Cross-posted from Patreon: Rape as an element of world building
(Normally this would be a $5+ post, but I felt it important enough to make public this week)
“Rapey” is a term I apply to a lot of fiction, usually as shorthand for why I stopped watching it. The first episode of American Horror Story, within the first few episodes of Game of Thrones, a good chunk of anything that comes out of the horror genre. It’s a trope I find impossible to stomach seeing in fiction—but this is not an indictment of rape as an element of a story, necessarily. While there’s certainly things to be said about cultural values that endorse this sort of voyeuristic use of rape in fiction, mostly it’s a personal choice. It squicks me out as the worst sort of body horror, so I don’t watch it if I can help it.
However, I recently saw Mad Max: Fury Road and it made me realize that I have a lot less trouble with rape as a story element when it’s implicit rather than explicit. In Mad Max, the women are escaping a life of chattel and slavery, of which rape was undoubtedly a part. But the film sees no need to linger over it, or point it out, or otherwise turn their suffering into a spectacle for the viewer. It’s never shown, but it’s obvious in implication.
At one point I saw it explained that, in all honesty, rape is worse than murder. You can accidentally murder someone. There are degrees of murder for a reason—from drunk driving to negligence to just something going awry in a way you never imagined, you can be responsible for murder in a number of ways that don’t at all apply to rape. Hell, you cannot rape someone in self-defense. And that stuck with me—rape is a deliberate act. And one I have no interest in participating in, even if it’s just as a passive viewer on the other side of the fourth wall.
So really what I’m saying is that I won’t make you participate in it either. It can be part of the story of DOA, but I will never think “my gosh, the readers really need to see this.” Or hear it or have it happen off-panel but still implied. You don’t need to be there and neither do I.