Earlier this week, actor Stephen Collins—whose claim to mainstream fame was playing a minister and the father to seven kids on the pseudo-religious WB series 7th Heaven—became ensnared in controversy after TMZ published a secret audio recording of the actor allegedly admitting to having molested multiple underage girls.
In hindsight, Collins' constant contact with young people on screen might make one want to throw a remote at the television. Less well known is the fact that Collins, 67, is also a published author of two erotic mystery novels: Eye Contact, which hit shelves in 1994, and Double Exposure, which came out in 1998. 7th Heaven debuted in between, in 1996.
Taken at face value, Collins' books are throwaway pulp fiction: sexualized without being sexy, using violence as a shorthand for drama. Smut. But certain imagery in the sex scenes—and the sexual compulsion depicted by the narrators—becomes uncomfortable to read in the light of the reported specifics of the abuse accusations.
The novels are fiction. But where they fall on the timeline is unnerving: the alleged abuse and molestation reportedly happened two decades before Collins put these psychosexual imaginings into print. "The sources of her first and most heightened sexual experiences," he wrote of the first novel's protagonist, "were not merely frowned upon, but illegal and sick."
Scans of the pages from the books are included below; I've added some context to set up scenes as needed, but largely, the passages speak for themselves.
Eye Contact is told from the perspective of a struggling actress in New York named Nicolette "Nick" Stallings, who—beyond not seeming to be a very good actress—is in a constant state of mental duress, continually at grips with an internal struggle to expose her naked body to others.
The character's predilection would square with the accusation made by a woman who stayed with Collins and his wife in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s, who claimed Collins would enter her bedroom with nothing but a towel on before exposing himself and molesting her.
Frequently, especially in the leading chapters of Eye Contact, Nick is powerless to head off her overpowering sexual desires. Just 20 pages in, Nick initiates oral sex with a man she brings home with her from a date, leaving the front door of her apartment wide open. The man, Todd, is terrified someone will walk in, that someone will see. Nick is undeterred:
A mere 20 pages later, Nick is in the hotel room with a different man, whom she dubs "Wally Wall Street." Room service knocks at the door, and Nick revels in maneuvering to have her towel drop in front of male hotel staffer:
This paragraph, from page 172, in which Nick recalls her earliest sexual experience, is especially unsettling to read now:
During her emerging swanhood, she discovered a power previously unimagined. She experienced the effect of removing her clothes in front of the opposite sex. It became her deepest secret.
Three pages later, the character goes on to describe a life of exposing herself to others as sexual thrill:
The following passage feels especially pointed. Nick remembers how she experienced her first orgasm—by masturbating while wearing her father's bikini (it's not clear why her father had in his possession a bikini) and dress shirt in her parents' bedroom:
In subsequent pages, Nick expresses feeling like Norman Bates from Psycho—that "she felt she must certainly be some kind of criminal," that "she became convinced, deep down, that she was sick":
The following scene, in the book's second half, is less explicit, but feels informative. Nick once again is internally negotiating whether to expose herself, and arrives at the following, from page 264:
They'd see each other, he might apologize and perhaps look the other way. But the point was that she could bare herself to him and no one would appear to be out of line. It would seem like a natural little accident.
Collins' second book, Double Exposure, published in 1998, is comparatively less tawdry. It's about a male TV critic for a New York daily and it's more straightforward, but not devoid of seemingly salient passages. In the following four pages, a couple encourage the other to share their sexual fantasies. His? To watch as someone has sex with her. Again Collins dwells on exposure and the thrill of getting caught.
And then there's this curious scene, in which the main character, Joe, consoles his young daughter, who expresses a fear of intruders entering their home and hurting her (emphasis mine):
"Daddy, would anybody sneak in here and hurt me?"
"No, sweetie," he assured her as Gayle had directed. "That'll never happen. We're ten stories up, the windows are locked, our front door is locked, and there are two more locked doors downstairs. You're completely safe."
It's also worth pointing out, as Uproxx did, that when Jessica Biel, eager to shed her wholesome daughter-of-a-fictional-TV-minister image, posed topless for the cover of Gear magazine in 2000, Collins got his man-bikini in a twist and decried the photos as "child pornography."
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