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View Full Version : "But it's realistic": The justification of rape of women as a device to show grimness and honesty



Alessandra Kelley
05-04-2014, 04:22 PM
Yesterday's New York Times had a front-page article, For ‘Game of Thrones,’ Rising Unease Over Rape’s Recurring Role (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/03/arts/television/for-game-of-thrones-rising-unease-over-rapes-recurring-role.html?_r=0) by Dave Itzkoff.

The popular "Game of Thrones" TV series, like the books it is based on, contains many grim events, but some people question its repeated use of sexual violence against women.

Sady Doyle, in the article, said

“The sexualized punishments are there. It’s in the text and it’s vital to the text. It’s something that comes up, over and over again.”

But, she added, “At a certain point, you get the feeling that you can’t walk through a chapter without expecting something horrible — almost always to a female character — just to prove that this is indeed a very scary and dark piece of literature.”

As a roleplaying gamer and fan of fantasy fiction, I have seen this issue come up many times.

Rape of women is an easy shorthand to demonstrate seriousness of purpose and gritty realism, even in worlds full of dragons and wizards and readily available magic, where one might think things might be a little different.

Yes, rape of women really happens in situations of power and war, as author of "Game of Thrones" G.R.R. Martin said in his defense:


"Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest."

Truth and honesty in depiction of history is laudable, even in fictionalized history set in fantasy worlds.

And yet, one has to wonder why this argument is brought up so frequently to justify depictions of brutalization of women in narratives that rarely if ever depict the nearly as common rape of men.

It's not like barbarian hordes in real history made that much distinction between rape victims.

But oddly enough rape of men is almost never depicted, certainly not in detail the way rape of women is.

The consequences to the women's and girls' lives are also generally not depicted. Once they have served their purpose of graphically showing how gritty and realistic the world is, they are shuffled offstage and forgotten.

It seems a very selective sort of realism that focuses laserlike on one unpleasant aspect of what happens in reality while utterly ignoring many closely related ones.

Marian Perera
05-04-2014, 04:28 PM
Yesterday I was reading through the summaries of John Jakes' Bicentennial series, and it seemed like most of the female characters in them were raped, to show the effects of war and civil upheaval and so on. Those books were published in the seventies, IIRC, so it looks like the dependence on rape in fiction hasn't changed overmuch.

NRoach
05-04-2014, 04:38 PM
Rape is scary. It's scary as an idea, and it's scarily common. It's engrained in our collective psyche as pretty much the worse thing one can do to someone; if someone's willing to deal with that, clearly they're wearing their big boy shoes and wanting to be taken seriously.
That'll only change if rape is somehow dislodged from its pedestal at the top of the pyramid of atrocities, at which point it'll be replaced by something else.

Mr Flibble
05-04-2014, 05:06 PM
It seems a very selective sort of realism that focuses laserlike on one unpleasant aspect of what happens in reality while utterly ignoring many closely related ones.

I have had this discussion with a couple of authors elsewhere -- why be so selective with realism?

But then just because we are authors doesn't mean we aren't susceptible to the same "everyone knows" thinking that goes on. "Everyone knows" women get raped in wartime. Not everyone knows that it's actually endemic against men too. Once I gave a few examples (I'll try to recall the ones I used), you could almost see the lightbulb go off over their heads. Then someone else piped up about the Romans, and wow they'd never thought that the different views on sexuality in Romans might mean....or that the wish to laud it over their vanquished foe in some cultures might make it very likely...and ofc course there weren't many women on the battlefield....

It went on then, and it goes on now.

As I said, it's not like this was invented in the seventies. It's been going on for years, centuries (and was actually legislated against in ancient times, I'll see if I can dig up that link too)

I think it's more that not everyone knows about it (or stops to think about it) before they start writing. Sometimes, if we don't stop to think, we can buy into things that aren't true but "everyone knows"-- and that is true of the best of us

shadowwalker
05-04-2014, 05:25 PM
I guess I look at rape the same as I view other forms of violence - is it happening over and over in a book, is it gratuitous, is it unnecessarily detailed? If so, then I question the author's reasoning, and most likely won't buy more of their stuff. But that's in one book or series. But in fiction overall? I read a lot of thrillers, spy stories, murder mysteries - I can't recall the last time I even saw mention of a rape. I used to read a lot of fantasy and rarely saw it there either, but I haven't read much of that in several years, so this would be a relatively recent development?

(I know male rape is much more common than is generally reported, but "nearly as common" as female rape? Not arguing, I just hadn't seen that in my readings.) ETA: Just saw Mr Flibble's comments

Ken
05-04-2014, 05:40 PM
It's not something that should be trivialized and exploited. Authors and directors should really ask themselves do I really want to go there? I'm not advocating censorship or anything. Just a responsible approach.

Mr Flibble
05-04-2014, 05:42 PM
(I know male rape is much more common than is generally reported, but "nearly as common" as female rape? Not arguing, I just hadn't seen that in my readings.) ETA: Just saw Mr Flibble's comments

I'm on a deadline so I haven't got the time to dig up all the links I got then, but I do recall reading that in the Bosnian war, of the men held in the camps, over 90% experienced some form of sexual assault. The figure was similar for several prisons also and another recent war the name of which escapes me.

I don't think it's changed much over the years. Like I say, it's not a recent invention

So if you're going to be realistic about war....

Anninyn
05-04-2014, 05:49 PM
Constant rape is only realistic if you assume that the basic state of people is to be rapists.

NRoach
05-04-2014, 06:02 PM
Constant rape is only realistic if you assume that the basic state of people is to be rapists.

Constant is one thing, but no one can deny that rape is common. I'm reasonably certain that I saw a statistic that said 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives (though, come to think of it, that might be cancer).

gothicangel
05-04-2014, 06:19 PM
I don't watch Game of Thrones (pillory me if you wish) so I don't get the reference (watched some of the first season and HBO's Rome so I think I get the gist of what's being objected to.)

Over the last year or so, I've been seeing a few articles concerning the brutalization of women, that seems to be growing more prevalent in crime dramas and soaps. The prevalent opinion is that it's lazy and a shock tactic.

This article is about film, but worth a read:

http://variety.com/2013/voices/opinion/brutalization-of-women-is-a-constant-in-popular-film-2654/ (http://variety.com/2013/voices/opinion/brutalization-of-women-is-a-constant-in-popular-film-2654/)

And here is a couple about the rising female body counts:

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/from-silent-witness-to-the-fall-tvs-body-count-of-the-fictional-female-has-to-be-addressed-30018554.html (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/from-silent-witness-to-the-fall-tvs-body-count-of-the-fictional-female-has-to-be-addressed-30018554.html)

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/feb/16/helen-mirren-british-television-bafta-murder-women

eyeblink
05-04-2014, 06:33 PM
Then someone else piped up about the Romans, and wow they'd never thought that the different views on sexuality in Romans might mean....or that the wish to laud it over their vanquished foe in some cultures might make it very likely...and ofc course there weren't many women on the battlefield....

As in Howard Brenton's play The Romans in Britain, and its depiction on the stage of the National Theatre in 1980 provoked an onscreen private prosecution by Mary Whitehouse for obscenity.

I suspect a lot of the media is aimed primarily at straight men, and the rape of men isn't sexy at all...more like that audience's worst fear. The male rape in Deliverance isn't especially graphic, then or now, but god does it make much of the film's audience uncomfortable.

Anninyn
05-04-2014, 06:39 PM
Constant is one thing, but no one can deny that rape is common. I'm reasonably certain that I saw a statistic that said 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives (though, come to think of it, that might be cancer).

It's 1 in 4.

However, there's a lot to suggest that it's that high not because rape is a natural and normal thing, but because of the way people are trained to think about womens bodies.

And if you are writing a fantasy world, and you can imagine dragons and magic, why can't you imagine a world where women are not treated as inferiors?

Perks
05-04-2014, 06:46 PM
For me, the trouble with the treatment in the HBO adaptation of GoT (haven't read the books) is that in these last few episodes, it starts to look like the show runners have lost track of how terrible what they're depicting is.

It feels like rape has now become the province of the scenery crew over at the HBO production studios, not the casting director's office. It's window dressing and background noise and, as such, it's offputting in an entirely new way. The wrong way.

When depicting terrible things in fiction, I can go almost anywhere if I trust that the writer (and in this case, the producers and directors) is fully aware of the weight of his subject matter. And I don't mean that every terrible thing must be accompanied by a somber musical score and a ticker for a crisis hotline running across the bottom of the screen. I just want to feel that someone's steering this ship, not letting all the pretty costumes and pretty hair blow about in the tempest.

NRoach
05-04-2014, 07:07 PM
It's 1 in 4.

However, there's a lot to suggest that it's that high not because rape is a natural and normal thing, but because of the way people are trained to think about womens bodies.

And if you are writing a fantasy world, and you can imagine dragons and magic, why can't you imagine a world where women are not treated as inferiors?

Whether or not a story involves rape has very little to do with whether or not women as a whole in said story are considered inferior. As long as there's an imbalance in power between two characters, there's the possibility of rape.
There's a lot to be said about how rape reflects on an author; namely the idea that women being raped is being used as nothing more than a way to eek motivation from the male characters, but that's a different kettle of fish.

In my current WIP, one of the female MCs is raped. Why? Because she's in an abusive relationship, and rape happens in abusive relationships. That said, I don't "show" it; instead opting to "show" the preceding beating because that's where the punch lies (pun not intended).

Xelebes
05-04-2014, 07:43 PM
Rape is scary. It's scary as an idea, and it's scarily common. It's engrained in our collective psyche as pretty much the worse thing one can do to someone; if someone's willing to deal with that, clearly they're wearing their big boy shoes and wanting to be taken seriously.
That'll only change if rape is somehow dislodged from its pedestal at the top of the pyramid of atrocities, at which point it'll be replaced by something else.

But the question, why isn't the atrocity presented as an atrocity? As in, why aren't the men targeted equally? The purpose of war-rape is to subdue the opposing force and making them submissive. That would mean raping the surviving men in battle.

In reality, the rape scenes being described give the uneasy sense that they are either carrying out a sexual fantasy or acting as proxies of sexual fantasy, more than actual depictions of rape to fit and build upon in the story.

Latest research suggests that almost two out of five of all rape victims are male.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_ are_sexually_assaulted.html

Which, if one does the math: 1/4 women get sexually assaulted one way or another; 1/6 men get sexually assaulted one way or another.

Jamesaritchie
05-04-2014, 08:04 PM
Realism is good, and there's nothing wrong with rape in fiction, but I think the writer must show rape for the brutal, demeaning, invasive, horrible evil that it is.

Don't excuse it, and don't say say, "She said no, but she meant yes.

I'm all for realism, and I don't believe anything is taboo, but far too much rape is depicted as anything but the way it really is. Don't tell me you're using rape because rape really happens, but then depict it as something the woman really wanted, or something that does cause pain and depression, something that can ruin, or even end, a life.

If you want realism, then make it real, don't turn it into a sexual fantasy, or gloss over its evil.

Mr Flibble
05-04-2014, 08:39 PM
I suspect a lot of the media is aimed primarily at straight men, and the rape of men isn't sexy at all...more like that audience's worst fear.

Yeah god forbid they should be confronted with their worst fear but many women's (not worst for all, but I suspect many fear it) worst fear being treated so trivially is fine.

My husband hid behind a cushion at the Deliverance scene. But many women have become so used to it it's almost like we're desensitised. Not a good thing, I'm sure you'll agree.

That's not to say I think fiction should never include it, but it's got to have a point in the story, and if the point would be the same for a guy..welll...

If you are going for realistic I don't think a case can be made for only showing the bits of realistic you personally are comfortable showing.



It's 1 in 4. And 1 in 7 men (in the UK, and we're not in a war zone. IIRC please don't make me trawl through the UK statistics website again!)

Outside a war zone, male rape isn't AS common, but it happens regularly -- I personally know three men it's happened to, and those are just ehw ones I know well enough for them to have told me. In times of war the incidence goes up -- for men AND women

NRoach
05-04-2014, 08:53 PM
But the question, why isn't the atrocity presented as an atrocity? As in, why aren't the men targeted equally? The purpose of war-rape is to subdue the opposing force and making them submissive. That would mean raping the surviving men in battle.

In reality, the rape scenes being described give the uneasy sense that they are either carrying out a sexual fantasy or acting as proxies of sexual fantasy, more than actual depictions of rape to fit and build upon in the story.

Latest research suggests that almost two out of five of all rape victims are male.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_ are_sexually_assaulted.html

Which, if one does the math: 1/4 women get sexually assaulted one way or another; 1/6 men get sexually assaulted one way or another.

Ultimately, that's a problem with writing, not with content. I doubt you'll find much argument there.
Beyond that, male rape, whilst it obviously exists, isn't so firmly affixed in society's collective psyche. Say rape to pretty much anyone, and the first thing that comes to mind a man overpowering a woman. Given that, I'm not surprised that it seems to go that way in fiction.

People "know" that it's women that get raped, not men, and what they write reflects that.
Perceived truth > Actual truth.

cornflake
05-04-2014, 09:04 PM
It's not something that should be trivialized and exploited. Authors and directors should really ask themselves do I really want to go there? I'm not advocating censorship or anything. Just a responsible approach.

Wait, responsible how? Like, meaning what?

Alessandra Kelley
05-04-2014, 09:09 PM
Ultimately, that's a problem with writing, not with content. I doubt you'll find much argument there.
Beyond that, male rape, whilst it obviously exists, isn't so firmly affixed in society's collective psyche. Say rape to pretty much anyone, and the first thing that comes to mind a man overpowering a woman. Given that, I'm not surprised that it seems to go that way in fiction.

People "know" that it's women that get raped, not men, and what they write reflects that.
Perceived truth > Actual truth.

This is true but a distraction. Lazy folk wisdom, ignorance and popularly believed erroneous stereotypes may be commonplace, but they do not apply here.

Martin is writing thinly-disguised history. He speaks of doing a great deal of historical research and defends the historical accuracy and true-to-life qualities of his writing.

This is not thoughtless snatching at cultural tropes and stereotypes, but a carefully crafted artwork.

Rather than point out that plenty of people believe this in their ignorance, it might be better to consider why the well-educated and knowledgeable continue to perpetuate it.

NRoach
05-04-2014, 09:44 PM
This is true but a distraction. Lazy folk wisdom, ignorance and popularly believed erroneous stereotypes may be commonplace, but they do not apply here.

Martin is writing thinly-disguised history. He speaks of doing a great deal of historical research and defends the historical accuracy and true-to-life qualities of his writing.

This is not thoughtless snatching at cultural tropes and stereotypes, but a carefully crafted artwork.

Rather than point out that plenty of people believe this in their ignorance, it might be better to consider why the well-educated and knowledgeable continue to perpetuate it.

Because their readers believe it.

Lillith1991
05-04-2014, 10:12 PM
Because their readers believe it.

I don't think so. That absolves the author of too much when writing such stuff. More likely it's because M/M, or a woman rapping a man makes them more uncomfortable than "traditional" rape. If you write from the point of historical accuracy, and don't include it when it fits into your story. Then, it is more likely because the idea makes you more uncomfortable than the prevelant idea of what rape is, and who it happens to.

Debbie F
05-04-2014, 10:23 PM
Realism is good, and there's nothing wrong with rape in fiction, but I think the writer must show rape for the brutal, demeaning, invasive, horrible evil that it is.

Don't excuse it, and don't say say, "She said no, but she meant yes.

I'm all for realism, and I don't believe anything is taboo, but far too much rape is depicted as anything but the way it really is. Don't tell me you're using rape because rape really happens, but then depict it as something the woman really wanted, or something that does cause pain and depression, something that can ruin, or even end, a life.

If you want realism, then make it real, don't turn it into a sexual fantasy, or gloss over its evil.


I agree with this. I think the whole, "even though she's saying no, she meant yes," is the most demoralizing for women. No woman wants to be raped, so allowing that excuse to even exist is ridiculous. Sad, even. I don't mind authors showing a rape scene in fiction, if it serves a purpose, if it moves the storyline along. The purpose being to show the evil that exists within the minds of the men in this society. It shouldn't be about writing a rape scene in order to add a sense of seriousness to your work.

Roxxsmom
05-04-2014, 11:14 PM
Hmm, I've only read a little way into the third GoT novel, and I've only watched smatterings of the TV show, so I may not have an accurate picture.


Spoilers...

But aside from Danery's marriage to Khal Drogo (and in spite of her age, she did seem to be consenting), I don't remember any rapes being shown in the novels, though they are sometimes threatened. I am assuming they get more rapey later in the series?

I've heard that the TV show actually turns some scenes that weren't rape in the book into rapes, which I think is a shame. And the whole sequence with Theon (I did see that episode) strikes me as very rapey, and of course, he's a man. I understand they elaborated some on what was shown in the books there as well.

In a sense, the fact that rape is so common, both in real life and in books, is one reason why it's sometimes questionable as a literary device. It's really too easy to go there as a writer. Given that a decent chunk of your readers has probably experienced it (and it is so deeply traumatic), and given that we still have issues with victim blaming etc., not getting it right will likely be more offensive than some other mistakes one can make. It's also not terribly imaginative.

Saying that something is "realistic" isn't the same thing as saying that it must be shown as a central part of all plots. Yes, rape happens and has happened throughout history. So do lots of other things that aren't always shown in books. Rape of young children happens too, but that's definitely taboo in most cases (some agents even say that they will not consider manuscripts where children are abused or assaulted sexually). And as others have already pointed out, rape of men is often ignored by otherwise "grittily realistic" books as well.

And of course, there's that issue where rape is often seen as the "go to" trauma for female characters. As if there aren't plenty of other private shames or agonies a woman or girl can't have lurking in her background if such is needed to make her complex and interesting. Authors have no trouble concocting shameful secrets besides rape for male characters.

Lillith1991
05-05-2014, 12:31 AM
Authors have no trouble concocting shameful secrets besides rape for male characters.

I suspect this is because it makes them MORE uncomfortable to write about a male being rapped, than it does a woman. This seems especially true if another male is doing the rapping.

Rhoda Nightingale
05-05-2014, 01:09 AM
There's a difference between a passing line to indicate rape happens to show how dark and gritty a given fictional universe is, and describing a brutal rape scene in lurid detail to show how dark and gritty a fictional universe is.

If it's just world-building, you need to ask yourself why you need That Scene, and if the plot can carry on just fine without describing That Scene. Also ask yourself just how many readers you want to alienate by forcing them relive traumas from their own lives--because in this case, the "realism" is going to work against you.

Hapax Legomenon
05-05-2014, 02:28 AM
I'm kind of getting to this in one of my WIPs whether I like it or not... it involves a bunch of highschoolers who are put under spell/curse/whatever to not be able to discuss what goes on in tutoring with anyone except with people under the same tutor. The system seems ripe for abuse, particularly sexual abuse, but I don't know if I want to write that or even imply that that's happening.

Roxxsmom
05-05-2014, 02:37 AM
I suspect this is because it makes them MORE uncomfortable to write about a male being rapped, than it does a woman. This seems especially true if another male is doing the rapping.

Absolutely, and I'd argue that there's a fear that being raped might make the male protagonist less sympathetic to some readers, because some think A. Rape is a passive, victemy thing that never happens to strong people, (and men are never supposed to be passive and victemy and must always be strong), B. Being raped by a man makes a man gay, and C. Gay male characters are seen as less sympathetic.

Urgh!

NOT that I'm advocating an epidemic of man rape in novels either. I think if it's going to be part of a character's backstory, one must consider whether it's the best way to introduce the angst or complexity one is angling for in a character, or whether it's being used for cheap outrage or a way of showing how eviiiiillll someone is. And if it's actually shown "on camera," is it done in a way that shows the horror without titillating?

Also, I think it's important to not be all finger-shakey about the "right" or "wrong" way to react to it. No two people are going to have exactly the same reaction to this kind of trauma (or any other for that matter). The reaction and fallout should be authentic to the character in question, but not be presented as if it were The Right Way or The Wrong Way to react.

I read a romance novel ages ago where the female protagonist was raped and she didn't care as much about that as she did about the fact that her assailant killed her dog. In fact, she didn't really care about the rape at all "because she'd been raised to think sex wasn't a big deal."

Well, I can relate to being upset about the dog. If that happened to me, I'd be heartbroken, because my dogs are my babies. But this doesn't mean I wouldn't also be traumatized by the rape or that it wouldn't be tied together with my horror over my dog's death in my mind in one big, post-traumatic orgy.

And I am very sex positive, but I don't think rape=sex, or that it's not a big deal or a violation of someone's personhood. Now, it's not so much that the protagonist's feelings were wrong--it's more the underlying message that it's silly to be worried about rape when it's really just sex, and anyway, worse things happen.

Oh, and anyway, the rape wasn't quite "real" because the assailant lost his, um, well, turgor, before he "finished." It's possible to be very traumatized by a sexual assault where no penetration occurs at all.

Of course, it's possible to write a character who has a very different attitude about something like this without having her be a surrogate for the author's attitudes. In this case, if felt like it was, though.

elinor
05-05-2014, 03:04 AM
I'm just awfully tired of the way rape is treated these days - all of that sex from shows like Sparta, where it was done for the entertainment of the masters, or Daenerys's wedding night? That's still rape. Somehow people forget that when a woman isn't screaming "NO!" and punching and kicking, it can still be rape. I knew I couldn't watch the GoT series in the very first episode, when the camera itself spent a great deal of time taking in Daenerys being raped by the man who had just bought her like a brood mare - it felt like I was watching a porno or something, like I should be hearing "Yeah baby, just like that" in the background. No thank you. That was child rape being treated like something hot and sexy and I could viscerally feel the writers going "OMG Look at how edgy and gritty we are". Gross.

I have zero interest in anything that is basically; "look at how I just spent ten pages writing about a villain boiling a litter of puppies, I'm SO transgressive and edgy, I'm going to win a Hugo for this shit".

edit: Not targeting Mr. Martin here, but the idea in general that other commentors are being much better at describing.

Marian Perera
05-05-2014, 07:23 AM
Whether or not a story involves rape has very little to do with whether or not women as a whole in said story are considered inferior.

Agreed. In a book I have coming out later this year, the heroine and another woman are from a society where women are considered equal to men. They (and others) are taken prisoner by people from a society where women are considered equal to men, but who have been at war with the heroine's people for centuries.

I'd find it a bit unrealistic, under these circumstances, for the captors to behave as though rape is off the table, even though their society is not misogynistic. That being said, it doesn't happen, because the heroine manages to dissuade their captors. But the possibility is there nevertheless.

Lillith1991
05-05-2014, 07:42 AM
Agreed. In a book I have coming out later this year, the heroine and another woman are from a society where women are considered equal to men. They (and others) are taken prisoner by people from a society where women are considered equal to men, but who have been at war with the heroine's people for centuries.

I'd find it a bit unrealistic, under these circumstances, for the captors to behave as though rape is off the table, even though their society is not misogynistic. That being said, it doesn't happen, because the heroine manages to dissuade their captors. But the possibility is there nevertheless.

See in the case you discribed it makes sense and isn't just a plot device to make things grittier. Unfortunately people don't use it that way nearly as much as they should, if they're going to include it. And they choose to perpetuate the myth it only happens to women because we're physically weaker than men.

I'd find it less problematic if they took your approach, even if they include it when you don't. That it's a part of war, and not something to use to simply make things darker or grittier.

Taylor Harbin
05-05-2014, 07:51 AM
I'm with elinor. I knew after reading a few reviews on Amazon that I'd never be able to go through "A Song of Ice and Fire" in good conscience. The only clips I've seen from the HBO series are ones posted to Youtube, since they're more or less devoid of such content.

Here are my personal thoughts.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never be considered in the same league as guys like George R.R. Martin, if his style is what it takes to make the grade. I can't and won't do it. Think about how those scenes got there. The author had to visualize the crime taking place. They had to plot the suffering.

I can't do that to myself and then expect my readers (when I get them) to enjoy it.

True, Martin and others base these things on recorded history. I whole-heartedly agree with Martin that there was a double-standard where chivalry was concerned. Knights were expected to be kind to the noblewomen, but peasants in another country were fair game.

As a historian, I've read plenty of gruesome accounts of the war between Germany and Russia. The Red Army raped millions of women in Berlin alone. Statistically, they did it more than the Germans to retaliate for the invasion. According to eyewitness testimony, the Japanese Imperial Army systematically raped the women in Nanking on a near constant basis. The Japanese government has consistently denied it ever took place on such a large scale.

From an artistic stance, I think there are good ways to showcase the crime without an explicit depiction. One of my favorite examples is Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks. While discussing the Russian occupation of Afghanistan with a CIA officer, Hanks lowers his head and mutters, "They're raping the women and bayonetting the pregnant ones." The CIA man nods and says, "Yeah, it gets that bad."

Brandon Sanderson created a political system in his "Mistborn" series where the nobility has the power of life and death over the slave class, including sexual rights. The prologue features the protagonist listening to distant screams while the rest of the bunch talks about how terrible it is to have daughters.

On that note, Sanderson has repeatedly said to never show violence without the consequences. Sexual violence falls into the same category.

More to the point, rape scenarios are a big facet of internet pornography. Japanese hentai has the reputation of being rape-exclusive (even though it's not true). To me, what it's creating is an illusion of suffering while simultaneously trying to illicit a pleasurable response from the viewer.

I don't want to be a part of that.

cornflake
05-05-2014, 08:24 AM
There's a huge difference between rape fantasies and rape portrayed as real.


There's a difference between a passing line to indicate rape happens to show how dark and gritty a given fictional universe is, and describing a brutal rape scene in lurid detail to show how dark and gritty a fictional universe is.

If it's just world-building, you need to ask yourself why you need That Scene, and if the plot can carry on just fine without describing That Scene. Also ask yourself just how many readers you want to alienate by forcing them relive traumas from their own lives--because in this case, the "realism" is going to work against you.

I just can't see that as a realistic or worthwhile thing. Worrying that you might alienate readers by writing traumatic things they may have experienced would cut out much of the possible world. Don't write about crime or accidents, but what about, say, bad parents, or really sad things? It'd get overwhelming and untenable to avoid.

rwm4768
05-05-2014, 08:35 AM
I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never be considered in the same league as guys like George R.R. Martin, if his style is what it takes to make the grade. I can't and won't do it. Think about how those scenes got there. The author had to visualize the crime taking place. They had to plot the suffering.

You don't have to write like Martin to be successful in the fantasy field. You mentioned Sanderson. He manages quite a bit of success without getting so graphic. Sure, there's violence, but it's handled in a cleaner way, and many readers prefer that.

I'm not sure I could ever write a detailed rape scene. In one of my projects, a character does get raped, but it all happens off-screen.

NRoach
05-05-2014, 12:11 PM
See in the case you discribed it makes sense and isn't just a plot device to make things grittier. Unfortunately people don't use it that way nearly as much as they should, if they're going to include it. And they choose to perpetuate the myth it only happens to women because we're physically weaker than men.

I'd find it less problematic if they took your approach, even if they include it when you don't. That it's a part of war, and not something to use to simply make things darker or grittier.

I would be very wary of suggesting that it's a conscious decision, intended to forward the idea that women are physically inferior.
Maybe it does forward that exact idea, I don't know, but saying that authors are deliberately making out that women are weak? That gives me pause.

Carelessness is not malice.

Once!
05-05-2014, 04:07 PM
There does seem to be something of an arms race going on at the moment, not only of portrayals of rape but also of murder and torture. Successive books, films and TV shows have pushed the boundaries a little, and then a little more, and then a lot more. We could point to the TV show "Spartacus", the film "Saw", The girl with the dragon tattoo, heck even Fifty Shades. And a few others that I don't want to mention because some will really not want those images in their heads.

I've got a love-hate relationships with zombie books and films which seem to have shifted from being stories of survival into a splatterfest which seems to say that it's okay to shoot lots of people.

And sure you can justify the depictions of crimes like rape, murder and torture on the grounds that they are "realistic", but you can't help feeling that there is more than a little salaciousness creeping in.

Helix
05-05-2014, 04:13 PM
Carelessness is not malice.


But do their outcomes differ?

NRoach
05-05-2014, 05:23 PM
But do their outcomes differ?

No, but I wasn't addressing the outcome, rather the statement that certain authors are choosing depict women as inferior.


See in the case you discribed it makes sense and isn't just a plot device to make things grittier. Unfortunately people don't use it that way nearly as much as they should, if they're going to include it. And they choose to perpetuate the myth it only happens to women because we're physically weaker than men.

I'd find it less problematic if they took your approach, even if they include it when you don't. That it's a part of war, and not something to use to simply make things darker or grittier.

There's a lot of reasons for which someone might have a female character be raped, some of which are inarguably sexist; as a way to construct drama, as a way of providing motivation to a male character, as away of proving that the story is a grown up one and should be treated as such.
As a way of soapboxing on how women are lesser than men? Not so much.

That's not even to say that people who use these devices aren't sexist; just that they're not consciously so.

Bogna
05-05-2014, 05:45 PM
My issue with the sexual assault in GRRM's books (and the show) has always been with how graphic they are. We don't need to see it happen word-for-word. A lot of the times it comes across as rape for titillation (personal opinion).

Sexual assault does happen, it shouldn't be ignored but it also shouldn't been the main "type" of violence used to show how dark and icky a war is. I find the backstabbing and crazy war strategies to be more scary.

Wilde_at_heart
05-05-2014, 06:42 PM
But the question, why isn't the atrocity presented as an atrocity? As in, why aren't the men targeted equally? The purpose of war-rape is to subdue the opposing force and making them submissive. That would mean raping the surviving men in battle.

In reality, the rape scenes being described give the uneasy sense that they are either carrying out a sexual fantasy or acting as proxies of sexual fantasy, more than actual depictions of rape to fit and build upon in the story.

Latest research suggests that almost two out of five of all rape victims are male.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_ are_sexually_assaulted.html

Which, if one does the math: 1/4 women get sexually assaulted one way or another; 1/6 men get sexually assaulted one way or another.

Not to mention, not all 'sexual assault' is knife-at-throat violent either. There are people who've come out of abusive relationships, for example, who didn't realise at the time it was abusive because the person never hit them.

Lillith1991
05-05-2014, 06:55 PM
Carelessness is not malice.

I didn't mean to equate carelessness with malice. The fact of the matter is that it is careless much of the time. But they're still choosing to perpetuate the myths about why it happens. Not conciously, or out of hate. Choices can be made on a subconsious level. Society perpetuates the myth only women are raped, and because of that writers are more uncomfortable writing about a man being sexually assaulted than a woman. And that way of thinking is so ingrained that people don't notice it's what they're doing.

Toothpaste
05-05-2014, 07:51 PM
My issue with using rape as plot device (especially as the very bad thing that only happens to women) is that often it becomes the only motivation available to women. While men might have to avenge a lost love one, or recuperate after losing a limb, or have their entire family slaughtered, or be betrayed by a best friend, it seems that when women need to have something bad happen to them . . . it is rape. And that negates the personhood of women. Women are people too. Can have a myriad traumas, that are varied and also particular to that individual human being. Women can also seek revenge on behalf of a murdered family member, can also be betrayed, can lose a limb and learn how to manage without it etc etc.

I was once on a panel about women in fiction, and someone brought up the rape as device thing. One of the panelists said something to the effect, "I only consider using rape in a situation if I'd be willing to consider rape for a male character." There was laughter at that, it was spontaneous, not nasty. But I jumped in there and said, "And this, this is exactly the problem. The idea of raping one of the male characters is literally laughable. But men get raped too, it is just as horrific for men too. But we so rarely see it as a plot device for male characters that it's a joke."

To me, 9 times out of 10, using rape for a female character is a lazy way of creating character development. Yes there are those rare times when it is completely necessary for the story. But most of the time it's just an easy way to harm a female character without having to consider her a well rounded person.

NRoach
05-05-2014, 08:36 PM
I didn't mean to equate carelessness with malice. The fact of the matter is that it is careless much of the time. But they're still choosing to perpetuate the myths about why it happens. Not conciously, or out of hate. Choices can be made on a subconsious level. Society perpetuates the myth only women are raped, and because of that writers are more uncomfortable writing about a man being sexually assaulted than a woman. And that way of thinking is so ingrained that people don't notice it's what they're doing.

I get where you're coming from, but I'm still uncomfortable with the phrasing.
Of course, choices can be made without conscious thought, but I'd be less prepared to call them choices as I would (re)actions or decisions.

To me, and I'd imagine many people, choosing to do something means action following the conscious weighing of the options, as opposed to actions born of cultural baggage.

Phaeal
05-05-2014, 09:18 PM
I'm just awfully tired of the way rape is treated these days - all of that sex from shows like Sparta, where it was done for the entertainment of the masters, or Daenerys's wedding night? That's still rape. Somehow people forget that when a woman isn't screaming "NO!" and punching and kicking, it can still be rape. I knew I couldn't watch the GoT series in the very first episode, when the camera itself spent a great deal of time taking in Daenerys being raped by the man who had just bought her like a brood mare - it felt like I was watching a porno or something, like I should be hearing "Yeah baby, just like that" in the background. No thank you. That was child rape being treated like something hot and sexy and I could viscerally feel the writers going "OMG Look at how edgy and gritty we are". Gross.

I have zero interest in anything that is basically; "look at how I just spent ten pages writing about a villain boiling a litter of puppies, I'm SO transgressive and edgy, I'm going to win a Hugo for this shit".

edit: Not targeting Mr. Martin here, but the idea in general that other commentors are being much better at describing.

Rape treated as hot sex rather than assault is indeed abhorrent. I got a nasty taste of prurience from the first couple of episodes myself, so did not continue. Ditto the books.

A high frequency of graphic violence, death and rape in a writer's or film maker's work tends to set off my gratuitous alarm. Heavy-handedness wears me out and makes me care about the characters LESS, not more. Subtlety can be golden, and it can be strong. I'm thinking of the scene in Kurosawa's RAN in which the murderous queen is beheaded. As I recall, all the viewer sees of it is an abrupt splash of red on a white wall. Oh, okay. I get it. Hold the slow-motion close-up of the consecutively severed arteries and the roll of the head across the floor.

Because shit happens doesn't mean I want to wallow constantly in shit.

cmi0616
05-05-2014, 10:48 PM
Is rape of men really as common? I find this very doubtful, especially if you include sexual assault as rape.

Either way, I think it's good that people are writing about this. Art is one of the main tools we use to shape discourse, and if the alternative to writing about it is not writing about it, count me out.

Jazen
05-05-2014, 11:05 PM
Not to mention, not all 'sexual assault' is knife-at-throat violent either. There are people who've come out of abusive relationships, for example, who didn't realise at the time it was abusive because the person never hit them.

This is very true. Abuse can come in many forms and the abused may not always be aware of it as such. This includes sexual abuse. The reader (or watcher if it's TV) may see it as rape, but the 'victim' may not view it that way depending on the situation.

Alessandra Kelley
05-05-2014, 11:28 PM
I think I would prefer people to stop using the excuse of "realism" to justify so much rape of so many female characters.

Frankly, I would like to see the excuse of "realism" go away until people are willing to actually face actual reality, all of it, not just the parts that dilate their pupils.

The constant motif of raped women is patently and demonstrably not realistic, not when all other aspects of rape are ignored.

To cavalierly use it as a shorthand for an evil place and time is to tell up to half of one's audience that their concerns, even terrors, are only important so long as they entertain the other half.

skylark
05-05-2014, 11:49 PM
I'ma little bemused by why Game of Thrones is being presented as the bad guy in all this. It's one of the few fantasy series out there which does depict sexual violence against men as well as women - and which, IMO, doesn't present rape as being sexy.

Gratuitously violent, yes.

Mr Flibble
05-05-2014, 11:51 PM
Is rape of men really as common? I find this very doubtful, especially if you include sexual assault as rape.

As common? Here in the UK in peacetime? No (Though it's suspected that male rape is as under reported now as female rape used to be, so true figures are hard to come by). As rare as most people think - also no.


In war? The figures could easily swap so that men are as likely or more likely to be raped (depending on the particular war, whether there are lots of civilians around etc). It probably doesn't help re stats that the previous UN definition of rape in conflict to include men only changed a few years ago (http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/jun/25/dealing-with-male-rape) <<-- trigger warning

But it goes on a hell of a lot.


In fact, trigger warnings for all links

1 (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men)
2 (http://www.irinnews.org/report/93960/health-rape-as-a-weapon-of-war-against-men)
It's probably even less reported in places where being gay is illegal and admitting being raped might make the authorities label you as such. . 3 (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/04/2013411111517944475.html)
4 (http://adamjones.freeservers.com/malerape.htm)

Roxxsmom
05-06-2014, 12:22 AM
I would be very wary of suggesting that it's a conscious decision, intended to forward the idea that women are physically inferior.
Maybe it does forward that exact idea, I don't know, but saying that authors are deliberately making out that women are weak? That gives me pause.

Carelessness is not malice.

Well, there's that whole women need to be protected and stick to their proper sphere thing that comes up occasionally, especially in older fiction. Rebellious girl runs away from home and gets raped because she just didn't believe how dangerous it is out there for a girl away from her menfolk. Rape is just something most men do when they encounter a woman alone, because rape=sex, and sex is consumptive and something all "normal" men are looking to "take" from women in any and in all circumstances.

And there's also the use of rape as an outrage trope that galvanizes a male protagonist into action. This isn't always badly meant, but sometimes there is a bit of the "it was a crime against me and my honor thing" happening there, rather than genuine empathy for the victim driving the need for revenge. Of course, in some times and places, that's how it's been viewed.

And sometimes it's done to show how despicable a villain is.

You're right that carelessness is not malice, and these tropes aren't always meant badly. Sometimes they can even be used to expose an underlying assumption (like if the gal tells the guy who is upset about the affront to his honor, "Hey, this isn't about you, you know.") But given how much information is out there about rape these days, there seems to be little excuse for misunderstanding why and how it happens, or the motives behind it, or the various effects it can have on its victims.


As common? Here in the UK in peacetime? No (Though it's suspected that male rape is as under reported now as female rape used to be, so true figures are hard to come by). As rare as most people think - also no.




And women can and sometimes do sexually assault men. A male friend recently posted a "study" on facebook that states that most college-aged men have had "unwanted sex," so his hypothesis is that women are actually more rapey than men, and all the stats about rape being a male problem are bogus (he's one of those guys who is just "sick" of how "everything bad" is always his race's and gender's fault, and if you want to make him apoplectic, mention the "p" word). But reading the fine print of the article suggests that "unwanted sex" encompasses that "well, I'm not really into this person, and I know it's a bad idea, but I don't want to hurt their feelings or look stupid by turning them down." I'd say that at least as many women in college end up in this situation at some time or another, and it's not the same as feeling like you have no choice.

Still, there are cases where women force men who are not able to give consent for one reason or another. We do tend to be more flip about it when it appears in literature (remember how Garp's mom conceived him in The World According to Garp)? I have no idea whether the psychology of a woman who sneaks into bed with an unconscious guy in her dorms and starts trying to "seduce" him without his knowledge or consent is in the same place psychologically as a guy who does something similar to an unconscious girl or not. I'd like to see some research here. Regardless, it's a terrible thing to do.

I somehow suspect that armies of women raping male peasants is not a thing in real history. I'd say that most male victimization in war is (as the above links suggest) done by other men. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there were occasional cases, at least, of women (whether an actual combatant or civilian) doing horrific things to men in warfare.

Xelebes
05-06-2014, 12:39 AM
Is rape of men really as common? I find this very doubtful, especially if you include sexual assault as rape.

I remember being in a group therapy program years back. The numbers were surprisingly even.

MDSchafer
05-06-2014, 12:41 AM
Is rape of men really as common?

Is it as common? Maybe not, but it's under represented in fantasy.

When a city fell civilian men and boys were at the same risk of being raped as women when it comes to war. There are reports that men living in Jerusalem when that city fell. Vikings raped men and boys as well as women and girls, but that's not shown on the television show.

Studies have shown that most male prisoners of war in the last twenty years or more have been raped.


Yet there are thousands of similar cases, less well publicized but well documented by researchers, in places as varied as Chile, Greece and Iran. The United Nations reported that out of 5,000 male concentration camp detainees held near Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict, 80 percent acknowledged having been abused sexually. In El Salvador, 76 percent of male political prisoners told researchers they had experienced sexual torture.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/opinion/02stemple.html?_r=0

It happens, it happens a lot more than people think. One reason why people aren't aware of it is because straight male authors aren't comfortable writing about it and straight male readers don't want to read about it. Although apparently women want to write about it, and women want to read it, if a few strange genres of Japanese fiction is indicative of anything.

Imagine how different Game of Thrones would be if Robb Stark tied Jamie Lanister to tree and let his men have their way with him for a few days, cause that probably would have happened. Or had Theon's men raped Bran and/or Ricken after they took Winterfell, which again, probably would have happened in a real world situation.

It's telling that in Game of Thrones we've seen fairly graphic lesbian sex scenes and hundreds of lady parts I think the only men we've seen nude has been Theon and Hodor.

Had Paolo Bacigalupi wrote "The Windup Boy" instead of "The Windup Girl," would that book have been as popular? Would have even been published?

Mr Flibble
05-06-2014, 02:41 AM
You found the link I was looking for!
Bless you, my child :D

Years ago, people thought rape wasn't common cos no one reported it

Then they thought rape in marriage wasn't common because no one reported it/ there were not statistics because it wasn't a crime

Then many thought date ape wasn't "real" rape

Male rape happens, and a lot more than common perception realises (which is possibly part of the problem with it not happening in fiction?)

It was only few years ago the UN redefined rape in conflict to include men. Many men don't report it (for varying reasons, up to an including being thought of as gay, which depending where you are could mean a death sentence)

It happens. A LOT. Not as much as male on female mostly but a lot more than people realise.

It's just that it's not part of what "everyone knows". Male rape victims are, in many instances, were female rape victims were thirty years ago, with different baggage (why didn't you fight them off? A "real" man wouldn't have let them. etc etc)

ETA Guys get a lot of what women used to get about it. It was wrong then, it's wrong now. Rape is rape, no matter who the victim is.

MDSchafer
05-06-2014, 05:28 AM
Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?

Rhoda Nightingale
05-06-2014, 05:31 AM
Does The Marbury Lens count? It's YA and dark and weird, not "high fantasy" if that's what you're thinking, but it's pretty much the source of all the angst for the male protagonist.

That's all I can think of it, but it was significant.

Sam Argent
05-06-2014, 07:13 AM
I'ma little bemused by why Game of Thrones is being presented as the bad guy in all this. It's one of the few fantasy series out there which does depict sexual violence against men as well as women - and which, IMO, doesn't present rape as being sexy.

Gratuitously violent, yes.

I remember one attempted rape of a man and lost count of how many women were raped on that show. Game of Thrones also has the problem of turning consensual sex scenes into rape scenes. There was no reason for that, and the writers were confused about why taking out a woman's verbal consent ended up screwing up their intention to show rough sex.

Roxxsmom
05-06-2014, 07:47 AM
This article also discusses this subject with reference to epic fantasy in the "gimdark" vein.

Trigger warning. It contains some disturbing stuff about men being rape victims.

click (http://lizbourke.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/realism-male-rape-and-epic-fantasy/)

One type of male on male violence that has a sexual element to it in grimdark epic fantasy, however, is sexual mutilation. This was certainly a thing in Abercrombie's first three books at least, re what had been done to Glokta (and re some of what he threatened doing to male prisoners, at least), and it was implied re Theon in Martin's third book (and much less was left to the imagination in the third season of GoT on TV).

I find it interesting that sexual mutilation, which is certainly something that squicks out most men horribly (and I can't blame them), seems to be less taboo than men raping men.

A couple of thoughts.

1. Concern over coming off as anti gay? But few writers have worried about demonizing gay characters until quite recently. And of course, most of the men who force other men in wartime are not gay. Sex isn't why they're doing it (and if you want proof for the rape is about dominance and humiliation hypothesis, you need look no further than this fact).

2. Concern that having an otherwise sympathetic male character raped will make him less so, because it means he is weak (as in effeminate).

RichardGarfinkle
05-06-2014, 12:48 PM
Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?

Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire. There's a brutal rape and murder of a man who is later canonized. It's a string harsh vivid and disturbingky effective scene. It seems to be there to contrast the reality of torture and brutality with the sanitized versions used in martyr stories.

Mr Flibble
05-06-2014, 01:27 PM
Cloud Atlas (or is that more properly SF?). It's about a sentence and a half. And is somehow more disturbing for that.

ETA It's in the backstory of one of my male characters, but while I allude to it, it's never actually said out loud.

Jo Zebedee
05-06-2014, 01:49 PM
Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?

Andy Defrense in Shawshank is raped repeatedly. Mark Vorkosigan is subjected to torture that includes sexual acts that are akin to rape although it does not say he was raped (a schock-stick was used, and I don't know what this would be classed as under law) I'm sure I've read others and know Francis Knight (as mentioned above) has included male rape.

My trilogy's male mc is raped - I didn't choose to show the event (although I did write the scene), and I wouldn't have included it if research hadn't thrown up that, facing the events he did, rape was very unlikely not to happened to him. As with anything, it's how you deal with it, not whether you have it in the first place.

MDSchafer
05-06-2014, 02:34 PM
There's that half-line reference in Cormac McKelly's The Road to catamites, and there's the gay scene in Beyond The Dark Stars which you could argue was rape by deception I suppose.

But my point is that far to often fantasy authors have this world view where rape is a weapon solely used against women, and it's not.

Rhoda Nightingale
05-06-2014, 04:23 PM
Here's the problem as I see it, and why this whole discussion makes me tired and sad:

Potential reader: Hello! I like fantasy, but don't like reading about rape. What can I read?

Everyone: NOTHING! There are no fantasy books without rape in them! That's not realistic! Now go bother some other genre with your problems.

Potential reader: :(

I have somewhat recently become that potential reader, and I have been scouring my own bookshelf AND the bookstores AND the library for fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and other types of spec-fic stuff that I generally enjoy for other reasons that do not include rape either described in the scene, or as part of the larger universe. It is SLIM PICKINGS out there, and that is frustrating as hell.

bearilou
05-06-2014, 04:49 PM
That's not even to say that people who use these devices aren't sexist; just that they're not consciously so.


Of course, choices can be made without conscious thought, but I'd be less prepared to call them choices as I would (re)actions or decisions.

To me, and I'd imagine many people, choosing to do something means action following the conscious weighing of the options, as opposed to actions born of cultural baggage.

Both of these illustrate why it's important to have the conversations and point out the problems with it being 'unconscious' and '(re)actions'.



It happens, it happens a lot more than people think. One reason why people aren't aware of it is because straight male authors aren't comfortable writing about it and straight male readers don't want to read about it. Although apparently women want to write about it, and women want to read it, if a few strange genres of Japanese fiction is indicative of anything.

It's telling that in Game of Thrones we've seen fairly graphic lesbian sex scenes and hundreds of lady parts I think the only men we've seen nude has been Theon and Hodor.

:( Yeah. Here's the thing, women writing about rape fantasy isn't really falling under the umbrella of representing the horrors of realism of war/the world around them. It's written with a completely different intent.

So to see male writers writing about realism of war and showing graphic rape of women as realism and not being uncomfortable with it as writing about the graphic rape of men? Not writing about it because it would make the male readers/viewers uncomfortable? What message does anyone think that is sending to the readers/viewers? And to the female readers/viewers?

The writer is not comfortable with depicting male on male rape but they're comfortable with depicting male on female rape? But I thought rape was equally horrific on the realism scale. It's okay to write something that held the potential to make half your readership/viewership uncomfortable? How does that not reek of just a bit of titillation for the other half of the readership/viewership?

And let's not fool ourselves. Women are not the only ones who entertain rape fantasies. I can't help but think that the 'realism of rape of women during war' doesn't touch exactly on that.

If a writer is looking to push the envelope of realism in war as viewed through the lens of victimization of the subdued population through rape, I'd think they'd be on board to represent all aspects of this discomfort of the subject of rape. You know, it being realistic and all.

The points that it seems to be the only way to give a female character devastating trauma, when the other traumas given to male characters would also apply to female ones has been touched on already so I'll leave that alone.


Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?

My first exposure to it was Vanyel in The Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey.

Richard K. Morgan touches on it lightly in The Steel Remains.

I wonder what it says that both those characters were canonically gay as well. But I think that is probably another discussion.

Mr Flibble
05-06-2014, 04:58 PM
In my current WIP I did play with the idea of it -- in this particular POV's circs it would be realistic, maybe even likely.

But in the end I decided that as I'd never* write a graphic rape scene for a female, I wasn't sure I could for him. I didn't want to make it a part of this world, sort of thing? Or at least part of this story. Because I've had enough of it, same as it's clear many others have. And I may possibly have added to it in the past (that whole not thinking about it -- yes, I'm guilty, though tbf it wasn't just women and it wasn't on the page) , so I'm not going to do it in the future

Besides, there were other ways to achieve what I needed in the current scene/character arc -- as there almost always are for female rape. And if it's not necessary why use it?


*I say never. I think it's very unlikely. If I did any sort of rape scene, m or f, it's not going to be graphic I should think. Because I don't think it needs to be to get across the horror.

mayqueen
05-06-2014, 06:18 PM
This has been a really interesting discussion. I've long railed against GoT for what I call violence against women as world-building.



And sure you can justify the depictions of crimes like rape, murder and torture on the grounds that they are "realistic", but you can't help feeling that there is more than a little salaciousness creeping in.

I watched a documentary called NIGHTMARES IN RED WHITE AND BLUE about the American horror film. That's one of the things they talked about. They linked it to the rise of global media. If we can see horrific images of war on a daily basis on our computers and televisions (and even smartphones), then the old style splattered of red food dye and karo syrup isn't going to cut it in terms of horrifying the audience. So I do think things are getting more and more brutal, and more and more salacious, because what we see out there in the reality television is getting more violent, too.


Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?

I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I primarily read historical fiction. I can't think of a single novel I've read off the top of my head that included male rape. (I can think of one, but the character was intersex, not male. One television show (http://www.exurbe.com/?p=2176). BORGIA: FAITH AND FEAR.) Granted, I don't read a ton of Roman military history, but it seems like if the argument is that rape is just realistic, I'd be able to think of one.

Myrealana
05-06-2014, 06:42 PM
Just out of curiosity can anyone name a fantasy novel where a male character, even a minor character who we only hear about in passing, gets raped?
Isn't that a fairly major plot point in "Outlander" IIRC?

(Duress does not qualify as consent.)

regdog
05-06-2014, 08:46 PM
Isn't that a fairly major plot point in "Outlander" IIRC?

(Duress does not qualify as consent.)

It is in Outlander. The MC Jamie Fraser is raped by "Black Jack" Randall.

RedWombat
05-07-2014, 08:11 AM
Peter, the male lead in The True Game series by Sheri S. Tepper is bisexual and gets raped. It's worth noting that it's sort of grimly glossed over, the way that most of the first-person torture scenes are--a couple of sentences, none of them dwelling on the actual mechanics.

Which I actually liked as a handling thereof, because the author included torture without giving any hooks to hang any kind of glorification on. It was "Bad things happened and then I laid in the cell for awhile." There is not a great deal of enduring trauma from it, but the character is peculiar in a lot of ways.

And I believe the male love interest in a book by...uh...Jennifer Roberson, I want to say, the title is escaping me, it's a Robin Hood story...is imprisoned in the Crusades and has some major sexual trauma as a result.

I admit, though, I am having something of a hard time thinking of male leads who get raped in books that are not written by either women or Stephen King.

Jo Zebedee
05-07-2014, 10:42 AM
*I say never. I think it's very unlikely. If I did any sort of rape scene, m or f, it's not going to be graphic I should think. Because I don't think it needs to be to get across the horror.

This is absolutely what I believe. The horror isn't the act - in my case it's one thing within a larger ordeal - it's the effect that it has. We don't need graphic descriptions to show that. In fact, the less the better.

I do sort of take issue that it's hard to find a sfff book that doesn't have rape. I read pretty widely (although rarely epic to be fair) and, excluding grimdark where every one I've read has had rape, most of the stuff I've read doesn't use it. I'm not saying it's not overused because it is, I am saying that there are plenty of titles to choose from and recommend that don't use it.

Papaya
05-07-2014, 09:42 PM
This is absolutely what I believe. The horror isn't the act - in my case it's one thing within a larger ordeal - it's the effect that it has. We don't need graphic descriptions to show that. In fact, the less the better.

I do sort of take issue that it's hard to find a sfff book that doesn't have rape. I read pretty widely (although rarely epic to be fair) and, excluding grimdark where every one I've read has had rape, most of the stuff I've read doesn't use it. I'm not saying it's not overused because it is, I am saying that there are plenty of titles to choose from and recommend that don't use it.
I'm glad to hear it, because I can't believe how many popular fantasy books do have rape as an element, in one way or another, and after careful consideration, I've decided I'm done supporting any media that uses that particular element. I don't trust authors anymore -- male or female -- to handle rape with the kind of care and consideration I feel it should be given. I spent most of my life reading literary fiction and this was never a problem. So itís back to literary for me. I wonít be reading a lot of genre fiction in the future, unless I know for sure the story isnít overly reliant on violence instead of character to tell a good story. That is my main complaint about genre fiction.*

As for Game of Thrones, I haven't read the books and though I was tempted for a while, now I know I wonít be doing so. And I never would have watched the show if I still lived alone. I sort of saw the first 3 seasons in a marathon, while doing another activity, so I intentionally missed a lot of the disturbing content. But the last 2 episodes were impossible to miss, and I'm now reconsidering my viewership of the show. It would be nice to have storytellers be just as wary of disturbing and/or alienating their female audience, but it seems we are still a long way off from that.

* I donít mean to imply all genre books are this way, but Iíve encountered too many that are, and the result is I donít trust the reading experience anymore.

angeliz2k
05-07-2014, 11:10 PM
To some degree, all writers run into this. It's the "stranger than fiction" element. Fiction isn't like real life: it has to be even real-er, or seem that way.

I, too, found some of the recent episodes of Game of Thrones--and a lot of HBO's material--troubling. I feel uncomfortable watching the graphic scenes, but it's more than that: it's that these shows are using it as scenery. Grim, dark castle. Check. Misty woods. Check. Guys with swords. Check. Dragons. Check. Women getting raped. Check. Your oh-so-gritty world is now complete.

But it isn't just the rape in Game of Thrones and other shows. It's the violence, too. A lot of the violence is just as gratuitous as the sexual exploitation. It just isn't a "realistically" gritty world unless you show at least five beheadings, complete with vivid images of severed bone and flesh. The body-count is absurd. If the world--any world--worked that way, there'd be no one left alive!

It boils down to trying to hard. Throwing in these elements for shock value is only a good choice if you're just trying to shock people. The shock wears off, and you're left with . . . what? Is there still a story under there?

And, importantly, all this nonsense dilutes everything. How are we supposed to care about any particular beheading or rape when there are ten in every episode (or chapter)?

And I disagree with Martin's assertion that he's being faithful to history. Sure, he might have taken inspiration from history (notably from the Wars of the Roses), but he cherry-picked every horrible story from history he could find and smushed them together. That's not a faithful representation: that's "history's bloodiest hits, now with dragons."

angeliz2k
05-07-2014, 11:13 PM
I'm glad to hear it, because I can't believe how many popular fantasy books do have rape as an element, in one way or another, and after careful consideration, I've decided I'm done supporting any media that uses that particular element. I don't trust authors anymore -- male or female -- to handle rape with the kind of care and consideration I feel it should be given. I spent most of my life reading literary fiction and this was never a problem. So itís back to literary for me. I wonít be reading a lot of genre fiction in the future, unless I know for sure the story isnít overly reliant on violence instead of character to tell a good story. That is my main complaint about genre fiction.*

As for Game of Thrones, I haven't read the books and though I was tempted for a while, now I know I wonít be doing so. And I never would have watched the show if I still lived alone. I sort of saw the first 3 seasons in a marathon, while doing another activity, so I intentionally missed a lot of the disturbing content. But the last 2 episodes were impossible to miss, and I'm now reconsidering my viewership of the show. It would be nice to have storytellers be just as wary of disturbing and/or alienating their female audience, but it seems we are still a long way off from that.

* I donít mean to imply all genre books are this way, but Iíve encountered too many that are, and the result is I donít trust the reading experience anymore.

Of course, that depends on what genre you mean. Christian fiction, for instance, isn't likely to have this kind of issue. I don't think literary is the only "safe" domain, and nor is literary necessarily a "safe" domain. There could be some squicky exploitation in literary fiction, too.

gothicangel
05-07-2014, 11:32 PM
IGranted, I don't read a ton of Roman military history, but it seems like if the argument is that rape is just realistic, I'd be able to think of one.

The only one I can come up with is Manda Scott's The Eagle of the Twelfth (of a character who is homosexual) and teeters on the edge in The Emperor's spy (of a boy-prostitute by Nero) but pulls back. Otherwise no. Although saying that 'Rape' is very specific in Roman law: it can only happen to a Roman citizen and only applicable to women. Of course one of Rome's greatest myths is the Rape of the Sabine women (rapito: abduction and forced marriage.)

Papaya
05-07-2014, 11:48 PM
Of course, that depends on what genre you mean. Christian fiction, for instance, isn't likely to have this kind of issue. I don't think literary is the only "safe" domain, and nor is literary necessarily a "safe" domain. There could be some squicky exploitation in literary fiction, too.
Maybe so, but as I said, that has not been my experience after decades of literary fiction reading. For me, literary vs. genre has drawn a very stark contrast. I can think of a couple of literary books that had the same problem of relying on violence instead of characters to drive the story, but those were a couple exceptions when compared to thousands. The problem I have with genre is that I can flip that number. So for me, Iím better off going back to literature I can trust. Not only am I tired of wasting money on novels I will never finish, Iím also tired of supporting those books.

Iím not a Christian and have no desire to read stories geared towards those who are. However, I have read the Bible, and based on that, I definitely wouldnít count on that genre to not be overly reliant on violence to tell a story.

Little Anonymous Me
05-08-2014, 12:07 AM
I very recently read the first two ASoIaF books. I enjoy grimdark. It's damn near impossible to bother me with 'grittness'. And that series is on the tipping point.

I am so sick of reading about the female characters being assaulted. I really like the series, aside from that. But it's in a precarious place right now with me. I agree that the rapes feel like a backdrop, and while he does mention a septon that likes young boys, that's about the only mention of male rape I can recall. Martin is an excellent writer, and I expected better from him in this arena. Aside from Lollys, there isn't even a follow up on what happens to the women. And that's what's pissing me off the most. The women don't feel like characters undergoing a horrible and traumatic event. They feel like blobs of flesh that ghost around only to show how awful and cruel his world his.


I don't remember any rapes being shown in the novels, though they are sometimes threatened. I am assuming they get more rapey later in the series?

Reply in white: [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING]

These are only from the first two books, because that's as far as I've read: I count Dany, because she was too young to consent. There's the rapes of Lamb Men servants Dany tried to save, the Dothraki don't ask for consent from their own women, Lollys is gang-raped by fifty men, Pia and others. (Harrenhal) are put into stocks for 'men's use,' Arya sees several women get dragged off to the bushes and raped when the Lannisters capture her, Palla is raped when Theon takes Winterfell, the Bastard of House Bolton talks about raping a girl who 'ran too fast,' Ser Gregor, Chiswyck, and Co. talk about raping a 13 year old in her father's tavern, and Tyrion's wife Tysha (I sincerely doubt Tywin gave her a choice). Most of these were not shown in graphic detail, but they weren't alluded to either.


That's not a faithful representation: that's "history's bloodiest hits, now with dragons."
:roll: Love it!

Lillith1991
05-08-2014, 12:28 AM
To some degree, all writers run into this. It's the "stranger than fiction" element. Fiction isn't like real life: it has to be even real-er, or seem that way.

I, too, found some of the recent episodes of Game of Thrones--and a lot of HBO's material--troubling. I feel uncomfortable watching the graphic scenes, but it's more than that: it's that these shows are using it as scenery. Grim, dark castle. Check. Misty woods. Check. Guys with swords. Check. Dragons. Check. Women getting raped. Check. Your oh-so-gritty world is now complete.

But it isn't just the rape in Game of Thrones and other shows. It's the violence, too. A lot of the violence is just as gratuitous as the sexual exploitation. It just isn't a "realistically" gritty world unless you show at least five beheadings, complete with vivid images of severed bone and flesh. The body-count is absurd. If the world--any world--worked that way, there'd be no one left alive!

It boils down to trying to hard. Throwing in these elements for shock value is only a good choice if you're just trying to shock people. The shock wears off, and you're left with . . . what? Is there still a story under there?

And, importantly, all this nonsense dilutes everything. How are we supposed to care about any particular beheading or rape when there are ten in every episode (or chapter)?

And I disagree with Martin's assertion that he's being faithful to history. Sure, he might have taken inspiration from history (notably from the Wars of the Roses), but he cherry-picked every horrible story from history he could find and smushed them together. That's not a faithful representation: that's "history's bloodiest hits, now with dragons."

I love the last bit of this post especially, because it's very true and why I won't be reading or watching the series. To make it "realistic" he would of needed to dwell on male rape as well, instead of just women. Sorry Martin, but no dice. It doesn't wash with me.

Filigree
05-08-2014, 01:34 AM
I had to face this issue in designing a rather big secondary world setting where men and women are considered equals in business, politics, and the battlefield. Women have the slight edge because most political systems tend toward matriarchy. I couldn't ignore any kind of rape, because it's a violent society just passing from its Renaissance phase into its version of the Enlightenment.

I have two specific supporting characters that endure similar rape trauma together, and become friends and allies because of it. I don't show the initial acts, only the aftermath. The perps die horribly. Both the female and male victims have to go through more societal trauma later because of their own taboo (though non-sexual) relationship and their differing racial backgrounds.

I didn't include this side story for titillation. It's there because these are incredibly important people to the main character: her male cousin and her almost-adopted-sister, and she would level the world to see them safe and happy.

As an erotic romance author, I've used non-con and dub-con scenes to establish a setting or a character's personality. I cringe when I read such scenes used just for salacious value. The Wiki of 'Game of Thrones' was enough for me - I probably won't read the series until it's finished and I can speed-read through it. I can't finish one of Sherrilyn Kenyon's most famous books because of the sexual violence within it. I hated the portrayals of M/M sex in Misty Lackey's Herald-Mage books, for the simple reason that she focused more on non-con. Vanyel's love scenes with his first and second lovers? Glossed-over fade-to-black moments, mostly. That rape, OTOH? In much more detail.

I'll accept rape scenes if they're there for other reasons, although I'd really rather not see the whole thing. Sherri Tepper's handling of Peter's assault in the 'True Game' books was well done, as was her blunt, brusque assault scene in her Sleeping Beauty retelling.

It's a tool in the writer's toolbox, like any other. I wouldn't fault any other writer for shunning it, and I hold nothing against readers who don't want to read it.

Mr Flibble
05-08-2014, 01:49 AM
I'll accept rape scenes if they're there for other reasons, although I'd really rather not see the whole thing.

Me too

Because I think -- how often do you need to see the act? Pretty rarely unless the work of fiction is all about it. So, say, if I'm watching SVU then yeah, you might have a very good reason for showing at least parts of it. If the story is about a person overcoming this in her life, then again, perhaps (though even then I've read books that handled that fantastically without dwelling in the act itself)

But if the story's not about that one thing? (Or even if it is pretty often)

I recall a thing I read years ago, about kids who were shipped off for "adoption". One of the guys related how he was put in (IIRC I think) a monastery or similar, where they all slept in dorms anyway. The next bit is whited out and triggery (but not graphic is my point) and is also paraphrased to the best of my memory

"Every night when we went to bed, we heard the steps go up and down the dorm. Every night we prayed they didn't stop by our bed. And when they stopped by someone else's....we prayed just as hard, for them"

Nothing graphic, but that passage has haunted me for about two decades. You don't need to know any more than that.

And that is what often bothers me about graphic scenes -- how often they could be even more emotionally impactful if they were less graphic.

Roxxsmom
05-08-2014, 02:06 AM
C.J. Cherry has had male rape victims in her books, and often the rapist was a woman. The one I remember best is what happened to Justin in the original Cyteen trilogy (later bundled as one book). Drugs and "tape" were involved, but it was definitely rape and he was screwed up for the rest of the story.

He also was gay, incidentally, and it was never made clear whether the author was implying that it was the trauma of being raped by a woman that made him that way (I hope not, since it doesn't work that way), or whether he would have been anyway. She's had rape of women in her books too (Tripoint comes to mind), and I wasn't completely thrilled with the way the conflict was resolved in the end.

I don't think rape should be taboo. It is something that happens, and I don't want to read sugarcoated or sanitized historic fiction or fantasy either, but I agree that the grimdark approach does take the "history's bloodiest hits" approach (someone said that up thread). It sort of bothers me, actually, that one of the core tenets of grimdark is to have nothing end up happy at all. Surely there were some people who loved each other and treated one another well, even during dark times. When these folks say that miserable, dysfunctional relationships based on lies are "realistic," do I take that to mean that they're miserable in their own lives and relationships. That they've never loved anyone where it's worked out? What happened to wanting to be uplifted by some of what you read and in having your faith restored in humanity through fiction? Doesn't anyone fantasize about finding true love and friendship anymore? How about leavening all the gloom with some sunshine?

I also agree that you don't have to linger over these events or even show them at all for them to have resonance in the story.

And ffs, it does happen to people of all ages and genders.

rwm4768
05-08-2014, 02:33 AM
And that is what often bothers me about graphic scenes -- how often they could be even more emotionally impactful if they were less graphic.

So true. That whited-out quote gave me the creeps, probably more so than if it had been described in detail.

That's probably the route I'll go with rape. It's just not something I want to describe. The effects of it, yes. The actual act, no.

And I'll probably try to avoid having my antagonist rape anyone. That's shorthand for, "Look how evil he is."

The same goes for killing cute animals. While I liked Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, Thorn series, I got a little angry at him over one scene where the antagonist kills a puppy simply because it was annoying him. Of course, I really hated that antagonist with a passion afterward.

Ken
05-08-2014, 04:56 AM
Well let us at least count our blessings.
As of yet covers do not have sales pitches on them saying, "Juicy Rape Scene Within!"
Though the way things are going,



I have somewhat recently become that potential reader, and I have been scouring my own bookshelf AND the bookstores AND the library for fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and other types of spec-fic stuff that I generally enjoy for other reasons that do not include rape either described in the scene, or as part of the larger universe. It is SLIM PICKINGS out there, and that is frustrating as hell.

I wouldn't be at all surprised !

Night_Writer
05-08-2014, 05:27 AM
Well let us at least count our blessings.
As of yet covers do not have sales pitches on them saying, "Juicy Rape Scene Within!"


I think things would be even worse if covers had pitches on them saying "100% Rape-Free!"

endearing
05-08-2014, 07:04 AM
To some degree, all writers run into this. It's the "stranger than fiction" element. Fiction isn't like real life: it has to be even real-er, or seem that way.

...

And I disagree with Martin's assertion that he's being faithful to history. Sure, he might have taken inspiration from history (notably from the Wars of the Roses), but he cherry-picked every horrible story from history he could find and smushed them together. That's not a faithful representation: that's "history's bloodiest hits, now with dragons."

Redacting some of the middle segment of your post because I haven't read or watched Game of Thrones (and in fact decided against it based on what I had heard about the graphic violence and sexual content), I really like what you said here. The latter is hilarious and true. The former is something that I know I as a writer have to deal with, and I suspect everyone has to in some way or another. This is a much more banal example, but in real life, one person may speak six languages, play four instruments, be beautiful, friendly, and well-liked, cook well, and have a great sense of style. But often, if we were to see a character like this in fiction, it would seem "unrealistic" to the point that we might dub such a character a Mary Sue and/or expect her to be the natural antagonist of our plain, ordinary, unskilled, more "relatable" protagonist.

All this to say that, while rape might be a frequent, unexplained occurrence in real life, I, for one, don't want to read about it in graphic detail, and if it has to be there, I would rather read about one isolated case where the aftermath is dealt with. Or, if there just has to be a lot of in that world (and I say that doubtfully), I agree with previous posters that one line suffices.

emax100
05-08-2014, 07:29 AM
There's a difference between a passing line to indicate rape happens to show how dark and gritty a given fictional universe is, and describing a brutal rape scene in lurid detail to show how dark and gritty a fictional universe is.

If it's just world-building, you need to ask yourself why you need That Scene, and if the plot can carry on just fine without describing That Scene. Also ask yourself just how many readers you want to alienate by forcing them relive traumas from their own lives--because in this case, the "realism" is going to work against you.
I just think it most cases, having any kind of rape scene of any kind is not only superfluous but can give readers the impression that the writer is not playing with a full deck no matter how subtle said writer tries to make the scene. In so many cases, one could take out a rape scene and simply replace it with a crime of physical violence without the connotations if they decide the really need such a crime for their story to work.

It is different if one is addressing wars or battles and wants to really send the message that when groups of adults fight in the real world, it's for keeps and innocent people truly do have the most atrocious things imaginable happen to them. If done with the right amount of subtlety, that could even be a refreshing change from action based books and movies that treat wars and battles as nothing more than a kid's game on steroids and help bring home the idea that in the real world, it is ultimately always better not to fight [something which i do think not nearly enough novels/shows/movies have a s a guiding theme].

But as you said, even that does not call for any kind of graphic depictions of such scenes which generally serve ulterior and often unpleasant motives.

skylark
05-08-2014, 12:17 PM
Thing is, do search-and-replace on a few of the terms here and you're describing why I don't read erotica. I think gratuitous sex scenes add nothing to a story and make me care far less about the characters involved.

But if I tried to suggest that sex scenes in erotica aren't called for (based on my extensive knowledge of the subject from a Wikipedia article) I'd be (rightly) howled down because a) I'm talking out of my rear end, and b) RYFW.

Aren't people who write Game Of Thrones-style genre fiction fellow writers?

IMO, rape is not presented as acceptable in GoT - not when it's rape of either gender. It is presented as something that some of the cultures in the book consider acceptable, but that really isn't the same thing.

gothicangel
05-08-2014, 12:39 PM
Iím not a Christian and have no desire to read stories geared towards those who are. However, I have read the Bible, and based on that, I definitely wouldnít count on that genre to not be overly reliant on violence to tell a story.

I think there is a misconception about violence in the Bible (my sister a Theology student made the point that The Old and New Testament are completely different books.) 12 Plagues of Egypt? The Binding of Isaac? Cain and Abel? I can't remember the reference, but one excerpt is about a man who is staying as a guest and a group of men turn up intent on rape, the owner says something like 'this man is my guest, why not have my daughter instead?' And so the daughter and servants are raped instead.

cmhbob
05-08-2014, 12:48 PM
I can't remember the reference, but one excerpt is about a man who is staying as a guest and a group of men turn up intent on rape, the owner says something like 'this man is my guest, why not have my daughter instead?' And so the daughter and servants are raped instead.
Close. It's Genesis 19.

God is intent on destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham convinces Him not to if He can find 10 righteous people in the towns.

The angels arrive, and Abraham's brother Lot wants to protect the angels.


4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodomóboth young and oldósurrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, ďWhere are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.Ē 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, ďNo, my friends. Donít do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But donít do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.Ē
9 ďGet out of our way,Ē they replied. ďThis fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! Weíll treat you worse than them.Ē They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

So the daughters don't get raped, although Lot was willing to let them for the sake of protecting the visitors.

Then again, they commit incest with Lot later...

Papaya
05-08-2014, 09:58 PM
Thing is, do search-and-replace on a few of the terms here and you're describing why I don't read erotica. I think gratuitous sex scenes add nothing to a story and make me care far less about the characters involved.

But if I tried to suggest that sex scenes in erotica aren't called for (based on my extensive knowledge of the subject from a Wikipedia article) I'd be (rightly) howled down because a) I'm talking out of my rear end, and b) RYFW.

Aren't people who write Game Of Thrones-style genre fiction fellow writers?

IMO, rape is not presented as acceptable in GoT - not when it's rape of either gender. It is presented as something that some of the cultures in the book consider acceptable, but that really isn't the same thing.
To start with, this is a false equivalency; consensual sex is not the same as rape, so treating them as the same says a lot about your sensitivity to the subject being discussed.

Also, people who are uncomfortable with Game of Thrones style genre fiction have every right to express an opinion on the content, just as you have done. Please explain how thatís disrespectful because, while I may have missed a few posts, I donít recall seeing anyone rail against authors who write genre fiction. While some people are uncomfortable with the subject matter in Game of Thrones, stating that does not mean anyone is being disrespectful to Mr. Martin.

Your post feels more like a subtle attempt at a derail than an actual concern over genre writers being treated unfairly. Or maybe I missed something?

TheNighSwan
05-08-2014, 11:27 PM
I think you are misrepresenting what Skylark is saying, Papaya.

They are not saying that rape scenes and gratuitous sex scenes are equivalent. And they are not saying that one isn't allowed to say they don't like grimdark fantasy because of rape scenes.

They are saying that rape scenes are an intrinsic par of grimdark fantasy, just like gratuitous sex scenes are an intrinsic par of erotica, and therefore, if one doesn't like rape scenes/gratuitous sex scenes, then one shouldn't read grimdark fantasy/erotica, and that it makes no sense to say that a genre should have less of an element that is intrinsic to and constitutive of that genre.

This is, of course, still a rather questionable affirmation, that rape scenes are an obligatory part of grimdark fantasy, but this is nonetheless a completely different argument from the one you are claiming they made.

Mr Flibble
05-08-2014, 11:44 PM
They are saying that rape scenes are an intrinsic par of grimdark fantasy, just like gratuitous sex scenes are an intrinsic par of erotica,


Um erotica (good erotica) doesn't have gratuitous sex scenes, it has necessary ones.

Gratuitous anything is bad for a story imo -- rape, sex, violence, characters, dogs, curtains, description. Whatever. If it's there just for the sake of it, it's doing the story no favours. If it has a solid story purpose, then maybe it's not gratuitous (though it could be handled differently - ie as we were talking about whether it;s necessary to show a rape in detail, or imply)

The question is of course what is gratuitous, and what isn't, and in most cases there's case to be made for both sides.

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 12:10 AM
I personally define gratuitous as using rape as a short hand for how dark the authors world is. A lot of the time it just seems like an attention ploy. "Look, look how gritty and dark my world is!"

The same thing comes to mind when the author describes it in such loving detail then has it go nowhere plot wise. Where it was just something to do to the character, a part of the scenary so to speak.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2014, 12:45 AM
I quite agree

That's not the same as saying all rape scenes (or sex scenes or whatever) are gratuitous though

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 01:01 AM
I quite agree

That's not the same as saying all rape scenes (or sex scenes or whatever) are gratuitous though

Agreed!

It can be used and used respectfully. The problem is that it often is used in a gratuitous manner, and all rape scenes get labeled as gratuitoius because of said problem.

Mr Flibble
05-09-2014, 01:15 AM
The problem starts though when all scenes of a type are labelled gratuitous. Such as all sex scenes (consensual etc). Well no. In erotica especially and in romance, sex scenes move the story forward, show a change in the characters etc. To say that gratuitous sex scenes are an intrinsic part of erotica, for instance, is missing the point that they aren't gratuitous (in good erotica at least) they are the story.

A story of whatever genre that is about rape and its after effects, or where one character's arc is to do with those after effects, fair enough. But it can still be handled badly even if it isn't gratuitous, or handled sympathetically even if it is. Or any combination thereof.

The argument lies in which is which. And that is subjective as all hell. It's been used badly, lazily, and trivially. I don't think that should mean it should be off limits (though I think a reasonably aware author should approach with caution. Ofc we aren't all aware...) Prety much everything in literature has been used badly or lazily.

As with everything, make sure it has a purpose, a good one, and you handle it well.

Ofc we all make mistakes too...and one person's "handled it well" is another one's "OMG BURN THE WITCH!!"

Persei
05-09-2014, 01:53 AM
I even dare to think that put rape to show how dark and gritty the world is would be okay IF it was just merely implied. Alright, this is my world, and sometimes rape and all kinds of violence happen without repercussion. But then I've seen a handful of writers throw in vivid descriptions of rape, or any kind of violence really, just to shock the reader.

I mean, I get that is realistic and it's something that happens in a ton of fictional worlds, but I don't need it on my face if it's not going to have any other purpose but to shock me and make your story the average european medieval era fantasy or whatever.

Thanks, but no thanks.

On that note, I started to read Merlin by M. K. Hume, and it shows, with detail, the rape of a young girl. It happens that after the events take place we see the young girl showing clear signs of trauma and because she dealt with that traumatic event the way she did, the story takes place. I didn't even finish reading it, but at least on this aspect, it isn't bad at all.

Papaya
05-09-2014, 02:40 AM
I think you are misrepresenting what Skylark is saying, Papaya.

They are not saying that rape scenes and gratuitous sex scenes are equivalent. And they are not saying that one isn't allowed to say they don't like grimdark fantasy because of rape scenes.

They are saying that rape scenes are an intrinsic par of grimdark fantasy, just like gratuitous sex scenes are an intrinsic par of erotica, and therefore, if one doesn't like rape scenes/gratuitous sex scenes, then one shouldn't read grimdark fantasy/erotica, and that it makes no sense to say that a genre should have less of an element that is intrinsic to and constitutive of that genre.

This is, of course, still a rather questionable affirmation, that rape scenes are an obligatory part of grimdark fantasy, but this is nonetheless a completely different argument from the one you are claiming they made.
Interesting to see how different your interpretation is from mine because thatís obviously not what I got out of the comment.


Um erotica (good erotica) doesn't have gratuitous sex scenes, it has necessary ones.

Gratuitous anything is bad for a story imo -- rape, sex, violence, characters, dogs, curtains, description. Whatever. If it's there just for the sake of it, it's doing the story no favours. If it has a solid story purpose, then maybe it's not gratuitous (though it could be handled differently - ie as we were talking about whether it;s necessary to show a rape in detail, or imply)

The question is of course what is gratuitous, and what isn't, and in most cases there's case to be made for both sides.

The problem starts though when all scenes of a type are labelled gratuitous. Such as all sex scenes (consensual etc). Well no. In erotica especially and in romance, sex scenes move the story forward, show a change in the characters etc. To say that gratuitous sex scenes are an intrinsic part of erotica, for instance, is missing the point that they aren't gratuitous (in good erotica at least) they are the story.

A story of whatever genre that is about rape and its after effects, or where one character's arc is to do with those after effects, fair enough. But it can still be handled badly even if it isn't gratuitous, or handled sympathetically even if it is. Or any combination thereof.

The argument lies in which is which. And that is subjective as all hell. It's been used badly, lazily, and trivially. I don't think that should mean it should be off limits (though I think a reasonably aware author should approach with caution. Ofc we aren't all aware...) Prety much everything in literature has been used badly or lazily.

As with everything, make sure it has a purpose, a good one, and you handle it well.

Ofc we all make mistakes too...and one person's "handled it well" is another one's "OMG BURN THE WITCH!!"Agree with you, Lillith1991, and Persei. I donít think rape should be off-limits; I do think it should be handled with extreme care given the real life implications it has for many potential readers.

CrastersBabies
05-09-2014, 03:03 AM
Hmm, I've only read a little way into the third GoT novel, and I've only watched smatterings of the TV show, so I may not have an accurate picture.


Spoilers...

((snip))

In a sense, the fact that rape is so common, both in real life and in books, is one reason why it's sometimes questionable as a literary device. It's really too easy to go there as a writer. Given that a decent chunk of your readers has probably experienced it (and it is so deeply traumatic), and given that we still have issues with victim blaming etc., not getting it right will likely be more offensive than some other mistakes one can make. It's also not terribly imaginative.

Saying that something is "realistic" isn't the same thing as saying that it must be shown as a central part of all plots. Yes, rape happens and has happened throughout history. So do lots of other things that aren't always shown in books. Rape of young children happens too, but that's definitely taboo in most cases (some agents even say that they will not consider manuscripts where children are abused or assaulted sexually). And as others have already pointed out, rape of men is often ignored by otherwise "grittily realistic" books as well.

And of course, there's that issue where rape is often seen as the "go to" trauma for female characters. As if there aren't plenty of other private shames or agonies a woman or girl can't have lurking in her background if such is needed to make her complex and interesting. Authors have no trouble concocting shameful secrets besides rape for male characters.

I came here to try and make sense of my thoughts. This pretty much does it for me.

(signs name)

I feel like it's so overused in stories (especially SFF) to show the breaking down of a woman, that I have literally rolled my eyes while reading. Oh look, here comes another rape. Wow, a writer with no imagination.

Because it's rarely executed in a thoughtful way.

And BECAUSE I have the above reaction, it pisses me off. Reading about rape shouldn't make me roll my eyes, or sniff inwardly at some hack's attempt to be "edgy" for the sake of being edgy. It should be meaningful. It should be horrific. It feels too much like the go-to device now for lazy writers. It's not just an overused trope. It's not just a cliche. It's something else. I don't know what.

I don't think rape should be off limits, but I'm kind of "over" it being used as a tool for gritty, dark, grim stories.

And if people are going to really jump on the "Well, this REALLY HAPPENED historically," then let's see more male rape, frack-wits. Or, do people really think that didn't happen in the past?

chickenma
05-09-2014, 03:15 AM
I'm shocked at the impression this thread gives that graphic rape in fiction has been normalized. I can't really see why any rape has to be depicted graphically, unless arousing dangerous prurient interest is a goal. If your character is suffering from ptsd, then little flashbacks can be enough, while the emphasis stays on the suffering or injustice.

kuwisdelu
05-09-2014, 03:20 AM
If you're a writer and you're worried about how the rape of a female character or two in your story may be received, does it ever make sense to "balance" it out by adding a male rape, instead of removing the rape altogether?

Does it change anything if it's contemporary rather than historical/fantasy?

Roxxsmom
05-09-2014, 04:21 AM
Interesting to see how different your interpretation is from mine because that’s obviously not what I got out of the comment.


Agree with you, Lillith1991, and Persei. I don’t think rape should be off-limits; I do think it should be handled with extreme care given the real life implications it has for many potential readers.

And this gets back to why one type of rape (of women) is shown or alluded to more often than another kind (rape of men) in fantasy.

On the one had, people who like dark, gritty fantasy argue that rape of women should be included sometimes because it's realistic and so darned disturbing.

Yet I get the feeling that male rape is avoided because, while it's very realistic, it's actually very, very disturbing to the authors. So maybe it's that we all find male rape too disturbing even for grimdark? I don't know how many female grimdark writers there are or how they differ from male writers in terms of rape scenes.

I do remember a fair amount of rape of women in romance back when I read it, and that was mostly written by and for women, so I don't know. I'm baffled. I stopped reading romance partially because I was tired of having female characters fall for men who had raped them. I actually find that more offensive that scenes where rape is tossed in to show the horror of war. At least there it's not being portrayed as something that could just be a misunderstanding. I've heard that this sort of thing is less common than it once was in genre romance, so I don't know--maybe fantasy will evolve too.

Though it seems to be more frequent in the subgenre of fantasy that's called grimdark, and not all fantasy these days is grimdark by any means. It's just that there have been a few really popular fantasy writers in the past decade or so who write it.

elinor
05-09-2014, 08:12 AM
There is a sort of "rape scene" 'ish that happens in a book I read once a long time ago, I think by Marion Zimmer Bradley but maybe someone else. I remember reading it, vividly, after all this time - and it never had the actual rape, it never got gory or salacious. It involved a noble woman being thrown in a dungeon of men, and her trying to control the situation by sort of gathering herself and getting on with it, laying down and pulling her dress up herself, and talking to these men who say nothing. Later some other characters mention her, and I believe you only find out that she was basically raped to death. But nothing else. We don't watch the slap slap of skin, or screams, or blood, or anything. I appreciate that, and the way I don't have to get an eye full and yet still to this day, decades later, I remember reading about it.

Also, Barbara Hambly wrote Grimdark Fantasy LONG before Mr. Martin. I stand by this. He did not suddenly create some sort of revolution in gritty historical realism. If anyone did that, it would have been Mrs. Hambly. Walls of Air, anyone? Army of Darkness? The Windrose books? Pretty dark, and grim, and messy, and beautiful.

Rhoda Nightingale
05-09-2014, 08:29 AM
Adding on the whole grimdark-building thing--I have an easier time (somewhat) accepting that rape exists as a thing in this fictional universe if you're establishing it as background noise. Like, if you need a grimdark world where rape is part of the evil, that's that. What you probably don't need are repeated instances of actual, on-page rape scenes once you've established it as a facet of the world, especially if doesn't have any bearing on the on-going plot or character development in the narrower scope of the story you're telling. Any more than you need repeated instances of actual, on-page beheadings, brutal treatment of slaves, mutilations, setting-of-things-or-people-on-fire, or any of the other events that populate grimdark fantasy worlds but don't seem to get nearly as much on-page attention as rape. Or as much outcry from their respective fanbases.

skylark
05-09-2014, 11:38 AM
Gratuitous anything is bad for a story imo -- rape, sex, violence, characters, dogs, curtains, description. Whatever.

Absolutely.

And a number of people who are saying that GoT's level of rape/sexual violence and treatment of it is gratuitous are people who are open that they have neither read nor watched it, and are basing their opinion of whether it is gratuitous on either hearsay or things like Wikipedia.

If they want to say that they dislike the entire genre, fair enough. If they want to say that they dislike a particular example based on personal experience, fair enough. So do I, for that matter - I felt Spartacus: Blood and Sand was gratuitous. But I'd watched it, not read a Wikipedia article about it.

Does GoT use female rape as a device to show grimness and honesty? Yes, it does. It also uses male sexual abuse (not sure if it goes quite as far as male rape), beheadings, multilations, setting people on fire and so on - most of which happens to men. How come it's only the female maltreatment (which no, isn't presented as sexy, though you can't possibly know that from Wikipedia) which is wrong at a fundamental level and gets castigated? Would it really be better if rape (just female, or both female and male?) was removed, or only alluded to, while keeping what to me are equivalently nasty things but which are only done to men? And, and to me this is the interesting question, is this true for the entire genre, or do people (who have read it and like the genre) think that GoT has got it wrong within the context of the genre?

I don't think it's true for the entire genre (certainly not if we're counting Barbara Hambly's fantasy, which I cheerfully gave to my ten year old), and I don't think GoT is one of the works which has got it wrong (though I wouldn't have given it to my ten year old). It's one of the more extreme works across the board of violence - sexual, non-sexual, male, female. It makes no sense to me to object to the level of only one tiny subset of the violent content.

Roxxsmom
05-09-2014, 12:41 PM
I've read the first three ASoIaF books and seen some of the TV episodes. I've also read Abercrombie's first three books.

I've enjoyed all of them, but I do have some reservations. I don't think either author is saying that rape is good or acceptable, and they certainly abuse their male characters too.

But it is interesting that we tend to see more torture and mutilation being visited on male characters in these kinds of stories (I'm basing these on GRRM and Abercrombie, because they're the one's I've read most fully), while we tend to see rape being threatened or actually imposed more on women.

I think that's interesting. I'll lay off Martin and point out that even in the Glokta torture scenes in the first three First Law books, which were very graphic about beating and mutilations of various kinds with male prisoners, only went so far with the beating and torture of female prisoners, I noticed. Almost as if that were too taboo, even for gritty realism, because it would have pushed the character beyond sympathy for many readers. But it was less objectionable for him to threaten rape of female prisoners/hostages in at least one instance.

So I think we have an interesting double standard. Rape is too horrible to depict (either from the point of view of the rapist or the victim) with male characters, and torture centered around disfigurement/mutilation is too horrible to depict with women from either point of view.

Even in so-called gritty, realistic fantasy.

Once!
05-09-2014, 12:52 PM
Skylark - we all have different comfort zones and different emotional responses. Some people are more upset by rapes than by beheadings, for example, and vice versa.

So when people object to something it's because that particular thing matters to them, whether it is part of the genre or the whole genre or a tiny subset.

I don't think you need to see the thing in question to have an opinion. I have never watched a video showing someone being beheaded, although I do know that they exist on the internet.

People will defend individual books, films or TV series that they happen to like. But that doesn't stop other people from having an opinion about some or all elements of those books, films or TV series.

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 12:54 PM
Personally rape, violence, mutulation etc. are something I think can be used effectivly across all gender variations. It's rape of a man being more taboo than a woman which I find disturbing. Or if you torture a woman by raping her because a womans beauty is too sacred to ruin by disfiguring her in a visible way.

As I said earlier. I don't like when it's used as short hand for a dark world, or has no consequences to the plot. Maybe the hero/heroine has a flash back, sees their attacker and freezes up for a second. Something that makes the action relevent to the plot. But such things to me should be relevant and not tacked on to make things darker and "realistic."

Way I see it, if you make it an actual real part of the story I'm not going to complain. But I will if I feel it's just been tacked on. Many times it feels tacked on, whether its original fiction or fanfiction. And that's solely because of how it has been handeled by the writer.

I have maybe three fanfiction authors in all the fandoms I read who I feel handle rape apropriately. For original work, I'm still looking for authors I feel can be trusted to handle it with the gravity and respect it deserves.

Persei
05-09-2014, 01:26 PM
I don't think rape of male characters is not often depicted on fiction because is too dark. If you look around in society, what you see is that male victims of rape are shunned and ignored. In some places, women can't even rape men from the point of view of the law, which erases quite a few male rape victims. Boys victims of statutory rape, whose definition by law is genderless, can be held accountable of child suport if their female rapist gets pregnant.

In my humble opinion, people don't include male rape in fiction because they don't acknowledge it happens. Especially not if the rapist is a woman. Rape is almost always marketed as a gendered crime, done by men to women, or in a wild exception, by men to men. Even in surveys with non-sexist definitions of rape can have their numbers distorted by this misconception, like this one. (http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

And back on topic, often in medieval fantasy fiction you'll see gendered violence because people rarely depict women in the position where they could get beheaded or hurt by any weapon. Men are supposed to fight and women are supposed to stay in the kitchen. With rape being regarded as a gendered crime, and men being the only ones in the position to get hurt by other means, it's no wonder we see the difference between violence that is inflicted to men and violence that is inflicted to women.

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 02:08 PM
I don't think rape of male characters is not often depicted on fiction because is too dark. If you look around in society, what you see is that male victims of rape are shunned and ignored. In some places, women can't even rape men from the point of view of the law, which erases quite a few male rape victims. Boys victims of statutory rape, whose definition by law is genderless, can be held accountable of child suport if their female rapist gets pregnant.

In my humble opinion, people don't include male rape in fiction because they don't acknowledge it happens. Especially not if the rapist is a woman. Rape is almost always marketed as a gendered crime, done by men to women, or in a wild exception, by men to men. Even in surveys with non-sexist definitions of rape can have their numbers distorted by this misconception, like this one. (http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf)

And back on topic, often in medieval fantasy fiction you'll see gendered violence because people rarely depict women in the position where they could get beheaded or hurt by any weapon. Men are supposed to fight and women are supposed to stay in the kitchen. With rape being regarded as a gendered crime, and men being the only ones in the position to get hurt by other means, it's no wonder we see the difference between violence that is inflicted to men and violence that is inflicted to women.

I agree with you 100%! It's taboo because it isn't acknowledged by our society, and that is a shame. The only fanfiction author I've seen do male rape right in my books, not only has both a male and feamle main character in one of my favorite stories by her who have a history of sexual assault. The male suffers as a consequence of what he endured. She does pair the two characters together romanticly, but it takes a long time for them to get there because of the trauma they each suffered.

The woman actually effectivly walks in on the male being raped by another man, and she kills the man doing the raping. And she does this while injured, instead of being portrayed as a weakling because she's an injured woman. The rape scene isn't described in loving detail or fetishized in any way. It's not long, and gets across the feeling of horror such things should. She treated the subject with more respect than I've seen a lot of original writers do.

As one of the 1 in 4 statistic, I'm relieved when a writer pays any form of rape the proper respect. So when I see people who don't appear to be paying rape the respect it deserves, I get the urge to smack the person.

angeliz2k
05-09-2014, 04:42 PM
I'm perfectly alright with lots of rape and violence being part of the Game of Thrones world, and other grim-dark worlds. That's what it is, and you can go elsewhere if you don't like it. (The effectiveness of all this violence as a tool is an interesting discussion in itself, as this thread proves.)

But to defend it as "realistic" is, in my opinion, simply wrong. Life isn't always grim and dark and filled with violence. (Not even medieval life was.) I consider that to be an unfortunate (and misguided) view of the world. I actually like watching Game of Thrones (I've seen all the episodes), but I don't agree with the view of the world it posits. That's my issue with it. If you're going to be "realistic", you have to take the good with the bad.

ETA: "You can go elsewhere" doesn't convey quite what I mean. So I'll rephrase as, "then the grim-dark genre isn't for you".

Toothpaste
05-09-2014, 06:16 PM
So I think we have an interesting double standard. Rape is too horrible to depict (either from the point of view of the rapist or the victim) with male characters, and torture centered around disfigurement/mutilation is too horrible to depict with women from either point of view.

.

Kind of icky thought you inspired in me: do you think, aside from all of the other reasons folks have listed here, that we see more rape less mutilation of women because especially male authors want to still keep their female characters attractive and sexy? I already think a lot of rape in books verges into rape fantasy (especially when the rape is described from the outside and not from the traumatic point of view of the victim), but I wonder if rape is also a handy trauma that still leaves the outside of the victim attractive (I realise in real life this isn't always the case at all). Men who are mutilated can often look cool after, replace a hand with a gold one, wear a patch over one eye, that scar - awesome! Which means mutilation can still keep the hero heroic. But it isn't the same for women.

I dunno, it's just a thought. A deeply unpleasant thought.

J.W. Alden
05-09-2014, 06:45 PM
I agree with most of what's been said here, but I do think it's important to acknowledge (as some have) the difference between the Song of Ice & Fire books and the Game of Thrones television series based on them.

While Martin has made it clear that sexual violence is often a threat for the people living in his world, especially during times of war, there's far more explicit portrayal of it in the show than in the books. The writers and directors of the TV series seem to have taken a "turn it up to 11" approach, as the sex, graphic violence, and torture are all way more explicit than in the books. To the extent that more than one scene of consensual sex in the books were actually changed to rape scenes in the respective television episode. This is unfortunate, to say the least.

To use an example from a scene someone mentioned earlier in the thread, the entire dynamic of the Daenarys/Khal Drogo relationship was changed in the show, in my opinion. In the books, there is a deliberate focus on Drogo's crossing of the language barrier between he and Daenarys, specifically so that he can obtain her consent on their wedding night. This is an important moment for his character. It shows that he is not just a brutal horse lord bent on dominating everything in his path. He waits for Dany to say, "Yes." In the show, he forces her down like she's his property. The love that grows between them comes off almost like stockholm syndrome in that version.

It might also be worth mentioning that there are male victims of sexual assault in both the books and the television series. Women do seem to be the majority, but in my opinion Martin makes it pretty clear that the threat exists for both sexes in his world. To be clear, I'm not defending his depiction of sexual violence, I just see some assumptions by people who say they haven't read the books, and it's always best to know for sure what we're discussing.

But as I said above, I agree with most of the sentiment in this thread, especially when it comes to the wider genre. Rape and sexual violence are too often used as shorthand for "look how sucky this place is" or "look how bad these guys are" (see one of the more recent episodes of Game of Thrones for the latter, especially). I'm not easily disturbed by the things I read or watch. I like grimdark. But it does get fatiguing to see sexual assault used as the go-to grim again and again.

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 10:40 PM
I agree with most of what's been said here, but I do think it's important to acknowledge (as some have) the difference between the Song of Ice & Fire books and the Game of Thrones television series based on them.

While Martin has made it clear that sexual violence is often a threat for the people living in his world, especially during times of war, there's far more explicit portrayal of it in the show than in the books. The writers and directors of the TV series seem to have taken a "turn it up to 11" approach, as the sex, graphic violence, and torture are all way more explicit than in the books. To the extent that more than one scene of consensual sex in the books were actually changed to rape scenes in the respective television episode. This is unfortunate, to say the least.

See, the way you described the differences between the two are something that I find helpful. I'm going to have to read the books or at least one of them. You make a very good case for the books, and I do enjoy dark stories. I write horror after all, so dark does fall in line with my taste.

I'm not a fan of how violence sexual or other wise doesn't get the respect it deserves in general though in many books. Because to me it should get the proper respect. Any of the the tools a writer can use should.

Lillith1991
05-09-2014, 10:49 PM
Kind of icky thought you inspired in me: do you think, aside from all of the other reasons folks have listed here, that we see more rape less mutilation of women because especially male authors want to still keep their female characters attractive and sexy? I already think a lot of rape in books verges into rape fantasy (especially when the rape is described from the outside and not from the traumatic point of view of the victim), but I wonder if rape is also a handy trauma that still leaves the outside of the victim attractive (I realise in real life this isn't always the case at all). Men who are mutilated can often look cool after, replace a hand with a gold one, wear a patch over one eye, that scar - awesome! Which means mutilation can still keep the hero heroic. But it isn't the same for women.

I dunno, it's just a thought. A deeply unpleasant thought.

I think that's exactly what's happening, though much of it is subconsious on the part of writers. I think society teaches us to value a womans beauty above her mind, or mental health. Which makes injuring a woman's mind preferable to injuring a woman's beauty. This leads to writing about women who have visible scars not able to be ignored being kind of taboo.

Dreity
05-09-2014, 11:27 PM
I think it's the same way of thinking that spawns some uncomfortable tropes related to scars. Like Toothpaste said, they make a man look more bad-ass, sometimes the more the better, but if a woman was that scarred she'd be mocked instead of respected.

Most of the time I've encountered it, the woman is flawless in every other way, except for a single scar that she can easily cover up. (Added bonus: the LI can gently touch it and say something endearing when he undresses her later). If the scar is on her face, it often accentuates her beauty rather than detracts from it. Lips are still full, complexion is still evenly toned, etc, but even if that's not the case, her breasts and thighs are still rockin'.

We like protecting beautiful women. A disfigured woman is a thing to be pitied, not a person to be truly loved.

And now I'm being overly cynical. (I hope?)

Roxxsmom
05-10-2014, 12:22 AM
Kind of icky thought you inspired in me: do you think, aside from all of the other reasons folks have listed here, that we see more rape less mutilation of women because especially male authors want to still keep their female characters attractive and sexy? I already think a lot of rape in books verges into rape fantasy (especially when the rape is described from the outside and not from the traumatic point of view of the victim), but I wonder if rape is also a handy trauma that still leaves the outside of the victim attractive (I realise in real life this isn't always the case at all). Men who are mutilated can often look cool after, replace a hand with a gold one, wear a patch over one eye, that scar - awesome! Which means mutilation can still keep the hero heroic. But it isn't the same for women.

I dunno, it's just a thought. A deeply unpleasant thought.

I was wondering about this too, though in the case of Abercrombie's books, Glokta wasn't portrayed as remotely sexy, and he was mocked and derided for being a "cripple." And Ferro certainly had plenty of scars, both internal and external (but we never saw her being tortured or raped, to be fair--it was in her backstory).

But the point is valid at some level. Men can be unattractive, even deformed, and still be interesting characters, because male characters have so many roles they can fill in novels. Romantic/sexy hero is only one. Female characters are often there to be "pretty" first and foremost.

And both male and female readers can have trouble liking or relating to an "ugly" woman as wish-fulfillment characters.

And in the reverse situation--a man who has been raped will be harder to redeem as a character, because one thing a male character is judged harshly for is being "girlish." A man who has post traumatic stress flashbacks because of his battle experiences, or even from being tortured/mutilated, might be interesting and sympathetic. But if he does because he'd been forced, however briefly, into the role of a "girl," well, that's unmanly.

Though Theon in ASoIaF was never a terribly sympathetic character, and he becomes more pathetic than relatable as a result of his traumas. And of course Caitlyn goes through some very, um, interesting chances that are not remotely sexy. But they are only a couple out of a stable of characters. I have trouble imagining that Martin is going to mutilate Danerys, though the man may surprise us all.

I keep hearing about rape fantasies on the part of woman, and this leaves me scratching my head, though. I don't know any women who want to be raped. Indeed, the fear of rape is one of the things that keeps women in a subordinate position in many cultures, including our own. Many women are afraid to go out by themselves at night or to live alone, or to venture into certain environments because they're terrified of being raped. The fear of rape was one justification people used to give for limiting the role of women in combat zones in the military, and it is the reason many parents are stricter with their daughters than their sons. I delivered pizza in college (I lived in a pretty safe college town), and so did some of my female friends, but a common question I got was, "Aren't you afraid of being assaulted?"

It was a risk I was aware of, certainly, and I always was hyper vigilant when doing this job. I did have one experience in a frat house where one of the guys was peeing out the window of his room when I delivered the pizza, and my boss said that none of us should deliver to people's rooms in frat houses or dorms anymore.

Bit of an aside, but being raped is never something I've fantasized about in my life.

virtue_summer
05-10-2014, 01:24 AM
I keep hearing about rape fantasies on the part of woman, and this leaves me scratching my head, though. I don't know any women who want to be raped. Indeed, the fear of rape is one of the things that keeps women in a subordinate position in many cultures, including our own.
Rape fantasy does not equal wanting to be raped.

Atalanta
05-10-2014, 01:24 AM
In the books, there is a deliberate focus on Drogo's crossing of the language barrier between he and Daenarys, specifically so that he can obtain her consent on their wedding night.

In the modern world, that girl is too young to give consent. That makes it rape. I found it disgusting and prurient. Added to the earlier throw-away scene where it's mentioned that some poor guy has been falsely accused of rape by some evil female (sorry, I don't remember the details, it's been some years), I decided not to read the rest of the series.

The thing that writers need to remember is that, regardless of the time period they've based their world on, they're still writing for readers in this time and this world. When you depict an act of class-based violence -- against a woman or girl, against a person of color, against a lesbian or a gay man -- you're saying something out of context, whether you mean to or not. Don't like it? Too bad. Grow up. There are no disinterested readers. We all come out of a culture that has a history of violence, sometimes it's personal, sometimes it's historical, but either way, fictional violence has a greater meaning than "my made-up world is dark and gritty."

I'm targeting Martin because that's what the topic is about. But I've seen it elsewhere -- including from Elizabeth A. Lynn, which disappointed the hell out of me. I don't need trigger warnings on my books, but I'd really like to see writers treat class-based violence with the gravity it deserves -- which is also a way of treating their readers with respect.

/rant ;)

Roxxsmom
05-10-2014, 01:26 AM
Rape fantasy does not equal wanting to be raped.

Hmm, it sounds like it. We fantasize about things we think we'd like at some level, no, even if we establish parameters for the fantasy that we know could never be in real life?

Anyway, I don't think the rapes as they're typically portrayed in "grimdark" fantasy are at all like the rapes one used to see in genre romances (where it was "just" a misunderstanding or something, and the man was someone who would have been attractive to the woman under other circumstances).

Atalanta
05-10-2014, 01:44 AM
Hmm, it sounds like it. We fantasize about things we think we'd like at some level, no, even if we establish parameters for the fantasy that we know could never be in real life?

Rape fantasy is about sexual power-exchange. Nobody wants to have their sense of self destroyed -- there's nothing sexy about that. But the fantasy of being overpowered can be heady. In the case of rape, control lies with the rapist; in the case of sexual fantasy, true power lies with the one submitting.

Of course, I'm mostly just talking out of my you-know-what. :D

I wrote an erotic novel a few years ago with a protagonist who had been brutally raped more than a decade previously, an event that defined her for the rest of her life. She used sexual power-exchange (though not rape fantasies) as a way to re-inhabit her own sexual desires. As a side-note, she was also disfigured -- she had a broken nose that never healed straight.

kuwisdelu
05-10-2014, 01:47 AM
Hmm, it sounds like it. We fantasize about things we think we'd like at some level, no, even if we establish parameters for the fantasy that we know could never be in real life?

No, fantasizing about something does not mean we'd necessarily like to experience that thing in real life.

kuwisdelu
05-10-2014, 01:51 AM
In the modern world, that girl is too young to give consent. That makes it rape.

Different time, different place, different people, different culture.

There are countries in the modern world where she'd be old enough to consent, too.

CrastersBabies
05-10-2014, 03:55 AM
ASOIAF (GRRM's work) doesn't have a whole lot of rape in-scene. Let's be careful not to say that the television show and the books are the same thing here. They're not. (The show being more willing to show more graphic versions and to alter book scenes to play with that consent/non-consent trope.)

And I don't consider Martin's world grimdark (nor Abercrombie to be perfectly honest). Read Prince of Thorns and get back with me on what grimdark is. Martin's world is gritty, yes, but It's nowhere near the "grim" end of the dark spectrum, in my opinion. *Others will have different opinions. I do think the television show is darker.

Abercrombie has already come out publicly and stated that his rape scene in the First Law trilogy was "ham-fisted." So, I give him a little leeway there. He seems open and willing to learn from he considers a misstep.

And I don't advocate for seeing male rape. I'm just stating that if people are really going to put on the "magical historian hat" and claim that "this omg, really happened back then," then they better be willing to discuss all of those OTHER things that happened that we don't see on the page (or screen) quite as often. If at all.

jeffo20
05-10-2014, 04:04 AM
This has been a fascinating and, thankfully, civil discussion of a very difficult topic. I've been keeping up with it with great interest.

I wanted to touch on something that does keep coming up, and that's with regards to the threat of sexual assault on men. I believe the stat I've heard thrown around is 1 in 7 or 8 for men, though it's obviously higher in certain places, like prison. I know when I hear those stats, I'm always surprised it's as high as it is, and that's because, as a man in America, it's not something you hear about in general, except when you're talking about prison. I can't remember the last time I saw a story in the news about a grown man who was raped, either by man or woman.

I have heard the unfortunate stories of the rapes in Somalia and Uganda (interestingly, I remember hearing about rape camps in the former Yugoslavia, but I don't remember hearing that men were systematically raped there as well), but I think you don't hear about American soldiers raping Iraqi or al-Qaeda POWs (if any actual rapes took place at Abu Ghraib, we certainly never heard about it in the western press, or at least, I didn't). Certainly, much of what was inflicted on the prisoners at Abu Ghraib was sexual assault, even if it didn't involve actual rape. Interestingly, it wasn't portrayed as sexual in nature in the papers. Likewise, I don't remember reading any stories about American soldiers being raped on POW camps in Germany or Japan in WWII, or their soldiers being similarly treated here. Active cover up? Something no one wanted to admit to? Something people just didn't do at that time? I don't know. It would be interesting to find out.

There's no doubt a lot of cultural/societal stuff involved in this as well. When people wonder why we don't see more male rapes in literature in the name of 'realism', I don't know that I'd say it's because the male authors are so uncomfortable with it, or have any particular ulterior motive. I'd say it's more likely because we just don't think it happens as much as it does. I want to highlight something Roxx said:


I Indeed, the fear of rape is one of the things that keeps women in a subordinate position in many cultures, including our own. Many women are afraid to go out by themselves at night or to live alone, or to venture into certain environments because they're terrified of being raped.

I can honestly say that, except for a brief fear as a kid that I was going to get snatched off the streets by some child molester (I'd blame a stranger danger type of program we had in elementary school for that fear), I have never, in my 40+ years on this earth been afraid that I would get raped. I've been in some pretty dicey neighborhoods with high crime and drug instances and once had a bottle broken upside my head for being the wrong race in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I did sometimes worry about getting mugged or beaten up just because, but the possibility of rape never once entered my mind. Had there been far more frequent reporting of men getting raped, I might view it as an ever-present threat. In truth, I don't, and I'm glad for that, and very sorry that women still have to worry so much about it.

MDSchafer
05-10-2014, 06:03 AM
Also. Does Bran become a tree in the books? Because if he does I'm totally giving up on them.

CrastersBabies
05-10-2014, 06:34 AM
I worry about rape. It's omnipresent. I'm not ducking behind garbage bins or army-crawling across my lawn to get to my front door step safely, but it's there. I see a man coming my way on the sidewalk--no matter what time of day, no matter the man's race, no matter how he's dressed--and there is this kneejerk thing that happens inside me. It's fleeting. Sometimes it's a 1/100th of a second. Sometimes a little more. Sometimes less. It's there. I have absolutely no control over it whatsoever.

I may be thinking about how badass I am overtly (I used to box and kickbox, FFS), but that fear is there. Like a seed. Have you ever read Princess and the Pea? The princess is put on top of all these mattresses and in order to test whether or not she's a real princess, they put a pea beneath the bottom mattress. And she feels it and can't sleep and tosses and turns.

But I'm not a princess. I'm a woman. And that's what it's like.

And it takes a lot for me to admit that. I'm a strong woman. I would gouge a man's eyes out if he attacked me. I would go down fighting and would try to take the S.O.B. with me. I'm as tough as they come.

Do you know what happens when I admit the above? I get women rolling their eyes or posting scathing remarks about how THEY never felt such a thing. Ever. Good grief, how silly and childish. They're perfectly okay.

But I usually get one or two who say, "You know what? I feel the same way." And it's that one or two voice that makes me feel less insecure about my own insecurities. It's not something you want to shout from the rooftops.

This is my gender and what I live with as a woman. And it's often downplayed which is wholly disheartening because I feel that if I want my gender to move ahead, we have to see that type of cultural oppression and look it right in the eye. And it's so ugly.

Maybe that's why I'm just weary of the topic being treated so flippantly in stories. There are stories where it's handled thoughtfully, realistically. I think it needs a delicate touch, though, regardless of what you are trying to convey: a culture, war, gender oppression, a man/woman's dark journey through trauma and pain.

So, whenever someone comes along and starts to show off their historical-expert badge, I honestly just want to punch that person in the face. I think we get it. Yes, it happened. But it's not just fodder for inept character-building. The consequences are real. They are long-term.

Murder is the same in regard to how we portray this in our writing. Torture. Other atrocities on the page. Absolutely. And we call the writer out when these devices are used carelessly. I just don't see armchair history gurus as up in arms about that sort of thing. But they sure have a lot to say when justifying rape. Quite a bit. And maybe women simply are more sensitive to that. (Not sensitive in an emotional way, but more alert.)

Anyway, just thinking aloud. Agree or not, I've got a lot of respect for those who have posted on this eloquently. Thank you.

UndergoingMitosis
05-10-2014, 06:35 AM
I agree with most of what's been said here, but I do think it's important to acknowledge (as some have) the difference between the Song of Ice & Fire books and the Game of Thrones television series based on them.

While Martin has made it clear that sexual violence is often a threat for the people living in his world, especially during times of war, there's far more explicit portrayal of it in the show than in the books. The writers and directors of the TV series seem to have taken a "turn it up to 11" approach, as the sex, graphic violence, and torture are all way more explicit than in the books. To the extent that more than one scene of consensual sex in the books were actually changed to rape scenes in the respective television episode. This is unfortunate, to say the least.

To use an example from a scene someone mentioned earlier in the thread, the entire dynamic of the Daenarys/Khal Drogo relationship was changed in the show, in my opinion. In the books, there is a deliberate focus on Drogo's crossing of the language barrier between he and Daenarys, specifically so that he can obtain her consent on their wedding night. This is an important moment for his character. It shows that he is not just a brutal horse lord bent on dominating everything in his path. He waits for Dany to say, "Yes." In the show, he forces her down like she's his property. The love that grows between them comes off almost like stockholm syndrome in that version.

It might also be worth mentioning that there are male victims of sexual assault in both the books and the television series. Women do seem to be the majority, but in my opinion Martin makes it pretty clear that the threat exists for both sexes in his world. To be clear, I'm not defending his depiction of sexual violence, I just see some assumptions by people who say they haven't read the books, and it's always best to know for sure what we're discussing.

But as I said above, I agree with most of the sentiment in this thread, especially when it comes to the wider genre. Rape and sexual violence are too often used as shorthand for "look how sucky this place is" or "look how bad these guys are" (see one of the more recent episodes of Game of Thrones for the latter, especially). I'm not easily disturbed by the things I read or watch. I like grimdark. But it does get fatiguing to see sexual assault used as the go-to grim again and again.

I was going to type up a pretty long response, but it was going to be pretty much this. Well, not exactly the Dany bit, but I think that's a different discussion for a different time.

For the record, I can think of six named, major-to-major-ish living male characters in the books who have been victims of sexual violence: Varys, via forced castration and prostitution as a young boy; Littlefinger, by Lysa Tully when he was either too injured or too drugged up to consent; Theon, via forced castration and probable rape by Ramsay Bolton; The Damphair, via (implied) childhood sexual assualt at the hands of his brother Euron; Edmure Tully, who lives through the Red Wedding only to get locked in a room and repeatedly raped so his new wife can bear the heir to Riverrun; and Grey Worm, who underwent forced castration as an enslaved soldier. It's definitely not talked about in the books the same way that the rape of women is talked about, but, as people have pointed out in this thread, that's true of the real world as well as Westeros.

ETA: I guess my point is, for better or for worse, IDK if it's really fair to knock the realism of ASOIAF for it's lack of male rape victims--or to say their portrayal is so far from the truth.

Roxxsmom
05-10-2014, 07:16 AM
No, fantasizing about something does not mean we'd necessarily like to experience that thing in real life.

Maybe not, but again, I don't think the rapes that are portrayed in "gritty" fantasy are usually written in the same style as what you might see in erotica or romances that contain those kinds of fantasies.



And I don't consider Martin's world grimdark (nor Abercrombie to be perfectly honest). Read Prince of Thorns and get back with me on what grimdark is. Martin's world is gritty, yes, but It's nowhere near the "grim" end of the dark spectrum, in my opinion. *Others will have different opinions. I do think the television show is darker.



I've given up on thinking what grimdark really is in a fantasy context, aside from its origins in the Warhammer 40,000 game. I've seen it described as a post apocalyptic world life expectancies are short and protagonists act like antagonists. While there is certainly an element of the last two in GRRM's stuff, and Abercrombie's too, I wouldn't call either world post apocalyptic (there seem to be cities and civilizations, rather than burnt-out buildings populated by mutant survivors of some past catastrophe, like in "A Boy and His Dog.") But I've seen GRRM referred to as the father of grimdark fantasy, and Abercrombie calls himself lord grimdark or something like that on twitter.

Gritty fantasy might be a better name.


I can honestly say that, except for a brief fear as a kid that I was going to get snatched off the streets by some child molester (I'd blame a stranger danger type of program we had in elementary school for that fear), I have never, in my 40+ years on this earth been afraid that I would get raped. I have not had the level of fear over this that many of my friends have over the years, though there are places I'm not comfortable going and situations I don't want to put myself in. I remember feeling really creeped out once at night when I had to go into work on campus late at night in order to get some samples out of the centrifuge, and there was this strange guy just hanging out in the courtyard between the buildings by the parking lot (otherwise deserted at that hour). He started following me as I walked back to my car and watched me as I drove away.

Of course, it's possible he was waiting for someone to pick him up (it was a large medical school and I didn't know everyone who worked there by a long shot), and he thought he was just keeping an eye out to make sure I got to my car safely. Still, it gave me a creepy vibe and got my pulse going.

I do things like making sure I always have my keys out when I go to my car at night, and I do things like lock my doors as soon as I get in my car. But I'm not terrified by being out at night or anything. I even used to drive cross country by myself when I was in college and grad school, often at night.

But I know a lot of women who wouldn't do that sort of thing. I've been lucky in my life in that I grew up somewhere pretty safe (where most people felt comfortable being out, even at night), and I've never been assaulted. I suspect growing up someplace less safe, or being assaulted (or having a very near miss) might make a person more anxious.

I don't think there's any right or wrong way to feel about these things, as personal experience and upbringing are going to differ between women.

But while I'm not afraid of being assaulted in the way some women are, I'm still aware that it's a possibility.

Marian Perera
05-10-2014, 07:53 AM
If the scar is on her face, it often accentuates her beauty rather than detracts from it.

I have a romance coming out next year where the heroine has a third-degree burn covering one side of her face - and when it comes time to discuss cover art, I'm going to specify, "Like the Hound."

And the scar itself doesn't makes her look prettier; in fact, one male character thinks her body is wasted with a face like that.

kuwisdelu
05-10-2014, 08:20 AM
Maybe not, but again, I don't think the rapes that are portrayed in "gritty" fantasy are usually written in the same style as what you might see in erotica or romances that contain those kinds of fantasies.

Dear god, of course not. Did anyone imply otherwise?

J.W. Alden
05-10-2014, 08:42 AM
The thing that writers need to remember is that, regardless of the time period they've based their world on, they're still writing for readers in this time and this world. When you depict an act of class-based violence -- against a woman or girl, against a person of color, against a lesbian or a gay man -- you're saying something out of context, whether you mean to or not. Don't like it? Too bad. Grow up.

I think tackling subject matter of this kind is far more nuanced than you make it out to be. I'd gamble that most readers in this time and this world understand the differences in context when reading a work that takes place in a different time, place, or culture.

While I'd agree that it's possible or even easy to say something out of context, especially when it comes to specific issues of morality like age of consent, I'd have to disagree with your statement that this is always the case. In my opinion, the author's job is to provide said context, preferably in a way that will help deliver the message they intend to convey. This might even be more than one context, to illustrate differences or parallels. It's not always an easy thing, and it obviously grows more difficult with the sensitivity of the subject (as does thy variable mileage). I don't think it's a good idea to assume that because a writer has put forth something morally questionable by our standards that it means they've forgotten the context they're working with. Martin has made it clear that there are some scenes and aspects of his world that he intends to be disturbing to the reader.

Whether or not Martin failed in building a proper context is another discussion altogether, as is the specific morality issue in that scene. If it's not your cup of tea, then by all means it's your prerogative to slam that sucker shut and never open it up again. When it comes to Martin's world, I imagine you weren't the first and won't be the last, and I imagine Martin knew that would be the case when he wrote it.


I can think of six named, major-to-major-ish living male characters in the books who have been victims of sexual violence:

The first that jumped to my mind was the semi-onscreen, mutually non-consensual sexual encounter between Theon and Jeyne Poole. That one was rough. [spoiler whited out]

Roxxsmom
05-10-2014, 09:17 AM
Dear god, of course not. Did anyone imply otherwise?

I don't think anyone did, but there were some references to rape fantasies as being part of the reason rape of women was such a common trope compared to men (maybe I misread what people were trying to say) when both were equally realistic. That might explain what we see sometimes in romance, but yeah, not in stories that are dealing with rape in warfare.

I'm curious, though, are rape fantasies primarily a female thing? I'm still having trouble understanding how they put the victim in control, except in the sense of allowing someone to work out a terrifying scenario in a mental context that isn't actually dangerous.

kuwisdelu
05-10-2014, 09:47 AM
I'm curious, though, are rape fantasies primarily a female thing?

Primarily? Maybe; I have no idea. Exclusively? No, they are not.


I'm still having trouble understanding how they put the victim in control, except in the sense of allowing someone to work out a terrifying scenario in a mental context that isn't actually dangerous.

Frankly, I don't get it either. What's attractive is the loss of control.

There is an element of truth in the submissive having the true power in real-life power exchange, yes, but I think the real-life incarnation is a bit different from the pure fantasy.

There are an inherent differences between fantasy and how we act it out.

cornflake
05-10-2014, 11:54 AM
In the modern world, that girl is too young to give consent. That makes it rape. I found it disgusting and prurient. Added to the earlier throw-away scene where it's mentioned that some poor guy has been falsely accused of rape by some evil female (sorry, I don't remember the details, it's been some years), I decided not to read the rest of the series.

The thing that writers need to remember is that, regardless of the time period they've based their world on, they're still writing for readers in this time and this world. When you depict an act of class-based violence -- against a woman or girl, against a person of color, against a lesbian or a gay man -- you're saying something out of context, whether you mean to or not. Don't like it? Too bad. Grow up. There are no disinterested readers. We all come out of a culture that has a history of violence, sometimes it's personal, sometimes it's historical, but either way, fictional violence has a greater meaning than "my made-up world is dark and gritty."

I'm targeting Martin because that's what the topic is about. But I've seen it elsewhere -- including from Elizabeth A. Lynn, which disappointed the hell out of me. I don't need trigger warnings on my books, but I'd really like to see writers treat class-based violence with the gravity it deserves -- which is also a way of treating their readers with respect.

/rant ;)

I don't quite get what you're suggesting.

She's not in this time period, thus the laws of this time period are immaterial.

I mean by that standard - that she'd be too young to consent in the modern U.S., though they're not in the modern U.S., thus the book shouldn't do that? - Romeo and Juliet is prurient and disgusting. By that standard, the Bible is prurient and disgusting.

Even if something is set in the current world, I don't think it's somehow disrespectful to write about sexual things everyone wouldn't find appealing, or violence or whatever. If someone isn't interested in reading those things, that's obviously fine, but it doesn't make it wrong in some way for writers to keep writing them or others to read them.

Roxxsmom
05-10-2014, 01:25 PM
You make a good point, though of course, Westernos isn't a historic time or place either, and the author could have whatever marriage customs he wanted. The marriage was supposed to be frightening to the character because of both her age and because of the situation. Her brother was not exactly portrayed as a good guy, even in the context of the world they lived in, for treating his sister like a cow either.

However, I don't think it would have harmed the story to make Danys 16-17 instead of what, 13-14? That's still young and underage by our standards, but at least most girls are reasonably mature physically by then. Girls were often married off really young, particularly in royal families, but girls also didn't always reach menarche as young in pre-industrial societies as they do in ours.

He had a lot he could have played with there. I'm guessing he wanted it to be shocking. To be fair, he made her a strong character who rose to the occasion and triumphed over it (and her brother in a scene that is often gets forgotten but is also really very disturbing).

And they aged her (and all the kid characters) up for the TV show too. I think they realized that having girls who looked 13-14 being married off to men who were clearly adults would squick people out more than reading about it? Or maybe it's just easier to work with actors who aren't as young.

shahrazad
05-10-2014, 01:30 PM
Different time, different place, different people, different culture.

There are countries in the modern world where she'd be old enough to consent, too.
I'm not a fan of that argument. There are cultures where it's perfectly fine for a 40something man to have intercourse with his nine year old child bride. If I read about a minor--as in anyone who is barely through puberty--with a grown person, I will always read it as rape.

bearilou
05-10-2014, 03:42 PM
It's definitely not talked about in the books the same way that the rape of women is talked about, but, as people have pointed out in this thread, that's true of the real world as well as Westeros.

bold emphasis is mine because,


ETA: I guess my point is, for better or for worse, IDK if it's really fair to knock the realism of ASOIAF for it's lack of male rape victims--or to say their portrayal is so far from the truth.

As the rape is not treated the same, portrayed in the same light, I'd venture, yeah, it's fair to knock the 'realism'. As you pointed out, sure it's 'touched on' but it's not treated in the same manner. And why not? If rape is viewed as being horrific then why is the subject treated differently (i. e. not in the same way) when the genders change?

Which was my point a few pages back. When a writer wants to flap their arms and say realism and then hide behind the fact that 'male writers don't want to write male on male rape and their male straight readers don't want to read it', any time rape is touched on it's written with that mindset.

Either realism is warranted or it's not and a writer, again hiding behind the label of realism when depicting rape, writes a female rape with their eye on their male straight readers and their 'comfort levels', but then shies away from writing any male on male rape version because it's icky-ew-ew and they don't want to make their male readers uncomfortable?

That's been stated twice once* that I recall in this thread and quite frankly, I find it a bit mind boggling.


Maybe not, but again, I don't think the rapes that are portrayed in "gritty" fantasy are usually written in the same style as what you might see in erotica or romances that contain those kinds of fantasies.

Which is why I objected to its earlier inclusion into the discussion. They're not the same and dragging that in as justification to writing rape scenes and explained as the inclusion of realism but only as far as a female being raped because the male heterosexual audience doesn't like male being raped so it's not included, shows an excuse that I'm having more than a little difficulty getting sorted. Especially when it comes to the tossing around 'but it's realistic!'.


*twice but in going back to find the second reference, it's no longer in the comment I was thinking of. as it is no longer there, I can't count it.

Marian Perera
05-10-2014, 04:23 PM
I'm still having trouble understanding how they put the victim in control, except in the sense of allowing someone to work out a terrifying scenario in a mental context that isn't actually dangerous.

I was once in a situation where sexual assault seemed likely. I also have fantasies of being overpowered. The two are so different there's just no comparing them.

In the fantasy, I'm in charge. Even if the fantasy is one where I'm forced to submit, I get to decide where it starts, where it stops, how it happens, what I say, what he says, what they do. It's not a terrifying scenario at all, because it's nowhere close to reality.

Maybe ten years ago, on another discussion board, I made the mistake of starting a thread to ask if anyone else had these kinds of fantasies. I guess I wanted to be sure I was normal. Most people were either understanding or shared that they or their SOs indulged in these, but one poster went off the deep end and said I was encouraging rape because I fantasized about it. No amount of explanation got through to him and finally the mods removed him and his posts to a separate thread where he could rant against me and all rapists.

The end result was that I decided not to mention my personal experiences with these fantasies again - unless I came across a "do women who have rape fantasies really want to be raped" question.

Mr Flibble
05-10-2014, 05:18 PM
However, I don't think it would have harmed the story to make Danys 16-17 instead of what, 13-14? That's still young and underage by our standards,

By yours (or rather the Us's?) perhaps. Age of consent here is 16, so no worries. It's 13 in Spain ( and a couple of other European countries IIRC, In Spain it was 12 until quite recently)

Martin has repeatedly said that the works are based on the Wars of the Roses. At which point the age of consent was 12 (it wasn't raised to 13 until the 1800s, and only became 16 at the tail end of that century, so that's fairly recent as these things go)

So, for me, no 13 isn't shockingly young given the context - especially as I recall it wasn't shockingly young in the world Martin has built.

If anyone doesn't like it, then that's surely up to them. Everyone has their own squick level. But that's one thing you can't say he isn't being realistic about. Girls got married, and consummated those marriages, at a younger age than Dany in the time it was based on (and in the world Martin has built). So I don't find her marriage shocking in the slightest, or statutory rape etc* (esp since Drogo waited for her to say yes. Given Drogo was nicer to her in one day than her brother had been to her her whole life, then it wasn't a surprise when she agreed)


*I'm talking in the books here, not the telly series. In the books she gave consent and was of an age where that consent was legal. That didn't present me with any moral problems tbh

J.W. Alden
05-10-2014, 05:41 PM
As the rape is not treated the same, portrayed in the same light, I'd venture, yeah, it's fair to knock the 'realism'. As you pointed out, sure it's 'touched on' but it's not treated in the same manner. And why not? If rape is viewed as being horrific then why is the subject treated differently (i. e. not in the same way) when the genders change?

Bearilou, can you talk about specific examples from the books where you thought the scenes and discussions of male rape were not treated with the same gravity as female rape? I don't mean this in a "SHOW ME YOUR EVIDENCE" way, it's just been a while since I've read the books and I want to make sure I'm remembering correctly. There are several male victims of sexual violence in the books, and I don't remember getting the impression that they were handled with less weight than the female victims, but like I said, it's been a while.

For what it's worth, I thought UM was saying that it's "talked about" less by the characters in the world. I'm not sure that's less realistic. Male rape is often not talked about, even here in this world. It's frequently hidden, shamed, and joked about. I can only imagine how much worse that would be in an extremely patriarchal medieval society.

shahrazad
05-10-2014, 05:48 PM
Martin has repeatedly said that the works are based on the Wars of the Roses. At which point the age of consent was 12 (it wasn't raised to 13 until the 1800s, and only became 16 at the tail end of that century, so that's fairly recent as these things go)
Martin's understanding of medieval Europe isn't great tbh. It actually wasn't common to sleep with underdeveloped girls. The cases where it happened (ie. Margaret Beaufort) it wasn't something that was looked upon favourably. Also noble girls were meant to breed as much as possible and getting them pregnant too early wasn't ideal because of the potential of messing them up reproductively. Noble girls were very valuable in that sense, so even when child marriages occurred, the consummation was held off in a lot of cases.

And common girls weren't married until much later, not at 12/13.

UndergoingMitosis
05-10-2014, 06:04 PM
bold emphasis is mine because,



As the rape is not treated the same, portrayed in the same light, I'd venture, yeah, it's fair to knock the 'realism'. As you pointed out, sure it's 'touched on' but it's not treated in the same manner. And why not? If rape is viewed as being horrific then why is the subject treated differently (i. e. not in the same way) when the genders change?

Which was my point a few pages back. When a writer wants to flap their arms and say realism and then hide behind the fact that 'male writers don't want to write male on male rape and their male straight readers don't want to read it', any time rape is touched on it's written with that mindset.

Either realism is warranted or it's not and a writer, again hiding behind the label of realism when depicting rape, writes a female rape with their eye on their male straight readers and their 'comfort levels', but then shies away from writing any male on male rape version because it's icky-ew-ew and they don't want to make their male readers uncomfortable?

That's been stated twice once* that I recall in this thread and quite frankly, I find it a bit mind boggling.



Which is why I objected to its earlier inclusion into the discussion. They're not the same and dragging that in as justification to writing rape scenes and explained as the inclusion of realism but only as far as a female being raped because the male heterosexual audience doesn't like male being raped so it's not included, shows an excuse that I'm having more than a little difficulty getting sorted. Especially when it comes to the tossing around 'but it's realistic!'.



I'm not saying it's a *good* thing that cultural treatment of rape is gendered both in the real world in Westeros, I'm just saying that *is.*

In both this particular fiction and the real world, the public talks about the rape of women more often and in different ways than it does the rape of men. But in these male character's private lives, this is real trauma, and these are real events. Men get raped in Westeros--by both men and women. It's treated as legitimately traumatic in all cases I can think of (but I might have forgotten a couple, so correct me if I'm wrong). I really don't think Martin is really shying away from it. It's definitely there. But *between* characters, it's rarely discussed. And I actually think that's pretty realistic.

ETA: Pretty much what JW said.

Mr Flibble
05-10-2014, 06:07 PM
Are you talking Beaufort's first marriage? Because yeah one or three is a bit young and might cause talk! But if she was capable of getting pregnant (and she did by the time she was 13) then surely she's not underdeveloped? She must have entered puberty at least. I don't know much about her in particular tbh, or any wassname around her marriage. Was it specifically her age that was a problem?

As for the breeding part -- In renaissance Italy, noble girls were often married and pregnant by 14 and often had 4+ kids by the time they were twenty (sorry, I have refs for that period more handy than war of the roses time in England atm!).

Anyway, if it was legal (and it had been for a couple of hundred years by that point) I don't see how it was shocking really. Unusual maybe (like today, when not many get married at 16, though they can) but nothing to make people gasp in outrage, surely?

ETA: Although as you say common girls usually waited longer -- to save a dowry -- Dany can't be said to be common.

Dreity
05-10-2014, 06:45 PM
I have a romance coming out next year where the heroine has a third-degree burn covering one side of her face - and when it comes time to discuss cover art, I'm going to specify, "Like the Hound."

And the scar itself doesn't makes her look prettier; in fact, one male character thinks her body is wasted with a face like that.

I remember you mentioning her elsewhere, and thought of you after I posted. I'm really excited to see how you explore it. :)

And hopefully the covert art team does her justice!

Toothpaste
05-10-2014, 07:32 PM
Which is why I objected to its earlier inclusion into the discussion. They're not the same and dragging that in as justification to writing rape scenes and explained as the inclusion of realism but only as far as a female being raped because the male heterosexual audience doesn't like male being raped so it's not included, shows an excuse that I'm having more than a little difficulty getting sorted. Especially when it comes to the tossing around 'but it's realistic!'.


I believe I was one of the ones who hinted there might at times be more going on with female rape scenes and believe me what I meant wasn't that rape in gritty fantasy was on par with the blurred lines of "rape" in erotica and therefore that was cool. What I WAS implying was that I think it is wholly likely that some (definitely not all) male writers share that erotic fantasy, and that that can spill into the not erotic fantasy gritty realism. It can be one reason why they are not adverse to writing such scenes (I know, pretty gross right?), because there is a part of them being turned on by it.

I am not saying it is an excuse to write it, as a matter of fact I think it is a reason NOT to write it. But it can make things make a little more sense, how sometimes rape scenes are written from a male watching it point of view and described quite erotically. Heck the fact that Dany in the HBO version of GOT could be violently raped by her husband and then seek how to please him and fall in love with him while having sex the next time shows how little understanding those particular writers have of the trauma of rape. It isn't something that is horrific in the moment and that's it. It isn't friggin foreplay.

At any rate, yes, I do think that a lot of violence against women in horror films, in gritty realistic fiction, can come from a slightly different place than just a "I want to show the realism of the world". Not always, and not always consciously. But sometimes, absolutely. And I think that that is wrong.

(again, I don't think erotic rape fantasies are wrong, people like what they like, I think people claiming to write trauma in order to be dark but still sexualising it is wrong)

shahrazad
05-10-2014, 07:34 PM
Are you talking Beaufort's first marriage? Because yeah one or three is a bit young and might cause talk! But if she was capable of getting pregnant (and she did by the time she was 13) then surely she's not underdeveloped? She must have entered puberty at least. I don't know much about her in particular tbh, or any wassname around her marriage. Was it specifically her age that was a problem?

As for the breeding part -- In renaissance Italy, noble girls were often married and pregnant by 14 and often had 4+ kids by the time they were twenty (sorry, I have refs for that period more handy than war of the roses time in England atm!).

Anyway, if it was legal (and it had been for a couple of hundred years by that point) I don't see how it was shocking really. Unusual maybe (like today, when not many get married at 16, though they can) but nothing to make people gasp in outrage, surely?

ETA: Although as you say common girls usually waited longer -- to save a dowry -- Dany can't be said to be common.
Girls can get pregnant early on in puberty, before they've been fully developed to handle pregnancy and birth without damage. Margaret for one became infertile after the early childbirth, which is a risk with very young pregnancies. In Margaret's case, it was also noted that at 12 she was childlike physically, which was apparently a common reason to hold off consummation, but her husband didn't care, and also desperate times...

I know ancient Greeks married girls at 14, but unless I'm remembering wrong, it's more like 14 or older. Was 14 the cut off age in Italy?

I just have a hard time buying a medieval culture where 12-13 year old girls get married and bedded on the regular, because that's just undermining those girls' reproductivity in a time when infant death was such a big problem.

Xelebes
05-10-2014, 08:06 PM
I would assume that after the black plague, there may have been periods of aggressive or forceful reproductivity going on, which would have seen earlier accepted consummations. Hence the rise and following suppression of various resistance movements against it (re: Buggers.)

Once!
05-10-2014, 08:26 PM
I heard on the UK TV programme QI recently that the Vatican City has the lowest legal age of consent in the world at just 12 years old. Apparently it is based on some ancient Italian law dating back to 1200 which for some reason the Vatican is stuck with.

Mr Flibble
05-10-2014, 09:12 PM
Was 14 the cut off age in Italy? I think ( could be wrong ) it was younger as it happens. 14 (ie Dany's approx age) was fairly common though. Juliette was told by her mother (who was 26) she was "almost an old maid" at 13,


I just have a hard time buying a medieval culture where 12-13 year old girls get married and bedded on the regular, because that's just undermining those girls' reproductivity in a time when infant death was such a big problem.


I appreciate it's not to everyone's taste these days. But these days are not those days, and taste is not fact. And it was perfectly legal, and while maybe not especially common, was not a cause of outrage and huffing. Like I say, you can get married at 16 here. Not many do, but if they do no one raises much of an eyebrow (past the tsk, it'll never last....) It happened. No one had a snit fit about it. My great gran got married at 14....and banged out a dozen kids. It's not ideal, no, but it did happen, it was legal*, it did happen, so I have no moral qualms about it in fiction. From where I'm standing 18 seems a very late age of consent tbh.


You may also be not considering that death in childbirth at any age was a problem. Mother mortality was, until quite recently, the biggest reason for women dying. ANd hell, noble women were not that prized. They were ten a penny and had no worth other than popping out kiddies and maybe their dad wouldn't wage war on you. They were expendable not valuable

*And until 1999 it was legal in say Spain.

Toothpaste
05-10-2014, 10:14 PM
Maybe though it is worth analysing WHY this day and age we see such young brides as a not good thing. And the primary reason is they don't have full reasoning abilities formed yet, are still pretty much children, though slightly more mature.

So even though it might have been customary to marry younger, that doesn't mean that the girls being married off were therefore more mature than girls today. Yes they might have had more expected of them, but their brains were at the same stage of development as girls now. They were still girls regardless of if it was acceptable or not. Therefore when authors write child brides, even if it was normal for the time, they should maybe still consider that the age of the child means there will be a difference in maturity between her and her adult male partner. That in engaging in sex with a grown man, even the totally acceptable and normal child bride might be terrified, might feel like it is rape even if it isn't technically forced on them, might be in pain. Even Martin has admitted his sex scene between Dany and Drogo is unrealistic (the one he wrote, not the rape in the HBO version), that Dany was far too worldly sounding, too mature sounding for her age. This isn't to fetishize youth and ignorance, of course. But it is to say that maybe it isn't an argument of "That's what they did back then" but an argument of "Even if that's what they did, it still wouldn't have been adult mature relationship between equals, so it oughtn't be represented as one when a writer writes such relationships. Even though there were no statutory rape laws, those laws sprung out of a realisation that grownups and young teens are not a healthy match sexually, even if both are good people and trying their best, so even though things are technically a-ok, maybe just maybe it isn't words on paper that make them bad, but a real difference between ages and experience."

Roxxsmom
05-11-2014, 12:45 AM
By yours (or rather the Us's?) perhaps. Age of consent here is 16, so no worries. It's 13 in Spain ( and a couple of other European countries IIRC, In Spain it was 12 until quite recently)

Martin has repeatedly said that the works are based on the Wars of the Roses. At which point the age of consent was 12 (it wasn't raised to 13 until the 1800s, and only became 16 at the tail end of that century, so that's fairly recent as these things go)

So, for me, no 13 isn't shockingly young given the context - especially as I recall it wasn't shockingly young in the world Martin has built.

If anyone doesn't like it, then that's surely up to them. Everyone has their own squick level. But that's one thing you can't say he isn't being realistic about. Girls got married, and consummated those marriages, at a younger age than Dany in the time it was based on (and in the world Martin has built). So I don't find her marriage shocking in the slightest, or statutory rape etc* (esp since Drogo waited for her to say yes. Given Drogo was nicer to her in one day than her brother had been to her her whole life, then it wasn't a surprise when she agreed)


*I'm talking in the books here, not the telly series. In the books she gave consent and was of an age where that consent was legal. That didn't present me with any moral problems tbh

I'm not arguing with that. It's his book, and he can do what he wants. I'd love to write something one tenth as popular.

We actually have different laws in different states regarding age of consent, and many states make exceptions re statutory rape laws for marriages (with parental consent). Modern age of consent laws are complex, of course, because people mature physically and mentally at different rates, but they're meant to reflect the idea that there's a potential difference in mental maturity and social power between someone in their teens and someone who is significantly older, and this prevents true informed consent from occurring. And no matter where the line is drawn, some unusual case comes along that makes us wonder if they make sense at all.

That concept was absent from most medieval cultures, I'm guessing. Kids were supposed to do what their parents told them, and women were supposed to do what their husbands told them to do. I suspect a large portion of the population was pretty miserable a large portion of the time, though people being what they are, they probably found ways to cope and love one another anyway, and the sun shone through the gloom sometimes.

But again, this is getting into the issue of realism in fantasy that's set in or inspired by earlier eras. The point that's being made is that writers often claim that they're including certain distasteful elements, particularly elements (like child brides and female rape) that particularly bother female readers, because they are faithfully reproducing the way people behaved and thought in a different time and place. Yet closer examination reveals that these authors are also cherrypicking which of these "darker" elements they're dwelling on.

I think the question that's been running through this thread is: why the double standard about the unpleasant realities of life in a medieval-inspired society?

I suspect that if a writer was able to accurately create a psychological time machine and create a complete immersion in characters who actually saw everything the way most people did in the "real" middle ages or renaissance or whenever, it would fall into the "too disturbing" realm for too many modern readers.

So authors still pick and choose which (by modern standards) atrocities to show with an audience in mind, and unsuprisingly, many male authors are (probably unconsciously, and certainly not with malice in most cases) dwelling on gritty elements that won't alienate the people they think of as typical readers of fantasy--males like themselves.

And I don't want to just pick on the guys either, because there are some female writers who have glossed over or botched rape up too (and of course female writers in genres that have a large male readership also have to consider whether something will appeal to or repel a large number of their potential readers).

kuwisdelu
05-11-2014, 01:40 AM
Maybe though it is worth analysing WHY this day and age we see such young brides as a not good thing. And the primary reason is they don't have full reasoning abilities formed yet, are still pretty much children, though slightly more mature.

How much of that is also culture and an impact of society and lifestyle, though?

Childhood today keeps getting longer and longer and longer...

Sheryl Nantus
05-11-2014, 02:00 AM
Don't forget too - it's only recently that people are living to a ripe old age.

When your lifespan might only be 40 yrs, tops - getting married young might seem quite logical.

Roxxsmom
05-11-2014, 02:26 AM
Don't forget too - it's only recently that people are living to a ripe old age.

When your lifespan might only be 40 yrs, tops - getting married young might seem quite logical.

It's true that average life expectancies were much lower, but a lot of that was due to high infant mortality. Of course, there was little recourse if a middle aged person had a heart attack or got cancer back then, but actually, there were a surprising number of people who lived into their 60s and beyond in the olden days--once they survived childhood. In fact, the age of majority for boys was much later than it is now in many cultures, rarely being before 21, and often being even later.

But I'd guess you're right in general. Animals (and people) tend to bank on earlier maturity and reproduction in uncertain environments.

It's interesting re the discussion of early maturity versus late maturity. Most of the sources I've read suggest that girls, on average, reach menarche much earlier in modern times than in the old days. The average nowadays is around 12, and many historic and fantasy works assume that this was the same in antiquity. But even in the 1800s, the average age was around 16 for a girl to start her flows. And fertility doesn't usually peak for 2-3 years after first menarche.

So from a strictly reproductive standpoint, it doesn't make much sense for the marriage of 12-14 year olds to be standardized.

But all those historic records of early marriages, and yes, Lady Capulet's famous comment about being an old maid at 13 (though that was in a play, not a historic document). I'm guessing the maturation rate varied with social class (I'll bet the wealthier classes matured earlier, since girls presumably had a less active and had more extra calories overall), and possibly with culture and genetics too, even in ancient times. And the marriage of very young girls (and more rarely boys) was likely a political thing a lot of the time, so the welfare of the participants wasn't a big worry.

Alessandra Kelley
05-11-2014, 04:01 AM
Don't forget that Shakespeare was portraying Lord and Lady Capulet as controlling dunderheads (as I understood it).

Mr Flibble
05-11-2014, 04:37 AM
And the marriage of very young girls (and more rarely boys) was likely a political thing a lot of the time, so the welfare of the participants wasn't a big worry.

Very true

And consider -- if you've got (and lots did) a stable of children to chose from, weeell, one here or there is an easy price to pay, no? (Although this is tricky too -- did people not love their kids? Yes, but what was seen as best for your kid as a noble was to make them a good marriage. You were looking after them by making sure they were provided for. Things were looked at in a very different way - survival was utmost, happiness secondary, and that was going on until my gran got married and later -- she married her husband because it was expedient - long story. And then they were happy. What we think of as good marriage material, noble or not, is very different to how it was viewed in the past ETA: I still see the shades of it even ow -- not "do you love him?" but "will he provide for you?" Ugh)

EETA

From a fair point of view, it;s odd that boys don't get married young in historical/fantasy books -- they were often contracted (betrothed) young and sometimes married young too. It;s bound to have an effect but I'm struggling to think of an example where it's been done (though I'm sure I've read one).

Roxxsmom
05-11-2014, 05:37 AM
From a fair point of view, it;s odd that boys don't get married young in historical/fantasy books -- they were often contracted (betrothed) young and sometimes married young too. It;s bound to have an effect but I'm struggling to think of an example where it's been done (though I'm sure I've read one).

One historic case was the marriage between the last direct descendent of William the Conqueror to make a claim to the throne of England, "Empress Matilda (http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon25a.html)," who at 26 was obliged to marry a 13 year old boy (Geoffrey of Anjou and Maine). Allegedly, the marriage was not a loving one, but they had three sons, not that it did her any good.

Actually, it makes more sense for a 13 year old boy to be able to sire children on an older bride than it is for a 13 year old girl to be able to safely bear children for an older husband.

And you're right, it is interesting how this sort of thing isn't generally portrayed in fantasy novels. I guess it's because the concept of a poor lad who is forced to marry against his will by a tyrannical father makes us think of this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3YiPC91QUk) sort of thing.

The thing re fantasy that is seriously trying to recapture a given historic era is that there are a lot of things about ancient history that everyone thinks they know but aren't true. Martin had plenty of anachronisms in his novel if it was really meant to be War of the Roses with Dragons, but we cut him slack because it's fantasy. So they can have hay bales, and the men are wearing trousers instead of knitted hosen, and they can call underwear "smallclothes," and so on.

crunchyblanket
05-11-2014, 02:23 PM
Moving away from ASOIAF briefly - (I'm a big fan of the books but I'll be here all day if I start discussing them) the biggest, most glaring example of the 'rape to show grimness' trope was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I found that book excruciatingly hard to read because of it.

The main issue I had was that, okay, the titular Windup Girl is basically genetically engineered into male servitude (an icky concept to start with, fine, but dystopia is often icky, so let's see how it goes.) She has no agency because she's created that way. She's also a PoC, which makes things super icky when a white American man comes along, falls in love with her and 'rescues' her from her life of sexual slavery and servitude.

The icky cherry on the yuck-cake, though, is the fact that there are two lovingly detailed rape scenes, whereas the one consensual sex scene is briefly detailed before fading to black. (Whether a girl genetically engineered to want to sexually please men can ever truly consent is another issue...) And the thing is, the rape scenes are described in such a way that I wasn't convinced they were supposed to be grim. They were almost pornographic, and as I was reading them I couldn't help but think 'wow, was the author typing this one handed?' (To make things even worse, the Windup Girl is also genetically engineered to find sex pleasurable no matter what, cue explicit descriptions of her orgasming while she's being raped.)

And that's without getting into all the problems with race the book has, also in spades.

It won the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards, and I began to lose my faith in the SF/F community around about that time.

Mr Flibble
05-11-2014, 02:45 PM
Oh yeah the Windup Girl. Don't get me started.

I get that the writer may well have a had a purpose behind those scenes, but say compare it with the Sonmi 451 sections in Cloud Atlas -- both have girls genetically engineered to please, trying to break free, both, ugh how to put it, both subjected to humiliations etc. These are the purposes of the scenes -- to show how they are breaking free of how they were made and what for. But Cloud Atlas was by far more subtle about it (which made it hit home that much harder). There was no (IIRC) sexual component to the humiliation, but that humiliation, what she was trying to break free from was still there in spades. It kinda creeped me out - in a "oh this is such great writing" way rather than "FFS let me throw the book now" way.

Again, all in the execution.
Whatever purpose you have in a scene, the author, rightly or wrongly, chooses how to show that. We all have our first go to type of thing to show X. And we all fail sometimes (I know I have) but we can also learn from others failures and successes.

I can't say I have a problem with authors still on that journey (though I reserve the right to have a problem with ones who refuse to take the first step)

Bolero
05-11-2014, 02:55 PM
General fantasy comment . There at times seems to be an assumption particularly in some fantasy that rape of women is inevitable, especially if not safely at home. Was interested by the Ladies of Madrigyn series by Barbara Hambly - there are female as well as male mercenaries. There is a mention in one of the books about the male mercs not raping the female - apart from they can fight back and it is stupid to annoy a fellow soldier - it is also well understood that anyone who tries pulling that, is setting themselves up for a sword through the back in the next battle, from the nearest female mercenary.
That series as a whole has an underlying commentary on battle behaviour - won't go into detail as that would be a spoiler for anyone reading it - but it is an interesting development.


Regarding young marriages:

1. In noble families, I had the understanding that children were often married years before they were handed over. Some were literally married in the cradle and could be widowed before they were talking.

2. Watching one of the Who Do You Think You Are series - actress with Indian roots. They were looking at greatgrandmother - and most of her children died young. The researcher asked "do you know the age when your great grandmother married" - it was about 12. And the researcher said she'd expected that answer, as the death rate of the kids was one of the signs of starting child birth too early, that the babies were not as robust as those born to a mother who'd finished growing first.

Marian Perera
05-11-2014, 03:00 PM
To make things even worse, the Windup Girl is also genetically engineered to find sex pleasurable no matter what, cue explicit descriptions of her orgasming while she's being raped.

Kushiel's Dart, have I got a friend for you...


I remember you mentioning her elsewhere, and thought of you after I posted. I'm really excited to see how you explore it. :)

And hopefully the covert art team does her justice!

Thanks! She was inspired by a character in Vonda N. McIntyre's Dreamsnake, a little girl who also had a horrible scar on her face. And yes, I'm hoping the cover artist brings out the burn as well as the beauty.

crunchyblanket
05-11-2014, 03:24 PM
Oh yeah the Windup Girl. Don't get me started.

I get that the writer may well have a had a purpose behind those scenes, but say compare it with the Sonmi 451 sections in Cloud Atlas -- both have girls genetically engineered to please, trying to break free, both, ugh how to put it, both subjected to humiliations etc. These are the purposes of the scenes -- to show how they are breaking free of how they were made and what for. But Cloud Atlas was by far more subtle about it (which made it hit home that much harder). There was no (IIRC) sexual component to the humiliation, but that humiliation, what she was trying to break free from was still there in spades. It kinda creeped me out - in a "oh this is such great writing" way rather than "FFS let me throw the book now" way.

Again, all in the execution.

I haven't read Cloud Atlas but I'm intrigued to see this sort of scene done right - it's not for me to speculate on Bacigalupi's intentions, but the way those scenes were written, presented in the narrative and contrasted with the comparatively coy consensual sex scene left me wondering whether it was supposed to titillate. In the same way as a recent Game of Thrones episode - they show a bunch of mutineers drinking from the skull of the commander they betrayed and usurped, generally being an unpleasant bunch of fuckwits, and raping the women whose home they've commandeered. They show the rapes, complete with a large set of bouncing breasts and the vibe I got was that the viewer at home would be saying "ooh, aren't these men awful, isn't all this raping terrible" while sipping their tea and staring fixedly at the bouncing tits onscreen.

Sometimes, we as writers try to portray X and end up accidentally portraying Y. And it can be difficult to tell whether what we're seeing is a genuine error or something done out of total ignorance - especially given the way our society is constructed, even now, to so often take surreptitious pleasure in the sexual humiliation of women.

(With the GoT episode, my money is firmly on 'they knew EXACTLY what they were doing', which is why I generally prefer the books - rape abounds, but as a rule it's dealt with a lot better and a lot less voyeuristically than in the show.)

UndergoingMitosis
05-11-2014, 03:38 PM
From a fair point of view, it;s odd that boys don't get married young in historical/fantasy books -- they were often contracted (betrothed) young and sometimes married young too. It;s bound to have an effect but I'm struggling to think of an example where it's been done (though I'm sure I've read one).

Actually, Martin did this too, no? Here there be spoilers: Book Joffrey was 12 (maybe recently thirteen?) when he got married, the whole Red Wedding happened because a young (15 year old) Robb Stark decided that he *didn't* want a political marriage and married instead a bride of his choosing (and that went just swell). After Joff kicked it, his younger brother Tommen was betrothed to his brother's 19 year old widow at seven.

Atalanta
05-11-2014, 08:23 PM
I don't quite get what you're suggesting.

She's not in this time period, thus the laws of this time period are immaterial

In the book, the scene is portrayed (as someone up-thread described the movie version) like something out of pornography. The under-aged girl "wants it" and it's almost like we were supposed to be turned-on by the sex. I found it vile. There's nothing prurient in Romeo & Juliet.

I'd respond further, but I'm stepping out of the thread. My apologies. I just don't have the self-confidence right now to defend my opinions, so you can just ignore my previous post. :)

Bolero
05-11-2014, 08:38 PM
Watched Lucy Worsely's programme a while back, on women's lives in the restoration period.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j83gl

There was a bit in there that seriously startled me on the prevalence of groping. One part was how vulnerable the costume of the period made women - low cut neck line, split front to overskirt (though slightly unsure on that since they had an underskirt) and the other was that it seemed to be seen as OK by some men, to grab a quick feel in the street or in Church. There was an account from Pepys Diary of him feeling up a woman in the pew in front and she stuck a hat pin in his hand. (Good for her). Now whether Pepys was at the extreme end, no idea. Did make me wonder in the context of this thread, about the level of groping portrayed in historically based fantasy. I can't think of any other than
a) Grabbing a handful of a tavern girl
b) Prelude to rape (from which she may be rescued at the last moment)

Casual groping in Church and in the street - can't recall that anywhere.

Now, of course, you could make your historical-type-world fantasy where groping doesn't happen. But, if "it happened in history" is being used to justify rape, then shouldn't everything that happened in history be there?
Due to the lack of reporting, there probably isn't any data that correlates the likelihood of rape being higher in a society where there is a lot of groping. Maybe there is a correlation, maybe not.

Roxxsmom
05-12-2014, 12:02 AM
I can't say I have a problem with authors still on that journey (though I reserve the right to have a problem with ones who refuse to take the first step)

I think that's a good way of looking at it for any of these kinds of issues. We all screw up at times, but are we willing to work towards doing things better?


Watched Lucy Worsely's programme a while back, on women's lives in the restoration period.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j83gl

There was a bit in there that seriously startled me on the prevalence of groping.

Now, of course, you could make your historical-type-world fantasy where groping doesn't happen. But, if "it happened in history" is being used to justify rape, then shouldn't everything that happened in history be there?
Due to the lack of reporting, there probably isn't any data that correlates the likelihood of rape being higher in a society where there is a lot of groping. Maybe there is a correlation, maybe not.

Heh, there was an awful lot of groping going on when I was in middle and high school back in the late 70s and early 80s too. And the general response of adults back then was to tell the girl in question she shouldn't dress provocatively if she didn't want that kind of "attention" from the boys. One friend (who was strictly a jeans and tee shirt type of gal) finally lost it and kicked a guy in the nuts for grabbing her breasts whenever he passed her in the halls, and she got sent to the principals and lectured about how horrible it was do "do that to a boy."

So I have no trouble thinking that groping of "unprotected" women was epidemic during those historic periods when women weren't exactly regarded as human beings.

Mr Flibble
05-12-2014, 12:58 AM
Actually, Martin did this too, no?

Lol, I'd forgotten they were that young in the books! But yes, there you are. And woman much older than boy is just as disturbing to my mind.

cruellae
05-19-2014, 11:42 PM
I think the question that's been running through this thread is: why the double standard about the unpleasant realities of life in a medieval-inspired society?

I suspect that if a writer was able to accurately create a psychological time machine and create a complete immersion in characters who actually saw everything the way most people did in the "real" middle ages or renaissance or whenever, it would fall into the "too disturbing" realm for too many modern readers.

So authors still pick and choose which (by modern standards) atrocities to show with an audience in mind, and unsuprisingly, many male authors are (probably unconsciously, and certainly not with malice in most cases) dwelling on gritty elements that won't alienate the people they think of as typical readers of fantasy--males like themselves.

And I don't want to just pick on the guys either, because there are some female writers who have glossed over or botched rape up too (and of course female writers in genres that have a large male readership also have to consider whether something will appeal to or repel a large number of their potential readers).

It is definitely possible that people portray rape for the reasons you list above, but another reason might be that it is very unlikely that a person in our day and age will be beheaded, or have their hands cut off, etc. But rape is still such a pervasive part of our culture. It's more scary than most other things because it could happen to us. It's not nearly as much of an abstraction. And as such, it should never be used gratuitously, or unnecessarily, but it's not something to sweep under the rug either.

Roxxsmom
05-20-2014, 01:15 AM
It is definitely possible that people portray rape for the reasons you list above, but another reason might be that it is very unlikely that a person in our day and age will be beheaded, or have their hands cut off, etc. But rape is still such a pervasive part of our culture. It's more scary than most other things because it could happen to us. It's not nearly as much of an abstraction. And as such, it should never be used gratuitously, or unnecessarily, but it's not something to sweep under the rug either.

Absolutely, and I think this is why we tend to react to it so viscerally in novels. But it's interesting how much more often the rape of women is shown as an unpleasant fact of life in fantasy that's meant to be gritty and realistic, when men are also (and always have been) victimized in the same way, especially in wartime.

I still think it's because there's a sense that being raped by another man could make an adult male character lose reader sympathy, because it clashes more with our standard notions of masculinity in a way that beating up a male character in other ways does not.