Nearly everyone is familiar with the convention known as “The Bond Girl.” She’s the love interest or sidekick of Bond, and can come in the form of a friend or a villain. Bond girls often have names with double entendres, such as Pussy Galore and Xenia Onatopp. There are no rules about their roles in Bond’s life, their origins, or their relevance to the mission at hand. They share only two unbreakable constants: they are always gorgeous, and they all have a sexual fascination with James Bond.
But it’s not just the “Bond Girls” who want James Bond. Every woman Bond comes in contact with seems to be taken by him. Perhaps it’s that tall, statuesque physique he maintains so well. Perhaps it’s the designer suit and the apparent wealth, coupled with his enticingly suave charm. It’s probably a little bit of all those things, plus the simple fact that women want Bond because the writers say so.
Dr. No (1962) was the first Bond story translated to film, with Sean Connery playing the role of the leading man. In a New Yorker article released that same year, Bond creator Ian Fleming described the character as a “blunt instrument.” He meant the phrase more in regards to Bond's stone-faced ability to kill when necessary, but the film adaptation gave it a double meaning: Bond never loses his callous disregard for killing, and he also knows how to get right to the point with the ladies. When Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) asks him, “What should I say to an invitation from a strange gentleman?” Bond casually replies, “You should say yes.”
The sense of humor and ease of seduction seen in Connery’s Bond was much to Connery’s credit, and the performance inspired Fleming to modify the mannerisms of the character to match in subsequent novels. It's logical and befitting for a man who saves the world with such an air of effortlessness to be good with the ladies.
Dr. No introduced audiences to the way females are magnetically drawn to the character. Bond finds himself in bed with several women in the picture, from his Bond Girl of the moment Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) to the aforementioned Miss Taro (who sleeps with him to keep him around as she waits for an assassin to arrive). Before either of them, Sylvia Trench (Eunice Grayson) makes a pass at Bond before he jaunts off to Jamaica, stripping down to everything but one of Bond's shirts to attempt her seduction. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) even tries her hand, although her attempt is futile as Bond says he’d be scolded for “illegal use of government property.” She has to settle for just a few kisses on the cheek, which in Bond's world doesn't qualify as workplace sexual harassment. His objectivism is not at all adorable, but the women flock to him despite himself. Even the girl who works the desk at his Jamaican hotel can’t help but eye him as he walks away, as if it’s a societal requirement for all women to desire James Bond.
Overthinking It writes, “Women don’t just fall for Bond in Dr. No: they throw themselves at him. Bond arranges a golf game and a dinner date with Sylvia Trench after meeting her and beating her in chemin de fer, all in about thirty seconds of conversation. That’s not enough for Trench, though, who breaks into his apartment and dons one of his shirts (after doffing everything else, of course) to await his return. Is this unrealistic? Of course, even for a man as handsome as Sean Connery. But the image of Bond would fall apart if we saw him stammering his way through a pick-up line, or even if we saw him dumbstruck at female beauty. When Bond sees a girl, whether it’s Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in Dr. No or Halle Berry doing the same in Die Another Day (2002), his reaction is not stupor but the warm contemplation of how nice it would be to have her. And have her he inevitably does. There is anticipation, but never uncertainty.”
They continue, “Ryder’s softening inaugurates one of the odder traditions of the series: the healing power of Bond’s dick. Sleeping with James Bond can make a damaged woman whole again, as it does to Ryder. It can make an enemy agent into a loyal ally (From Russia with Love ), turn a lesbian straight (Goldfinger ), make meek women strong (Live and Let Die ), and even soothe the open wounds of revenge (For Your Eyes Only ). It had become enough of a trope by Thunderball , only the fourth film in the series, that the villainous Fiona Volpe could comment on it with a sneer.”
Matt Damon, known among many things for playing the Bond-evolved character Jason Bourne, has called James Bond “repulsive,” saying, “he’s a misogynist, an imperialist, he's all the things that Bourne isn't. He kills people then drinks a Martini.” Even Daniel Craig, the actor currently playing James Bond, has called him a “very lonely, sexist misogynist.”
Plenty of the women in Bond’s life could be dubbed helpless trophies. That’s easily true for those in Dr. No, as they are characters that either throw their desires at bond (Sylvia Trench) or are “saved” by his sex (Rider). The cunning lady-villain of the piece, Miss Taro, isn’t in it solely for the romance -- but she’s carted off by the authorities. That trend continues in Bond lore when it comes to the romantic enemies (like Xenia Onatopp), and the women in Bond's universe have limited options: You either throw yourself at Bond immediately or become enamored with his charm. If you’re in it for villainous reasons, things aren’t going to work out in your favor. Even if you do truly love Bond, you’re still expendable and are almost guaranteed to be forgotten about by the next picture.
The BBC writes, “Bond women have been bringing sass and chutzpah to the franchise since the very beginning, while enduring their fair share of injustices. But how many times have they been discarded or even killed off without a moment’s thought? These aren’t throwbacks to the films of old, but tropes still playing out on screens today. The female characters in Skyfall (2012) were a mess, and that movie was released three years ago. Not only is Séverine shot in the head in the end (leaving Bond to comment, 'That was a waste of good Scotch.') but Tonia Sotiropoulou is given no lines at all and credited only as ‘Bond’s Lover’. In Quantum of Solace (2008), poor Strawberry Fields was murdered and left on Bond’s bed covered from head to toe in oil, a nod to the bullion-soaking murder of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger. Death also rose up to meet Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (2006), marking her as yet another woman over the course of half a century who seemingly had to die in order to save Bond’s life. It’s not just death that awaits the women of Bond’s acquaintance. Alas, this seems to be the fate of the women who walk in and out of Bond’s life no matter how fiercely independent they seem. They are beautiful, intelligent, often duplicitous – and all highly discardable.”
Refinery29 adds to that, saying, “James Bond’s world is a sexist, misogynistic one, where his paramours are lucky to survive more than one act of a given film, let alone appear in multiple installments of the franchise. The spy who supposedly loves so many women in reality only loves himself, and his self-preservation-above-all-else, women-are-disposable mentality has somehow managed to seep beyond the fictional world of 007’s films.”
So what’s the point in making every woman swoon in Bond's presence? Ian Fleming called it "a subconscious protest against the current fashion for sexual confusion.” In other words, Bond’s hypermasculinity is like a literal drug -- if someone like him could truly exist, he would literally be capable of saving the world. As such, he’s capable of “saving” those who come in contact with him, albeit through his penis. (Fleming was fed up with the conservatism of post-War Britain, which was dominated by austerity and Victoria attitudes toward sex. In that same interview he went on to say Bond's violence stems from "a psychosomatic rejection of Welfare wigs, teeth, and spectacles.")
Whatever the reason, the wit and the women introduced to James Bond in Dr. No persist through the current entries in the franchise, now two dozen films and five decades deep. It’s unlikely the model is going to change, no matter how progressive society gets or how hamstrung the franchise is in its characterization of female infatuation. People love Bond, and Bond comes with baggage that his stories don't seem keen to broaden. In the 50 years of definition the character has been given since Fleming and Connery laid the foundation in Dr. No, he’s handsome and suave, and, for better or for worse, those qualities come with an incredible aptitude for picking up ladies.