Rape culture propagation in romance – part 2

*Please note, this is the second part of an earlier post. The feelings expressed in this blog are solely mine and I invite you to read them. You don’t have to agree. There may be spoilers ahead but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum*
So in the first part of the blog entry, I discussed two books I’ve recently read that irritated me with the way the authors addressed the subject matter. Feel free to check out the books for yourself but be aware there are situations that could be triggers for people with rape, sexual assault or assault.
I also ranted a bit about bad habits in modern romance writing that I wish would stop.
How two other authors handled the same topics are the basis for this post.
First up, When We Were Kings by Auryn Hadley.
This story follows a kidnapped princess and a couple of gladiators. The main female in this story goes from high-ranking to slave overnight. She somehow manages to talk her way out of being sold sexually with logic (even though she’s one of the few females in the story line). Unfortunately the male gladiator she meets hasn’t been so fortunate. And they discuss his situation candidly between them. He raises the point that it isn’t technically rape because he agrees to sleeping with the women, but I don’t think I’m on-board with his assessment. [If you are considered someone else’s property and it’s a choice of, ‘have sex with this person I picked for you or be punished’ does it make it less rape? I don’t necessarily think so.] He then helps train her to fight so she hopefully doesn’t have to find out. Later in the story- off-page, male/male rape is discussed with another gladiator. So what makes this story different than the cyborg one I ranted about? Well, the author actually takes into account the aftereffects abuse would have on the recipient. There is an acknowledgment of the fact it changes things about the character who suffered it. It doesn’t have to be blatant or in your face but it shouldn’t be reduced to nothing either. The men in this story don’t get revenge in the same way as the cyborgs in Releasing Rage. Instead, they are SEEN and respected individually by the female lead while acknowledging the subtle changes caused. She doesn’t try to downplay their experiences or how they feel.
Second book is Flawed, also by Auryn Hadley.
This book officially releases on June 30th, 2016 so if you’re researching the validity of my rants- it’s not available until tomorrow.
I seriously thought it was going to be an outrageously difficult read for me. While parts of it were hard, I really appreciated that the author took the aftermath of this sensitive topic head on and didn’t pretty it up. Don’t get me wrong, this story isn’t the dark well of depression it might have become in a different writer’s hands and it isn’t meant to be a portrayal of how everyone would react. Overall it’s a story of an individual finding hope again and a way to move forward after something horrific. But for once a writer took the subject and said, “This is a terrible thing to live through and the struggle is a daily battle. Sometimes the path to recovery is off-road all the way and it’s not going to magically resolve just because others don’t know how to deal with that reality.” When I began reading this book, I knew it was going to deal with problems that most people hide from or aren’t even truly aware of. I just didn’t know that the unconventional approach would make it a favorite for me. The respect thru the majority of the story and the spotlight on the issue when the respect is tested also make it stand out in my opinion.
The last book I’ll put in this part of my blog is from Patricia Briggs.  I’m going to say upfront that this is a very controversial pick. And it will contain spoilers. In Iron Kissed, the main female lead was drugged and raped very close to the end of the book. This was the 3rd book of the series and many fans were outraged by this happening to her and how the entire thing got handled. While I do see their point and concede that it’s not the best example, there are parts of the story that I feel highlight the mentality that isn’t usually discussed. The female lead isn’t in shape to actively fight for a majority of the attack. Like the cyborg book, the male lead uses something to heal her afterward that was used to hurt her during and although it IS awful in it’s own way, it is NOT more sex on a brutalized body. Both characters have feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, and different types of pain. It takes a 3rd character to put feelings into words and help them start any kind of dialogue. I think the reason this story is on this side of the rant for me instead of the other is mostly because of that 3rd character. The scene is too close to the end to really be addressed how it might have been. But the fact that it’s there at all is important.
If you’re going to use rape as a plot device, consider the audience you’re writing for. Do your research. Talk to survivors. Get feedback. Do not assume you can write it off as a quick fix storyline with little impact. And for your readers’ sake, please put a trigger warning on the blurb about your book. “Dark romance” should not be considered synonymous with “probably contains rape.”
But that’s my opinion on the matter.
*part 3 – other people’s take on rape versus various other activities and the completion of this rant*

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part 3 -Online comparisons of rape to other crimes

*Source links provided, which apparently sometimes pull up the page article — none of the following is mine, but I agree with the premise. These have been floating around the net for quite a while and are only a very small sampling. This concludes my rant.*

 

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/consent-its-a-piece-of-cake/17594#.V3RrqJ9OnqD

Rape is about violence, not sex. If a person hits you with a spade you wouldn’t call it gardening. (http://discordianquotes.com/quote/rape-violence-sex-person-hits-spade-wouldnt-gardening)

http://everydayvictimblaming.com/responses-to-media/comparing-acquisitive-crime-to-rape/

Rape culture propagation in romance- part 1

Now if *that’s* not a controversial title for a blog post…
I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of books in the romance genre. Two of the books I’ve read in the past couple of days really pushed a button with me. I’ve reviewed both of them on Amazon as well as the books I’m going to compare them against in part 2, so I will be listing authors and book titles.

First is The Dark Princes by Sara Page. This is a second story in the Ravagers series and is listed as a dark romance. It’s also a menage romance. I don’t have problems with either of those things in a story.
My problem comes from 1 character saying they hate, dislike, detest another character right up until chemistry takes personality out of the physical equation. It comes from reading multiple No(s) during a scene while the internal dialogue is, ‘please, don’t listen to the no and touch me anyway.’
My problem becomes more defined by the aggressive character thinking anything similar to- I know what you really want/need. Here’s a tip: If a woman fights you, that isn’t foreplay. If that’s the kind of foreplay you both want, then that should be discussed in a candid conversation about sexual likes/kinks prior to sex.
The second book I’m going to call out for perpetuating the problem is Releasing Rage by Cynthia Sax. Now on one hand, I give her kudos for not limiting sexual assault to her female character. But on the other, the impact of such trauma is almost completely glossed over.
***Potential spoiler ahead***
The author’s male cyborgs are tortured and sodomized, though it’s all done off page. The main male character was also part of a forced breeding program they discuss a couple of times. The main female (only female character until the end) is brutally beaten, raped, tortured and left for nearly dead; though again most of it is done off page.
Here are my problems with this story –
1. The male cyborgs’ abuse is minimized. The lasting impact is essentially downplayed to foster the romance.
2. The male lead has to repeatedly have sex with her unconscious body after the attack to heal her. I found this ridiculous and infuriating considering it was supposedly his nano tech she needed for healing. There has to have been another way he could have given that to her. The visual of this scene as the author paints it, is graphic and nasty. It’s supposed to come across as him caring for her in all ways regardless of what happened and accepting her still. Instead it’s just gross.
3. The author managed to avoid the majority of fallout from an attack so horrendous by having the female lead unconscious through it and his ‘healing’ her. It frankly pissed me off that she diminished the aftermath because the woman was knocked out. Does she truly believe that eases the feelings of violation, horror, vulnerability, shame and emotional pain? That it prevents or negates the lingering fear?
Oh- the author gave her the tiniest hints of fear, easily conquered, of the all-male cyborgs after the attack, but really? I understand that maybe there might be some feeling of kinship because she knows they’ve suffered too…but she had multiple reasons to be wary. Yet, none of that’s addressed.
I actually preferred Releasing Rage over The Dark Princes. At least in Releasing Rage her female character owned her desires. There is a Dominance/submission dynamic in the story that bothered some of the reviewers. I don’t see a problem with that part of the book. She was submissive to him only and it gave him control and respect back, at least in private. I just wish the uglier parts of the book hadn’t played up some things while ignoring so many other important issues.
Erotic fiction/ romance is a place where women should be empowered and shown that it’s ok to be sensual and sexual. It’s normal to be attracted to someone and you should express your desires and needs as plainly as men have been taught to. It’s natural and there is no shame in it. STOP SAYING NO and meaning yes in these books. STOP SHOWING men pushing until the woman gives in. STOP TEACHING women that they should hide and deny their bodies reactions until a man goes beyond her limits to make her admit it. STOP WRITING leading men who don’t respect a woman’s right to say no and enforce it – even if it goes against their internal monologue. Just stop perpetuating the mindset that it’s romantic to have the choice taken away if the guy is hot and you’re a little worked up by him.
Of course, this is only my opinion.
*Part 2 to contrast and compare the issue of rape in fiction coming later today*

Repetition and redundancy…

See what I did there? At least I used different terms.

Alright, so I’m going to rant again. I know, I know- I promised reviews. I also warned you I’d be posting my opinions on books.

I’d started to read two books this week that I just couldn’t finish. I didn’t review them officially because I don’t believe it’s fair for me to give a negative review if I can’t make it thru the content. With that disclaimer out there; on my personal blog- I can complain about spending time rereading something for the 5th time in a single chapter!

One story was set on a planet that was almost entirely water. The male character takes the female lead to his island. They discuss twice on the trip to it that he owns the entire island. They get settled in his house, head out to go swimming (because what else would you do on a water planet?), and he tells her again that it’s all his. And she, for some unfathomable reason, feels the need to ask, “The whole island?”

Woman, are you hard of hearing? Mentally lacking? Dory in human form?!? Ugh! I didn’t make it past that.

In the second book I felt like it was a constant see-saw of, “He’s so hot,” vs “He treats me so badly.” Sorry but no one is hot enough to put up with the junk this guy kept pulling. I got real tired of the repetitive back and forth real quick. This particular kind of issue isn’t an uncommon one.

I wish I could say it was only new or less experienced authors that do this. Sadly that’s not the case. Established authors that I love are just as guilty of falling into a redundant rut. And I’m going to call one out.

Laurell K. Hamilton writes the Anita Blake series and she’s caught a lot of flak over how her character has changed thru the years. I loved the first 12 books in the series with a few plot twist exceptions. After that it’s been hit and miss for me, but I still read each new book thru the library.

One thing that doesn’t seem to change enough though is the way the men’s clothes are often described by the female lead. It’s one of the worst redundant writing issues I’ve ever come across. Sometimes I’m tempted to flip back and compare word for word between scenes and even books.

Before anyone reads this and gets too grumpy – yes I understand there are only so many ways to describe someone’s attire and her characters have certain styles. I concede that point. That doesn’t mean you can recycle the same description every. single. time. Pop open that creativity box (or a thesaurus) and come up with a different way to tell me he looks like he’s wearing liquid latex. It stops sounding sexy and starts feeling lazy after a while.

I want to stay engaged when I’m reading. Not suffer deja vu every 3rd page. It doesn’t make the book faster for me to know what they’re going to say. It only makes it more likely I’ll get fed up and put the story down.

That’s just my opinion though.

Memorial Day

Memorial day is not a holiday I celebrate. Celebrate is the wrong word. It’s a day when I reflect.

I’m American, but I was never in the military. Both of my grandfather’s were Navy; several uncles and a few aunts were Air Force; a few cousins were Army and a couple more cousins and my ex-husband were Marines. Lots of my friends have been military brats. And my youngest is considering the military as a possible career when he finishes high school.

Even without these links, the military men and women who’ve sacrificed so much still would have touched my life.

I’ve never experienced first hand the closeness that develops between military buddies. Buddies is the wrong word though. They are brothers. I’ve never experienced the pain of losing someone that close to me, whether watching it or not. I’ve never had to deal with the guilt of being the one who came back or the ghosts that ride along.

I’ve been a Marine wife during war deployments; a mom of young children who couldn’t understand where dad was or why. I’ve had the scared, sleepless nights hoping he’s ok and wondering when or if I’d hear from him again. But I never had to deal with the reality of him giving all for this country and the people in it.

I’ve never been the one wondering if the next step I take will be the last…almost every second for 8 months or longer. I’ve never experienced waking up missing a part of myself or facing the challenge of relearning how to do things. I’ve can’t fathom, can’t imagine, the depths of grief, anger, sadness, depression…accomplishment and victory that people who’ve faced this must feel.

Memorial day is a day of reflection for me. A day to really think about how fortunate I am. A day to consider all the military that we take for granted while they suffer the losses.

I remember and I thank you.

Power in words

Authors you have so much power at your fingertips. If your story is good you could hook a reader for life. If you haven’t taken as much time or invested as much thought in your book you could lose a potential fan.

I know there are a lot of indie authors out there, and some of them are downright awesome. But some of y’all need to reach out and find a few beta readers and proof readers before you actually publish. I’ve seen stories lately with potential that was ruined because of typos, grammar, wrong words used, same words used over and over and over, and plot ideas just being lost or under-developed.

Ask someone who will give you honest feedback and then listen to what they say even if it isn’t exactly what you want to hear. I’ve talked to enough authors to understand that some writers feel like their stories are their creative babies and they just don’t deal well with constructive criticism. I’m not saying only give it to one other person to take a look at and change anything they say should be changed.

I’m suggesting instead that you get several viewpoints and if most of them bring up the same couple of issues – maybe consider a different approach to getting your idea across in whatever the situation is. When you’re doing a word count or spell check try to keep an eye out for words or phrases that you use often and think about using a thesaurus or a trusted friend for another way to say whatever it is you’re wanting to say.

You are the creator of the universe  you want to share with others. Make stuff up and convince others that it could totally be that way. Hell, Shakespeare made up words all the time and now a majority of those are mainstream, every day words. Crazy, stupid, made-up slang  makes it in to the dictionary each year. But you are never going to be able to make breathe and breath mean the same thing, dominant and dominate are not interchangeable words, and I won’t even start on they’re – their – there.

You have the power of words, but it’s up to you to use it correctly.

Series vs Serials

Over the last few days I have read several new releases by authors I enjoy. Auryn Hadley’s second iliri book is out and really good. TS Joyce’s second story for the Bloodrunner crew is out and decent. And I’m eagerly awaiting a new series starter from Anna Hackett to drop.

I am a big fan of good series books like these, but nine times out of ten I hate serials. I’m not sure that all authors and readers understand the differences between series and serials. I keep seeing serials listed as series and the reviews on those generally have a large number of peeved readers who bought it expecting an ending and instead received a cliffhanger with the ~if you’d like to see what’s next, purchase ~ line. So, in my own opinion, what are the differences between series books and serial stories?

Well, in a series each book has at least one self-contained plotline. It will have a beginning, middle, and clear ending to that plot. What makes it a series is having something tangible in common with the books that follow whether it’s common characters, a common world, a common continuing problem that needs a bigger resolution or any combination of these things.

On the other hand, a serial story is going to introduce you to your characters, their world and their issues and then actively leave the plot threads dangling when you read the last printed word. There will be no firm resolution to whatever had you turning the pages in the first place and if you decide to continue with the story, you can be dragged along through innumerable books until you either get fed up, or the author finally figures out how to resolve whatever they thought up in the first place. Did I mention I’m not the biggest fan of serials?

Authors who write trilogies and tell you from the beginning that it’s part of a trilogy don’t fall into the serial or series category for me. If I know it’s a trilogy, then I expect I’ll be following the same characters for 3 books while they try to accomplish whatever task is set out; whether there is a clear resolution at the end of books 1 and 2 or not.

I’ve read so many series, by so many authors, that it’s difficult to pick just one for an example. So I’ll use Christine Feehan, who writes several series that I enjoy but I think I’ll focus on Ghostwalkers. Please note that I won’t be posting any spoilers.

Ghostwalkers follows a group of enhanced military men, the doctor that enhanced them, the military superiors who have become wary of them, and the women who complement them. They have unique abilities due to the enhancements and it causes some problems in unforeseen ways. Now, each story in the series focuses on a single soldier and his journey, but it also shows the characters in his group, new characters introduced along the way and the overlying issue of ~how are we going to deal with the bigger picture/problem~. The bigger problem isn’t solved by the end of story 1 or 2. Instead it spans the series, but that one soldier is in a far better head space by the end of his book and has his act together to be able to help with the bigger problem as the books move along. Each new book shows measurable movement toward solving the bigger problem in the future.

Anna Hackett and Auryn Hadley both have a few different series out currently that work in a similar way. Family by birth or circumstance moving through individual trials to be in a better position to contribute to the larger challenge they all will  eventually have to face down. I enjoy seeing the growth of individual characters and the relationships those characters have built as a series continues.

The problem with serials is that they are too much like day time soaps. Lots of drama and angst with very little growth or movement and no payoff of closure at the end.

So please, if you are the one labeling whether a story is a stand alone, part of a series or part of a serial – please – label them honestly and correctly. If you’re the one reading and the book title says part 1 or volume 1 anywhere on the cover, it’s a good bet that it’s a serial. If in the 1 or 2 star rated reviews you see someone saying, “Warning – Cliffhanger ahead,” yea – that’s a serial. Know the difference and save yourself the frustration of finding out on the last page.