Reviews: Song Of The Lioness

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Apparently this is what used to pass for "feminism"
The story of a young girl who defies gender norms to become a knight would be a great read for children of both genders — if not for all the sex. While you might be wondering what sex is even doing in a series aimed at ten-year-olds, the bigger issue is how the sex is portrayed. Alanna has three lovers, and each relationship conveys a disturbing message about how girls are supposed to behave sexually.

Alanna's first lover, Jonathan, pressures her into unwanted sex on her sixteenth birthday. She initially says "no", but relents out of fear that, if she refuses, he will stop liking her and/or have sex with someone else. The message: If a boy wants to have sex with you, you'd better say "yes", or he might not like you any more.

Alanna next has sex with George. Despite being a decade or two her senior, he forcibly kissed her when she was fifteen and laughed when she said she wasn't ready. Years later, while feeling depressed over her break-up with Jonathan, Alanna is comforted to find that George still desires her. She has sex with him in order to cheer herself up and reaffirm her sense of self-worth. The message: Your self-esteem should depend on your sexual desirability. As long as men want to have sex with you, you have reason to be happy.

Finally, Alanna has a brief fling with Liam. Liam is deeply uncomfortable with Alanna's magic and frequently chastises her over it, even though she considers it an integral part of her identity. Despite this, the two decide to have sex and hope the issue will blow over. The message: Respect isn't something a boy has to give you before you have sex with him. You have sex with him first, and hope that respect will come in time.

What makes all this especially nauseating is that throughout the series Alanna continues to act, and be treated like, a ten-year-old, making it impossible to escape the image of grown men expecting and even demanding sex from a child. Moreover, Alanna rarely expresses any sexual desire of her own; sex is consistently portrayed as something men want and women either grant or withhold based on how nice they want to be.

In short, if you want your daughters (and sons) to grow up to be feminists, this is not a series you should share with them. And if you do, make sure you have a serious talk with them about how "no" means "no".
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