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View Full Version : Has Sexual Violence Become An Too Easy Drama Device? (White Queen Spoilers.)



gothicangel
06-17-2013, 10:29 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2013/jun/17/rape-on-television-white-queen (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2013/jun/17/rape-on-television-white-queen)

Warning to those that haven't seen the dramatization yet, the article contains spoilers of Philippa Gregory's The White Queen.

I thought the question was an interesting one, and think it can be applied to fiction in general.

Thoughts?

mirandashell
06-17-2013, 10:33 PM
A lot of people have mentioned that the BBC have gone for the Game of Thrones approach. So it doesn't surprise me that one of the female MCs was raped.

buz
06-17-2013, 10:34 PM
This thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=271819) may be relevant. I particularly found Canotila's post here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8243870&postcount=237) to be poignant [both things I just linked are potentially triggery]:



To me it feels like some authors equate the assault of rape with the assault of getting knocked out in a bar fight, when in reality it's more like getting a shotgun blast to the chest and then that getting infected, then having trouble breathing for the rest of your life because of the damage the injury did.

gothicangel
06-17-2013, 10:47 PM
This thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=271819) may be relevant. I particularly found Canotila's post here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8243870&postcount=237) to be poignant [both things I just linked are potentially triggery]:

Thanks for that (read the first page, but will come back and read the whole thing.)

I think it echoes what I felt in the recent adaption of Ken Follet World Without End. I only watched the first episode, because I lost count of gratituous sex and rape scenes.

AlwaysJuly
06-17-2013, 10:50 PM
I think it's an overused plot device.

What I would like to see more of, and this may just be me, is characters who have sexual assault in their past, have realistic issues, but are going on with life. So many women experience sexual assault, and it doesn't then become the core of who they are, but they also don't just move on with the next chapter. I feel like either the rape is the story (which bothers me so much, not in any one individual book, but when looking at it all collected together) or it's just a plot device/bit of character exposition, and on we go. Neither works for me.

NeuroFizz
06-17-2013, 11:00 PM
Do y'all think what we may be seeing is a bit of a taboo-release? This can be accompanied by an overstep in use that eventually settles down a bit.

Chasing the Horizon
06-17-2013, 11:21 PM
So many women experience sexual assault, and it doesn't then become the core of who they are, but they also don't just move on with the next chapter.
It's not just women. Men can be victims of sexual assault as well. This was already brought up in the discussion over in SF&F, but I'm going to repeat it here as I'm sure not everyone is going to go read all 10 pages of that thread. Male victims are almost universally ignored, both by fiction and real-life resources.

Here are a few resources on the subject which came up in the other thread:
The rape of James Bond (http://sophiamcdougall.com/2013/03/13/the-rape-of-james-bond/) (note that the statistic for male rape in this post is ridiculously wrong--I guess they pulled the number of reported rapes without adjusting for the fact over 90% of male rapes are never reported)
Male rape not treated as rape (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnMale) (TV tropes link)

Anyway, yes the rape of women is used a cheap plot device all the time and it's very frustrating (and sexist and boring and repetitive).

Showing rape as a backstory point people are now living with isn't a bad idea, if it's not done as cheap characterization and too tilted towards female characters, but it's a potential character path that requires a tremendous amount of knowledge on the part of the writer and you're better off leaving it out if you don't really know the psychology behind what you're doing (and no, a few days of Googling does NOT equal 'really knowing').

mirandashell
06-17-2013, 11:32 PM
Has it ever been a taboo subject?

Chasing the Horizon
06-17-2013, 11:59 PM
Has it ever been a taboo subject?
Not really. Greek stories were a major basis for western literature, and you can't go anywhere in ancient Greek literature or mythology without tripping over rape. I know pulp from the first half of the 20th Century was also full of rape, so I'm really not buying the idea that it was ever taboo.

mirandashell
06-18-2013, 12:01 AM
Chasing, I've still got you on ignore due to that eyeball avatar.

ap123
06-18-2013, 12:06 AM
Has it ever been a taboo subject?

(Dating myself here)
On tv it was. I remember it being a huge deal when it was addressed on All in the Family.

NeuroFizz
06-18-2013, 12:11 AM
I'm thinking back to the early 2000s, and I seem to remember that several literary agents listed it as a topic or content they did not want to receive.

Chasing the Horizon
06-18-2013, 12:20 AM
I'm thinking back to the early 2000s, and I seem to remember that several literary agents listed it as a topic or content they did not want to receive.
I can't comment about that since I was 13 in 2000 and years away from knowing what a literary agent was, much less knowing what they wanted (though judging by the rejections I'm getting, I still haven't figured that out, lol). But it's always been in books, so I guess *someone* was repping them.

NeuroFizz
06-18-2013, 12:53 AM
No argument that it has always been a part of literature. But what if, for a large number of writers, it was considered out of their comfort zone. Then with the evolution of more liberal attitudes toward sex and various sexual issues, a greater focus produced a taboo-release like increase into a too common or too easy drama device. I have sensed a continual loosening of people's comfort with sexual issues over the decades, to where some of the more popular contemporary fiction genres would have been considered improper or even porn in past decades. Please be aware I am not suggesting this is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, as long as it is not gratuitous. Depicting real-life situations is what we do.

And if not a form of taboo-release, could it be a form of bandwagoning? Or a combination?

gothicangel
06-18-2013, 01:04 AM
Not really. Greek stories were a major basis for western literature, and you can't go anywhere in ancient Greek literature or mythology without tripping over rape.

You don't see much raped by a swan or beam of sunlight these days. ;)

lolchemist
06-18-2013, 08:37 AM
I don't think rape has ever been taboo in books. Unwanted? Yes, but not taboo. There are certain genres where rape is just everywhere, for example a lot of those trashy Medieval fantasy books are like that and certain YA books cover it like a *A Very Special* TV episode. What I hate most is when the rape isn't even for plot development's sake it's for freaking titillation! If people want to read or write a rape fantasy, it should probably be categorized as rape fetish erotica? When they try to write it in a sexy way in a normal book, it really creeps me out. (No, I don't have any examples, when I was a kid I used to hunt through books for sex scenes and that's how I remember this stuff but I don't recall any actual names or authors.)

sarahdalton
06-18-2013, 02:48 PM
I think that unless the rape of the character is pivotal to the book, there's no need for it. Threat of sexual violence in the world around them is one thing, but casually adding in a rape scene is another. And as others have said, the book should deal with the aftermath of the sexual assault in a realistic way.

It's not something that should be 'added as a bit of character development' in my opinion. At least not in a graphic sense.

Anyway, I'm probably not the best person to discuss it. I pretty much avoid watching and reading anything with sexual violence. Whenever GoT hints at rape I squint through my fingers or fast forward. It's probably why I read and write YA.

That article was quite interesting. At the very least I now know to avoid the Politician's Wife, I almost watched that as well! It reminded me of a scene in Mad Men where Joan's fiance pushed her to the floor and raped her. It was almost brushed off as just 'rough sex' afterwards, and Joan married him anyway. The whole thing made me feel very uncomfortable and fed in to the attitude that a wife should please her husband even when she doesn't feel like it... I know it was the 60s, but even so, to see it on screen made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

LOTLOF
06-18-2013, 07:00 PM
I've written two rape scenes in my stories. Neither was depicted graphically and in both cases they had a major impact on the story. Each time I received a lot of negative feedback.

It's interesting that you can have people murdered left and right and blow up whole cities with the reader not batting an eye, but write about rape and some people will be up in arms. I will also mention that despite the heavy criticism those scenes received a lot of hits and did not damage the popularity of the stories overall.

While I don't think rape is taboo exactly, it definitely remains a very sensitive subject, much more so than say murder or racism.

sarahdalton
06-18-2013, 07:12 PM
I think the reason why rape is more 'taboo' than murder is because of the psychological effect it has on the victim, and the prevalence of the crime. 1 in 5 women are likely to be a victim (or survivor if you prefer that term :) ) of some form of sexual assault in the UK. Watching or reading anything about rape will then be a trigger for survivors.

Murder is distant. It's something that happens in sword fights in medieval times or between gangs in modern times. Terrorism is frightening, but the chances are low. Serial killers are scary, but unlikely.

But rapists can be your friends, ex-boyfriends or family members. It's something more personal and altogether too real. I don't want to diminish the serious nature of violent crime in general, but there is something more shocking and psychologically disturbing about rape.

Jamesaritchie
06-18-2013, 07:35 PM
It's overused when: 1. It's done exactly as everyone else has done it a thousand times. 2. Readers stop buying it by the trainload.

Xelebes
06-18-2013, 07:58 PM
No argument that it has always been a part of literature. But what if, for a large number of writers, it was considered out of their comfort zone. Then with the evolution of more liberal attitudes toward sex and various sexual issues, a greater focus produced a taboo-release like increase into a too common or too easy drama device. I have sensed a continual loosening of people's comfort with sexual issues over the decades, to where some of the more popular contemporary fiction genres would have been considered improper or even porn in past decades. Please be aware I am not suggesting this is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, as long as it is not gratuitous. Depicting real-life situations is what we do.

And if not a form of taboo-release, could it be a form of bandwagoning? Or a combination?

I think for many writers, it's the opportunity to put in RAGS (Really Aggressive Sex.) Rape seems to be RAGS to many writers and for others it is "The Whole Story," where the author cannot get past the rape and so dwells on it for the whole book. In both, it is a cheap and flippant point.

For the writers with the aggressive libido, is there a safe venue or market for them to put all their RAGS fantasies in? Is it being hemmed? If we want to dig deep into P&CE territory, I would posit yes. Rape is being used as a safe venue for people to talk about their RAGS fantasies.

slhuang
06-18-2013, 09:02 PM
I think for many writers, it's the opportunity to put in RAGS (Really Aggressive Sex.) Rape seems to be RAGS to many writers and for others it is "The Whole Story," where the author cannot get past the rape and so dwells on it for the whole book. In both, it is a cheap and flippant point.

For the writers with the aggressive libido, is there a safe venue or market for them to put all their RAGS fantasies in? Is it being hemmed? If we want to dig deep into P&CE territory, I would posit yes. Rape is being used as a safe venue for people to talk about their RAGS fantasies.

I am not okay with equating aggressive sex and rape.

Many people enjoy aggressive or rough sex, and there's nothing wrong with that at all (as long as everyone's on board).

Rape is nonconsensual. It is absolutely not just "really aggressive sex." At all. Also, it doesn't even matter whether the act is gentle or aggressive; it's the lack of consent that makes it rape.

I disagree that equating the two in fiction, either implicitly or explicitly, is "safe." It is not a harmless contribution to our culture to do so.

calieber
06-19-2013, 12:18 AM
I am not okay with equating aggressive sex and rape.

I didn't get the impression Xelebes was personally equating them, only saying there are authors who see them as the same thing, and see the latter as a "safe" way to include the former.