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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