This is not a ‘love’ scene

I have something to say. Fair warning: you may not like it, but it’s important to me, so it needs to be said.

Consider it a public service announcement.

I am aware that sex sells: cars, beer, magazines, and yes, books. I have felt pressure to up the ante with my own books, since I’m intent on making a career out of writing. I’m aware that even marketing my work as “YA” may disappoint some readers, because many young adult books are steamier now than they were when I was in high school (good grief, do I sound old).

That’s not the route I’m choosing to take with my books, but I respect the right of other authors to do so.

What I can never respect is the trend of many New Adult and erotica novels romanticizing rape. The reason I’ve become more aware of this is because I’m a member of several book promotional groups in which authors can share teasers of their work – usually a picture captioned with a line of dialogue, and these advertisements end up on my newsfeed.

Why stay involved in these groups, you ask? On the one hand, I treat them as marketing tools (which they are), and since marketing is a part of my job, this aspect is an occupational hazard for me. It’s flattering when someone is willing to help promote your work, and as a courtesy, I’ll do the same for him or her. I don’t want to be selfish and accept help without “paying it forward.”

But lately, it’s been difficult. Some very friendly women have supported me and my work, but I cannot do the same for them because their excerpts, their teasers, the snippets of dialogue from their characters’ mouths are triggering to me.

I don’t intend to criticize these authors, but the idea of romanticized rape in general. “Romanticized rape” sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but it’s so prevalent and normalized today that I’m sure most people don’t see it that way. And who can blame them? “No means yes” or “No means try harder to convince her otherwise” is so mainstream that I didn’t recognize it as rape when it happened to me. You may be wondering, what kind of person doesn’t know she’s being raped?

Someone who grew up in a culture that doesn’t understand the meaning of consent. This isn’t a case of agreeing to sexual activity that is regretted later, then calling it rape. I knew something wasn’t right, the entire time. I knew something was wrong the moment I first said “no” and was promptly told, “It will be fun, I promise.”

I’ve heard so many similar stories from other women since, I decided to write a book about it. Believe me, this struggle is real.

This post may end up getting lost in the void of pissy internet rants, but with all due respect and sincerity, I ask you to consider why a woman’s “no” and a man’s “Come on, you’ll like it!” is considered sexy. I ask you to consider how much the scene will change if instead both partners are equally into each other and what they are doing.

I’m not trying to take anyone’s first amendment rights away. Just know that by continuing to perpetuate these rape-y “love scenes,” what you are really doing is making it that much harder for people like me to share their stories, and be taken seriously.

Anyone who says they were raped deserves to be taken seriously, whether their experience involved emotional coercion or being held at gunpoint. Changing your mind about having sex is fine, so long as that decision is made OF YOUR OWN ACCORD AND NO ONE ELSE’S.

And now, back to your regular lives.

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14 thoughts on “This is not a ‘love’ scene

  1. Sarah Daltry says:

    i wrote a post about this last winter – and it started a long stream of hate. I was writing romance and yes, it was smutty. However, I have never felt kinky sex and abuse are or should be linked. I have PTSD and depression and anxiety and I started noticing these books growing more and more violent and awful. They were demeaning and this wasn’t even debatable content like FSoG or BDSM. This was outright women being raped and tortured and liking it. Falling in love with sociopaths. My news feed was images of women being tortured, of men saying things to them I can’t repeat (and I’m not uncomfortable with cursing), and threats and outright abuse. And women were buying it in droves and commenting how hot it was.

    I nearly lost my mind. I wasn’t sleeping. I grew suicidal. I couldn’t function and I didn’t know how to get out of it because I was writing romance and I felt like I was stuck. And the more I said it upset me, the more they mocked me. Eventually I lost it and I’ve had to start over. I won’t write romance anymore. I can’t associate with that element at all. I need my feed to be Doctor Who and cats and books that don’t give me nightmares.

    I’m glad you said it because I delete my post and I’ve been afraid to say anything. I know how these people are but in this climate today, how can any woman read or write that and not feel dirty? What about the young girls who see this? Their own sons and daughters? Is that how they want them to view sex and love? I’m all about empowerment and I believe women should be able to talk openly about sex but rape and abuse are not sexy. Period. This isn’t BDSM. These are men holding knives to their throats and forcing them. That has no place in romance at all.

    Like

    • Beth Caplin says:

      Wow. I haven’t seen content quite like you described, but I probably would have reacted in a similar way that you did. This post was inspired by a teaser I saw on Facebook where a guy said to a woman, “You’re not going to say no to me, are you? You’re already naked and in my bed. That means you want it.” I flew into a blind rage when I saw that, because that “You know you want it” line was a refrain throughout my abusive relationship, and it probably resonates with several other women in an extremely damaging way. I knew there was a possibility I’d lose friends and/or networking connections with this post, but I stopped caring. When did equal consent stop being sexy? I don’t read erotica, but if I did, that’s what I’d prefer to see.

      Like

  2. iwienert says:

    Well, I had a long thoughtful comment but domething happened with word press so I will just say that this is a good poat and thank you for sharing. Erotica like this blurs the line of consent, and confuses fantasy with reality, which is most unfortunate and dangerous.

    Like

    • Beth Caplin says:

      No worries I just approved what I think you meant to be the original comment! Weird setting with WordPress, I’m still trying to figure it all out. I agree the fantasy aspect is definitely a factor, and among consenting couples who make the “no means yes” thing a game, fine, if that’s their thing. It’s a fine line when it comes to using that “game” as entertainment: I’m not advocating censorship by any means, but when it comes to scenarios where consent is a “blurred line,” I *wish* more writers would consider the consequences of using that strategy as “fantasy.”

      Like

  3. iwienert says:

    No means no, indeed. And the tyoes of stories that do consider ‘Come on, you’ll like it,’ to a woman’s ‘No’ only serve to confuse the line. The only thing I can think of ad to why this kind of erotica is considered sexy is because it is fantasy. Many people, men and women alike, have the fantasy of just being taken and ravaged. But that is a fantasy. If confronted with that in reality they would most likely not like it or think it sexy.
    People read fiction to escape and indulge things they wouldn’t normally, but the problem of consent (or lack thereof) in these books make it seem like Rape is okay, because even if she sayd no, she secretly wants it. Its a sexist and misogynistic attitude, and it is unfortunate that it is so prevalent.
    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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