BOOK & BLOG
December 17, 2007
MY POINT OF VIEW
I hate to get all dark and serious in this happy season, but I read an article in Romantic Times Booklover’s Magazine that disturbed me greatly. The article discusses the rise and fall -- and rise again -- of a scenario that lots of readers seem to enjoy. This plot device features “forcible seduction.” (Most sentient beings would call this “rape.”) In the context of the romance world, however, this means a situation where the hero persists in seducing the heroine after she has said, “No.” She really wants to, the writers explain. She’s just saying “No” for reasons that in the end don’t matter very much.
Point of View A: This is a fantasy situation we’re talking about here. It’s not real life, and it’s not meant to be like real life.
Point of View B: We’ve spent years decades trying to get both females and males to learn that “no” means “NO.” It doesn’t mean, “Yes, if you still persist, I’ll cave. Disregard what I’m saying. Gosh, I don’t mean it.”
Point of View A: Lighten up, already! Not too many men read romances, anyway! No one’s trying to teach men that they should go ahead with sex forcibly even if the woman says she doesn’t want to.
Point of View B: This is true. And I’ve tried to lighten up, believe me. I admire all of the writers quoted in the story. I admire anyone who can make a living writing. And one of the writers quoted is someone I consider a friend. Not too surprisingly, she’s a lot younger than I am. So she wouldn’t remember the Bad Old Days, when police treated rape victims like hysterical crybabies, or when women had to supply a witness to the rape in order to prosecute.
I know that romance novels are not realistic. I’ve written some novels that were strongly in the romance vein, myself. I know that literature is escapist. People read to get away from the ugly everyday, from the mundane, from the boring. And if there are sexual elements depicted in books which are obviously not meant to be realistic, I probably should be able to accept them for what they are.
I just can’t do it.
I got raped over thirty years ago, and yet there’s not a moment of my life today that hasn’t been shaped by that incident. The women’s movement was working hard to train a largely male police force in handling and caring for rape victims, and (thank God) I was able to benefit from that improvement.
You can see why I consider the inclusion of such scenes to be, at the least, a mistake. I know I’m being over-serious and heavy-handed, and probably a lot of other things, but I simply can’t help it. I’m not a confrontive person; I’m not a poster girl for any cause. I tried really hard to forget I’d read the article, forget the justifications for including such material, and lecture myself on the harmlessness of a few scenes out of thousands of books. I have no personal beef against any writer, and I don’t consider myself a crusader for political correctness in any sense.
I do feel very strongly about this idea, and I am obliged to speak out, here in my own forum. Read what you want, and enjoy it: but there are thousands of women who know “forcible seduction” is anything but fun.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris