for the fact that men had aggressive ways to which women submitted either willingly or unwillingly" (31). Eve wants to submit.

These excessive roles substitute for the graphic, erotic sexual scenes that do not appear in Harlequin romances. Where a true smut-novel can literally spell out the gory details, novel makes a feeble attempt at subtly. By letting the reader know who wears the pants (or at least the pair with a butt still intact), one is able to have a more intense and erotic feeling in reference to the relationship of Wade and Eve. An exotic, sensual romance tale is the goal of this novel, and it is reached by using clearly defined dominant and submissive sex roles.

Work Cited

Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1978.

Time o' Temptress Frontpage