Dub-Con, Non-Con in Fiction

I’ve been underemployed for a couple of months, so in between writing a lot, I’m reading a lot. I’ve gone from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Abigail Barnette, Jasper Fforde to Celeste Ng, Madeleine L’Engle to Lilah Pace to Patricia Highsmith to Atul Gawande, and then, I guess because it kept appearing as a suggestion in my Amazon account, I read Hostage by Annika Martin and Skye Warren.

Then I read The Pawn by Skye Warren.

Then I read The Knight by Skye Warren.

My rich fantasy life includes a lot of bondage and pain in my sex, along with a possibly-unhealthy amount of (consensual) coercion, and a decent amount of humiliation. I love dark, twisted romance.

But Hostage (Spoilers ahead) starts with a 16-year-old being kidnapped by a man who thinks frequently about raping her and/or killing her. It escalates from there, with him penetrating her with his fingers, and even though the actual penile penetration doesn’t happen until she’s 18, and is therefore, somehow, “legal” his seduction and coercion started much earlier, on a girl so young she still referred to her father as “Daddy.” On a girl so sheltered she barely knew how to drive and had only been kissed a few times.

And the entire time, it’s written as this hot, elicit affair, and she’s clearly smitten with him, and I’m thinking — wait. This is rape. This is criminal, in more ways than one.

I go back to the reviews. 278 five-star reviews. 278 people read this and not only had no problem with the molestation, but also gave it a star rating that I reserve for books by Jane Austen, Barbara Kingsolver, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I finished the book, I did. But I’m still wondering if downloading it at all has put me on some kind of Watchlist. I’m still baffled by the authors treatment of this subject matter.

Like I said, I like dark sex, and I have to admit, however squickish it was, the sex was good. So I read The Pawn. (More spoilers, if you care)This character is, at least, technically an adult, but once again, emphasis is put on her virginity, on how young and pure she is. The entire plot hinges on the auctioning of her virginity, and even though she goes into it somewhat willingly, it’s pure desperation that drives her to this point (although the necessity of her doing so is a very thin premise). And when the auction ends, and the victor claims his virgin, there’s no doubt that this is not how she wants to lose her virginity, that this is not a situation she wants to be in.

And I guess I kept reading because — okay, dammit, yes, some of the sex was pretty hot. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking – this is not what this girl signed up for. This is not what she wanted. She had no idea what she was getting in to. And we’re supposed to fall for it, right along with her, because this Alpha male who’s despoiling her is secretly looking out for her, secretly has her best interests at heart.

News flash, writers: No matter how Alpha the male, no matter how many orgasms the unwilling female has, the only word for this kind of sex is rape.

Want to see hot, consensual non-consent, with great writing and even a storyline to back it up? Read The Boss by Abigail Barnette to see how a real Alpha male can treat a woman with respect while still giving her the kinky sex of her dreams. Read Asking For It by Lilah Pace for the absolute hottest consensual rape fantasy sex you will ever read.

 

The sex is hotter, I promise you. And even better? You’re not left with that queasy felony feeling in your mouth afterwards.

 

 

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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.