But I am sick unto death of this notion that, in order to be 'helpful' or proper or decent or supportive to women, SFF Must Not Mention Rape.
Go and read it.
Okay? Read it?
I am mad as fire. Here's why
I understand where this idea comes from, I really do. There are far too many books out there where a rape is used lazily, slightly, harmfully, as a way of indicating villainy. There are far too many which use rape as a back-story, to explain and justify why a female character is strong or vengeful. Women, in our culture, aren't supposed to be tough or violent, there has to be a *reason*. Strong women are unnatural, odd, wrong, and thus we justify. And rape is an easy shorthand.
Let's be clear. Rape used this way: as a plot device, to excuse or prop up bad writing, lazy writing, poor characterisation, pandering to cultural discomfort -- is damaging and inappropriate. It's playing into rape culture, it dehumanises and exploits.
Let's be very clear. There is more than one way of writing about rape. And rape, however much we don't like it, is part of our daily cultural experience. It's real, it affects real people, men, women and children. It matters.
Calls for rape to be banished from fiction are no help whatsoever. When we remove rape from our writing, we silence women. When we say 'writing about this isn't helpful', we tell women that their experience must not be spoken off, must not be shared, must not be made public, must be discussed. When we banish rape from fiction, we banish female reality. When we banish rape from fiction, we silence women, tell them that what has happened, might happen to them is too shocking to mention, too shameful, too dirty and bad and wrong.
We uphold patriarchy. We uphold doctrines of shaming and blaming. We uphold male right to dominate public discourse. We uphold the status quo.
Rape must be talked about and written about. It must be discussed and debated and depicted. Women, in particular, must be allowed to write about what rape means, what it does, how it affects us, changes us, trammels and traps and frightens as shames us. Women must be allowed to write about rape, because rape is real.
Sometimes, what we write about rape makes uncomfortable reading. kateelliott's King's Dragon is a case in point. It's very hard to read about how a rape can reshape a woman's life. And that is what kateelliott does in that book. She puts the reader in that space and makes them think it through. She makes us live it. The rape is not an excuse or a justification, used to explain female 'abnormality'. It's about real experience.
We don't want to think about it, we don't want it to be true. And yet is *is* true, it does happen, globally, to millions. The easy option -- the option that makes us feel comfortable -- is to label things that make us uncomfortable as wrong and to forbid them.
There are different ways to write about rape. And, as I said above, using rape lazily, in place of thought and care and decent characterisation, is damaging and trivialising and unhelpful. But writing about rape with thought, with care, with attention to the very real experiences of very real women and men is the opposite.
Writing mindfully about rape is essential. If we don't write, we deny it altogether, we collude in rape culture, which undermines and denies female experience daily, which silences women daily, which props up, fosters and supports those who rape daily.
I don't care if reading about rape makes some people, male and female uncomfortable, when it's done well. It should do that. That's the point. Such writing is there to make us aware, to make us think, to make us confront the nasty areas of our culture, ourselves.
And, you know, when I see a man recommending that rape be banished from fiction, I don't see an ally, though I know he probably means to be such. I don't see someone who wants to help me. I see someone who doesn't want to be made uncomfortable and who has found what looks like a fix based on his lack of knowledge and experience. I see someone who wants women to make him feel safe. I see someone telling women what to write, what to think, what to feel.
I see yet another attempt to silence me, to silence my female friends and relative, to silence women on this subject which affects every single one of us, everyday.
I want to live in a world where my sever-year-old niece never, ever in her life has to say what I have heard myself say over and over: "I'm lucky. I've never been raped." It should not be a question of luck. It should be basic, it should be assumed. Rape should be unthinkable.
It isn't. It's everywhere.
And when we banish it from our books, we help keep it there.
ETA: Ian and I have discussed this elsewhere, and he has made it clear that he didn't intend to be silencing, and that he was not trying to lay down rules. Rather, he was targeting unthinking writing, that reaches for the easy option without contextualising or care or respect. And he's right to do that. I'd like to thank him for his patience with my short fuse.