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.

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28 thoughts on “The First Rant of the New Year – The Word NO, Rape, and Responsibility

  1. AGREED. Holy crap, really? If you were in a situation with a guy and you said no and he kept going–would you go to the cops after? HELL YA!! So why is it okay in fiction?

    EXCELLENT RANTZ, Ms. Netta.

  2. I am so sick of reading stuff like that. If I find something like that in a book I have a habit of not finishing it because I get too pissed off at the writer. Rape is not sexy, it is not romantic, and it is not right anywhere and in any form.

  3. Wow! I thought this crap was over and done with a while ago. *Shakes head* I’m appalled that this is trending again. I agree, NO means NO forever and always. I would read those old, old romances and wonder how on earth could the woman, who’d been forced to have sex with the supposed hero could ever fall in love with him. Rest assured, my romances don’t and will NEVER have such a deplorable act.
    I’m sharing this post on my facebook wall right now! Thanks for ranting! :)

    • Apparently it isn’t, Deena. I remember those old romances too, I’ve read them. And thrown quite a few of them across the room. Maybe it’s something about the paranormal angle that’s bringing it up again, I don’t know.

      Thanks for sharing and coming by. Much appreciated :)

  4. Totally agree. As an aspiring romance author I find it’s fun creating that tension and sizzle between male/female characters. There is no need to bring any type of rape or “rape like” actions into the scene. Thanks to Deena for sharing this post, I found it on facebook. And Brava Ms. Netta, excellent rant.

  5. I recently read a book like this in which, while married, it was still rape. Over and over again. I sat there thinking, “Man if you did that to me, I’d have poisoned your cornflakes and beat you over the head with a nail-spiked board.” YES! Finally someone says something! For a long time I’ve looked for books which tell a decent love story without charging head first into bed every other page. To me, that’s basically an orgasm aid. It gets you all heated up and lets you down. Come ON, folks. That ISN’T love. It’s lust. I miss Jane Austen!

    • ^YES^! One of my favorite romantical stories is “Red Adam’s Lady” by Grace Ingram. I love that book, out of print now, sadly. However, the author handles this very situation (historically accurate – actually, the whole book is, which is why I love it so much) exactly right. He’s drunk, she’s out of her element, he carts her away, she beats him over the head with a stool and ties him up. When he awakens and sobers up, he’s horrified (she was in an alehouse and he mistook her for a doxy) and tries to make amends, of which she’s having no part. Julitta is actually one of the strongest heroines I’ve read, and the whole dynamic was believable. Adam is not the brooding, dark, tortured and misunderstood hero; he was a real guy. I guess you’d have to read the book to get it, but I hold this book as an example of IF you’re going to write about a rape (or attempted rape, in this case, in historically accurate terms) THIS is how you do it.

      I really liked the bopping over the head part. It’s great. Heh.

  6. Yeah, I quit reading a series in the middle, and have avoided a very popular fantasy romance series because the heroine left a GREAT guy and went with a guy that way back in the first book had TORTURED AND RAPED her. I am STILL mad about it.

    It’s one of the few times I’ve seriously reconsidered breaking my own rule about not reviewing other author’s works.

    • I know what you mean, India. I understand the attraction to reforming the bad guy, but this…this is just too much. I honestly think some authors really need to understand just how much power they’re wielding with their words.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  7. You are 100 percent right here. I work with domestic violence victims and I know all about what consent means. And “no” ain’t it. Thanks for calling rape what it is. Hopefully the romance writers will get what you have to say, and realize that just because “real” consequences don’t happen between the pages of a book (like disease, like serious internal injuries, like ruined reputations, like suicide) doesn’t mean it’s okay to glorify the process.

    • Thanks, Alana. And blessings to you for the work you do.

      I especially take issue with the books that don’t warn you of what’s coming up. I know that has to be a trigger for a lot of women, and I’ve been blindsided more than once. I HATE THAT.

      There is no glory in the process and I too, wish romance writers start to understand their responsibility. Because when you are a writer, you do have a responsibility.

      Thanks for the comment. :)

  8. Oh My God, I love you. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE that b.s (and I actually LOVE rape fantasy erotica or straight up filth). I hate that namby-pamby, beat-around-the-rape-bush crap that so many authors do these days–in fact, it’s the reason I threw the last romance novel I tried to read across the room and never opened it again.

    If a writer wants to go that route, they need to slap an erotica label or a warning label on their book, and actually go for it. I think authors just can’t handle writing about the fallout from something like that. Me, I wanna see the whole thing play out, slobbery wails, internal conflict, shame and all.

    The “you raped me, I love you, let’s make a happy ever after” trope is is laziness and cowardice on the author’s part…getting slightly sensational without all the work necessary to build a truly good conflict, while attempting not to step on any toes or ruin their “rep” by writing erotica or violence.

    • I have no problem at all with writing about rape, erotica, or dark fantasy. You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Jen. It’s not glamorous OR romantic, and who the hell has a HEA with a rapist? It’s that “you raped me I love you” that’s particularly disturbing.

      I can’t help but think a woman who reads this type of romance, if she ever (heaven forbid) found herself in a rape situation (date rape or whatever) might be less inclined to report it as a crime, or maybe I’m reaching here. I just think it’s irresponsible not to explore the repercussions and yes, lazy.

      xoxoxo

  9. Bravo!

    If I want to read a good thriller, I’ll read something about rape.
    If I want to read a deep drama about a woman (or man), I’ll read something about rape.

    Anything else I read — forget about the rape scene. It’s inappropriate. And like you said, ” … in this age. . .”.

    • Yes, Glynis. I totally agree. It has to be more than just a gratuitous plot device. Find another one, there are plenty out there.

      Nice to see you! xoxo

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