Also, today VampChix begins The 12 Days of Christmas. Read below this post for the first entry!
Women and Saint-Germain
In almost every Saint-Germain story, there is at least one woman with whom Saint-Germain is involved, either explicitly or implicitly. That’s because most of the series is about the lives of women in various cultures and times. While such considerations are in the forefront of the Olivia books (and she has every right to be as ticked off as she is: for most of her long life, the rights she had under the law in Imperial Rome have been steadily eroded and diminished until all that is left is legal servitude and limitations) in the Saint-Germain books and stories, women’s issues are a strong thematic undercurrent. And yes, I planned it that way from the start.
Most of the women in the various tales are out of the mold in some way; they don’t quite fit in, for whatever reason, and the so-called protections of the society are either withheld completely or provisionally from them. Being an outsider himself, Saint-Germain identifies more with these marginalized women: those who are accustomed to their position and have strong support and approval aren’t likely to seek out a foreigner, no matter how rich or attractive, although occasionally, when the society works that way, there are women who enjoy bending someone to their will who is in no position to complain, particularly if demanding sexual satisfaction is the only way their society allows them to have any autonomy. Women of that particular sort are sometimes attracted to Saint-Germain, but are reluctant to expose more than the sensual side of their natures, and may eventually reject the connection entirely.
Issues about what is and is not tolerated in women’s behavior is usually explicated in the various letters that appear between chapters in the books, making it easier for the reader to understand who among the women in the story, complies with society, and who does not. Most of the letters not only fill in the blanks about what is going on elsewhere, they expand characterizations by showing opinions and interpretations of persons and events. Occasionally I run into a reader who skips the letters, and ends up confused. To such readers, I recommend going back and having a look at the letters. I promise the books will make more sense if you do.
Are these stories feministic? In the sense that they are dealing with women’s lives, yes. But behaviorally, of course not — feminism was a dangerous cause to espouse in the hard centuries between Imperial Rome and the nineteenth century, one that could get a woman thrown into prison or worse. Even after the Reformation Protestants tortured and killed supposed witches. Greeks stoned them. Byzantines immured them. The list of punishments for women for the great crime of femaleness is a long and truly appalling one, and for the most part, society has trained women to accept this inequality as righteous and necessary, restrictions are lauded as being for female protection. Those women who would not accept their status took the brunt of the condemnation of females, and those who embraced their chains often clamored most loudly for the punishment of those of their sex who broke social rules in any way that might be a threat to them.
Thanks to his long life, and due to the nature of his vampirism, Saint-Germain doesn’t endorse such savagery. He has lived long enough to see how repression works, and he doesn’t like it. Having decided before I ever began the series that the blood taken by this vampire was a metaphor for intimacy, I made a point of using that device to make the women more fully self-revealing than might be the case with more negative, or more Byronic, self-involved vampires. Since it is intimacy that nourishes him, he has learned how to evoke the most personal contact, for if the quality of the sexual fulfillment Saint-Germain provides determines the degree of his nourishment, he knows that it to their mutual benefit that he do what he does very, very well. One of the few advantages of Saint-Germain’s extreme longevity is that he has long since got over himself, and is more interested in others than in self-discovery, which in turn leads to his talents as a lover.
Saint-Germain prefers intelligent women, and they tend to be drawn to him; he neither belittles them nor fears them, all of which makes him a companion whose attentions are welcome to those women he seeks out. He paces his relationship to the woman’s response. He doesn’t go where he isn’t wanted. He doesn’t escalate their involvement faster than the woman is inclined to do. He is, unlike many vampires, not a seducer, but an admirer. He appreciates each of his partners as the unique individual she is, taking something of each woman into himself as the result of their shared passion. Whether or not his relationships are sustained, he values all they have had together, whether the association is ultimately joyous or tragic. Saint-Germain is the embodiment — where his women are concerned — that you are what you eat.