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Sexual Violence

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
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wendy
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Sexual Violence

Post by wendy » Thu March 28th, 2013, 10:12 pm

Following on from a previous post about pet peeves -

Even in our "enlightened" day sexual abuse and exploitation is rampant. Experts think 1 in every 4 girls ( 1 in every 10 boys) have been exposed to inappropriate overtures by the time they are 18 yrs old.
Rape was as common (if not more so) in periods where men held undisputed positions of power.

Should writers of historical fiction portray scenes of sexual violence or not?

My belief is they should, if the circumstances call for it. Unprotected young women were extremely vulnerable. I believe writers have a duty to address such issues - and the resulting trauma symptoms - in a realistic and believable way, though they should always be handled respectfully.

To ignore, disregard, pretend such things did not and do not happen is ROMANCE writing, not HF.
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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Thu March 28th, 2013, 11:53 pm

By the emphasis, do you mean to imply that romance is somehow a bad genre? I haven't read romance in twenty or thirty years, but I do think it's a valid form. Just saying.

I also write what could only possibly defined as histfic - and nobody gets raped in it. That is not a whitewashing, it's just an absence of rape in my story. Rape culture is endemic in history and the present day - I don't even need to mention that certain town in Ohio, nor countless other major stories about it, we all know them. Too well.

In the "Cliche'" thread where this conversation started, we discussed balance. It isn't necessary to pretend rape away for it not to happen in a novel - yet the frequency of it in "World Without End" begs a lot more questions than whether the work feels authentic. Sadly, at least for me, many of those questions end up being about the author, and the context of the writing, rather than the novel itself. Why is it necessary to heap nine (I'm not being hyperbolic - I think I'm under-counting, but refuse to re-watch WWE to verify my own tally) rape scenes into ONE single episode of a miniseries? Why are the women in this work presented strictly as a) incestuous mothers, b) victims, or c) Mary Sues? What is in that author's head? Do I really want to know?

Ugh.

Realism is not a problem for me. I recently read a deeply stunning post about violence against Lara Croft in the latest Tomb Raider game, which came to brutal and incredibly affecting conclusions. As apropos to this thread, I cannot recommend reading it highly enough; though the specific issue is not rape, it looks at violence against a female character with an unblinking gaze, and ends in forgiving realism so powerful it actually triggered an abuse victim into a pretty bad state.

This said: I do not believe that a work LACKING violence (against women - sexual or otherwise) also lacks realism. My MC was no priss about breaking out an ax, but he was the son of a king who was banished by his own people for profligate behavior - and so I felt, given what primary sources did have to say about him, that rape and promiscuity (much less battery) could not be a part of his character. Perhaps if I'd written about the father - history doesn't say he was a rapist, but it would hardly be a stretch to think a king dethroned by those with a deep belief in the spiritual right and charisma of his position might have had to behave outrageously (by our view, criminally) to earn an ousting. Had I been writing that story, now that I think about it, I almost can't imagine NOT including rape in it, even multiple violations. My duty is to the story and not my personal "squicks" about what happens in it.
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wendy
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Post by wendy » Fri March 29th, 2013, 12:26 pm

By “Romance” I mean the 19th Century pre-Modern tradition, a time when even female writers were unable to mention sexual abuse. For example, in THE MILL ON THE FLOSS George Eliot’s Maggie Tulliver remains unmolested despite running away with the gypsies, having secret liaisons with Philip Wakem in the Red Deeps, and being abducted on a boat by Stephen Guest!
As I point out in my book on sexual trauma A WOUNDED DEER, it has only been since the 1970s that people began to accept the reality of widespread rape and abuse. I believe it is my duty as a modern female writer to portray all aspects of the human condition in the most probable and realistic circumstances.
To perpetuate the old “unicorn and rainbow” romance tradition is pure escapism. Fine for those that want that, but not historical fiction.
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Post by boswellbaxter » Fri March 29th, 2013, 1:00 pm

I don't object to its inclusion; it's a part of life.

What I do object to are novelists who attribute acts of sexual violence to historical characters not known to have engaged in them, usually with the purpose of making an already unsympathetic character even more unsympathetic. It's a cheap and lazy form of character assassination.
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Post by Misfit » Fri March 29th, 2013, 2:42 pm

[quote=""boswellbaxter""]I don't object to its inclusion; it's a part of life.

What I do object to are novelists who attribute acts of sexual violence to historical characters not known to have engaged in them, usually with the purpose of making an already unsympathetic character even more unsympathetic. It's a cheap and lazy form of character assassination.[/quote]

+10

I intend to weigh in on this, but I was tired last night and now it's month end and I have to work at work today. I'll pop in tomorrow.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat March 30th, 2013, 8:33 pm

This is a topic I post on so often it's probably sounding like the 'one string on my guitar'. But here goes.

I sponsor, do write-ups for, and have friends working on the front lines of human trafficking. About half of this, unfortunately, is for sexual purposes. Just getting them free or returning them home is not enough. They need years of aftercare. Plus there is almost always a social stigma from their family/village which exacerbates the problem.

The global reality, which surely was no different in times past, is that 70-80% of children/youth are not allowed to reach sexual maturity without their sexual development interfered with (molested / raped / exploited emotionally/verbally/visually to the point of serious damage) enough that it creates major problems in adult sexual adjustment.

I prefer fiction that addresses that reality. But I loathe fiction that contributes to the damage, or excuses / worsens the abuse. So in other words, I don't mind rapes that are pictured as horrific. But when they are written so that a reader who was already bent in that direction might be titillated by it, I think of all the children (male as well as female) who are dumped into the sex tourism trade for the men who get off on that kind of fantasy, and I want to reach through the pages and rip the writer's guts out.

Oh, did that sound a little extreme? Good thing I can't do any such thing.

And then there are the female-oriented rape fantasies. Girls who pick this reading material up as their first exposure to sex are going to be interested. It is going to have a much greater impact when it is the first exposure than an adult who had many sexual contexts to compare it to. And so begins the rape fantasy which will interfere with her normal sexual enjoyment of a normal sexual relationship.

My husband and I, in our lay marriage counseling, have come across too many of these -- women whose fantasies cannot become reality (they all know that a real rape would be horrific and give them no pleasure at all) and whose sexual reality gives them no satisfaction.

So I have no problem with the topic, but how it is presented.

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Post by Misfit » Sat March 30th, 2013, 9:26 pm

So I have no problem with the topic, but how it is presented.
This. I know rape and violence exist and I certainly don't want things sugar-coated, but at the same time there's a line that some authors cross that goes too far in detail. A better author can impress the horror a character is experiencing without going into extreme minute details of every moment. Ken Follet in Pillars of the Earth comes to mind. There's also a fairly popular HF book out there that has a gang rape scene of the main character within the first chapters. While I understand that this historical character existed in a world where something like that could conceivably have happened, at the same time I didn't need to be clubbed over the head with every last detail of it. I bailed at 50 pages.
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Post by rebecca » Sun March 31st, 2013, 3:49 am

When I read an historical novel I want to read how life truly was in that time period and in many cases the times were very violent. I would hate to read novels where political correctness has distorted life as it was lived. But I also do not want to see the violence of those times depicted simply to rev up the storyline; that to me smacks of laziness.

I also object and find it offensive when rape is white-washed as in the victim falls in love with the rapist or even worse a wife is raped and somehow enjoys it; I simply don't find it credible.

One of the things I truly disliked in a recent biography of Wallis Simpson was when the author basically dismissed how her first husband brutalized her and actually blamed Wallis because she was born 'different' and that her husband was merely expressing his frustration. I did not finish the book. It is never a good idea to make the rapist a 'victim.'

Another problem I have is the depiction of violence on the screen whether it be gory bloody fights and be-headings to women being violated simply to ramp up the ratings. I was surprised when I read an article where many actresses don't want to do these violent re-enactments and some feel embarrassed by having to film naked sex scenes. If this is the case then why are producers insisting that these scenes take place and the wishes of the actors involved are disregarded.

When it comes to it would any of us want to go to work and be told we have to strip naked in front of our work colleagues? We would refuse; so why are these young actresses being manipulated into doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable?

If you have a good program, with good actors, an excellent script and a gripping storyline then the copious nude scenes and gory violence is simply not needed, so why is it there?

The producers of these shows say that they are catering to the public. What public?
Downtown Abbey is a world wise success. There are no nude scenes, no contortionist sex scenes. Do we really want to see Lord and Lady Grantham 'at it' like rabbits? I think not.

Merlin was another success where violence was implied but not depicted and no sex scenes. It ran for five seasons and was a major success. Camelot on the other hand had violence galore and rampant sex scenes, it ran for one season before being cancelled.

Another thing that really irritates is when all religious figures are seen as hypocritical, sex obsessed fiends, while those who hold no religious convictions are portrayed as honourable, principled victims of the above. I feel in these cases that the author is injecting his/her own world view to the detriment of the book, and the discerning reader will note it.

I am tired of hearing producers and directors telling us what the public want when the ratings tell a vastly different story. We want good a good script, good acting and some escapism which doesn't involve someone ripping their clothes off or axing someone's head off.

In other words we want intelligent drama and not melodrama.

My two cents worth.

PS: I will also include a recent crime where a young intoxicated girl was raped and her photo's splashed on Facebook. I find it incredible that many of these young people cannot see that what they did was wrong. How can they think this? I also wonder what are they reading and what are they watching that would make them think that treating a young girl as if she were a piece of meat was OK? You can see they are absolutely confused and cannot see what they did was wrong? It staggers me.

Bec :)

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Wed April 10th, 2013, 12:15 am

[quote=""MLE""]This is a topic I post on so often it's probably sounding like the 'one string on my guitar'. But here goes.

I sponsor, do write-ups for, and have friends working on the front lines of human trafficking. About half of this, unfortunately, is for sexual purposes. Just getting them free or returning them home is not enough. They need years of aftercare. Plus there is almost always a social stigma from their family/village which exacerbates the problem.

The global reality, which surely was no different in times past, is that 70-80% of children/youth are not allowed to reach sexual maturity without their sexual development interfered with (molested / raped / exploited emotionally/verbally/visually to the point of serious damage) enough that it creates major problems in adult sexual adjustment.

I prefer fiction that addresses that reality. But I loathe fiction that contributes to the damage, or excuses / worsens the abuse. So in other words, I don't mind rapes that are pictured as horrific. But when they are written so that a reader who was already bent in that direction might be titillated by it, I think of all the children (male as well as female) who are dumped into the sex tourism trade for the men who get off on that kind of fantasy, and I want to reach through the pages and rip the writer's guts out.

Oh, did that sound a little extreme? Good thing I can't do any such thing.

And then there are the female-oriented rape fantasies. Girls who pick this reading material up as their first exposure to sex are going to be interested. It is going to have a much greater impact when it is the first exposure than an adult who had many sexual contexts to compare it to. And so begins the rape fantasy which will interfere with her normal sexual enjoyment of a normal sexual relationship.

My husband and I, in our lay marriage counseling, have come across too many of these -- women whose fantasies cannot become reality (they all know that a real rape would be horrific and give them no pleasure at all) and whose sexual reality gives them no satisfaction.

So I have no problem with the topic, but how it is presented.[/quote]

I ve been sexually assaulted. I do not have a problem with people writing about it but I do have a problem with it being glamorized because reality and fantasy are so, so different and as a woman who read rape fantasies before it happened, I consider the rape fantasy dangerous.

Best I stop now before I get into a rant
Last edited by Helen_Davis on Wed April 10th, 2013, 12:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu April 11th, 2013, 10:37 pm

http://feministing.com/2013/04/10/rehte ... s-is-dead/

No, what is put out there about sex, in this case rape, is not a harmless diversion. There is fallout.

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