I am not in the habit of cut-tagging my crankiness, but in this case, I will, because I’m going to be discussing the sexual abuse of women, and I try not to be triggery when I don’t have to be. This is your notification, and your warning.
There are a lot of ways to reach me; I try to be accessible and responsive whenever possible. Sometimes, this leads to my being asked questions I would never dream of asking an author who wasn’t a) a personal friend, and b) in the process of getting drunk with me. I try to answer them nicely, for the most part, assuming I can answer them at all (I can’t, always; some questions simply can’t be answered).
Last night, I was asked—in so many words—when either Toby or one of the Price girls was finally going to be raped.
Not “if.” Not “do you think.” But “when,” and “finally.” Because it is a foregone conclusion, you see, that all women must be raped, especially when they have the gall to run around being protagonists all the damn time. I responded with confusion. The questioner provided a list of scenarios wherein these characters were “more than likely” to encounter sexual violence. These included Verity forgetting to change out of her tango uniform before going on patrol, Toby being cocky, and Sarah walking home from class alone. Yes, even the ambush predator telepath with a “don’t notice me” field is inevitably getting raped.
When. Finally. Inevitably.
My response: “None of my protagonists are getting raped. I do not want to write that.”
Their response: “I thought you had respect for your work. That’s just unrealistic.”
Verity is the bastard daughter of Dazzler and Batman. Toby is what happens when Tinker Bell embraces her inner bitch and starts wearing pants. Velveteen brings toys to life and uses them to fight the powers of darkness. Sarah is a hot mathematician who looks like Zooey Deschanel but is actually a hyper-evolved parasitic wasp. The unrealistic part about all these characters? Is that they haven’t been raped.
Needless to say, I was a little bit annoyed, and I still am.
Statistically speaking, one in six women will be raped in her lifetime. This is just the statistic we know; it doesn’t account for the fact that right now, reporting rape is a minefield all of its own, and many women choose not to subject themselves to that process. I do not know how many of my friends have been raped. I know that five of them are safe because of me, if you trust statistics. So you know. There’s that.
Rape in fiction can be a powerful and important thing. It can be used to make important statements, it can be used to drive important stories. I love Robin McKinley’s Deerskin as much because of the discomfort it causes me as for the beauty it contains. There are authors I will always trust, or try to trust, and it’s important to show uncomfortable things through fiction. I am not saying that no one should write about rape, ever.
But rape in fiction can also be a problematic and belittling thing, used to put cocky heroines in their places. When Janet goes to Caughterha despite being told not to, her punishment is rape by the eponymous Tam Lin. When a superheroine needs a deeper, edgier backstory, there’s always some previously third-tier villain with a de-powering ray and an agenda waiting in the wings. I read a lot of horror, a lot of comics, and a lot of urban fantasy, and the one thing these three things have in common is rape. Lots and lots and lots of rape.
And I don’t wanna write that.
I do not understand—I will not understand, I refuse to understand—why rape has to be on the table for every story with a female protagonist, or even a strong female supporting cast. Why it’s so assumed that I’m being “unrealistic” when I say that none of my female characters are going to be raped. Why this “takes the tension out of the story.” There is plenty of tension without me having to write about something that upsets both me and many of my readers, thanks.
Toby will not be getting raped. Verity, Alice, Sarah, Antimony, and the rest of the InCryptid girls will not be getting raped. Velveteen will not be getting raped. Rose will not be getting raped. If this makes my work unrealistic, then fine. There’s a reason I write science fiction and fantasy.
But I do not write rape. And the fact that this somehow makes me “unrealistic,” rather than making me an author who makes choices about what she wants to write…that’s the part I find upsetting.
You know. In addition to everything else.
8 months ago
#fiction #sexual assault #women's rights #girls #writing #fantasy #sci-fi
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