The First Rant of the New Year – The Word NO, Rape, and Responsibility

I’d like to start by saying someone or something stole my January and half my February and I think that’s rather rude. But it pales in comparison next to the REAL burr up my ass right now.

I realize this is most likely not going to be a popular opinion, and it’s also likely to cause some hard feelings. I’m okay with that. But it’s something that’s been building for a while — a long time, actually, and since this is my blog, I can say what I want. And yes, I also realize this is a topic which has been around the block more than once.

I receive a lot of unsolicited manuscripts from many different writers. I have read just about every genre known to mankind — I’ve had phases where all I read are biographies, sci-fi, epic fantasy and all the sub-genres, bizzaro, literary, historical stuff, poetry, Shakespeare, romance (oh yes, it’s true, I know Harlequin and Silhouette, although those years are long gone) and every sub-genre you can think of (and I can’t right now because I’m too pissed off). There’s also a crapload of free material out there, so I guess you could say in a literary sense, I get around. And some of the shit I’m reading is really, really pissing me off.

Not because the grammar or sentence structure makes me want to swallow a maggot milkshake rather than read one more word; not because the story line is about as ethereal as a lace curtain; not because the main character has the personality of a tongue depressor. Because many of these writers are hella talented and tell a really good story. No, what’s lighting my fire right now is IRRESPONSIBILITY.

Hey, it’s a free world. For the most part. You can write any damned thing you please. I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t even if I could. But what I will do is drag your ass out into the light and ask you WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?

I’m talking to you, Romance Writer. You might write straight up historical romance, you could be an author of LGBT stories, contemporary stuff…it doesn’t really matter. I am seeing a lot of “her mouth said no but her eyes said yes” bullshit and I’m just SO OVER THIS CRAP. And a lot of it, pardon me, seems to be coming from the paranormal ether, but certainly not all of it.

Why does this bug me? For several reasons. I am sick to death of reading scenes where the woman says no, the man hears yes and proceeds even when she says no more than once, and they have hot monkey sex. (Insert preferred paranormal species here. They seem to get a pass on all kinds of abhorrent behavior.) Afterward, she’s all ga-ga over the guy and sometimes he expresses remorse because after all, he’s not a BAD guy, he’s just a HORNY guy and driven crazy over her incredible HAWTNESS, all is forgiven, and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.

Really?

For one, NO MEANS NO. “No” does not mean, “Oh, I’m just being coy because I want to preserve the fallacy I am a good girl just overwhelmed by the sensations of my lady bits” and NO does not mean, “Oh, if I say yes he’ll think I’m a bad girl and I’ll have to give up my Virgin Decoder Ring,” and NO doesn’t mean “Oh, go ahead and take it and by the way I love you for it and thank you so much for introducing me to the marvels of an orgasm.”

And NO, motherheifer, you do NOT get a free pass just because you have to drink blood to live, turn into a werewolf at the full moon and it’s the way of the pack, or your body parts are rotting off. Actually, if body parts are rotting off you probably shouldn’t be having any kind of rough sex in the first place. Gawd only knows what’s gonna fall off. Just a suggestion.

ANYWAY. Before you start jumping all over my shit and calling me Mrs. Brady (although she was a freak in her own right, GO FLO!) or saying, “Geez, Netta, you act like you don’t have a freak flag when we all know what a heinous untruth THAT is,” you’re right. I do have a freak flag. This is not about flying a freak flag. It’s not about “forced seduction” or erotic fantasies. I understand those, I have a few myself (that I shall keep to myself, pay no attention to the purple monkey, move along) and it’s not about titillation. It’s about glamorizing RAPE. There. I said it. Happy now?

Because when a woman says NO, and a man forces sex upon her anyway, that is called RAPE. There is nothing glamorous about it, there is nothing right about it, there is certainly nothing romantic about it. STOP. IT.

I mean it. Stop it. In fiction, why can’t the woman get on board and enjoy herself if that’s what she wants? Why can’t a man stop if the woman tells him NO? She can have her internal conflicts (oh lordy, don’t we all) but I’m afraid all these stories about the female saying NO with her mouth and YES with her eyes are desensitizing readers to the fact this situation is RAPE. And what about the mixed messages to the males out there? “Oh, you told me no, but you have bookshelves full of those romantical type books where the guy takes what he wants and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

As a writer, you have to understand your words have power. You have never, ever in your life, held a weapon as powerful as the words you share with other people. Of course you’re an artist, of course you write for yourself, of course. But when you expose your work to other people, it’s a whole other ball game.

I’m not singling out romance writers, because it happens in every genre, but of course it’s more prevalent in romance. I’m not talking about realistic depictions of rape, or the horrendous and sad fallout after the fact. I’m not talking about a situation inimical to the plot of your story. I’m talking about this frivolous-type attitude toward a very serious issue. Think about what you are writing!

“Her mouth said “no” but her eyes said “yes”.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

IF HER MOUTH SAYS “NO” THEN THAT MEANS “NO”. (Besides the fact I have never met a talking eyeball.)

In this day and age (the heyday of rape in romance seems to have been the ’70s to the 90s although I feel like I’m seeing a resurgence) if you are a talented writer, certainly you can come up with something else to create tension and stop making it seem like this kind of situation is part of the mating ritual. Please.

Rape is all about power. It is not foreplay. It is not a way to bind a woman to you heart and soul. It is a crime. It is violent. It is wrong.

There are ways and ways and ways to explore the power dynamic between a man and a woman without using rape as the catalyst and if you can’t find them, you’re a shitty writer. That is my opinion. Therefore, if I read something of yours which trivializes this act, I will never read anything of yours again. I just won’t. I won’t promote it, I won’t edit it, I won’t read it.

Here is where I draw my line in the sand.

Share