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areteus
10-29-2013, 04:11 AM
I could do with some help and advise and maybe a moral compass. Not sure if this forum is quite the right place to put this but it is the closest I can find.

In my current SF Romance WIP I have a bit of a triangle going on. Well, one character thinks the female MC is going to end up with him and she hates his gut and would never touch him with a bargepole (meanwhile the Male MC is being held prisoner by the resistance group they are both part of). The two clash over the fate of their prisoner - he wants to kill him (partly because he suspects she has the hots for the prisoner but also for quite sensible reasons such as the prisoner's own culture tracking him thanks to implanted technology - he wants to kill him and dump the body far away as possible) and she doesn't (because yes, she does have the hots for him...). In the organisation they are part of they have a bit of a contested leadership issue - he is technically in charge on paper but she has the popular vote so they have a crude balance of power.

With me so far?

Ok, so in the scene I am concerned about, he tries to press his point of view with physical force and the way he does this it borders on rape. No actual penetration or sexual activity but he forces himself on her and kisses her and makes her feel vulnerable and abused. Essentially what I think a court in the modern day would call very extreme sexual harassment.

Now I have two concerns about this...

One is that I am not sure it is a good idea to really play with this concept. I am concerned I may be pushing into realms which could be triggers for many people. I don't want to alienate anyone too much with this.

Second (and this is where the 'expert' aspect of this forum may be of use) if I do decide to go ahead with this scene as it is, I feel I need to get a better insight into the mind of someone in that position - someone who has faced abuse of this kind before. Though I do not want to ask this of anyone if they do not wish to share, I would welcome any insights that can be offered - whether here on a public forum or in private (and if in private be assured that privacy would be respected and even if posted publically here I would not share anything without permission and would frown upon anyone who did so). Of course, I would also not use direct experiences in the writing just use them to build a mental image of someone who has faced such things and survived.

A specific question: As part of the above, I have been thinking about the FMC in question and it occurs to me that she is by training a soldier, a special forces soldier at that. I am therefore wondering how plausible it is for her to be so physically overpowered since her training has involved a lot of self defence. Ok he is stronger by a hell of a lot than her (maybe even preternaturally so) and she is described as being very out of shape due to a long time being relatively inactive but he does not have the same level of training. Would you consider it a little too easy for him to overpower her?

Hope you can help me solve this tricky issue which I am having trouble working through in my head.

jaksen
10-29-2013, 05:16 AM
What's wrong with her beating the crap out of him?

Just saying.

However, if this fits the storyline, then it fits. Rape or sexual harassment isn't pretty, no matter how it's portrayed, and as a writer, you're going to upset someone no matter what you write.

rainsmom
10-29-2013, 06:42 AM
Considering the number of women in the armed forces who are raped, I'd say the possibility is high, even though she is trained. You might want to research that topic, since it will tell you a lot about her state of mind AND the culture in which the incident happened.

I think it's a legitimate subject. HOWEVER, I would want her to be a strong character and see how she deals with it in that light. The issue is not the scene itself, but how it is handled.

Canotila
10-29-2013, 08:21 AM
A lot of times it isn't an issue of whether she's strong enough to beat the crap out of the perpetrator. The majority of these crimes are committed by people familiar to the victim or who know them really well.

Those kinds of perpetrators often go through a period of grooming the victim. Isolating them, making them feel like nobody would believe them if they told. That could mean people think they're lying about the assault ever happening, or that something happened and it was consensual but now she's using it against him.

If you set it up so that he subtly does some of these things to her beforehand, it would be very plausible.

As far as it being triggery and turning people away, I think that as long as it's clear he's the villain it should be okay since there is no graphic stuff happening. I would be furious if he was the love interest and they lived happily together after he did that to her.

Marian Perera
10-29-2013, 06:21 PM
One is that I am not sure it is a good idea to really play with this concept. I am concerned I may be pushing into realms which could be triggers for many people. I don't want to alienate anyone too much with this.

So I looked over some of the romance novels on my shelves to see which ones had sexual harassment of the heroine.

1. The Secret Pearl, Mary Balogh : Villain forces a kiss on the heroine and is trying to coerce her into marrying him.

2. Rainwater, Sandra Brown : As above.

3. Simple Jess, Pamela Morsi : A man the heroine has no interest in pushes her down on a bed to coerce her into marrying him.

4. A Precious Jewel, Mary Balogh : Heroine is a prostitute raped by a customer.

5. Black Ice, Anne Stuart : Heroine is raped by the hero.

I could go on, but I'd run out of Internet. Unfortunately, sexual harassment of the heroine happens in a lot of novels. I wouldn't "play" with this concept - to me, that suggests not treating sexual harassment or rape with the realism it deserves. But I also wouldn't worry too much about alienating readers. Unless you're deliberately writing something bland and safe, you're going to upset someone.

Myrealana
10-29-2013, 06:29 PM
As far as it being triggery and turning people away, I think that as long as it's clear he's the villain it should be okay since there is no graphic stuff happening. I would be furious if he was the love interest and they lived happily together after he did that to her.

I agree on this point. Sexual harassment is a reality and I don't see any offense in including it in a situation where it fits the characters - as long as she doesn't turn around and fall in love with her harasser because he was "so strong" or some such nonsense, I think it sounds fine.

JulianneQJohnson
10-29-2013, 07:05 PM
I don't have a problem with it as you have stated it. The man is set up as a villain, and then acts like one. The situation is abusive but falls short of heroine getting raped. Ask yourself why the scene is there. If it's what your villain does because it's in character, then that's good. If it's there to show how vulnerable or strong the female character can be, then there might be other ways to accomplish that.

Orianna2000
10-29-2013, 07:55 PM
Definitely make sure the scene has a purpose, and also make sure it has repercussions, both emotionally and physically. What kind of repercussions will depend upon what kind of person your MC is. Some women act one way following an assault, while other women will act quite differently. The key, however, is that it does affect her.

I read a novel once where the MC was brutally beaten and raped by the villain. (It was quite graphic.) The next day, she got up and went about her life as if nothing happened. She was a bit sore from the beating, but she didn't think about the assault and it didn't affect her emotionally. Shortly afterward, she got together with the hero, but the rape didn't affect her sex life in any way. This is wrong on so many levels! You might be able to pretend nothing happened, but you're still going to be affected, whether you like it or not. You might even block the memories, so you literally forget it happened, but your body remembers. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a possibility, along with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. She might get angry, or she might withdraw emotionally and feel numb.

There's lots of possibilities. Just make sure the scene is there for a reason. And make sure it affects the MC somehow.

areteus
10-29-2013, 09:56 PM
A lot of good points made above... I am going to address each post individually (and it may take me a while to get through them all :) ) but I wanted to say thanks to all of you, you have made things a lot clearer for me and I really appreciate it.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:03 PM
What's wrong with her beating the crap out of him?

Just saying.

However, if this fits the storyline, then it fits. Rape or sexual harassment isn't pretty, no matter how it's portrayed, and as a writer, you're going to upset someone no matter what you write.

This was one way I saw the scene going but when I tried to write that I just, dunno, could not quite get that to work. You are right, she could but I think one of the points made after yours applies here - sometimes even well trained people can get put in this situation. I think that her just beating him up at this point was too easy - almost a 'oh yes, he tries to rape her and she beats him up' thing. No tension, no depth of character, no progression. Her being defeated in this way by him and then later getting some form of closure I think seems better, if you understand what I mean.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:05 PM
Considering the number of women in the armed forces who are raped, I'd say the possibility is high, even though she is trained. You might want to research that topic, since it will tell you a lot about her state of mind AND the culture in which the incident happened.

I think it's a legitimate subject. HOWEVER, I would want her to be a strong character and see how she deals with it in that light. The issue is not the scene itself, but how it is handled.

You are right, it is how it is handled and thanks for the info above, it has given me the starting point I need to do that research into how this can happen.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:11 PM
A lot of times it isn't an issue of whether she's strong enough to beat the crap out of the perpetrator. The majority of these crimes are committed by people familiar to the victim or who know them really well.

Those kinds of perpetrators often go through a period of grooming the victim. Isolating them, making them feel like nobody would believe them if they told. That could mean people think they're lying about the assault ever happening, or that something happened and it was consensual but now she's using it against him.

If you set it up so that he subtly does some of these things to her beforehand, it would be very plausible.

As far as it being triggery and turning people away, I think that as long as it's clear he's the villain it should be okay since there is no graphic stuff happening. I would be furious if he was the love interest and they lived happily together after he did that to her.

Oh he is definitely the villain but she has seen him as an ally in the past against the rest of the group. There is a small hint in previous scenes that there is the sort of relationship you describe and I guess I could go back in the edit and amp that up. In his mind, she is the obvious one for him to mate with as that would align their two powerbases into one unit so he has been courting her which, given his general nature, does mean not only being nice to her but also 'taking care' (i.e. warning off and beating up) of any rivals and 'keeping her safe from those who might interfere with her work' (effectively isolating her and making her dependant on him). I am thinking as part of this story she actually comes to realise HOW isolated and dependent she has got.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:13 PM
I agree on this point. Sexual harassment is a reality and I don't see any offense in including it in a situation where it fits the characters - as long as she doesn't turn around and fall in love with her harasser because he was "so strong" or some such nonsense, I think it sounds fine.

Oh god no... besides the restrictions of the brief I have for this story (which is part of a collected anthology of novellas) is there has to be a happy ending and as written it is absolutely certain that there is no happy ending there for her :)

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:16 PM
I don't have a problem with it as you have stated it. The man is set up as a villain, and then acts like one. The situation is abusive but falls short of heroine getting raped. Ask yourself why the scene is there. If it's what your villain does because it's in character, then that's good. If it's there to show how vulnerable or strong the female character can be, then there might be other ways to accomplish that.

Understood... and yes it is there because it is the sort of thing the character would do. He is not very bright and reacts badly to confrontations - reacts with violence when many would act with restraint.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:19 PM
Definitely make sure the scene has a purpose, and also make sure it has repercussions, both emotionally and physically. What kind of repercussions will depend upon what kind of person your MC is. Some women act one way following an assault, while other women will act quite differently. The key, however, is that it does affect her.

I read a novel once where the MC was brutally beaten and raped by the villain. (It was quite graphic.) The next day, she got up and went about her life as if nothing happened. She was a bit sore from the beating, but she didn't think about the assault and it didn't affect her emotionally. Shortly afterward, she got together with the hero, but the rape didn't affect her sex life in any way. This is wrong on so many levels! You might be able to pretend nothing happened, but you're still going to be affected, whether you like it or not. You might even block the memories, so you literally forget it happened, but your body remembers. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a possibility, along with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. She might get angry, or she might withdraw emotionally and feel numb.

There's lots of possibilities. Just make sure the scene is there for a reason. And make sure it affects the MC somehow.

That makes a lot of sense, yes. The repercussions are important. I guess this comes under the same thing as 'hero gets shot in the gut, couple of hours later he's walking around as if nothing had happened...'. There is only so far you can suspend belief. I agree that there will be long lasting effects here.

areteus
10-29-2013, 10:20 PM
So I looked over some of the romance novels on my shelves to see which ones had sexual harassment of the heroine.

1. The Secret Pearl, Mary Balogh : Villain forces a kiss on the heroine and is trying to coerce her into marrying him.

2. Rainwater, Sandra Brown : As above.

3. Simple Jess, Pamela Morsi : A man the heroine has no interest in pushes her down on a bed to coerce her into marrying him.

4. A Precious Jewel, Mary Balogh : Heroine is a prostitute raped by a customer.

5. Black Ice, Anne Stuart : Heroine is raped by the hero.

I could go on, but I'd run out of Internet. Unfortunately, sexual harassment of the heroine happens in a lot of novels. I wouldn't "play" with this concept - to me, that suggests not treating sexual harassment or rape with the realism it deserves. But I also wouldn't worry too much about alienating readers. Unless you're deliberately writing something bland and safe, you're going to upset someone.

Fair point... and good to see there is a lot more out there than I already knew of.

wendymarlowe
10-30-2013, 10:02 AM
I'll be honest: if I got to that scene, I would put your book down, leave a bad review on Amazon, and probably never read any of your books again. Rape should never be a plot device and even though I've never been raped, it would be a big trigger for me.

Here's the problem with it: rape (and extreme harassment which doesn't actually include penetrative sex) is ultimately about power. If you write it well, your reader empathizes, also feeling powerless. And what's the one thing a reader can do to re-assert power? Put the book down and refuse to engage further. It's the only way to "win" in that scenario.

That said, chances are very high that your character could be raped even though she's "strong." Rapists almost never engineer situations where women feel they can use physical violence, even when it would normally seem like a simple solution. More often the assault starts out by crossing smaller boundaries - disregarding personal space, insulting or talking over the victim, blatantly disrespecting her as a person with valid opinions and feelings. And then it becomes disrespecting her right to not consent to having those boundaries crossed - she shuts him down verbally and he plows over her, for example. By the time the rape escalates to actual physical contact, the rapist has already scored several "victories" over the victim by refusing to respect her "no" on other fronts, so she doesn't even think about physical violence being a solution until it's too late (either she stops fighting or he puts her in a position where she can't really hurt him physically).

I have read a handful of authors who have used rape scenes realistically, but there are a lot more who don't. A real rape / sexual assault leaves the victim blaming themselves, wondering whether they should have done something differently, and ashamed to tell anyone what happened. (This happens even in assaults by strangers.) And often, they're right - the victim is met by police indifference and people telling her she shouldn't have been drinking, she shouldn't have been wearing those clothes, she should have been more aware of her surroundings, etc.

It's your book and obviously you can put in whatever you want, but I think you can get across the idea of the villain being villainous without resorting to using your female character's gender to do it.

Canotila
10-30-2013, 10:42 AM
I'll be honest: if I got to that scene, I would put your book down, leave a bad review on Amazon, and probably never read any of your books again. Rape should never be a plot device and even though I've never been raped, it would be a big trigger for me.

Here's the problem with it: rape (and extreme harassment which doesn't actually include penetrative sex) is ultimately about power. If you write it well, your reader empathizes, also feeling powerless. And what's the one thing a reader can do to re-assert power? Put the book down and refuse to engage further. It's the only way to "win" in that scenario.

That said, chances are very high that your character could be raped even though she's "strong." Rapists almost never engineer situations where women feel they can use physical violence, even when it would normally seem like a simple solution. More often the assault starts out by crossing smaller boundaries - disregarding personal space, insulting or talking over the victim, blatantly disrespecting her as a person with valid opinions and feelings. And then it becomes disrespecting her right to not consent to having those boundaries crossed - she shuts him down verbally and he plows over her, for example. By the time the rape escalates to actual physical contact, the rapist has already scored several "victories" over the victim by refusing to respect her "no" on other fronts, so she doesn't even think about physical violence being a solution until it's too late (either she stops fighting or he puts her in a position where she can't really hurt him physically).

I have read a handful of authors who have used rape scenes realistically, but there are a lot more who don't. A real rape / sexual assault leaves the victim blaming themselves, wondering whether they should have done something differently, and ashamed to tell anyone what happened. (This happens even in assaults by strangers.) And often, they're right - the victim is met by police indifference and people telling her she shouldn't have been drinking, she shouldn't have been wearing those clothes, she should have been more aware of her surroundings, etc.

It's your book and obviously you can put in whatever you want, but I think you can get across the idea of the villain being villainous without resorting to using your female character's gender to do it.

The thing is, and I say this as someone who has survived rape, that sort of boundary crossing is a very common way for folks to assert power over people they see as lesser.

The handling is situational, but to me it doesn't sound like the OP is doing it for the shock or OMGVILLIAN! aspect. To me, it sounds like a power play that organically rose out of the interaction between the two characters, and the villain's desire to have her under his influence.

The OP appears to be trying to handle the situation in a sensitive way. There isn't a rape. There is forcible physical contact. In my eyes, forcible kissing, etc. is violence the same way punching someone in the face is violence. They're both generally acts perpetrated by someone who is trying gain power over someone else.

So are we supposed to wipe all acts of violence or power from our writing? I will never want to read about rape, and would probably put a book down if it depicted one graphically or even had one off screen as a cheap plot device, as it is triggery for me personally.

Then again, as someone who's had that stuff done to them, I'd like to read about someone like me who might have had similar struggles or face a similar danger. Someone who has to outwit a creepy predator and keep their feet under them, without having to actually read a full blown rape scene. This sort of violence is so incredibly common, not just against women, that acknowledging it exists is, IMO, not a bad thing. As long as it's well researched, used with respect, and fits in the context of the story.

Becky Black
10-30-2013, 03:10 PM
There's something else that's actually bothering me more about your scenario. It's a more fundamental issue than how you'd handle one event in the story and it would be more likely to make me annoyed.

Even though this prisoner's presence could bring down the enemy on them, and therefore getting rid of him is the smart thing to do, she doesn't want to do that because she's attracted to him. Meanwhile the male character is all for getting rid of him because of the danger he represents.

What bothers me is that I see this scenario a lot with women characters who are soldiers, spies, cops, FBI agents etc. They are frequently shown as being unreliable in this way. That if you let them do those kinds of jobs and roles, they'll fall for the bad guy, be disloyal and let everyone down.

Sorry to derail/rant. It's just a trope I'm mighty tired of. I don't know the full details of your story. I hope there's more nuance to her character than that. That she's conflicted between her loyalty to the group and her attraction to this guy, rather than just having a single position of "not killing him, he's hot" and that she's got other good arguments against killing him.

cornflake
10-30-2013, 03:33 PM
There's something else that's actually bothering me more about your scenario. It's a more fundamental issue than how you'd handle one event in the story and it would be more likely to make me annoyed.

Even though this prisoner's presence could bring down the enemy on them, and therefore getting rid of him is the smart thing to do, she doesn't want to do that because she's attracted to him. Meanwhile the male character is all for getting rid of him because of the danger he represents.

What bothers me is that I see this scenario a lot with women characters who are soldiers, spies, cops, FBI agents etc. They are frequently shown as being unreliable in this way. That if you let them do those kinds of jobs and roles, they'll fall for the bad guy, be disloyal and let everyone down.

Sorry to derail/rant. It's just a trope I'm mighty tired of. I don't know the full details of your story. I hope there's more nuance to her character than that. That she's conflicted between her loyalty to the group and her attraction to this guy, rather than just having a single position of "not killing him, he's hot" and that she's got other good arguments against killing him.

Cosigning this x1000.

Not only is it kind of gross when it's written to be this way - that professional women just toss their responsibilities, jobs, other people's safety, etc., aside because they have FEELINGS for someone - but it also makes people have the assumption when they don't.

That is, if a woman has some actual reason, people tend to presume it's not rational, but because she has feelings in some way that are overriding her sense.

Aside from that - that's not harassment. It may be assault or other things, but neither what you nor QofS describe is harassment.

Also cosigning the not getting that people are just not supposed to write scenes of abuse. That's bizarre to me. Not everyone reacts to anything the same way.

Orianna2000
10-30-2013, 04:06 PM
Just to add to the list of books that feature sexual violence--Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Every single book in the series has a main character or a secondary character get sexually assaulted. The rapes are sometimes described in graphic detail and sometimes not. When they are described, it's with more focus on the character's feelings--what the experience does to them and how they survive. In my opinion, that's the way to do it, if you must.

It's like with a sex scene. Everyone knows how the horizontal tango is performed. After all, there's only so many ways to do the deed. So instead of focusing on the physical act, it's smart to focus on the emotional: what it means to the MC, what she's thinking and feeling. Keep that as your focus, instead of the nitty-gritty physical aspect of the assault, and you'll likely find a more positive response from readers.

Why are people saying you shouldn't write scenes of rape or abuse? It's (unfortunately) a part of life. It exists! Burying your head in the sand and pretending rape doesn't happen isn't going to change the fact that one out of four women has been sexually assaulted. Maybe not everyone wants to read about it, but there are a lot of subjects that some people will avoid. Personally, I don't like reading graphic violence. When a book starts getting bloody, I start skimming forward. I don't particularly like reading graphic rape scenes, either. But if it's a vital part of the story, I don't mind. If it's important to the plot--as it always is in the above-mentioned Outlander books--then I'm fine with it. Just because a few people don't like reading about something doesn't mean you should avoid writing about that topic. Just use sensitivity and care.

Becky Black
10-30-2013, 04:18 PM
Cosigning this x1000.

Not only is it kind of gross when it's written to be this way - that professional women just toss their responsibilities, jobs, other people's safety, etc., aside because they have FEELINGS for someone - but it also makes people have the assumption when they don't.

That is, if a woman has some actual reason, people tend to presume it's not rational, but because she has feelings in some way that are overriding her sense.

True. And I'm not saying that people don't end up falling for someone and putting that before what they were loyal to before. It happens all the time in real life. People do stupid things for love and sex. But it seems like it's the woman who do that more often in fiction, creating this "women are unreliable" idea.

It's not always the women on the good guy side falling for bad guys of course. Female villains are often distracted from or turned entirely away from the whole "take over the world" plan by having their heads turned by the hero.

Cath
10-30-2013, 06:37 PM
Folks, remember this forum is for research not brainstorming story ideas or debating the merits thereof. Please focus on answering the questions that were posed.

jaksen
10-30-2013, 08:14 PM
This was one way I saw the scene going but when I tried to write that I just, dunno, could not quite get that to work. You are right, she could but I think one of the points made after yours applies here - sometimes even well trained people can get put in this situation. I think that her just beating him up at this point was too easy - almost a 'oh yes, he tries to rape her and she beats him up' thing. No tension, no depth of character, no progression. Her being defeated in this way by him and then later getting some form of closure I think seems better, if you understand what I mean.


I understand. I recall my parents and grandparents saying to me, if a guy gets too 'friendly,' hit them. That was a generation ago, however, and we all know that doesn't always work.

In my own experience, a young female teacher raced into my classroom one day after school, crying, upset, etc. A male teacher was right behind her. I walked right up to him and told him to get the hell out of my room. I also grabbed a glass flask and was ready to break it if I had to. Of course, my heart was beating a mile a minute but I was MAD, not afraid. And I'm small, btw. (This was in the late 1970's.)

He just smiled and said it was a 'misunderstanding' between him and the frightened teacher and he left.

I was ready to go anywhere with her and for her. Principal. Police. Superintendent, just tell me where to go. She didn't want to 'cause trouble' and let it drop. I kept a wary eye on him the next ten years we worked together. I glared at him when I saw him and I told my closest female teacher friends about him.

Today, I would have reported him whether the female teacher wanted me to do so or not.

But yes, realistically, hitting the guy probably wouldn't work, but you also need to write what you need to write for the story. It's a tricky situation, I'll give you that, considering everything we now know about rape and sexual harassment.

wendymarlowe
10-31-2013, 04:12 AM
So are we supposed to wipe all acts of violence or power from our writing? I will never want to read about rape, and would probably put a book down if it depicted one graphically or even had one off screen as a cheap plot device, as it is triggery for me personally.

Not at all! But it is entirely possible to write scenes with violence and power which also don't have gender at the root of the conflict - especially when the characters are primarily in the story for their roles, not their gender. Be as violent as you want, have the prisoner attack the cop, have the supervillains fight amongst themselves. Then look at the scene and see if it would work just as well with one or both genders changed. If not - and especially if the original scene dealt with a man attacking a woman - you may very well have written something trigger-y.

And of course you can write whatever you want to. But as to "Why can't we write this?" - if you want to write for publication, you have to answer to your readers (who will be indirectly your paychecks). So if you choose to write things that 50% of your readers may take serious offense at, you're voluntarily reducing the possible readership for your work. You may be fine with that, and no book can appeal to everyone anyway, so it's nothing to lose sleep over - but if you can make your book have a broader appeal, so much the better.

areteus
11-04-2013, 12:13 AM
I'll be honest: if I got to that scene, I would put your book down, leave a bad review on Amazon, and probably never read any of your books again. Rape should never be a plot device and even though I've never been raped, it would be a big trigger for me.

Here's the problem with it: rape (and extreme harassment which doesn't actually include penetrative sex) is ultimately about power. If you write it well, your reader empathizes, also feeling powerless. And what's the one thing a reader can do to re-assert power? Put the book down and refuse to engage further. It's the only way to "win" in that scenario.

That said, chances are very high that your character could be raped even though she's "strong." Rapists almost never engineer situations where women feel they can use physical violence, even when it would normally seem like a simple solution. More often the assault starts out by crossing smaller boundaries - disregarding personal space, insulting or talking over the victim, blatantly disrespecting her as a person with valid opinions and feelings. And then it becomes disrespecting her right to not consent to having those boundaries crossed - she shuts him down verbally and he plows over her, for example. By the time the rape escalates to actual physical contact, the rapist has already scored several "victories" over the victim by refusing to respect her "no" on other fronts, so she doesn't even think about physical violence being a solution until it's too late (either she stops fighting or he puts her in a position where she can't really hurt him physically).

I have read a handful of authors who have used rape scenes realistically, but there are a lot more who don't. A real rape / sexual assault leaves the victim blaming themselves, wondering whether they should have done something differently, and ashamed to tell anyone what happened. (This happens even in assaults by strangers.) And often, they're right - the victim is met by police indifference and people telling her she shouldn't have been drinking, she shouldn't have been wearing those clothes, she should have been more aware of her surroundings, etc.

It's your book and obviously you can put in whatever you want, but I think you can get across the idea of the villain being villainous without resorting to using your female character's gender to do it.

Yes, and this is why I am asking this question. My own feelings on this issue are divided and I wanted to get some clarity - am I going too far? Thank you for outlining an opposing view and you have given me something to think about.

areteus
11-04-2013, 12:19 AM
The thing is, and I say this as someone who has survived rape, that sort of boundary crossing is a very common way for folks to assert power over people they see as lesser.

The handling is situational, but to me it doesn't sound like the OP is doing it for the shock or OMGVILLIAN! aspect. To me, it sounds like a power play that organically rose out of the interaction between the two characters, and the villain's desire to have her under his influence.

The OP appears to be trying to handle the situation in a sensitive way. There isn't a rape. There is forcible physical contact. In my eyes, forcible kissing, etc. is violence the same way punching someone in the face is violence. They're both generally acts perpetrated by someone who is trying gain power over someone else.

So are we supposed to wipe all acts of violence or power from our writing? I will never want to read about rape, and would probably put a book down if it depicted one graphically or even had one off screen as a cheap plot device, as it is triggery for me personally.

Then again, as someone who's had that stuff done to them, I'd like to read about someone like me who might have had similar struggles or face a similar danger. Someone who has to outwit a creepy predator and keep their feet under them, without having to actually read a full blown rape scene. This sort of violence is so incredibly common, not just against women, that acknowledging it exists is, IMO, not a bad thing. As long as it's well researched, used with respect, and fits in the context of the story.

A lot of good points here... and a good counter argument to what has been said before.

Yes, I have no intention of using this for shock value and this is one reason why I want to have this discussion - to work out in my own mind how to handle it sensitively.

As an aside, with consideration to depictions of rape in fiction, my wife described to me a situation where a book series was partly banned in her school. They permitted book one of 'Clan of the Cave Bear', which includes a scene of rape on the main character, but banned the sequels because they included scenes of consensual sex. Parents complained because of the apparent support of rape over consensual sex... Facing such issues is better than censoring them, though being careful of the sensitivities of those who may be upset or offended by it...

areteus
11-04-2013, 12:22 AM
There's something else that's actually bothering me more about your scenario. It's a more fundamental issue than how you'd handle one event in the story and it would be more likely to make me annoyed.

Even though this prisoner's presence could bring down the enemy on them, and therefore getting rid of him is the smart thing to do, she doesn't want to do that because she's attracted to him. Meanwhile the male character is all for getting rid of him because of the danger he represents.

What bothers me is that I see this scenario a lot with women characters who are soldiers, spies, cops, FBI agents etc. They are frequently shown as being unreliable in this way. That if you let them do those kinds of jobs and roles, they'll fall for the bad guy, be disloyal and let everyone down.

Sorry to derail/rant. It's just a trope I'm mighty tired of. I don't know the full details of your story. I hope there's more nuance to her character than that. That she's conflicted between her loyalty to the group and her attraction to this guy, rather than just having a single position of "not killing him, he's hot" and that she's got other good arguments against killing him.

Oh no, not at all... I can see how you feel that way and yes, I may have phrased it badly... my bad, trying to be concise in describing a complex situation. And now that you have brought this to my attention, I do intend to review this with that in mind and make sure I am definitely not doing as you describe...

Roxxsmom
11-05-2013, 06:16 AM
Strong, powerful, and even combat trained women get sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and raped. It's a problem in the US military. I can only guess that emotions like shock, disbelief, fear of running afoul of the chain of command, concern that you won't be believed, even guilt or shame, can all play a role in this.

Plus, if someone gets the drop on you, it may not matter how strong or well trained you are.

Whether this is the best story arc for your character, I can't say. Sexual assault in fiction is a contentious topic, obviously. It's been misrepresented and amused a lot, and can be triggery for people, and the percentage of sexual assault survivors is high. But it's something that does happen, and it can be part of a story. I don't think any topic is taboo if it's handled well and appropriately.

The thing I'd be most concerned about is whether or not a sexual assault portrayed accurately in terms of the motives of the assailant (control/punishment etc, not just a desire for sex) and the reactions of the character who is the victim. Don't try to make it sexy or have him be just a "poor guy" who was horny and thinks she wanted it (it doesn't sound like you're doing that). Don't have her fall in love with him later (it doesn't sound like she's going to), and don't just use it to motivate a "more important" (aka male) character to revenge.

CrastersBabies
11-05-2013, 08:00 AM
Honestly? Rape (though in this case you've said it is more sexual harassment) seems a very "go to" thing that male characters use to break women--especially in genre. But, you have to ask yourself if this guy would use this method without hesitation. It's a pretty base method and not one that I see used by the most sophisticated of characters anymore. I guess I liken it to something the brute does, not a legitimately intelligent man?

Does that make sense?

The good antagonists think outside the box, imho. The mindless fodder villains are kind of expected to do the usual tropey stuff.

Take the female MC out of this for a moment. Get into the perpetrator's head. If this is something he'd genuinely do (for authentic reasons that you show through his character actions and such) then write it that way.

Example...

I have a very sensitive section in my 2nd book where intimacies occur between a lord and his wife. The king orders for the woman to be drugged so that she has a miscarriage. It's not to show how much the woman will suffer (from a writer's perspective), it's because I had to get into the king's head. He is the type of man who would see a child as a threat and he would do anything to remove that threat. Anything. But killing the woman is not an option (political reasons). See where I'm coming from?

If you know your antagonist/villain here, you'll know what he's capable of. Be sure his character is coming through enough so that your readers will understand that this IS his character and not some dropped-in action he decides to make because "the author needs to make the female MC do/feel/act in a certain way."

Anyhoooo, hope this wasn't too scattered. Maybe something in here will help.

Canotila
11-05-2013, 11:00 AM
Honestly? Rape (though in this case you've said it is more sexual harassment) seems a very "go to" thing that male characters use to break women--especially in genre. But, you have to ask yourself if this guy would use this method without hesitation. It's a pretty base method and not one that I see used by the most sophisticated of characters anymore. I guess I liken it to something the brute does, not a legitimately intelligent man?

Does that make sense?


Just for informational purposes, there is no "typical" abuser. They come from all income and education levels. The guy that abused me (and multiple other women) sang opera, spoke several languages fluently, was active in his church and volunteered in soup kitchens.