Why We Need More Rape In Fiction

Yes, I mean what I say in the title, but bear with me for a second. I’ll explain what I mean.

Doomed sent me this today and I felt the need to talk about it.

So before we begin, let me just… Stop and take a breather.

Alright… Alright… Alright, alright, alright, alright, alright… *breathes*

If you haven’t figured out by the title; you genius, you, there will be talks of rape in this post. If that upsets you, please direct yourself to a happier safer space. May I suggest some cartoon music instead? We have a fine selection right here. And here.

Now, despite my choice of title, I’m going to do my very best to keep my views on this objective. I’m going to try and be calm and coherent and not flip my shit the way I did when I read this article. Because I really want to get my point across and not just rage at this. I want to explain why I feel this is not just bullshit, but a dangerous thing. The article is linked up there for reference, but I will quote the sections I’m particularly annoyed with, as well as sections of one of the articles referenced within it, about Game of Thrones.

Basically, this article is talking about how some showrunners are banning rape as a plot device on their show. Which, fair enough I guess if that’s not how you want to tell your story. If rape has no place in your story. If there’s no reason to ever bring it up… That’s fine by me. That’s not my problem. My problem is the reasoning behind this article.

Much writing has been dedicated to the problems with how rape is used to motivate characters in our favorite television shows, particularly Game of Sex and Violence (this is the article about GoT I was talking about, more on that later).

Generally, women get raped and men get motivated to grow as characters because of that rape.

Okay, then, lady who wrote this article… *checks for name* Aimée Lutkin. Okay, Aimée Lutkin, since your site loves pissing on GoT so much… Let’s talk about Sansa Stark and all the abuse she suffered in the past six seasons leading up to her wedding night. Would you be so kind as to point to me the male character who was given all that character growth instead of her? Would you kindly point out to me how she has not evolved in any way as a result of all this pain she endured?

Because, see, you’re sounding like the only purpose ever given to rape is for it to influence some male character to come and exert revenge on the guilty party or someth-

It’s also motivating to the male protagonist to take some ass-kicking revenge, and with the disparity in gender in the writer’s room, either there’s no women to speak up in defense of woman characters or they’re not heard

Oh, for fuck’s sake, lady. As a woman and a writer, I call bullshit on you right now. Again, show me where a big bad ass man has taken ass-kicking revenge for Sansa? You can say Jon did that, but… He only got to Ramsay after Sansa saved his ass in that stupid battle. He was screwed. She saved his ass. She threw Ramsay to the dogs. =.=

One more quote from this article before I move on to the GoT article…

“It’s become shorthand for backstory and drama,” says an experienced female writer who didn’t want her name to be used. “Everyone knows rape is awful and an horrific violation, so it’s easy for an audience to grasp.”

Adds another veteran female writer, “For male showrunners, sexual assault is always the go-to when looking for ‘traumatic backstory’ for a female character. You can be sure it will be brought up immediately, like it’s the obvious place to go when fleshing out a female character.”

First of all; convenient that neither of these female writers wanted to give their names. Gee, I wonder if they happen to also write for Jezebel. I’m just saying… You didn’t even specify which medium they’re writers for.

Yes, rape is awful and a horrific violation and also a thing that exists in real life. And, I’m sorry, but unless you’re talking fetish porn here, I don’t think having it exist within the context of a story is a prejudicial thing.

See, there is a thing that most writers are familiar with, that I believe is very important when writing fiction. And that is the concept of catharsis. Here, I’ll find you a definition on Wikipedia:

Catharsis (from Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics, comparing the effects of tragedy on the mind of a spectator to the effect of a cathartic on the body.

To put it simply, catharsis is the reason we enjoy things like horror movies or those utterly depressing ‘based on a real story’ dramas, or why we subject ourselves to anything in literature, television, cinema, games, so on… That isn’t 100% all unicorns and rainbows.

Because subjecting ourselves to the emotional effects of certain things without experiencing the situations ourselves provides a form of release. The effect of a cathartic on the body. Which, if you don’t know, a cathartic is a laxative.

Basically, subjecting ourselves to emotional trauma through fiction is comparable to a very painful shit. Aristotle’s words not mine. >.>

While I do agree that rape; and violence in general, shouldn’t be used a) as a gimmick to draw sympathy to a victimized character or b) literally just because… The fact that a rape scene makes you feel violated and angry and wanting to shout at your TV that this was completely unnecessary and shouldn’t be happening, doesn’t mean the scene is actually pointless and shouldn’t be there. Because rape is something that is unnecessary and shouldn’t happen. Because any normal human being should be feeling disgusted and violated for being exposed to it. And within the context of a story these feelings can be extremely necessary for a writer to get the desired response from an audience.

That is to say, yes; the point is to manipulate your emotions. The point of any work of fiction is to make its audience feel things. This is no different and it should be no different. Because catharsis is one of the most effective ways through which we understand the fact that horrible things do exist and do happen. It’s one of the many ways human beings experience empathy.

Now that I explained why I think this is bullshit, let me explain why I said I think it’s dangerous… Because this sort of thinking stifles creativity.

I’ve been seeing that way too much nowadays. And a serious worry that I have as a writer is the idea of more and more writers giving into whims and allowing their fans, or even their future intended audience, to dictate how they tell their stories. It also makes writers afraid to delve into things that are considered ‘difficult topics’. If it’s difficult to write; pardon my expression, ‘traditional rape’, are we ever going to see men raped by women in fiction? Something that in real life society a lot of people still refuse to acknowledge as real? How is society supposed to evolve when more and more we’re being pushed into this mentality that nothing even mildly traumatic is okay to openly portray or discuss?

Look, I’m not down with that. I’m always going to write whatever the fuck I want, however the fuck I believe it should be written. No fan-service, no PC mentality bullshit, no fucking discussion!

Alright, guys… Let me just make a quick comment on that Game of Thrones article before I go… It’s written by Madeleine Davies, there’s a link up there for you guys to read, and it talks about the scene between Jaime and Cersei Lannister where he rapes her in front of Joffrey’s coffin.

They’re criticizing the fact this was not rape in the books and “why did they have to make it rape?”. Well, my take on that is… What people sometimes fail to understand about an adaptation is that any change you make to a story is going to greatly affect character development. It’ll change these characters into completely different people due to them living and experiencing different circumstances than the original characters. This is something I’m experiencing myself thinking about the RP rewrites. A lot is going to change along the line when we get into that. GRRM himself has spoken about this, although right now I can’t be bothered to find the quote; you google it if you want.

What I really want to mention is them comparing this to Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding night, which… Was also fully ‘consensual’ in the book. And it’s sort of a tender moment when taken out of context as they did in the article. In the show he forcefully takes her, in the book he asks her “No?” and she says “Yes”.

However; and this is where the greatest stupidity comes in when comparing these scenes, in the book Daenerys is only 13. She was groomed and delivered to this grown ass barbarian-looking man to be his wife. Her saying yes means shit within that context. It’s still rape.

However, in the show, Dany is an adult when she marries Drogo. So having their first night being consensual exactly like it was in the book would have come off much less disturbing and much more “well, this really turned out great for her! How fortunate!”

See, while these people are looking at these stories and seeing rape and going “VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN! LET’S BOYCOTT THIS SHIT”, actual fans and intelligent viewers will be seeing the full context of this story and taking into consideration how the characters evolve from their pain. Dany hardens, she learns to dominate, and Drogo, in turn, softens under her influence. They’re still my favorite couple in this show. I was heartbroken when he died. I wasn’t thinking “fuck that rapist!”.

Likewise, I continue to feel sympathy for Jaime even after what he did to Cersei, because if you consider the whole of their relationship and the whole of their upbringing; they’re both equally abusive and they’re both equally victims. That scene doesn’t exist in a vacuum, that scene is intertwined with every single moment of their lives leading up to it, as well as every single moment since.

Anyway, thanks for reading my rant, guys! If you got anything to say on this topic, please do say so in the comments. I’d love to hear someone else’s take.

Later.

B.B

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One thought on “Why We Need More Rape In Fiction

  1. Pingback: Answers About Valcrest (And That Email Response) | Blackbird's Nest

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