Bondage and Dominance – The Problem With Being a James Bond Fan Is…

…that the ‘classic’ films, some of which are forty or fifty years old now, are from and about a bygone era when the so-called Cold War Heroes were deeply flawed, sexually ambivalent and largely indelicate and insensitive people. Men were taught to take charge, and women were taught to disapprove, no matter how much they may have wanted to express their sexuality in more healthy ways.

CAVEAT: I’m not condoning Rape Culture. Not one bit.

Rape Culture existed back then, just as it does now, but the concept was almost alien to most people’s way of thinking until very recently. It will sound patronizing, and I don’t mean it to be so, because it demeans and diminishes both the subject matter AND my argument, but in a very real sense, Western Society didn’t know better. We knew rape was bad, but we didn’t truly understand it or what it really was or how many shades it came in. We thought some aggressive sex was just how sex was done. The negotiation for sexual activity was largely driven by overconfidence and a lack of consideration. It wasn’t good, but it was how people lived back then. Many of them. Perhaps most of them. We may never have the true numbers on how many women were raped and never came to grips with the fact that many if not all of their sexual encounters were one type of sexual subjugation or another.

Put simply, we didn’t know.

So what does that say about Bond? I think it clearly states that Bond’s sexual drive was pretty twisted, particularly in the early years when men were expected to be aggressive or be considered weak (or infinitely worse, Queer). Women did agree to sex back then (human biology hasn’t changed significantly in the last few thousand years), but they were almost universally shamed for doing so. I think it would be dishonest of us to pretend that none of that existed, and I also think it would be short sighted of us to judge the merits of every male hero, fictional or historical, as being somehow NOT a real hero, simply because he was a sexual person of his times, responding to societal expectations and behaving in ways we would now deem inappropriate, if not downright repugnant.

So. Bond. A serial rapist? By our modern understanding of consent and rape culture and the subtle and not-so-subtle levels of misogyny that were (and still are, to an embarrassingly large extent) at work deep in the warp and weft of the fabric of our so-called morals and values?

Yes.

Not always, or at least, not clearly. Some of those women were actually aggressive enough to initiate the acts themselves, or the scenes initiated seemed to be based on mutual consent, or at least a lack of clear horror at what was being done to them. Connery’s era was brazen in its lack of consent. Women, truthfully, weren’t really allowed to give consent, as we know it now, back then, particularly in popular culture. It was simply expected that they would refuse, and the man would press his case, and the woman would eventually give in (unless it was horrifically violent or depraved, in which case, she often just died or disappeared, or both), unless she clearly and truly didn’t want to be with that man, in which case, she ran to the man she DID want to be with, and got him to defend her honour. Or something like that.

Again, what about Bond? Sexually damaged, possibly a closeted homosexual, by some learn’d people’s critical assessment, clearly (by our modern understanding) a misogynist with a taste for making women fall in love with his rough sexuality and then putting them in harm’s way to catch a bullet or some other more elaborate and cinematic death scenario to essentially punish her for failing to be the virtuous maiden until the appropriate time of deflowering, at the end of the film. Even Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, perhaps the closest classic Bond ever came to true love, fell afoul of the deadly adage, no sex before fade out. It was a Hollywood contrivance, but it was pretty much a universal code, and the message was, Good Girls Don’t because Bad Girls don’t deserve to live.

So. Did Bond hate women? I think he believed he loved them, perhaps too much. But he couldn’t afford to treat them better because of the lifestyle he led, which he saw no way to get out of without putting himself and his loved ones at risk. He relearned that lesson in the modern Casino Royale. The message is different now, but it’s still loud and clear: Loving the Killer will get you killed, sooner or later, even if he’s on the side of a sanctioned (if pretty dubiously so) government and saves more lives than he takes.

Do I think Bond is a heroic figure? Yes. A flawed one. Marred, scarred and deeply disturbed. Do I think his sexuality is healthy? Probably not. It’s clear he has an addiction to it, and his motives are rarely pure when he’s in pursuit of a woman. As a seducer, he isn’t quite as awful as some classic lothario figures, because he’s principled and mannerly and attempts, at least, to draw the line between aggression and cruelty.

Would I want to be Bond? No. I’ve got quite enough psychological and sexual problems of my own, and being a hired killer with a need for gambling, alcohol, rough sex and violence in general, though fun to watch in limited doses, isn’t something I actually aspire to. And besides, I had my fair share of sexual misadventures in my twenties, back when I was thin and pretty and a handful of young (and not so young) women took an interest in showing me the ropes. That’s as close as I want to get to being James Bond.

But I think the character is fascinating, particularly because of the dichotomy between his seeming heroism and his deeply flawed behaviour, even if it’s been updated to seem less creepy.

Would I ever write Bond?

Good question. I’ll let you know if the opportunity ever comes my way.

Lee.

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