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.