K. Tempest Bradford

K. Tempest Bradford

Between Boundaries

K. Tempest Bradford RSS Feed
 
 
 
 

Portrayals of Rape in Fiction: An Exploration of Where It’s Done Wrong or Right and Why

Portrayals of Rape in Fiction: An Exploration of Where It's Done Wrong or Right and Why

I’ve been thinking about writing this post since the Take Back The SciFi Redux panel at WisCon where we talked about media that portrayed rape in a horrid, sketchy way but also mentioned some media that did it well. The latter list was very small, as you can imagine.

I’ve railed against the way writers of books and television shows and movies use rape at least twice before. But there are obviously some people who still don’t get it, and they don’t know why they don’t get it. What makes the portrayal of rape in book X palatable to me, but the portrayal in book Y sends me into a fit of rage?

There are three books I’ve read in recent years that make excellent examples – two bad examples, one positive example:

Below is a description of each book that contains spoilers for the story and possible triggers for those who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, so please take care when clicking. Though my hope is that the issues raised will be more helpful than harmful.

The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman

The basic premise here is that the protagonist, Eon, is in training to become a Dragoneye — a magic-wielder who helps to channel the powers of the ascendant dragons in this Asian-influenced fantasy world. There’s a dragon for each year in a 12-year cycle — Rat Dragon, Tiger Dragon, Horse Dragon, etc. — and apprentice Dragoneyes are chosen in the year their Dragon is ascendant, then come to full power 12 years later when the cycle comes back around again.

Only boys are allowed to train and become Dragoneyes. Eon is actually a girl in disguise. Her master decided to train and disguise her because she can see the dragons when most people – including the Dragoneyes – can’t, except during special occasions. When Eon goes through the public ritual where the dragon appears and chooses the apprentice, something unexpected happens: a long lost dragon called the mirror dragon (since it’s the dragon for the year of the dragon) appears even though it’s the year of the Rat Dragon, and chooses Eon as apprentice. This very naturally pisses off the Rat Dragoneye dude because he was all set to come to power, and he’s a bastard, anyway.

Though this book is full of a lot of stock elements and plot coupons, I found myself completely engaged by Goodman’s writing and drawn to her characters. There’s a lot going for this book, but my enjoyment of it stopped dead about a third of the way through.

Around this time the Rat Dragoneye dude discovers that Eon is actually a girl disguised as a boy. This is wonderful news for him because he’d been trying to find a way to regain the power he lost when the mirror dragon showed up, was annoyed that the other Dragoneyes on the council and the emperor were politically against him, and he really hated Eon’s master. He pulls Eon into his room and is all “Hahaha, I have found you out! Now you will do what I say and align yourself with me politically or I will expose your secret!”

You’d think that would be enough, right? Oh, but no. After that’s all settled, he decides that he needs to rape Eon, too.

I did not throw the book across the room, but I came really, really close.

It was over a week before I picked it up again and found that Eon didn’t actually get raped because someone came knocking at the door with an emergency. That doesn’t make it any better.

The first thing that annoyed me about this – other than the fact that it happened – was that I wasn’t convinced the Rat Dragoneye would go right for rape. After all, he had multiple ways to exert his power over Eon and he enumerated those ways, so why the hell did he then decide rape was a good idea? Furthermore, it had already been established that for years the Dragoneye dude had been taking an herb or potion or whatever that had the same effect as steroids, including the impotence part. So… WTF?

Second, I am always annoyed when writers go right for rape because it smacks of lazy writing. Yes, rape happens in real life. I am well aware. But I’m also aware that, as a writer, I get to choose what kind of world I build. Goodman chose to build a Chinese-influenced world, yes, but she altered aspects of culture and history. This could have been another alternation. She could have – should have – chosen to create a world in which sexual violence is not part of the default character of the society.

Goodman compounds her error by having the Rat Dragoneye almost rape Eon again at the end of the book. And this time there’s no one to knock at the door or anything. It’s just a really long, drawn out scene of him trying to get at her in a public place in front of other people… and then something magical happens and it’s all okay again.

This is not the way to do it, people. All too often writers use rape or attempted rape to show that a character is a Very Bad Person. In this case, we didn’t need the rape to show us this. Goodman did a wonderful job of painting the Rat Dragoneye as bad, scheming, evil. She gave him plenty of ways to have power over and control Eon. It’s like she did all the good work of creating complex characters and then, in a fit of madness, threw in this bullshit. Or in a fit of lazy writing. Or maybe a fit of “well, it has to happen this way because he’s evil and she’s a woman.”

No. This does not have to be the way. Like I said, as a writer, you can choose not to make it this way.

Life by Gwyneth Jones

It’s been a long time since I read this book, so details are sketchy. I’ll relate what I remember as best I can. This novel is a fictional biography of a woman named Anna Senoz, a scientist who makes a potentially breakthrough discovery about gender while contending with her life as a mother, wife, etc. I was a big fan of this book until, again, I ran into an unnecessary rape scene. But this one wasn’t of the “Here’s why the bad guy is bad” variety, but instead of transparent author manipulation, which is just as bad but for different reasons.

At the end of Anna’s university career she has to work with this guy who is a typical alpha male and who gets annoyed with her because she either won’t let him take credit for something she did or won’t let him take full credit or maybe she plans to report something he did to their professors. I honestly can’t remember. But essentially whatever this dude wanted from Anna, doing it would be detrimental to her future career and she doesn’t want to do it.

He comes over to her flat, tries to convince her to do what he wants, fails. He refuses to leave. He cooks for her. More convincing that fails. Then he forces himself on her all while attempting to convince her it’s something she wants.

The result of this rape is that Anna curls into herself. She lets him have whatever academic thing he wanted or, at least, doesn’t challenge him. It changes the whole track of her career, which eventually leads to the breakthrough discovery she makes near the end of the novel.

When I read the book (I did finish it) I felt like giving Gwyneth Jones the evil eye and saying “I see what you did there.”

Blatant author manipulation is annoying no matter what form it comes in, but that it came in the form of a rape just pissed me off double. And the thing is, Jones is an amazing writer and (I would have assumed) better than such trickery.

Thankfully, the rest of the book isn’t all about Anna’s triumph over the devastation rape wrought on her – another tired trope of tiredness. It certainly affects her throughout life, but her life is not about that rape. This is one thing Jones did right.

But I cannot get behind the rape because it was not in any way organic to the story nor necessary except in that Jones needed Anna derailed somehow. I felt, and still feel, that if Jones couldn’t have figured out a way to do this without getting painted in the corner, there’s something really wrong.

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

I’ll reveal two things up front about this book. 1: It’s one of my favorites. I just love it. 2: It’s written by one of my favorite people. That may color my opinion in this case, but others are free to chime in and refute or back me up.

This book is about Katherine Talbert, niece of the Mad Duke Tremontaine in Kushner’s secondary world (first introduced in Swordspoint). The Duke brings her from the country to his home in the city and makes her learn swordcraft. At first she resists, because fighting with a sword is not something young ladies are supposed to be up to, but then she becomes quite good and learns to love it.

One of the secondary characters in the book is Artemesia Fitz-Levy, a girl about Katherine’s age (16?) who is on the verge of coming out in society at the beginning of the book. By the middle she’s been to many balls and parties, found herself courted by a couple of nice boys, but gets a marriage proposal from Anthony Deverin, Lord Ferris. Ferris is the main antagonist from Swordpoint, though Kushner does a good job of showing us that he’s a jerkwad at the beginning of TPOTS as well.

Ferris is much older than Artemesia – he’s the same generation as her father – and she’s not strictly attracted to him. But her family convinces her that the match is highly desirable and she’s in favor of having a powerful, well-off husband.

Artemesia learns that there are balls and parties that she’s unaware of and not invited to – because they’re for the seedier element in the city… and men – and challenges her fiancée to take her to one of these parties, so he does. At the Rouge’s Ball Ferris seriously gets off on watching other masked men dance with Artemesia in ways that are not, shall we say, proper. Then, when he’s supposedly taking her somewhere to rest and collect herself, his “passion” for her overflows and he pushes her up against a wall and rapes her.

Afterwards, as she’s hiding from Ferris, Katherine stumbles upon her. Finding out what he did, she immediately finds a relative of Artemesia’s to see her safely home.

The closest real-world analogue to this is obviously Date Rape. And what follows in this particular subplot is typical to what many women experience after this type of assault. Artemesia’s parents think she is being absolutely silly when she wants to break off the engagement with Ferris. It would cause a scandal! Plus, she was going to marry him, anyway, so what’s the big deal if they had sex before the wedding? Plus, she was foolish to have him take her to such a party as that. And really, she’s always been overdramatic. She should just get over herself and feel lucky that nothing worse happened to her.

Ferris, of course, tells her that she wanted it, it was her fault, and that she’ll learn to like it when they’re married.

The only person who feels that she was wronged, that it was not her fault, and that she absolutely should not marry Ferris, is Katherine. And this is where the book gets awesome. Katherine, who is now a swordsman (swordswoman?), challenges Ferris to a duel to settle the matter of honor. Though her family feels that their honor has not been impinged, Artemesia rightfully feels that her personal honor, which matters just as much if not more, has certainly been. Katherine feels the same. And so she fights for her friend’s honor. And wins.

Here’s where I think Kushner’s portrayal goes right where many others go wrong.

First, the rape was not used to establish Ferris’ evil villainy. We knew he was an ass and, oh look, more proof. (ETA: This is not necessarily an issue with the other two books under discussion, but is a problem in general with books that include rape or sexual assault. Sorry I didn’t make that clear before!)

Second, the whole situation arises naturally from what we’ve seen of the characters, culture and situation in the novel. Even more so if you read Swordspoint. The sequence of events that happen before the rape don’t feel like author manipulation, and you don’t get a sense she just dropped it in there because Katherine needed someone to duel, or because Artemesia needed to be “ruined” or whatever.

Third, the reactions of Artemesia’s family and her attacker are so fucking typical it makes you want to scream, especially if you’ve been through something similar or watched a friend go through it. But the attitude of the book is always: These people are wrong. Dead wrong. Look at how wrong these people are. Even though Artemesia is depicted as being a bit silly and too concerned with clothes and balls and such, it is never, ever implied by the authorial voice that this was something she deserved or had coming.

Fourth, when her family and society fail Artemesia, it’s another girl her age who believes her, consoles her, and then fights for her honor. Because of Katherine she doesn’t have to marry Ferris and she gains a personal triumph, though of course it doesn’t erase what happened to her. The whole novel is about how Katherine becomes powerful and empowered because she has skill with a sword, and this subplot is one part of that. It’s also a big Fuck You to a society that tries to keep girls confined to a narrow social construct.

I guess what it comes down to is that The Privilege of the Sword does not merely reflect the way things are except with fantasy furniture, but points the way toward the way things should be by modeling it in many different ways in the book.

Conclusion

One good thing I can say about all of these books is that the rape or attempted rape is never written in a way that’s meant to titillate or blur the line between sex and rape. It’s never ambiguous or labeled “seduction” or any such bull. When you start looking at depictions of rape written by men, you get way more of that.

But with the Goodman and Jones novels I ended up feeling very negative toward them overall – even though there was plenty to like otherwise – due to the rapes depicted. And this is how I feel about almost every other book with a rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

I just wish that writers would stop using rape as a shorthand or shortcut. I have said in the past that we should just set rape aside all together since most people don’t seem to know how to handle it right. But TPOTS is the example that makes me say instead: why can’t you all be more like this, if you must?

31 Comments

  1. Jackie M. Jackie M. on 14.06.2010 at 12:34 [link] (Reply)

    Did anyone at the panel discuss the rape at the beginning of Jo Walton’s “The King’s Peace”? I’d love to hear someone analyze that one.

    1. coraa coraa on 14.06.2010 at 18:12 [link] (Reply)

      I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on that one as well. Though I’ve enjoyed other of Walton’s books, having a rape so very early in the book bounced me out of it, hard. But I honestly can’t tell if that’s because I felt it was mishandled or just because I personally find depictions of rape so repellent/upsetting that I have to already been invested in the book to continue past one, and that early, I wasn’t.

      1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 19:36 [link] (Reply)

        Don’t read Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, then. It’s… not for you.

  2. Shawn Struck Shawn Struck on 14.06.2010 at 12:42 [link] (Reply)

    As a survivor myself, I’d just like to say thank you. I’ve wanted to explore just such an issue myself on my livejournal, but every time I’d sit down to try and organize my thoughts, I’d just buried under the baggage I carry with me.

  3. Mely Mely on 14.06.2010 at 12:47 [link] (Reply)

    I’ve read the Kushner and not the Jones or the Goodman, so maybe that explains why I don’t understand one of the distinctions you’re making. You say, “First, the rape was not used to establish Ferris’ evil villainy. We knew he was an ass and, oh look, more proof.” But it sounds like this is also the case in the Goodman and the Jones. In Goodman, it sounds like the Rat Dragoneye dude was already established as a bastard and in Jones like the character was explicitly established as sexist and disrespectful of personal boundaries and refusals. Can you elaborate on the differences you see?

    1. nojojojo nojojojo on 14.06.2010 at 13:29 [link] (Reply)

      …Or, shorter, what Mely said. -_-

      1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 17:31 [link] (Reply)

        ha! I think I should have been clearer in point #1 about TPOTS, as the “rape to show character is a villain” isn’t the major fault of Life but of many other books that include rape for no good reason. I do think that the Goodman novel does fit into that category because, even though the bad guy had been well-characterized, I felt that she had him attempt to rape Eon simply because this is what bad men do. But I shall try to make that clearer.

  4. nojojojo nojojojo on 14.06.2010 at 13:28 [link] (Reply)

    Good thinky stuff here.

    I think I have some confusion here, though. In the Dragoneye books, from what you’ve explained, the villain tries to use rape as an additional means to exert power over Eon. Not the sole means, just more of the same thing he’s already doing. What’s the difference between that and the jerkwad from the Kushner books using rape as an additional means of displaying his jerkwadiness? In both cases we have established assholes working within established patriarchial cultures, and in most patriarchial cultures, control of women’s sexuality is endemic — rape culture, in other words. (It would be interesting to try and create a patriarchial culture that isn’t a rape culture… is it possible? Hmm… ::eyes glaze::) It seems natural for male assholes working within such a culture to view rape as part of their Toolkit of Assholism ™. (This is even reinforced by your note about the Rat Dragon guy using ‘roids — it’s not sexual, ’cause he can’t have sex. It’s about power.) So why do you prefer one portrayal over the other?

    I agree with you that rape should not be used as a cheap shortcut to establish a villain’s villainy. But that’s not what it sounds like in both cases.

    I have a different feeling about the Jones book; from what you describe, it sounds like a metaphor for the lives of most women in the sciences/academia. And sexual harassment/violence is a very common part of that life, though it usually takes place in “accepted” ways — power-imbalance relationships between professors and students, tenure policies that punish women for trying to have a family, academic politics that punish women for having a sex life, a culture that simultaneously tells women that they’re not good enough (“affirmative action!” “women aren’t as smart as men!”) and yet they need to work twice as hard to prove themselves… I think of these things as attacks, and they often have the same effect as you describe of the rape in the Jones book — they make female academics curl in on themselves and stop trying. Granted, that’s plenty, so there’s no need for a rape on top of all that. But that’s what I mean about a metaphor; it may be that Jones was trying to make the effect of this culture explicit. I’d have to read it to see.

    1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 17:33 [link] (Reply)

      With Life, I think the way it affects some may be different from the way it affected me. I can’t give you the sense I felt of author manipulation because it arose from the reading of the book itself. You know how you’re reading along and totally engaged in a story or novel, then suddenly something happens and you KNOW it only happened because the author couldn’t come up with a better way to get character X to place Y or into the arms of person Z? That’s how I felt about that rape scene in Life.

      1. Niall Niall on 15.06.2010 at 03:01 [link] (Reply)

        I know several people who feel very strongly that the fallout from the rape rings false (in terms of Anna’s reaction and the institutional culture that reinforces that reaction) for where and when the book is meant to be set (the UK in the 1990s). Their perception of the rape is not that it was done that way as a device to get Anna from A to B, but it was done that way because Jones was writing about 1970s British university culture either not thinking about or not particularly caring about the ways in which it had changed in the interim. This is not to say they think the 1990s version of the story would be all hugs and puppies! But that it would have played out differently, to the extent that, as in your reading, the rest of the novel is implausible.

  5. Rhi Rhi on 14.06.2010 at 13:46 [link] (Reply)

    I remember the Goodman coming up at the panel, as well as Kushner, and thanks for going more in-depth with them. PotS is the only one of these I’ve read, and I think your analysis is accurate. I was stricken by Artemisia’s rape, but the narrative was organic and the storyline made sense. It was hardly gratuitous.

    To get to my actual point…Gwyneth Jones. While I’ve not read Life, I wanted to talk about how the same things you mention there with rape or consent issues are resonant in her other adult work. Off the top of my head, it comes up in White Queen, in the Bold as Love series, and yet again in her most recent book Spirit. (The latter two aren’t published US-side, I don’t believe. I read them both while in the UK.)

    I feel like she uses rape/problematic consent as a device because she doesn’t want the reader to be comfortable; however, as you said, the transparency of that is just dodgy. Also, the fact that the instances of these events always permanently crack the characters’ minds bothers the crap out of me.

    There’s probably an essay or blog post in that somewhere, but I’d have to go back to the books, and I’m fairly sure Spirit’s not got a US publishing date yet.

  6. Neile Neile on 14.06.2010 at 16:42 [link] (Reply)

    I’ve read all three of these books, and like some other commentators here I don’t see the strong distinction between them as you do. In all three of these novels it seemed to be an integral part of the experience of the characters involved.

    As a date rape survivor myself, I think it’s important to have books, especially fiction, that deal with these issues. I agree with you that including it just to show how bad the villain or how long-suffering the protagonist is, is lazy, but I don’t think that is the case with any of these three novels. All three of these made me think about my own experience in valuable ways (particularly Life, and Life more so than PotS due to the realistic nature of the world portrayed in Life). I don’t want to read about rape for the sake of titillation (it’s the opposite of titillating for me and most people, I think) or in place of character/setting/plot development, but reading about how people move on from these experiences has been and continues to be very important to me. And honestly I have found few novels that include this (obviously our reading lists must vary greatly), especially include this well.

    While there are obviously ways to handle it wrong, I think that handling it right can be in the eyes of the reader–certainly our experiences of these books is different. I personally would greatly regret people deciding that they simply couldn’t write about sexual assault in fiction for fear of getting it wrong. Yes, it shouldn’t be shorthand or a shortcut, but since it isn’t organic in anyone’s life (I would hope) it might never seem organic in fiction to a particular reader. It certainly doesn’t seem an organic part of my personal biography. But there are such invasions in people’s lives so I would hate for fiction writers to avoid or ignore it.

    Would a world of fiction that ignored the possibility of sexual assault be valuable to readers?

    For myself, not.

    1. Lenora Rose Lenora Rose on 14.06.2010 at 16:56 [link] (Reply)

      Just as a point, Sherwood Smith’s books mostly take place in a world where human have been subtly tampered with so sexual assault doesn’t happen, even when one character is absolutely obsessed with a character of his preferred gender.

      Yet her character dynamics and power relations ring true.

      I wouldn’t want every writer to write in a world like that (At least two of my stories involve someone dealing with sexual assault, and by god I hope I don’t do it because I’m lazy, or to titillate – especially not to titillate) but I’m saying such a world Can Be Done.

    2. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 17:28 [link] (Reply)

      Would a world of fiction that ignored the possibility of sexual assault be valuable to readers?

      For me, yes, if by “ignore” you mean “presents a world in which this is not the default choice of characters.” Too often rape and sexual assault are dealt with in useless ways. I think the more writers stop and consider before using these in their books or stories, the less they would use them because most of the time it’s a crutch. For the other times when it’s not a crutch, I can agree that fiction that includes these elements can be useful. But it takes a certain amount of skill and awareness.

      But beyond that, I think it’s valuable to portray a world without sexual assault and rape, not to deny its existence, but to point the way toward the kind of world we want to create. Fiction that reaffirms the world we already exist in is okay, but fiction that shows or creates the kind of world you want to exist in is better. And it doesn’t have to be utopian, either.

      1. Neile Neile on 14.06.2010 at 20:42 [link] (Reply)

        I’m starting to think our differing perspectives on this may be to some extent a generational difference.

        When my experience happened, rape was rarely depicted in fiction. I never even heard the term “date rape” until years after mine happened, and hearing the words that I could apply to my story and make sense of it was a welcome relief. It was years and years after that before I ran into any fiction about it. I was particularly happy to discover that yes indeed it was considered violence and I wasn’t bizarre in that I didn’t fall in love with the perpetrator. (Really, this happened in the years of bodice rippers in which falling in love with the abuser was a frequent trope. I knew better than to believe in it, but at the time I never found stories about my own experience.)

        Additionally, stories where it wasn’t the start of the character’s end (_Tess of the Durbervilles_ anyone?) or without simplistic smarmy-ness (TV movies) were rare, and I still find them valuable.

        I think the books where sexual assault is the *default* choice of characters is rare. By far, the majority of fiction does not include it, which is as it should be.

        I’m sure there are also writers for whom it’s a crutch, but I just don’t see it in these particular stories, nor do I see it generally. Maybe I just don’t read the same stories you do or maybe the lens I approach them with is just that different from yours.

        I do understand how work in which humans have gotten past this kind of violence are valuable. However, in my experience of the world, no one gets out of here alive and without trauma, so the more stories about different reactions people have to trauma–and especially about how to live with and beyond it–are useful for me and I believe also for others.

        1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 21:56 [link] (Reply)

          It’s true this may be a generational thing, because I feel completely inundated with depictions of rape in media, both book and visual. Just leaving out Lifetime, there is hardly a show I have watched that lasted longer than 2 or 3 seasons that did not include rape unless it was a sitcom, and sometimes not even then. In the year I spent reading for the Tiptree I felt like there was an overabundance of rapes or almost rapes or threatened rapes, though I’m very annoyed by them, so perhaps there weren’t as many as seemed to me. There’s probably more in TV and movies than in written fiction.

          I guess because of this, I feel like there is so much already existing, I rarely see a new instance that I feel adds to the discussion or creates a better view of the world. It’s kind of like the way I feel about creating positive feminist texts, or positive anti-racist texts, ala the conversation I have with Cat Valente here.

          Right now, most of the depictions of rape or sexual assault that I see that aren’t just bullshit from people who think rape is titillating are a form of deconstruction. Rape is bad, obviously, and it happens, and here are the many and varied ways it can happen and can affect the person assaulted. And at the beginning of deconstruction, you need that narrative. As you said, when you were young, this was very rare, and seeing that was a relief to you and helpful. But now that we’ve had some years of deconstruction, it’s time to move on to the next step, which is creating a positive text, and that positive text should revolve around: here are all the ways people can interact with each other — positive and negative — that do not involve rape or sexual assault. Because I am a firm believer that as much as the deconstructive texts help survivors, they do not do enough to deter rape culture in general.

          1. Neile Neile on 14.06.2010 at 22:58 [link] (Reply)

            Another difference here is that I watch very little (almost no) American TV and don’t see that many movies.

            I don’t see why it has to be an either/or situation. Why can’t we have both? For me, the deconstruction time isn’t over. I need the narratives of survival and recovery, and see *them* as positive. I also see narratives of survival and recovery from sexual assault as parallel to and useful for learning about surviving other emotional and physical traumas. This is important.

            1. tempest tempest on 15.06.2010 at 11:30 [link] (Reply)

              I can see the need for deconstructive texts. And I think TPOTS is a good example of them. I would like the balance to shift towards more positive texts (as I see them). And I think we can both agree that rape and sexual assault as lazy plot point/characterization can just go away completely.

          2. Diatryma Diatryma on 14.06.2010 at 23:30 [link] (Reply)

            It may be time to move on to the next step, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking the first one. I don’t read a lot of older books. I try sometimes to read more ‘classics’ but it usually doesn’t take– I like what’s coming out now. It’s like the endless cycle of YA issue books. In five or ten years, I’d like to see books show worlds without sexual assault, but that doesn’t mean stopping the ones that show rape altogether.

  7. Tablesaw Tablesaw on 14.06.2010 at 17:22 [link] (Reply)

    Add one more voice of confusion who isn’t quite sure of what you’re saying based solely on your descriptions. For me, I’m not understanding what about Life makes it “balatant author manipulation.” From your description, I only get the sense that a thing happened without as much connection to story, but you also described the novel as patterned after a biography, in which things happen because LIFE is why. So I’m not seeing what it was that caused you to feel manipulated.

    Looking for more information on the book led me to this discussion which suggests a few reasons it seemed forced to someone else. Is it something like that?

    1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 17:38 [link] (Reply)

      Yes, that discussion is heading in the direction that I am about the rape part. I mean, there are plenty of times when women get raped and they don’t report it and just try to get on, and there’s nothing wrong with that reaction. But I did not feel that reaction was in line with that character, or at least the ways Jones was presenting to me these events. It was almost rote, like, “And then here’s the part where she gets raped, because of course she will be raped, it’s just a matter of where it comes in the book, and I want it to come here because it solves a plotting problem for me.”

  8. Steve Berman Steve Berman on 14.06.2010 at 21:47 [link] (Reply)

    Thoughts on male rape in spec fic novels?

    1. tempest tempest on 14.06.2010 at 21:57 [link] (Reply)

      Can you give an example? I’ve got nothing off the top of my head, though I know this stuff exists.

    2. Diatryma Diatryma on 14.06.2010 at 23:24 [link] (Reply)

      Karin Lowachee’s Warchild books are full of male abuse.

      1. Steve Berman Steve Berman on 14.06.2010 at 23:39 [link] (Reply)

        So the question becomes… are these portrayals of male rape good, bad, hushed? Male rape creates situations that address the victim’s sexuality, of course. What other elements? Various ethnicities that have ideas of machismo may be more scornful and shattered by male rape. Lots of questions I would love discussed and addressed.

  9. Steve Berman Steve Berman on 14.06.2010 at 22:12 [link] (Reply)

    Well, there was a very graphic scene that stopped me from reading any further in the Mirador. Hmm, I am sure there are others.

  10. Rhi Rhi on 14.06.2010 at 23:12 [link] (Reply)

    Steve–not to be super obsessive about Gwyneth Jones, but the rape of a human man is a major plot point of White Queen.

    1. Rhi Rhi on 14.06.2010 at 23:12 [link] (Reply)

      Also, I fail at replying properly, my apologies.

  11. Darkrose Darkrose on 14.06.2010 at 23:21 [link] (Reply)

    This post was very topical for me, because my current obsession is Dragon Age: Origins. And while I love the gameplay, the characters, and the story, I could do with a lot less rape. There’s one instance where it’s handled well, but then there are other instances where it’s clearly lazy writing: “What’s the worst thing we can do to a female character to show how DARK our setting is? I know! Rape!” It’s shorthand backstory to make sure the player doesn’t forget how grim and dark the world is, and even though I’m sure it’s not the intent, it ends up trivializing rape.

    1. Coraa Coraa on 15.06.2010 at 00:30 [link] (Reply)

      Yes, I think that part of it is it’s become a shorthand for ‘gritty’ or ‘dark.’ On top of being often handled in a clumsy or insensitive way, at this point I largely object because it’s overdone and feels… well, lazy.

  12. keyan keyan on 09.07.2010 at 03:36 [link] (Reply)

    I agree with Darkrose. Gritty. Rape, described in detail. Slaughter, ditto. I think it easily becomes a hackneyed trope. Sometimes it’s just there to shock, to be transgressive – which it no longer is. (Not talking about any particular book, just the way it seems to crop up routinely in Gritty Books.) Right now, I think the only thing that would be transgressive is the killing and torture of an animal… and no, I don’t want to read about it.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Social Studies

TumblrTumblr – Come see the inside of my fandom brain

TwitterTwitter – Intermittent rambling, links, and what I just ate

FacebookFacebook – A nexus of me, yet strangely impersonal

Google+Google+ – Another nexus of me for Google Geeks

DeliciousDelicious – A wild collection of links, mostly of fiction

goodreadsGoodReads – The books I’m reading and the ones I’m in

FlickrFlickr - Photographic evidence of a few of my exploits

LiveJournalLiveJournal – A mirror of this blog, nothing more

Recent Posts

Blog Archive

Categories

Random Shoes

An ever-changing list of the authors, bloggers and awesome people I know and admire

Vitae

I'm a writer, most often committing acts of genre (fantasy, science fiction, and other stretches of the imagination). You can find my short stories in many and various magazines and anthologies and podcasts. In addition to being a writer I also engage in activism and fandom -- often both at once.

Meta