Thursday, 7 January 2010


This here. It's from 2007, but Crom damn it I can't leave it alone. Someone has to take this ridiculous post to task for posterity.

Let's destroy this, shall we?

I will attempt to show that Robert E. Howard sought to demean women and to treat them as subservient to men.

So, being written in the 1930s and having the bare-faced cheek to not portray women in modern gender roles make REH "demeaning"? Yeah, no.

Women that he wrote about often times were weak willed and gave in to weird impulses when confronted with Conan. I will catalog a description of ten major female characters in his stories followed by a snippet of their conversation from the story they appeared in.

This'll be fun. First up, Belit.

From Howard’s description we can see that this pirate captain is clothed in only a skirt that covered her waist. She wore no other clothing.

You know the funny thing? She's wearing more clothing than her entire male crew. The Black Corsairs were all naked. So how come Belit's skirt is exploitative, but the completely nude ebony gods surrounding her isn't?

Her reaction to Conan is one of subservience to him by pleading with him to take her and have his way with her. Hardly fitting of a pirate captain that has years of experience sailing the waters around Shem.

"Subserviance?" Conan is surrounded by hostile pirates. If it weren't for Belit, he'd be dead. As for "pleading for Conan to take her with him" - No, she's pleading for Conan to come with her. Big. Freaking. Difference. Conan has two choices: he can do what she wants, or he can die with spears perforating his lungs. Conan is in no power: Belit wants him to be her ally, so she makes him an offer he can't refuse. Read the story again, you silly cow.

In the story Queen of the Black Coast, Belit dances naked on the deck of the ship for the entertainment of her crew. This is followed by her and Conan having sex in front of everyone. Again, this is hardly fitting of a captain of a naval ship.

You're talking as if there's some "proper way to be the captain of a horde of bloodthirsty barbarians. This would be hilarious if it wasn't so desperately sad.

Next up, Yasmina.

In the story Yasmina goes between two extremes with the first being a completely helpless individual to one that is determined to set things right.

Are you kidding? Yasmina goes between two extremes, alright: the extreme of being the most powerful person in the entire kingdom to being the bargaining chip of the most notorious warlord in the region. Hardly starting out "helpless" when she's the freaking monarch.

However, her being completely helpless overshadows and hinders the other extreme to the point she is nothing more then gratuitous T&A in the story as well as being completely in the thrall of Conan.

"Completely in the thrall of Conan"? In what way? Yasmina is constantly standing up to Conan, her imperious nature making her incredibly bold. She's hardly in thrall to Conan in terms of spirit. In terms of being his captive, sure: he's a giant warrior of unmatched combat capability. Most men would be in his "thrall," let alone a 100lb woman.

Her clothing is see through and gives no protection against the heat or cold. It is there not for functionality but to show the men her body.

This is sublime, because this silly bitch completely ignores the scene where Conan has Yasmina change into something more suitable for the climate--a pile of dirty, unflattering rags! What's more, Conan considers her more attractive in her sackcloth attire, since she looks more like a "real woman" than the painted doll she appeared with her royal clothing. I mean really, I couldn't have asked for a better example to torpedo.

Also, Yasmina's royal clothes are pretty much what every Indian noblewoman would've worn historically, so don't pull the "fantasy cheesecake" card.

Livia next.

Livia follows the established procedure in Howard’s works when reason fails show your tits when you’re a woman.

As I'm sure happened many a time historically. Not that this happened anywhere near often enough to be considered "established procedure."

She starts off wearing only a skirt but goes on to wear a shirt that is form fitting and cut in a severe v shape that shows her body. She throws herself at Conan to become a slave once again only after he kills the man who holds her captive. It’s obviously shown that Howard does not believe in women as being equals to men and that they are of little use except for as either slaves or as sex toys.

So using completely misinterpreted nonsense and one example from an unpublished, unfinished, unintended-for-publication story trumps the many trailblazing characers Howard created? Gotcha.

What about Salome?

Salome is typical of women in Hyboria in that she was used and abused by the men around her.

"Typical"? Who the hell "used and abused" Belit, Valeria, Yasmela, Akivasha, and all the other female leaders and monarchs? I've got news for you, miss--the Hyborian Age is not modern Europe. Women were used and abused all through human history, until the modern miracle that is the suffrage movement. Howard isn't being sexist, he's being realistic.

She is also the villain of the story and her past gives at least a logical reason for being evil. Salome’s first act is to get the allegiance of Constantius because as a woman she has no power in the structure of Hyboria. Her clothing starts off as being a see through outfit to eventually wearing an armored bikini.

I'm sorry, "because as a woman she has no power in the structure of Hyboria"? Salome is masquerading as a Queen. A QUEEN. A queen, by definition, that has POWER. She gets the allegiance of Constantius because she needs a goddamn army to consolidate her rule! Her reasons are no different than if she were a man. Salome is the most powerful women in Khauran. She's Constantius' and Khumbanigash's boss. She's in charge.

In typical Howard fashion Natala is helpless and cannot do anything other then be a damsel in distress. Makes one wonder how any woman could survive on their own in Hyboria without men there to take care of them.

Or how any woman could survive on their own in antiquity, the dark ages, or the middle ages. Because somehow they managed. Also, Natala is a girl. She's practically a child. Do you really expect her to survive on her own?

Throughout the entire story Natala is very helpless and is mainly there for show. Her clothing is entirely inappropriate to the climate of the desert and exposes her to the elements. I guess Conan doesn’t believe in supplying the right kind of clothes for a woman in such a climate.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's because they were part of an army on the run from supernatural horror and couldn't find time to check into Primark. Ferchrissake, has she even read the story? Notice how she doesn't even mention that Conan is similarly wearing "clothing entirely inappropriate to the climate."

How 'bout Thalis?

Thalis’s first reaction to Conan is to throw herself at him and plead with him to make love to her.

That's a hell of a misrepresentation of Thalis' motives. She wasn't some lovesick puppy desperate for a man, she was a cunning, smart, dangerous woman, the only person in the entire city--male or female--who had her wits about her. All the men are blundering, doddering fools. Thalis is completely in control of the city. So much for Hyborian Age women being "powerless."

She offers to make him King of Xuthal and to show him all sorts of sexual pleasures. In doing making Conan king she would be subservient to him in all things. Standard fare for Howard I’m afraid.

Oh yes, I'm absolutely sure she isn't, you know, lying about being "subservient" in order to ensnare him into her web, which Conan sees through instantly?

Her evilness only comes out after Conan rebuffs her sexual advances. Also typical is that the only clothing that she wears is just a girdle, but then what do you expect from someone trained by a pleasure cult.

Wow, the silly dumbass is starting to make my arguments for me now. Who's next? Sancha.

Sancha is the typical woman in Howard’s Hyboria.

I love how she consistently represents women from the mediocre Conan stories and presents them as "typical."

She wears only a short skirt that leaves little to the imagination of the men on board the ship. She fulfills the role of the pliant victim as the ship’s mistress. In the remainder of the story she is naked and is completely unsure of herself relying upon Conan to protect her. She even throws herself at him sexually in exchange for his protection.

As you do. Really, are you saying that women like this don't exist? They sure do. Howard was aware. Doesn't mean every one of his women was like Sancha. Not by a long shot.

In the beginning of the story Howard states that she finds pleasure in being the victim of the sexual predator that is Zaporova.

You mean this?

She, who had been the spoiled and petted daughter of the Duke of Kordava, learned what it was to be a buccaneer's plaything, and because she was supple enough to bend without breaking, she lived where other women had died, and because she was young and vibrant with life, she came to find pleasure in the existence.

No, that's nothing like the story of a woman making the worst of a bad situation(!) She doesn't find pleasure in "being the victim", she finds pleasures when she can take it. She takes pleasure in jewels, clothes, food, small comforts. Big. Difference. Though I'm not surprised you're being so obfuscatingly difficult.

Now comes Zenobia, and I'm ready to throttle this infuriating wench.

Zenobia at least is clothed, but it’s in an armor bikini.

She's a seraglio girl. What. Do. You. Expect.

From her conversations with Conan she is disappointed that the King hasn’t touched her nor even looked at her.

Disappointment!?! What the hell? She seems to blissfully ignore her own damn quote!

“I am only a girl of the king’s seraglio,” she said, with a certain proud humility. “He has never glanced at me, and probably never will. I am less than one of the dogs that gnaw the bones in his banquet hall.

A CERTAIN PROUD HUMILITY. Where does it give any inclination, any at all, that she's disappointed that the ape Tarascus hasn't clamped his greasy mits on her? If anything, she's just a little abashed that the freaking King of Nemedia hasn't given her a look-over. Considering you were picked for a seraglio, it's kind of like being an artist and having nobody look at your paintings.

I also love how she completely ignores the fact that Zenobia saves Conan's skin. Conan, who "always rescues the damsel", has to be rescued by the damsel! She drugs some guards, gets a foot-long knife, braves a pit haunted by a carnivorous ape, and risks life and limb to break Nemedia's public enemy number one out of the most secure prison in the city. And, she isn't a sword-woman like Valeria, or a leader like Belit: she's a humble seraglio girl with some serious cojones. The mere fact that this dunderhead is citing Zenobia as one of the worst Howard heroines is utterly nauseating.

She is just one of the many women in the King’s harem. She equates herself to being lower then the dogs in the King’s court. She throws herself at Conan sexually out of love, but given the history of Howard’s women in Hyboria one wonders what type of sick twisted love this is where love equals sex or in the case of Sancha enjoying being a victim.

History I have trounced completely. Next. Octavia: this'll be interesting.

Octavia is, like most women in Howard’s stories, a slave girl that was originally a princess.


She at least shows some modesty and refuses to play the typical trollop that Howard writes about.


When threatened with torture she throws herself at her master’s feet begging for forgiveness and does what he demands of her. At the end of the story Conan makes her a slave and rapes her.

.... **** off. **** RIGHT OFF. Conan does not rape Octavia. About the worst we see is sexual assault as he smothers her with kisses--kisses that she yields to. Conan has said that "he never took a woman against her will": Cimmerians are not known to be liars, and Conan himself is not very good at it at this stage of his career. Why should we believe any different? So not only did Conan not even have sexual relations with Octavia, but he didn't even "force" himself on her. If she didn't relent, I have zero doubts that Conan would've let her go eventually. It's just the kind of guy Conan is.

It’s typical of Howard’s treatment of women sad to say.

No it isn't. I'm getting tired of this. Luckily there's one left: who could it be? Valeria? Olivia? Muriela? Somebody-anybody-from outside the Conan stories? No, it's... Yateli. Uh-huh.

Yateli meets Conan for the first time and throws herself at him demanding that he have sex with her. After they had sex she no longer appears in the rest of the story. Her clothing is typical in that she wears little more then a strip of silk around her groin area. The rest of her body is fully bare open to everyone to see.

Here's an interesting fact: Yateli doesn't exist. She's a ghost, a reproduction of a girl who died eons ago. She's a dream, a will-o-the-wisp. She is nothing. Oh yeah, and they don't have sex. He kisses her, she falls asleep, he gets distracted by seeing the pelt of an extinct leopard. No sex, you manipulative harridan.

Just from the examples of 10 women in Robert E. Howard’s stories we can see that he viewed them little more then as sexual playthings to be used and abused by the men around them.

I'll name 10 Howard heroines that demolish your pathetic "essay." Hell, I'll double it. No, I'll freaking TRIPLE it.

Dark Agnes
Red Sonja
Helen Tavrel
Old Eadna
The Unnamed Westermarck Matron
Yasmina (despite your stupidity)
Salome (despite your stupidity)
Thalis (despite your stupidity)
Zenobia (despite your stupidity)
Lala Tsu
Belit (despite your stupidity)
Every single Cimmerian, Aesir, Viking or Cimbri woman

Some are warriors. Some are leaders. Some are terrors. Some are "damsels" who somehow manage to save Conan as often as he saves them. All of them fly in the face of your bull**** proviso that Howard was out to undermine women, and belies an agenda and complete lack of knowledge of Howard's fiction.

Howard goes so far as to paint a picture that women enjoy being used and abused by the men around them. In his world rape is a common occurrence and the women enjoy being raped.

Except all the examples of "rape" you use, and their "enjoyment" of it, are completely disingenuous. You lied. You fibbed. You made it up. You are a liar.

Also a major facet is that love equals sex and that the only way to show true love is to have sex with the person and to be subservient to them.

Read "The Tombalku Fragment," "A Witch Shall Be Born," "Spears of Clontarf" or any of the Howard tales that directly contradict this nonsensical "sex is love" diatribe and get back to me, will ya doll?

In every instance, with the exception of one, the women make themselves subservient to Conan. Out of all of his female characters only one was ever fully clothed and wearing something that one would see befitting of an adventurer.

And of course we cannot name this "one" (obviously Valeria) because it would undermine her bull**** position.

From reading his stories climate had little bearing on what women wore. It could be in the cold north and the women would be dressed in nothing more then a skirt with bared breasts.

The only tale which had a woman in a skirt/bare breasts set in the cold north was "The Frost-Giant's Daughter." Said woman WAS A GODDESS OF THE SNOW. For. ****s. SAKE. Most of the other times when a woman wore something flimsy, the climate would allow it. Stop your lying.

Another facet is that the women are portrayed as being exhibitionists and want men to ogle their bodies. At the drop of a hat the women would toss off their clothes and have sex with Conan in front of everyone.

Again, stop representing the mediocre Conan stories as if they were the "norm". Maybe in some parallel universe where Howard's great Conan stories magically stop existing. But not this one.

It’s not out of place in the world of Hyboria to have entire orgies reminiscent of the Roman orgies of old taking place out in the streets.

Damn, where's that story with all the orgies? I must've missed it, but then again I haven't read all REH's Conan... oh wait, I have, AND IT DOESN'T ****ING HAPPEN. You must stop your lies right now.

In conclusion, Robert E. Howard thought and expressed his views towards women as being nothing more then sexual fantasies waiting to be taken by any man.

Wrong. Demonstrably so. As I've shown.

See, here's the thing: you're basing REH's entire view of women on his writings. Not even a full spectrum, but something that amounted to a mere 5% of his entire literary output. 5%! That's like judging Tolkien on the first chapter of The Hobbit alone. Did you even think to read a non-Conan story? Or his letters? Or anything? No. You read the Conan stories with an obvious agenda in mind in order to "debate" with someone about Eowyn on a computer game. And I've just wasted an hour taking you to task, because nobody on the forum had the ability to actually defend REH in a way worth a damn. I guess I had to vent.

From another member:

My mom tells my brother that fantasy novels are really just romances for men prettied up so they can hide it. This goes a bit in proving her theory, at least to me.

Your mom is an idiot. As are you for taking this at face value. From the thread-starter:

Actually, I do consider others opinions and weigh them. It's part of how I learn. I am not a close minded individual and rather enjoy learning from the opposite spectrum.

Could've fooled me.

I do take into account the timeframe they were written much like I've taken into account when Middle Earth was written. Two writers from the same time period and yet both have divergent views on women. Something to consider wouldn't you agree?

They only have divergent views if you're an imbecile who can't bloody read. Red Sonya, Dark Agnes and Valeria are every bit Eowyn, Yavanna and Luthien's equals. Tolkien's male & female elves were equal? So were Howard's Cimmerians & Nordheimr. How can you compare the likes of Natala, Olivia and Livia to Tolkien when Tolkien simply didn't write about as many women as Howard did? Manwe bless the guy, but I could count the number of relevant female characters in Tolkien's work on one hand. However, I choose to consider Howard--and Tolkien--on their best work. Not stuff churned out to get the cover of Weird Tales and notorious sapphophile Brundage.

I feel that Howard was feeling contempt for his sickly mother and how much she weighed him down.

Don't even start. Don't. Even. Start.

Jacosta, whoever you are, wherever you are, consider yourself schooled. I've wasted enough time on your dribbling puerility masquerading as intelligent discourse.

Ok, I'm done now.


  1. Excellent piece.
    And I still think no one is giving Sancha fair credit for getting what she wants out of her situation.

    Awesomeness at your latest Cimmerian post as well-It would make my movie year if they cast Brian Blessed.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree on Sancha: she could've chosen to off herself or give in to despair, but she made the best of a bad situation.

    Another thing people tend to forget that, like Olivia in "Iron Shadows", Sancha saves Conan's skin at one point, at great risk to herself. If she were truly a "damsel in distress" she'd spend the entire time blubbering in the fetal position until Conan came to rescue her: she didn't. She was adventurous, and even beset with scenes of horror and madness, she had the wherewithal to rouse the pirates to help out Conan. Sure, compared to Valeria or Belit she isn't great shakes, but by Crom, she's better than most pulp damsels.

    I'm glad you agree on Brian. The one thing I worry about is some silly reference to his previous work: shouting "THORIN'S ALIVE!" or some such.

    A lot of people considered Brian for Thorin, but I think Brian Cox is a better choice for Oakenshield. Balin is the second oldest dwarf, and he's also the most courageous, gregarious, friendly and loyal. His performance in Henry V as the Duke of Exeter is rather close to how I saw Balin in one or two ways.

  3. Some solid butcher's work in the shield wall, Al. These types need to be called out. Nice job.

  4. You think this is bad? Check by the Joe Vicas forum. The "Fanatics" thread. Apparently the REH forumers are one and the same with "birthers, Dick Cheney, historical revisionists and fascists." And they're accusing US of being delusional fanboys?!?

    Why? Because we have the gall to want to boycott a movie. Nomadic tried his best, but left due to the insane hostility and lack of reasoning.

    BTW, he also called the Cimmerian writers (apart from Leo) a bunch of self-serving hacks. Yeah, real nice.

  5. Well stated. I never really understand this sort of retro criticism anyway. I mean if you look at all the other pulps, movies, books from the time period, etc, REH was pretty much in line with everyone else in terms of his treatment of women and he certainly created heroines (the ones you list) who were way ahead of their time. Especially Dark Agnes. So when someone says something like "I do take into account the timeframe they were written" and then goes on making foolish statements I just roll my eyes and move on.

  6. Exactly, Charles. Hell, I'd even say Howard was generally ahead of the curve when it comes to women. It's the complete dismissal of Howard's strongest heroines that irritate me the most, as if every Howard heroine should be a Valeria.

    Frankly, Valeria alone makes up for the Octavias and Livias, since she is the closest anyone, male or female, came to Conan's equal. That says a hell of a lot, and it also says a lot for this silly person's "argument" that they devote practically no text to discuss her. Hell, she even picks the most minor characters in Yateli to back her up. It's ludicrous.

  7. Heh, that reminds me of a the visit of a feminist colleague some years back. She was shocked to discover a bunch of RE Howard volumes on my bookshelves. "You betray your gender," she said. "How can you read this chauvinistc crap?"

    Of course, she never read Howard in the first place. Probably didn't want to betray her gender, lol.

  8. I hope you made her read some Dark Agnes!

    In any case, it's foolish to call REH chauvinistic. He didn't write this stuff today, he wrote it in the 1930s. Back then, women were practically second-class citizens. Howard wasn't chauvinistic, he was a trailblazer.

  9. But Dark Agnes is even worse. Don't you know that the world is such a bad place only because men are so aggressive and fight all the time and cause wars? The world would be much better if women, who love peace, were in power. And Dark Agnes has fallen in on the evil and aggressive male side.

    Bullshit, I know. But being a women, I had to listen to some of that crap sometime in my life. Can as well make use of it for some snark. :)

  10. Good job Al, but IMO you should put your reply on the "Silkyvenom" forum to inform the people who read Jacosta's $hitty post.

  11. Touche, Gabriele! Hmm, perhaps someone like Zelata's a better choice: she's all about nature and peace and stuff, with her animal buddies saving Conan's hide in the nick of time.

    Miguel: I pondered that, but the post is over two years old, and I don't know the site's policy on thread necromancy. Some sites are pretty weird about it, even if a thread's only a few weeks old. I doubt Jacosta would read it, since she hasn't posted there since about the same time. Still, perhaps I will. I took a similar tribe of ignorami to task over at an RPG forum a while back.