So here it is: I don't want to read rape in my fiction. I won't write rape in my fiction.
I'm tired. I'm tired of seeing what rape cases that do make the courts get dragged through a haze of victim blaming and exoneration of the perpetrators I'm tired of the reports of women who have been raped having their lives ruined or committing suicide. I'm tired of aching from reading the stories of those who do find ways to carry on. I'm tired of rape jokes that are nothing more than re-victimization and bullying.
So when I turn to the things I love the most, my reading, my writing, my escape, I don't want more concrete poured on my head.
I want my heroes to have challenges. I want them to live interesting lives (or simple lives, if the story warrants it). I want them to be complex PEOPLE. But I'm beyond sick and tired of a woman character, or even a child, having their motivation and life defined by rape.
*insert gif of Loki screaming "ENOUGH!"*
I gave up on Game of Thrones because of, among other things, rape. I will give your short story a big thumbs down if it contains gratuitous or character driving rape. I will put your book down (if I wasn't forewarned) or I will not buy your book at all (if I am forewarned, and I will research the crap out of it with reviews from people I respect).
If you're putting rape into your story because it's a cool thing to do (ugh! Coz mental and physical torture is just some awesome literary fad) or 'that's just the way it is' (so why does it have to continue being that way?) or 'shit happens to women' (really? the only way a woman can be strong is to have her sexuality violated and autonomy removed so she can 'win it back'? Piss off), then get out of my way.
I am capable of enjoying my literature and pop culture while at the same time criticizing it. Rape, torture porn, woman body horror, woman as the helpless victim: we're saturated in it. Why is seeing a woman abused and tortured ENTERTAINING?
Honestly, you're going to have to do something exceptional with your character if they suffer rape. And there are rare authors out there who can do it, so perhaps you should be taking your cue from them, like Jim C. Hines' Princess quartet.
And just what is wrong with depicting a woman in consenting sexual situations? Women are people, with sexual desires (or a lack of them, if the case may be). Show me something astonishing - show me women initiating and enjoying sex. Show me discussions of consent. But before you do, get clued up. Don't go writing sexual encounters based solely on your experience with sexuality. Here's a shocking thing: ASK, and ask somebody different. Ask that Quiltbag person, ask the asexual, ask the aromantic. And don't be put out if they won't answer your questions. There's a world of Google at your fingertips.
You think I'm just some unicorn? Nyuh uh. If you're not listening to what other readers and authors (often many respected women authors) are saying about this, then you're alienating a big chunk of your audience. And what about those readers/authors who stay silent because they don't have the courage, don't want to risk outing themselves, don't want to be triggered by re-engagement? You're ignoring and hurting them too.
Not every audience is a monolith - someone else, on any other day, may have a different opinion to me. They might say it's okay. That's fine - they have different coping mechanisms to me. I prefer to err on the side of caution - I see it all the time in real life, I don't want to be entertained by it. There are ways to make great art without reinforcing rape culture, without marginalizing victims again and again. It's over, can we not grow up? What have you got to lose from not perpetuating rape culture, what have you got to uphold?
If you think I've used the word 'rape' too much in this post, if you're indifferent to that amount, perhaps you should consider why. But if you're still flinching I offer you glitter and unicorns and cupcakes, and a nice big soft duvet to hide under so we can sleep it all off until the world decides to get over itself. No, this doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting, but I'm not going to give my money or good word to authors who use it in a harmful *cough* sorry...entertaining way.
I will not get over it. I expect better.
More reading from people I respect:
Foz Meadows: On Grittiness and Grimdark
Kate Elliot: What is your consensual sex and love doing in my epic fantasy?
NK Jemisin: Sexual violence in The Shadowed Sun
Here, have a cute kitten to hopefully make it a bit better (and yes, I'll need to recharge after this post):