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*