(Lack of) Feminist Perspective in SEO Writing

I write SEO Content for a few (and I mean a very few) extra bucks. It’s always a little strange for me to switch into that mode, because, in that gig, I am writing for the norm – which comes with its own set of assumptions and mores.

mouse and keyboard

Here’s an example of what I mean. I know some people who are child-free by choice. I know other people who can’t have children, and I recently struggled with fertility issues of my own. But when I’m writing a blog post about TV Installation services in the suburbs? The audience I am picturing is the bill of goods I’ve been sold – it’s that white, Christian, heteronormative, middle class family with 2.5 children in the suburbs. And if I need to throw in the necessary navigation of children’s toys as some color and an extra seven words, I’m going to do it. I’m going to write the breadwinner role as a male, and the stay-at-home parent as a female, and I’m going to write Easter dresses and Christmas cookies and going to church on Sundays and fitting the laundry in before picking the kids up at school in your minivan. Even if I don’t personally believe in any of that. (Except Christmas cookies. Everybody loves Christmas cookies!)

There are times I think about subverting this, and find myself wondering if I can do it in a way that doesn’t get me fired, but I get paid by the word, so I’m not always concerning myself with whether or not I’m falling into paradigms that I’ve been actively resisting since I was old enough to understand that women are people. So instead of thoughtfully considering how the words I’m writing perpetuate the stereotypes I despise, I toe the line and write with those stereotypes in mind. And as quickly as possible. Because if I’m not churning out at least 1200 words an hour I may as well get a job at Starbucks, and I don’t want to get a job at Starbucks, I want to write my own damn novel in any minute I can carve out.

I’m not saying I like it.

And yes, there are times that I feel pretty crappy for contributing to the noise that’s on the internet, thank you for asking. And yes, whenever possible, I try to use gender-neutral pronouns or examples that don’t rely too heavily on tired assumptions about how “normal” people live.

But mostly? I’m just trying to make enough money to pay the electric bill.

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.