By Anietta Strong - author
As an author who writes exclusively about women where men hardly feature, or certainly not in a positive way, I’ve often wondered to what extent violent abusive men drive women into relationships they never imagined ever taking place. Where another woman provides the affection, comfort and security they desperately need. But, does it necessarily become sexual?
Recently, I’ve written two books which explores this subject. Trelawny and soon to be published, The Survivor. Both feature women who have escaped from an abusive relationship with a violent partner. Both books tackled the abuse from different angles. Okay the end results were the same, bruises and loose teeth, but the reasons for the abuse were very different. Many men are controlling, the typical signs are to isolate the woman from friends and family, to decide what the woman wears, controls her financially too. Worst still is their refusal to let go and in the case with Trelawny to pursue the woman and turn up again in her life to reclaim his property. In the case of The Survivor, the cause of the abuse was totally different. To lash out due to frustration, the man’s inadequacy showing because his partner is more successful. Instead of embracing her achievements he can’t cope with her success and he tries to destroy her because he knows he cannot compete.
In many cases having left such a relationship, there will be reluctance to enter a new one. The woman might meet someone who doesn’t display those traits, but wasn’t that how the abusive relationship turned away from began in its infancy? Wasn’t the partner then attentive, loving and affectionate, but that changed over time? Can she risk entering a new relationship and gradually see the same signs of abuse returning. That first blow, the slap. The remorse that follows, “It’ll never happen again!” Knowing that it will, given time.
In all my books, most of my main characters suffered shocking abuse at the hands of men, two in particular, Petra Larson and Jennifer Wallace. In the case of the latter character this abuse took place in childhood. Ironically both women have killed men.
I realise not all women end up attracted to other women out of adversity. I imagine most are naturally attracted. They always have and most will seek out and find women attracted to themselves also. I wrote Outcast which is about to be published. In this book we examine a woman in her late teens who because ostracised from her family because she was found in compromising circumstances with another girl she met at school when she was just 14 yrs old. She knew then which way she swung but it took her several years and the love of an older woman later to create the love and affection she had always craved.
What about the woman who isn’t sure? She’s always wondered, but she hasn’t dared explore that path, preferring to remain in safer, well trodden territory. Usually marrying but being emotionally and sexually unsettled. Then, one day she meets someone of her own sex. She feels something – intimacy? Then the big dilemma, what to do about it. It might be at work, it might be her boss’s wife, worst still her husband’s boss’s wife. Dare she risk an approach and if so, how? She becomes obsessed, she yearns for that woman’s company, but doesn’t that make it even worse. Being close to someone, to look at lips she yearns to kiss, breasts she has a desire to touch, nipples protruding she is desperate to suck! A plump bottom she wants to reach out and grope. How does she deal with that because it won’t go away.
A writing partner of mine Sadie Stern has explored this in The Dinner Party and Two Women. She went on a different tack in The Interview, which explores another line of approach. To grasp the nettle and actually seek another woman by answering an advertisement on a contact website featuring lesbian woman. Whichever, something will eventually give and most women will remain in denial, remain fearful of exposure and be outed, risk destroying a working career because of misreading a situation or trying to find out if mutual attraction exists. Possibly the halfway house can work too where as in the case of most, but certainly not all, the characters in my books, swing both ways like a pendulum.
I’ve enjoyed heading down this fascinating path and it’s my intention to write still more.