Writing Rape

Trigger Warning: I discuss rape in the below – in case you couldn’t tell from the title.

In my post, Writing Consent, I discussed the question of consent in fiction, and whether something can be steamy and hot if the need for consent is part of it. In Jenny Trout’s (writing as Abigail Barnette) amazing, steamy, compelling, couldn’t-put-it-down-read-the-entire-series-in-three-days “Boss” series (which you should go buy and read right now because it is awesome and the first book is free) consent is ever-present. There are a few times it’s almost annoyingly present, but I get it, and I applaud it.

So, the flip side of that is writing about rape. Which is really a completely different question. Is it necessary? Does it glamorize rape?

Woman_on_bench

I’ve written a date rape scene for one of my characters. It’s not that I wanted her to be raped, it’s that one in six women are, and it’s part of her story. But I’m having mixed feelings about whether or not to include it. I know that it’s important to her character, and I know that it figures in to what happens later, but I’m struggling to make sure there is nothing titillating about it. Because most of the lovemaking in my stories involves kink, I don’t want there to be any confusion about what constitutes rape. But I also want to be true to my own experience, and what, I suspect, is the experience of many, and that is the mixed feelings that my character has about the rapist and about the rape itself.

I don’t want to give to much away, so let me pull back a little and talk about rape culture. This is the part where I tend to start beating myself up a little, because I’ve always had a problem saying, “No” and I have, too often, bought in to the idea that I somehow “owe” someone something because he or she invested time or money into me, or because I showed up at their house, or because I flirted, or teased, et cetera. This has landed me in situations where I ended up having sex, even though I didn’t want to. And I closed my eyes, and gritted my teeth, and got through it.

That’s why consent is so tricky, and so important. That’s why rape culture is such a problem. Yes, I had a responsibility to myself to be vocal about what I needed and wanted and, more importantly, DIDN’T need or want. But didn’t my sex partner have an equal stake in making sure that I was fully present, and fully involved in what was going on?

This kind of consensual interaction can be something as innocuous as communicating to your partner what you want them to do, through telling them that what they are doing isn’t really turning you on, and goes all the way through to no, I really don’t want to have sex with you right now, I don’t care that you are horny and that I am wearing next to nothing because it’s 98 degrees outside, what I want to do right now is watch The Gilmore Girls and suck on ice, you know where the vibrator is.

And I need to capture that for this character. I really feel like I have an obligation to do so. This isn’t a dramatic, Hollywood, black-and-white, strangers-abducted-and-raped me situation. This is exploring the issue of consent, the idea of both partners being equally invested in each other’s pleasure, the concept that, while No absolutely means NO, sometimes no isn’t said, sometimes it’s “wait” or “Um” or “Not there” and that doesn’t absolve the other partner of their responsibility. The idea that, just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean you get to do it again, and the agonizing betrayal of ones own body when it responds to something your mind or heart doesn’t want.

I don’t love the idea of writing anything for which I feel obligated to provide a trigger warning. I honestly hate putting my character through it. But I also need the ten people who eventually read my book (HAH! I hope ten people read it!) to be involved in that process with my character, and to understand what it means to advocate for one’s own sexuality, and to, maybe, absolve themselves of some guilt for any of their own not-completely-consensual experiences.

And maybe I just need to write it to do all of the above for myself.

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Trump Exists Because We Let Him

I just read this terrific article about Donald Trump’s comments Friday night, written by Stassa Edwards for Jezebel.

Here’s the part that has stuck with me all day:

Perhaps it’s because the Republican party had a very ugly realization. Namely that if Trump speaks a certain truth—as John Kasich claimed during the debates—or that his bold honesty reveals the restless id of the base, then that base revels in pits so repulsive, and holds fast to “truths” so vile, that they might be more dangerous to unraveling conservative ideology than any mere Democrat.

The laughter and applause that Donald Trump got from the audience after laughingly acknowledging that Rosie O’Donnell is the person he was referring to when he called women fat pigs, slobs, and disgusting animals was almost as appalling as the comments themselves.

THEY APPLAUDED. They applauded a candidate for President of the United States for making schoolyard taunts about women. Is it because she’s fat? Is it because she’s gay? Why is it ok, why is it funny, and why on earth is it acceptable to call women any of the things he did?

I was going to use a meme of Donald Trump, but I started vomiting. So here's Picard instead. There, now don't you feel better?
I was going to use a meme of Donald Trump, but I started vomiting. So here’s Picard instead. There, now don’t you feel better?

The thing is, Donald Trump exists only because we allow him to. He is a caricature of himself. He has no value outside what we assign him. His wealth was inherited, and he’s a bombastic fool. BUT HE’S ALSO THE REPUBLICAN FRONT RUNNER. That means that his 5th-grade vocabulary and bullying tactics are appealing to an alarming majority of republicans. We have somehow created an environment in this country in which this kind of behavior is acceptable.

When George W was elected? I cried. Actual tears. I couldn’t believe we’d come to that as a country.

When Barack Obama was elected, I was giddy. For an entire day, I felt like the world had changed. But in the intervening years, it seems to me that racism in this country has gotten worse, only it’s more covert. Every decision he makes, every Executive Order he issues, all of the rhetoric spewed by the pundits, it’s just too much. So much of what is said about him and his policies is so detached from reality that the only explanation for it is that it is a thin cover for racism. And it’s wearing thinner.

So after eight years of this, Trump steps into the spotlight as another Presidential candidate. And the only explanation is that the ugly racism at the root of the Tea Party has metastasized, creating something worse. And somehow we are letting this happen.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a solution. It does make me want to scrape my pennies together and start donating them to Planned Parenthood, or NOW, or the NAACP (check it out, I included handy donation links in case you’re feeling the same way.)

I’m just tired of it.

Edited to Add:

SO HAPPY to see someone else calling him and the audience out on this shit:

http://www.shewired.com/need-know/2015/08/11/chely-wright-comes-rosie-odonnells-defense-blasts-donald-trump-supporters

What’s Your Currency?

I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. (And, ok, I’ve already tweeted about half of it, leave me alone).

This line. This line went straight to my heart:

“Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”
Amy Poehler, Yes Please

So guess what? For about, oh, I dunno, most of my life, I’ve expected most of my currency to come from my looks. Not that this is unusual for women, and not that some of my currency hasn’t come from my looks, just that, at age 42, I don’t feel like I have a lot of this left in the bank. It doesn’t help that I am about 50 pounds overweight and struggle with self-esteem anyway, but even if I thought I was hot shit, I don’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, that my self-worth or value to others should be dependent on my looks. Caveat to follow.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not bad to look at. On most days I would be called pretty. On really good days, I’ve been called gorgeous, and not just by friends, family, or lovers. But weirdly, one of the first times I realized that I was actually just sort of middle-of-the road was when I went to the mall with my friend Clarissa. We were college roommates, and we were in theater, and I’d seen her dressed up and I’d seen her dressed down and I’d somehow never been aware of how pretty she was until I went to the mall with her one day and saw the crowds part. I saw the looks she was getting. And I’ve gotten a few second glances myself in my life, so it was weirdly painful to see just how much she overshadowed me. Tall, blond haired, blue-eyed, Clarissa was traditionally, non-threateningly, pretty. I’d gotten dressed up and put on makeup to go to the mall – she was wearing an old t-shirt and sweatpants. And it was like I was invisible.

Now that I’m 50 pounds overweight and in my forties, I’m realizing that I invested too much in that currency in the first place. In my life, I’ve been called fat, blubber, cow, cunt, “A little thick for me” – oddly one of the most painful – or just been referred to by my bra size. I’ve also been told I have a nice ass, a beautiful smile, an infectious laugh, great tits, and even, on several occasions, been called flat-out gorgeous.

So here’s the caveat. I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, or at least I think I would be if I were more accepting of how I look. Back when I believed in god, I thought that he (intentionally lower-case, because I’m an atheist, and this is my blog, so fuck respect for a mythical being) made me fat to keep me from being too slutty. As it turns out, I wasn’t fat, and I was plenty slutty. Even now, my sexual fantasies have a great deal to do with being objectified and used. And yes, please do note that I slut-shame even myself.

But when you’re in your forties, and you realize that, even for a not-ugly slut, you’re no longer relevant as a sex object, and your self-esteem is fragile at best, you kind of have to wonder what value you do pose if you haven’t put something in the bank already.

And again, I think I’m pretty lucky, because I had grandparents who adored me and thought that I was brilliant and talented and funny and interesting and taught me to love books and art and gave me the tools to have a pretty rich imagination. And if it weren’t for all that, my darkest days would be even darker than they are.

My point is, I’m still struggling to figure out what my currency actually is. And with this new chapter of my life, I’m hoping it’s writing. But it could be painting. Or knitting. Or sewing. Or, I don’t know, making soap. And maybe my I should count myself lucky that I have this whole rich past to pull from, and not bemoan the fact that I’m no longer considered a sex object by random people on the street that I don’t even give a fuck about.

I also find it horrifyingly backward that I still think this way. I mean, if my best friend told me that she was depressed because she was no longer considered sexy by the masses, I would slap her silly. And tell her how very very valuable she is for everything that has nothing to do with sexiness, and how fucking insane it is to wish to be objectified by random strangers and to base her self-worth on that.

So, part of trying to figure out what my currency is is really trying to re-educate myself in who I really am, what I’m really about, and how to make a living and a life out of that.

So. What’s your currency?