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*

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