Escaping Felurian

The figure of the dangerous enchantress goes back at least to Homer’s Circe. She does not appear to have enslaved Odysseus sexually, merely to have turned his crew into pigs (which one would expect the usual suspects to admire her for), but plenty of her successors took some hapless male to their grottos under the hill or fairy realm and released them centuries later if ever. One of the latest incarnations of this meme is Patrick Rothfuss’ “Felurian” in The Wise Man’s Fear.

Naturally, in this day and age this character, if we can call her that, attracts the attention of the women-can-do-no-wrong brigade, saying for example that, “female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling. These demon women always have ulterior motives, their sexuality is dangerous, and they’ll probably bite your head off. The harmful, misogynist myth that this trope reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men.” Of course, in the non-magical world no woman ever has ulterior motives, no woman ever manipulates or tricks, no woman ever uses her sexuality to control men and no woman is unable to tolerate being left. So that’s all right then, and the distillation of universal male fears of attractive but unethical women into an imagined supernatural figure is an evil and wicked thing to do. Universal female fear of unethical males is, of course, innocent and even mandatory. And it is no defence to say you are warning about an individual, as anything you say about a particular nasty female means you hate “all” women.

My own response to Felurian is more along the lines of wondering what she does all day when not fucking the brains out of some unwary mortal and leaving him dead or insane. Sudoku? All right, she’s other-worldly and she loves sex, but is that enough to live on? Perhaps the ideologues would have done better to explore the male inability to conceive of their sex-goddesses having any existence of her own when not busy coupling with them; except that the same complaint of objectification can be turned back on the women. (What does the Demon Lover do all day?)

When Rothfuss’ hero, or perhaps anti-hero, tricks Felurian and escapes intact, she is furious. For that she hardly needs to be supernatural, the female inability to accept being ignored or abandoned is not a stereotype but a general truth. (But would that work the other way round? No one seems to walk out on demon lovers. And they never reject you, only damage other men about which you might care.) Kvothe’s unforgivable sin is not, after all, the objectification but the having of a life, the having of business in the world, apart from the female’s needs. The faerie siren does thus stand for all women, but not perhaps in the way the ideologues have in mind.

Is there a male equivalent of Felurian? Not precisely, because the point of the “demon lover”, about which in the real world women fantasise just as much as men fantasise about sex-goddesses, is that he never rejects. He is thrillingly dangerous all the same, because he damages. On the third hand, what he damages is mostly other men, so that’s all right.

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