Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Storm Front, chapters 14 and 15, in which having lots of women in your book is no protection against rampant misogyny

I worry sometimes that these posts are too negative, and that there's only so much benefit that can possibly come from what amounts to a couple thousand words of vitriol.  (I'm not Jewish, but I think about the concept of tikkun olam often.  It's good stuff, in the modern interpretation.)  And then I read another paragraph and I remember that this book fucking deserves my ire and we all deserve to be armed with the knowledge to defend ourselves against this kind of garbage.

(Content: misogyny, sexual assault, murder. Fun content: watch me stumble around trying to make sense of this world's logic, like a drunk man escaping a labyrinth in a centrifuge.)

Storm Front
Chapter Fourteen: Fucking Magic, How Does It Work*

Oh good, we get to start this week with further examination of how unfathomably stupid love potions are (and all defences of them).  To recap, Dresden and Rodriguez are standing in a three-foot-diameter copper circle that is their only defence against some kind of acid toad demon, and she wants to get down on the floor and bang, even though this would lead to their immediate violent deaths.  It takes Dresden a full minute to pull away from the kiss she initiates, though he assures us that he felt self-conscious and hesitant the whole time.
The potion had taken hold of her hard. No wonder she had recovered from her terror enough to come back up the stairs and fire my gun at the demon. It had lowered her inhibitions to a sufficient degree that it must also have dulled her fears.
OF DEATH?!  To be clear here, actually having sex isn't an option on the table for them right now, because they would die immediately upon breaking the circle.  So we have to ask again what it means for this potion to have 'lowered her inhibitions'.  That's a phrasing that implies that the drinker will do what they really want to do, behind their fears and anxieties and all those things that, apparently, aren't the 'real' person.  But obviously that's not the only thing a 'love' potion does, or else people would take them before job interviews and public speaking and the like, to suppress their stressors and just get on with the task at hand.  Stage fright is an inhibition.  'Not dying' seems to me more like one of those things we want, which an anti-inhibition potion would only intensify.  There's also the specificity of trying to jump Dresden: is that because Rodriguez really wants to jump him, or because he made the potion and therefore he's induced her to want him, or because she really wants to jump someone and the only other option is a toad demon?
Susan's fingers wandered, and her eyes sparkled. "Your mouth says no," she purred, "but this says yes."
Dresden is of course still naked and somewhat sudsy from his shower, so clearly this particular fantasy wouldn't be complete without Rodriguez grabbing his junk.  But for extra fun, we have here Rodriguez using a classic anti-consent line to justify her continued advances, which means this 'love' potion has not only obliterated her self-preservation instincts (and probably her entire identity outside of her role in this book as the literally-hypersexual Latina) but also any concern she might have for consent from the object of her chemical lust.  Again: not an indicator of love.  This potion is a terrifying mind-warping poison that turns the drinker into a potential rapist.  What in the actual entire fuck.  Good thing Dresden is a mighty Man and able to easily fend Rodriguez off when she literally tries to judo him to the floor, or this scene might have been uncomfortable for the male readers.  (See also: good thing she's hot, good thing they aren't related, good thing she's a woman... Butcher had a lot of ways that he could have made this scene something other than a 'cheeky' patriarchal wank fantasy, and he made sure to avoid all of them.)

Anyway.  Bob the Skull can see the escape potion and offers to throw it to Dresden in exchange for twenty-four hours of freedom from his skull.  Dresden refuses, on the grounds that he is responsible for Bob's actions while free (he says this like it's some kind of legal quirk, and not a moral concern), but Bob is a terrible person and insists.  Can't wait to find out what kind of sexual assault he gets up to.  Dresden gets Rodriguez to drink half the potion by implying it's an aphrodisiac or something, and they get a few seconds of magic wind travel before it drops them outside in the rain.  Dresden says they'll be safe if they can get to Reading Road, which always floods in the rain and will count as enough running water to kill the demon if it follows.  Combining potions leaves Rodriguez nauseous and thus still useless, but it seems like it may have at least neutralised the 'love' potion, so we're spared any more of that garbage.

Halfway to the flooded road, a shadowy avatar appears under a broken streetlight to villain-talk at Dresden: how they didn't think he'd survive this long, do you really think I'd give you my name, soon my demon will kill you, et cetera.  Dresden is "stunned" that they summoned the demon, as if he isn't well-versed in the risk-reward ratio of doing so and this isn't a pretty standard thing in his world and life.  The shadow is in turn startled when Dresden mind-slaps it, demanding to know how he is capable of such a thing, as if they don't all know he's a wizard.  The shadow calls for the demon and for some reason Dresden watches it walk out and casually toss a car aside, instead of running more.

Maybe it's a pet peeve, but there are few narrative decisions I detest more than characters stopping to watch a threat be dangerous rather than running.  Especially if they end up just barely missing a closing door or something by one second later on.  Dresden compounds this by taking the time to "thrust [his] staff" at the shadow and dispel it, which apparently causes the caster on the far side some pain but otherwise does nothing to improve his situation. (He gets a one-liner out of the experience, which is presumably good enough.)  Then he tries to haul Rodriguez to her feet and does the whole angsty 'if I run I can still make it to the river but she'll die'.  But no, he is too Good and Pure to do such a thing, so he faces off against the demon, and then finally strikes upon the Million-To-One Chance that he could tap into the storm himself to draw enough power to kill it.  (There is much talk of channeling power to the tip of his staff.)

It works, leaving him exhausted but completely unharmed.  What a twist.

Naturally, Morgan the Warden arrived just in time to see the demon but not the avatar of the person who summoned it, so he declares that Dresden is a blight and he's convened the Council to come to Chicago in two days and sentence Dresden to death.  He disappears immediately, and within minutes a cop car has arrived to grab them both.  ...What?  Okay, sure.  Rodriguez declares this to have been the worst night of her life:
She glanced aside at me, and her eyes glittered darkly for a moment. She almost smiled, and there was a sort of vindictive satisfaction to her tone when she spoke. "But it's going to make a fantastic story."
Damn right it is, Susan Rodriguez.  I'm sure we're supposed to think ill of you for daring to profit off this, but you have been drugged, mind-controlled, and nearly abandoned to die, and you are the only person we know who's trying to crack the masquerade on the parade of magical horrors running unchecked across the world, so as far as your journalistic career goes, you have my goddamn sword.

Chapter Fifteen: Somewhere Alison Bechdel's Scar Is Burning

It turns out that the cop car was sent there by Murphy to pick Dresden up, and that's because she wants him to check out the scene of Linda Randall's murder that night.  So that's both our sex workers dead now.  Butcher knows when he wants to be consistent (kill the sex women) and when he doesn't (worldbuilding).  The cops let naked Dresden grab some clean clothes (sweatpants and a t-shirt that says "Easter has been canceled--they found the body", perfect for a murder scene) and drive him over there.  The banter starts up immediately and I am trying to imagine a person who wouldn't wish harm on Dresden after thirty seconds listening to him talk.
"Dresden," she said. She peered up at me. "You planning on having King Kong climb your hair?" 
I tried to smile at her. "We still need to cast our screaming damsel. Interested?" 
Murphy snorted. She snorts really well for someone with such a cute nose.
I don't know what any of this means.  I actually miss Wheel of Time and its compulsive capitalisation and 'here are the sixteen different names we have for this thing'.

In another weird quirk, Murphy explains that Linda was killed in the same manner as "Tommy Tomm and the Stanton woman".  Was that actually easier or more natural to say than 'Jennifer'?  Really?  Would anyone call Tommy 'the Tomm man'?  No.  That's a reference reserved only for women to make them sound less like people.  Just put on your fedora and admit you'd rather call them all 'females', Butcher.

After actually being pretty consistent about not being able to guess at his wizard enemy's gender last chapter, Dresden immediately starts defaulting to 'he' and calling them "the Shadowman" as he explains his new storm-magic theory to Murphy.  Quite reasonably, Murphy wants to know how he failed to consider this option before now.  I know we readers are new to magic and so these ideas aren't going to leap to mind, but if tapping storms is an adequate replacement for things like getting twelve other people to perform a ritual with you that requires absolute trust and unity, I feel like maybe it would be a more commonly considered method.  Like, if you talk to an engineer about possible engines for a doomsday machine, they're not going to say 'I don't understand, it's impossible to get this kind of power from coal... unless... unless they somehow managed to tap the power of the atom!'  They're going to say 'Well, it's stupidly dangerous, but I guess this thing has a fission reactor'.  Dresden has acted throughout this sequence like he and his enemy are inventing storm magic as they go along, but he's talked about it like established fact.

I pause here to note again that I would probably be less petty about this if Dresden weren't an awful person navigating a world that hates women and people of colour.  I guess my point is that this book is not only socially reprehensible, but I don't think there's any case to be made that the 50s-era patriarchal morality is something that's worth suffering through for the sake of the great magical story.

Dresden scopes out Linda's apartment (he's pretending he never met her, because Murphy would have questions) and it looks about the way you'd figure a thirtysomething white guy likes to imagine a sex worker's apartment looks: lingerie everywhere, half-burnt candles on every flat surface around the giant bed, an open drawer full of sex toys, unused kitchenette full of pizza boxes.

Distinctly absent from the description: literally anything that would suggest Linda was an actual person.  No books or movies or half-finished knitting lying around, no photographs of friends or family or holiday memories, no gecko in a terrarium.  Not even a terrible manuscript about a sex worker, a dashing foreign prince, and the tumult of their courtship.  Butcher actively dismisses the idea that Linda's life could not be summed up with 'fucks people for money'.

He nevertheless makes an effort to tag her as sympathetic anyway: Dresden feels "a sudden pang of understanding and empathy for Linda", since the emptiness of the apartment has much in common with his own (but even he has a cat and a blasphemous t-shirt, which is more depth than she's been granted).  Seeing her body (murdered in the same heart-ripping manner as the others), he thinks about her personality, "a quick wit [...] sly sensuality [...] a little hint of insecurity", which is still more a sex fantasy than a person, but I'm willing to give Butcher a D for effort.  Dresden is still particularly hung up on someone murdering with magic, which I get is a cultural taboo for him but remains weird to me.

(Before I forget: Linda is also naked, because she just got out of the bath.  Dresden notes her tan lines.  Help me.  Someone.)

The forensics team falls silent at his approach, and Dresden sees in their faces the deep fear of scientists faced with "bloody evidence that three hundred years of science and research was no match for the things that were still, even after all this time, lurking in the dark."  Perhaps it's fitting for Dresden's arrogance that he wouldn't realise the only reason 'science' can't explain magic is that it hasn't had a chance.  Magic still has observable, reproducible rules.  That's all you need in order to do science.  Though it pains me to say it, Dresden is a scientist of magic.  Dresden even knows exactly what happened here (murder-wizard tapped the storm to kill Linda) but he insists he doesn't have the answers they're looking for and walks away.

Murphy gives us the timeline: Linda called 911 to say she knew who killed Jennifer and Tommy, then the phone cut off as the spell hit her.  She's also done the digging to know that Linda's employers, the Beckitts, had a daughter who was killed three years earlier in a gunfight between Marcone's mob and "some of the Jamaican gang that was trying to muscle in on the territory back then".  (Is this the first mention we've had that black people exist in this universe?)  Dresden immediately concludes that Mrs Beckitt's "numb face and dead eyes" are fully explained by this loss.  Marcone, of course, dodged any legal case the Beckitts took at him.

Murphy reveals that she found Dresden's card (he gave one to Linda) but hasn't yet added it to evidence, and demands to know what he knows.  He roundabout admits to having spoken to her, that she said she knew nothing, and she used to work for Bianca.  Murphy, at long last, loses her fucking chill, slams Dresden against the door, and points out that if he'd told her this right away, not only might the police have gotten information from her, but she might not have been murdered.
She stared up at my face, and she didn't look at all like a cutesy cheerleader, now. She looked like a mother wolf standing over the body of one of her cubs and getting ready to make someone pay for it.
As much as I think physical intimidation is not admirable, I'll take a million of this Murphy over forehead-kisses nurse-mother-girlfriend Murphy.  (Also, points to Murphy for properly valuing even the one-dimensional Linda the author has given us.  Dresden is morose about how all of this relates to him and his Feelings; Murphy is just furious that another of her citizens is dead.)

Dresden considers what limited information he's still withholding from Murphy (that Linda had said she was coming to see him tonight) and decides to keep on withholding it, for fear that she'll either decide he is the killer (a vengeful boyfriend jealously taking out Linda's other lovers first) or that she'll draw Shadowman's attention and end up murdered next.  I cannot fathom how telling Murphy that Linda had called him before 911 would somehow raise her profile (she's already leading the investigation), but Dresden seems pretty convinced that it will, and that's good enough for him.
Then, too, there was the White Council. Men like Morgan and his superiors, secure in their own power, arrogant and considering themselves above the authority of any laws but their own, wouldn't hesitate to remove one police lieutenant who had discovered the secret world of the White Council.
Wait, what.


Okay, we've been operating this far on the induction that there isn't strictly speaking a Masquerade in this world.  That there's no wizarding law against mundane people knowing that magic and demons re real, but it's mostly dismissed as fairy tales.  So Dresden lists himself in the phone book as a wizard, so that people specifically looking for magic solutions know who to call, and we can presume that over the next few decades the social trends that Dresden listed for us earlier will lead to a rediscovery of the supernatural sides of the world.

And now here's Dresden saying that the Masquerade is actually to be protected at any cost, up to and including the death of any mundane person who learns too much of the truth.  The White Council might literally murder a cop for successfully tracking down a killer wizard.  Dresden is in fact putting people in mortal danger every time he tells them he can perform a cantrip to find their missing shed key.

I've talked a lot about inconsistency in this book, but holy fuck.

Dresden doesn't look at Murphy as he says again that he knows nothing more, so he can only "sense [...] the little lines of hurt and anger around her eyes" and he's not certain if she wipes away a tear before passing Dresden's card over to Carmichael for tagging.  She asks Dresden to come to the station to make a statement (he refuses) and says she'll get a warrant if he's not home to be questioned in the morning.  And, of course, declares that if he is behind this she'll take him down, magic or not.

It occurs to me that her sudden flare of aggression earlier was perhaps less 'Murphy finally stops coddling Dresden' and more 'Murphy is a woman brimful with chaotic emotions and cannot be dispassionate like Dresdenman'.
I understood the pressure she was under, her frustration, her anger, and her determination to stop the killing from happening again. If I was some kind of hero from a romance novel, I'd have said something brief and eloquent and heartrending. 
But I'm just me, so I said, "I do understand, Karrin."
I assume we're supposed to think that is eloquent and heartrending under the circumstances, but Dresden is too humble to realise what a romantic hero he is.

That is roughly the end of the chapter, but one more question about the total lack of worldbuilding in this book: who is supposed to investigate magic killings here?  The White Council knows that there have been murders, but apart from Morgan's pet theory that Dresden is evil incarnate, they don't seem to care much.  There are apparently no wizard cops checking out the scene or following leads (if there were, Dresden would hopefully contact them), but the council is apparently also happy to kill any mundane cop who digs too deep into wizard business, including murder.  If Dresden weren't around, who would actually be there to identify and stop the killer?  It's tempting to say they don't care unless the killer is targeting other wizards, but Dresden also seems pretty sure that any magical murder is the worst taboo possible, so... yeah, I'm really lost.

Next time: tracking magic absolutely exists and this whole plot is nonsensical.


*I suppose I should make a consistent note that these books don't have chapter titles and I'm just making them up for funsies, lest new readers be confused that the titles are so much more entertaining and thoughtful than the text.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Storm Front, chapters twelve and thirteen, in which Dresden must endure women throwing themselves at him

I keep taking weeks off between Dresden posts, because I just cannot with him, but the downside is that it can feel like I'm taking forever to get anywhere in this book, and every page is more of the same: Dresden is insufferable and the people around him talk smack about him while making it glass-clear that he is Amazing and Dangerous and they don't really mind how terrible he is after all.

For fun reading, I'm currently halfway through the second Alloy of Law book by Brandon Sanderson, and while I have my issues with his philosophies and I think the protagonist is some kind of Boredom Singularity, at least Sanderson has the courtesy to surround his grim tough protagonist with a cast of vastly more entertaining people, even including multilayered nonsexualised women, people of colour, and--le gasp--people who might not be straight or cis.  And they criticise the hero for good reason, and he takes those criticisms to heart and tries to change his behaviour (slowly).  I could probably stomach Dresden more easily if this book included, for example, a scene where the Lord God Himself calls Dresden out for being such a misogynist tool.

Storm Front
Chapter Twelve: Tsundere and Lightning*

Let's just... get through this together.

Dresden awakens twenty minutes later in Murphy's office; she's cushioned his head and feet and is busily holding cold compresses on his forehead and throat but tragically not his mouth.  Dresden immediately takes the opportunity to 'joke' about his secret fantasy of Murphy in a nurse outfit.
"A pervert like you would.  Who hit your head?" she demanded. 
[....] Her hands were no less gentle with the cool cloth, though. 
[....] "If you didn't already have a concussion, I'd tie your heels to my car and drive through traffic."
The above three lines basically summarise all of Dresden's interactions with Murphy here: she makes it clear verbally that she has nothing but disdain, scorn, and animosity for Dresden, while also taking the utmost care to personally ensure his wellbeing.  Giving him first aid herself, okay, that makes some sense for a practical person like Murphy.  Then he tries to get up and hurls all over her office floor, so--without a word--she cleans off his face, gives him another cool cloth on the neck, and personally drives him back to his apartment.
But mostly I remember the way her hand felt on mine--cold with a little bit of nervousness to the soft fingers, small beneath my great gawking digits, and strong.  She scolded and threatened me the entire way back to the apartment.
The picture of Murphy this gives us is less 'complicated' than 'someone's very specific kink'.  She's tiny and soft and feminine and nervous, but cares for him like a nurse and scolds him like a mother.  I'm pretty sure there are women who get paid a very good hourly rate to deliver this precise fantasy of denigration/adoration to men, but do we need one of them in a cop outfit to be our ostensible female lead here?

Murphy hauls Dresden into his dark apartment (all the lightbulbs burnt out last week) and declares that she's putting him in bed after she lights some candles.  The phone rings, next to Dresden:
"Mister Dresden, this is Linda. Linda Randall. Do you remember me?" 
Heh. Do men remember the scene in the movie with Marilyn standing over the subway grating? I found myself remembering Linda Randall's eyes and wondering things a gentleman shouldn't. 
"Are you naked?" I said. It took me a minute to register what I'd said. Whoops.
Pictured: Agent Scully, praying for our deliverance from this creepy fucker.

Murphy, as part of her new 'service top' designation, goes to make Dresden's bed and give him phone privacy.  Linda has decided she does have a lead for Dresden after all, and wants to meet him tonight--Dresden has forgotten about the "date" that Susan Rodriguez "tricked" him into tonight, and agrees anyway.

Naturally, every sentence Linda speaks just overflows with seduction and implications of imminent nudity.  I won't quote them, because they're truly not worth inflicting on you, but it's important that you understand just how dedicated Butcher is to this AU where sex workers are literally compelled to hit on everyone all the time regardless of the subject matter.  They're talking about her friend's murder investigation, and she's no longer trying to distract him like she supposedly was last time--this is just who Butcher has decided she is.

Murphy is of course exasperated that Dresden has apparently made a date for tonight, and in response to his assertion that she's just jealous, snorts back:
"Please. I need more of a man than you to keep me happy." She started to get an arm beneath me to help me up. "You'd break like a dry stick, Dresden. You'd better get to bed before you get any more delusions."
I understand that we live in a dystopia where romcoms and bad subplots have cemented the notion that any form of woman-rejects-man can and will be used to foreshadow their eventual hookup.  From that, it's hard to find any way to legitimately shut that down in the text.  However, Murphy here has 1) interpreted "you're just jealous" not to mean "you can't get a date" but rather "you wish you could date me" and 2) rejected him on the basis of his supposed sexual inadequacy, which is the type of thing that gets treated as a flirtatious challenge ("why don't you try me?") that no Red-Blooded American Man like Dresden can truly allow to stand.  If there is any reliable way to cancel out sexual tension, it doesn't involve saying 'I've thought about sex with you and decided I am too sexually aggressive for it'.  Which is fine if you actually want to flirt, but supposedly Murphy does not, so what the hell.

She could have avoided all this by passing Dresden over to a police paramedic or getting a rookie constable to drive him home.

Dresden thinks he remembers what he's forgotten: he said he'd call Monica Sells.  Murphy resignedly helps him do so, grumbling about how "my first husband" was just as stubborn.  (I figured this meant he was dead, but a quick google informs me that they divorced and he's going to be a minor antagonist later on, because of course.)  A little kid answers Monica's phone, screams for mom, and wanders off.  Monica herself is in full Stepford mode and discreetly asks to "cancel my order", which Dresden thinks is weird but apparently not suspicious.
I thought I heard a voice in the background, somewhere, and then the sound went dead except for the static. For a moment, I thought I'd lost the connection entirely. Blasted unreliable phones. Usually, they messed up on my end, not on the receiving end.
I will completely break from form here to observe that, artistically speaking, Butcher is good at this: making innocuous statements that solidly imply information to the reader while keeping the character plausibly ignorant.  Here, for example, I would bet my own bone marrow that he's indicating that there is wizardry happening at Monica's house, messing with the phone, but Dresden never phones other wizards and he is generically Unwell, so he doesn't realise that this is literally the reverse of his usual problem.

There, I said something nice about Jim Butcher's writing skills.  Let it not be said I cannot be a kind and generous hater.

Murphy takes Dresden's temperature, checks his eyes with a penlight, and gets him some aspirin, continuing with her nurse deal.  I'm really confused about what's supposed to be wrong with him at this point: he's dazed because he got concussed yesterday, that makes sense, and that can mean all sorts of bad things, but why does she keep acting like he's feverish, covering him with cold cloths and such?  If you get a fever as a result of a head injury, I'm pretty sure you should see a doctor immediately.  Is Murphy taking care of Dresden so she can quietly end him?
I only remember two more things about that morning. One was Murphy stripping me out of my shirt, boots, and socks, and leaning down to kiss my forehead and ruffle my hair.
The rising level of mother subtext for Murphy, in addition to running against everything else about her character, is raising some uncomfortable questions about Dresden's fantasies.  ...Well.  Some further uncomfortable questions, anyway.

The second thing Dresden remembers is that the phone rings again, Murphy answers, and tells them they have the wrong number.  Not sure what that's about, but at least Dresden falls asleep and the chapter ends.

Chapter Thirteen: Title Drop

Dresden awakens that night as a thunderstorm rages outside.  Murphy folded his coat and left him some cash with a note that "You will pay me back"--because it's not like she likes him or anything!  (I've seen this anime.  We've all seen this anime.  It's every anime.)  Dresden puts his coat on in the dark, still shirtless, so now instead of a generic grim detective, he looks like a rejected model for the generic grim detective calendar.

Dresden mulls the way he can "feel the storm, in a way that a lot of people can't", because hearing how special he is hasn't gotten old yet.  I would be fine with him observing it, thinking about exactly the same stuff that he says here (how it's a huge knot of energy, all four classical elements in the wind and the rain and the lightning racing down to the earth), if he could maybe just say these things instead of emphasising how he FEELS SO MUCH MORE because he's just better than non-wizards.  More plot-relevantly, Dresden realises that a wizard with limited self-preservation instincts could tap into a storm to fuel the murder magic he had theorised about previously, and that there was a storm Wednesday night as well.  The mystery begins to unravel maybe!

But that's enough plot progression for now; time to pour on the filler.  Somebody knocks at the door; Dresden expects it to be Linda (silently thankful that, with her, it probably doesn't matter if he's disgustingly unshowered and such, uuuuugh) but of course it's Susan Rodriguez, here for their date.  Dresden lets her in and she shows off her form-fitting backless dress for a while before asking if he's working overtime on the magic murder and if he'd make a statement.
I winced.  She was still hunting for an angle for the Arcane.
Dresden.  That's literally her job and you knew from the start that was the point of this.  She dates people to get at their secrets.  That is the only conceivable reason anyone would date you, because you're terrible.  Dresden leaps into the shower and then leaps out again minutes later when he sees through the window that Linda has arrived:
I couldn't let Linda just come to the door and have Susan answer it. That would be the cattiest thing you've ever seen, and I would be the one to get all the scratches and bites, too.
Why am I inflicting this on you?  Because you have to know.  If I have to suffer through this mess, then by Eru Iluvatar you will all leave my blog knowing down to your deep tissues that this character is unequivocally a misogynist catastrophe (and his author's got a lot to answer for too).

Thankfully we get a break, because it's not really Linda at the door, but a demon that has just barely been holding together an illusion until now.  Susan of course screams uselessly as it hocks a shot of acid at Dresden, who dives behind the sofa and tells her to get back in the kitchen.

"Susan!" I shouted. "Get back toward the kitchen! Don't get between it and me!" 
"What is it?" she screamed back at me. 
"A bad guy." [....] 
"Why isn't it coming in?" Susan asked from the far corner, near the door. Her back was pressed to the wall, and her eyes were wide and terrified. My God, I thought, just don't pass out on me, Susan.
This is the kind of objective female inferiority that makes it impossible to pass off all of the misogyny as being Dresden's bias creeping into the narration.  I mean, yes, Dresden judging her harshly for not handling it well when her lousy date gets interrupted by an acid frog monster, that could just be him.  But the decision that Rodriguez, composed investigator and magic-sleuth, should turn into a screaming wreck incapable of even running for safety at the first glance at a short demon, that was Butcher's doing.
"Can it get in?" she said. Her voice was thin, reedy. She was asking questions, gathering information, data, falling back on her ingrained career instincts--because, I suspected, her rational brain had short-circuited.
Pictured: Princess Bubblegum cutting someone off and sending them to jail.

No, Dresden, you colossal jackass, that is VITAL FUCKING TACTICAL INFORMATION at this moment.  She's not being a stupid drone; she's determining what's safe and not, since that will seriously impact how you two respond to this invasion.  Sigh.  Dresden shoves her down into the basement (with a brief interlude as Rodriguez notices that his towel has fallen off and he's naked) and then does battle with the demon, hurling a gale-force wind in its face and commanding it dramatically to get out.  It's too powerful even for naked Dresden and his mighty staff (which he summoned into his hand and now holds straight out from his body--everyone praise the ancestor of your choice that this book wasn't illustrated), so he tells Rodriguez to drink the escape potion from earlier (oh god, we saw this coming).  That fails to spirit her away, but she also finds Dresden's revolver, climbs back up the stairs, and unloads all six rounds, giving them time to... run back downstairs.  Well.  Classic horror movie mistake, but okay, at least Rodriguez tried.

And now, of course, it's time for the wacky shenanigans, because Dresden uncovers the copper circle he inlaid in the basement floor, pulls Susan into it with him, and erects an unbreakable anti-demon barrier (also acid-proof, apparently).  Demons can't remain summoned during the day, he explains, so they just have to stay in the circle for the next ten hours and they'll be fine.

It is at this point that Bob the Sex Offending Skull points out what we all realised would inevitably happen back in chapter eight: Susan didn't drink the escape potion; she drank the love potion and she will now disregard their safety in favour of trying to get Dresden to bang her on this concrete floor before they die.

Hang on a second here.

We all know love potions are fucked up; overriding someone's mind and consent is not cool under any circumstances.  But this isn't even a love potion--this is a fucking potion.  Rodriguez isn't suddenly filled with admiration for Dresden's (hypothetical) virtues, she doesn't weep for the family they will never get to make together, she doesn't suddenly ask if she can somehow save him by sacrificing herself.  She stops caring about anything (including her own life) except getting that pasty wizard D.  I'm all in favour of love and sex in whatever combination makes everyone happy, but there are only two conclusions that we can draw here:

Option 1: 'love potion' is a euphemism for 'elixir that causes the drinker to stop wanting anything except sex with one particular person'.  Evidence in favour: classically, love potions lead to sex in most stories, probably because they're introduced as an excuse to get two people to have sex in an unusual circumstance.  Evidence against: the brewing of this potion involved candlelight and love poetry and the sorts of things that are supposed to be associated with high-minded romance, with sex as a possible consequent rather than the entirety of the event.

Option 2: 'do me here and now' is the specific response of Susan Rodriguez to this love potion, because like most women in this book she is nothing more than a projection of lust and she cannot fathom any way to express affection other than sex.  Evidence in favour: look, you've all read as much of this book as I have; you know what it means for her to be pretty and female and brown.  Evidence against: ...


Maybe I'll have something by next time.  (Merciful spoiler: they don't have sex.)


*I suppose I should make a consistent note that these books don't have chapter titles and I'm just making them up for funsies, lest new readers be confused that the titles are so much more entertaining and thoughtful than the text.