A younger writer on a forum that I frequent posted a short scene he had just finished that he thought to be disturbing. He said the content had made it hard to get through and asked what was the most disturbing thing any of us had written about. I might have been one of the first to read his question, but I didn’t answer because I don’t do the kind of disturbing that they were talking about. There are unsavory situations in my books, but they’re dependent upon the build up and the person reading really knowing the characters. It’s harder to be scared for a character without knowing the stakes or the person that’s involved.
Sure, I can post a bit of something here and people might love it, but at the same time I have to select the writing I post very carefully so that it paints a complete enough picture of the character and situation without giving too much away. I didn’t have anything to throw out there that would be shocking the way that it seemed the kid asking the question meant.
Then everyone else started answering. All of the examples were rapes except for the original poster’s question. And that example was still sexual and probably could have been stretched to fall under the definition of rape (it was something to do with mind control and the like). After reading over all of the other people’s answers, one of which was a list of things with several different time they used rape to be “super disturbing and edgy”, I made the comment that I didn’t write rapes. I never have and although I couldn’t say for certain that I never will, I can say I don’t foresee anything I would write where there’s a possibility of me describing a rape out in detail. There’s just too much wrong with that for me.
Let me interject here: this isn’t the kind of blog that’s like those Tumblrs that every misogynist uses as an example of how feminism seeks to enslave all men. I’m not going to speak about how anyone who writes about rape at all is as bad as a rapist. External censorship isn’t something I’m for. I’ve said right here on this blog that we shouldn’t censor this stuff.
The choice not to write rapes is my choice. And the replies I got ranged from the typical stuff about compromising the legitimacy of my story to one guy telling me that I needed to toughen up.
All of theses writers are writing the same thing, really. They’re not writing about the victim or what happens to them because of the rape. They’re writing about weak beautiful women who are raped and killed or raped and learn to be “strong” because of it. I’m tired of reading rapes that happen exclusively for women to build their character into a strong person (and these were all about women in the examples they gave). I’m even more fed up with the raped female side character that serves as motivation for the hero to seek revenge on her behalf. And worst of all is the “hero” who rapes the female villain as an act of vengeance with the story trying to justify the behavior. I choose not to write anywhere close to these plots because I dislike them. I write something I would want to read.
One person argued with me about the whole thing for about six back and forth posts. Think about that for a minute…someone was upset about something that I choose not to include in my own writing. When I see someone acting so vehemently about what someone is doing that has no effect on them, it usually makes me feel like they feel guilty. If I’m going to make the choice to write something you’re not going to tell me that you’re not going to write it in whatever you’re doing and just suddenly make me want to get mad at you for the simple fact that you aren’t doing things just like me. Probably the only things that I will agree every writer needs to do are read, write, and edit. There’s probably another thing that someone will say I should add, but I really think that’s it.
I’m sticking to my guns though, not because writing about rape is always wrong, but because this is a choice I made.