Romanticised Abuse: Rhysand and Feyre in ACOTAR

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
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- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
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- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

First off, I just want to clarify that this discussion is about Feyre and Rhys in A Court of Thorns and Roses. I am not going to address their relationship in A Court of Mist and Fury because that would require me to re-read that book and frankly it was bad enough having to re-read these sections of ACOTAR. So no thanks. That's a discussion for another day. 

The section of A Court of Thorns and Roses I'm going to addressing in this post revolves around Rhys and Feyre's relationship towards the end of the book. Feyre has ventured 'Under the Mountain' to free Tamlin, and finds herself at Amarantha's - the villain's - mercy. I can't relay everything about the story, so this post will make more sense if you've already read the book ;)  

Anyhow. Moving on. 

Context: Feyre has been taken by servants, on Rhys' orders, and is being dressed in clothes he's picked out for her. Night after night, she will be accompanying him to dancing and banqueting Under the Mountain; she has no say in the matter, and Rhys is doing it to 1) spite Tamlin, who's forced to watch as Rhys interacts with Feyre, and 2) to show his ownership of her because of the bargain they struck. Her body's been inked to show evidence of this bargain she's made with him (the bargain is irrelevant to this discussion, so I'm not going into that. But just FYI: the bargain is not that she's agreed to go to this party dressed like that. It's something else). 

But from the neck down, I was a heathen god’s plaything. They had continued the pattern of the tattoo on my arm, and once the blue-black paint had dried, they placed on me a gauzy white dress. If you could call it a dress. It was little more than two long shafts of gossamer, just wide enough to cover my breasts, pinned at each shoulder with gold brooches. The sections flowed down to a jeweled belt slung low across my hips, where they joined into a single piece of fabric that hung between my legs and to the floor. It barely covered me, and from the cold air on my skin, I knew that most of my backside was left exposed. The cold breeze caressing my bare skin was enough to kindle my rage.
The two High Fae ignored my demands to be clothed in something else, their impossibly shadowed faces veiled from me, but held my arms firm when I tried to rip the shift off.
 “I wouldn’t do that,”a deep, lilting voice said from the doorway. Rhysand was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
 I should have known it was his doing, should have known from the matching designs all over my body.
  “Our bargain hasn’t started yet,” I snapped. The instincts that had once told me to be quiet around Tam and Lucien utterly failed me when Rhysand was near.
  “Ah, but I need an escort for the party.” His violet eyes glittered with stars. “And when I thought of you squatting in that cell all night, alone …” He waved a hand, and the faerie servants vanished through the door behind him.
 I flinched as they walked through the wood—no doubt an ability everyone in the Night Court possessed—and Rhysand chuckled.
 “You look just as I hoped you would.” ……………..
 “Is this necessary?” I said, gesturing to the paint and clothing.
  “Of course,” he said coolly. “How else would I know if anyone touches you?” He approached, and I braced myself.
Rhys robs Feyre of her privacy.  He's dressing her in next to nothing, she's practically naked, and she has no choice in the matter.  She's going to be his 'plaything' for the evening - that's that. She's his property to parade around.
But it gets worse.   

His teeth were far too near to my throat. “And I’ll remember precisely where my hands have been. But if anyone else touches you—let’s say a certain High Lord who enjoys springtime—I’ll know.” He flicked my nose. “And, Feyre,” he added, his voice a caressing murmur, “I don’t like my belongings tampered with.”
Her body's been painted in ink so Rhys can tell if anyone else touches her. Also: possession re-enforced. She's his property for this night. She is utterly at his mercy. 

He smiled, and extended the goblet again. “Drink. You’ll need it.”
 Drink, my mind echoed, and my fingers stirred, moving toward the goblet. No. No, Alis said not to drink the wine here—wine that was different from that joyous, freeing solstice wine.
“No,” I said, and some faeries who were watching us from a safe distance chuckled.
“Drink,” he said, and my traitorous fingers latched onto the goblet.
He's drugging her. That's what's happening here.

“What happened?” I got out, even though I wasn’t sure I truly wanted the answer. My memory was a dark blur of wild music.
Lucien drew back. “I don’t think you want to know.”
Feyre asks her friend, Lucien, to tell her what happened the night before: Rhys drugging her, them going to the party...
Lucien's answer is chilling.  And it begs the obvious question: What did Rhys do to her and what did he make her do? 

Lucien let out a sharp breath, running a hand through his red hair. “He had you dance for him for most of the night. And when you weren’t dancing, you were sitting in his lap.”
 “What kind of dancing?” I pushed.
 “Not the kind you were doing with Tamlin on Solstice,” Lucien said, and my face heated.
 From the murkiness of my memories of last night, I recalled the closeness of a certain pair of violet eyes—eyes that sparkled with mischief as they beheld me.
 “In front of everyone?”
 “Yes,” Lucien replied.
So there. Lucien tells her what happened the night before, and it's horrific.  Feyre is not choosing to do these things, Rhys is making her do them. She's drugged - she's unaware of what's happening. 

After I drank the wine, though, I was mercifully unaware of what was happening. Night after night, I was dressed in the same way and made to accompany Rhysand to the throne room. Thus I became Rhysand’s plaything, the harlot of Amarantha’s whore. I woke with vague shards of memories—of dancing between Rhysand’s legs as he sat in a chair and laughed; of his hands, stained blue from the places they touched on my waist, my arms, but somehow, never more than that. He had me dance until I was sick, and once I was done retching, told me to begin dancing again. I awoke ill and exhausted each morning, and though Rhysand’s order to the guards had indeed held, the nightly activities left me thoroughly drained. I spent my days sleeping off the faerie wine, dozing to escape the humiliation I endured. When I could, I contemplated Amarantha’s riddle, turning over every word—to no avail.
HE IS KEEPING HER DRUGGED FOR DAYS AND NIGHTS. But hey, it's chilled, because his hands don't touch her anywhere but her waist and arms. Please. It's already sexual because of what she's wearing and how she's dancing. And although you can argue Rhys didn't sexually assault her, the way he's making her behave is extremely disturbing in itself. 

I lurked by a wall, forgotten by the crowd, waiting for Rhysand to beckon me to drink the wine and dance or do whatever it was he wished of me.
More horror. "Do whatever it was he wished of me". She's unaware of what she's actually doing. Rhys is stripping her of choice. 

Just to clarify again in case we still have any doubt of Feyre's awareness of the situation, here's a quote from A Court of Wings and Ruin where after Lucien remarks about a kiss Feyre had Under the Mountain, she replies: "I had as little choice in that as I did in the dancing." (pg 114)
I think we can agree she has no choice in these nights of revelry. So let's move on.

- Rhys drugs her. She is not aware of what he's doing or what she's doing. She has no choice in what's happening.
- Rhys makes her dance sensually (reading Lucien's earlier quote, I think it's obvious Feyre's dancing isn't PG).
 - Rhys has servants strip her naked and then has them dress her.
 - Rhys has her entire body painted (including, in Feyre's own words, "{her} more intimate parts".
 - Rhys keeps Feyre drugged day after day after night after night. This isn't a once-off incident.
 - Rhys touches her. Yes yes nowhere but her waist and arms, but please - cheap shot, Maas. He touches her against her will and that's wrong. Period.
 - Rhys has her dressed in an outfit that's barely an outfit. It's transparent material. Her breasts and backside are literally exposed.

And after all that, after everything that I've listed above happens, we are supposed to be grateful to Rhys (Feyre is supposed to be grateful to Rhys) for saving her?! For 'protecting ' her and keeping an eye on her?! Maas is romanticising a sequence of extremely disturbing incidents. She is manipulating and messing with our minds so that what Rhys does to Feyre is only questionably wrong?!

Maas is trying to push in our faces that Rhys is the hero here. He saved Feyre. And when you read the following lines, it's easy to be swayed. He "kept her from shattering":

It took me a long while to realize that Rhysand, whether he knew it or not, had effectively kept me from shattering completely.

“Feyre, for Cauldron’s sake. I drug you, but you don’t wonder why I never touch you beyond your waist or arms?”

But we shouldn't be questioning whether or not Rhys was wrong. There should be no question. He drugged her. He invaded her privacy. He stripped her of choice. He treated her like his own personal toy, made her dance sexually in front of other people, but "he did it for her good"?! 
To that I say: romanticised abuse. 

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