I WANT rape to be included in books. That’s not what I’m going to try and say here. I want it in there because it happens nonstop. Women are experiencing it right now. If romance authors can randomly blow up every military hero’s best friend to add some drama, or even randomly blow HIM up so he can return to Texas traumatised and with serious injuries and meet his wholesome hometown heroine, then we can have rape victims as heroines.
I become so frustrated with the type of romance reader who wants their head permanently buried in the sand. I’ve even got in trouble from romance authors and readers for saying I don’t like the way Disney sanitises fairy tales!
However, the way so many authors are dealing with rape and other trauma in their books is beyond disturbing.
There are a few authors whose books have been disturbing me recently. Maya Banks. Lindsay McKenna. Diana Gabaldon. Cindy Miles. Look, there are many, but I can’t write about them all.
I want to mention Maya Banks first, because it is her newest romantic suspense book, Darkest Before Dawn, that prompted this post.
Banks LOVES to rape her heroines. She almost destroys them through horrific experiences, in order for the Big Strong hero to come in and fix everything with his guns and his sex.
Her latest book, which I have not yet read, but I have read excerpts and summaries of, involves a hero who HAS to turn the heroine over to terrorists in order for her to be tortured and raped and tortured and raped and raped and raped and raped and raped before she’s murdered. Why they won’t just murder her is anybody’s guess. The virginal heroine, named – of course – Honor – then decides she’d rather the hero screw her first, because Stockholm Syndrome rape is probably better than torture rape.
The author makes this about the hero’s man pain, with him saying things like this to her:
“And you think you don’t matter to me?” he roared. “Do you think I’m going to just hand you over to him and walk away knowing that he’ll repeatedly rape you, that his men will rape you? Whomever he wishes to reward will rape you. He’ll torture you just because he enjoys it. And then he’ll turn you over to ANE and every imaginable horror you can possibly imagine, they will do them to you. When and only when you are so near death that you can no longer withstand their constant brutality, they’ll kill you, but it won’t be merciful and it will not be swift. They’ll drag you into the middle of whatever village they occupy and they’ll inflict as many wounds as possible so that you die a slow, horrific death, and then they’ll leave your corpse to rot and decompose and no one will move you for fear they’ll be killed for interfering.”
Thanks to this blog for the excerpt.
Why in the holy flying hell would you SAY that to someone??!!
Another horrifying Banks book is Shades of Gray, where the entire team of male superheroes suddenly screws up so the tough girl heroine gets captured. She then proceeds to be cut up with a knife and raped twice in a row (on the page) for no particular reason, while everyone listens in.
She had nothing, no buffers to what had happened. She’d been raped by two men and sliced open like some piece of meat.
For some reason, she waits until the second time she’s being raped before she uses the knife in her hand to put an end to it.
Much of the rest of Shades of Gray is devoted to the *hero’s* pain about what happened.
The book finishes with the heroine fighting off the baddies while totally naked. None of the men are.
“Okay, I’m naked,” she said coolly. “Let him go.” Brumley cast a glance in Cole’s direction. Cole’s expression was murderous. “And let him miss out on the fun?” Brumley asked. “What better satisfaction would it be than to fuck you right here while he watches?”
Lindsay McKenna is an author whose current series involves all her heroines being victims of repeated rapes, as well as torture. She has a heroine who is raped by terrorists so badly they have to have surgery to put their genitals back together. At the same time she is in a coma because she’s also been shot in the head. She has heroines whose husbands beat and raped them for years.
Then she “fixes” these heroines with super sex and pregnancies.
I’m not getting into Diana Gabaldon’s obsession with rape in her Outlander series, but I DO want to say that her defenders saying it’s historically accurate are being ridiculous. An English officer “invading” Scotland (England was NOT invading Scotland in the 1740s, by the way – that’s the worst of all her historical mistakes), raping everything in sight, nailing a man’s hand to a table and raping him all night? I’m going to bet that never happened even once.
We have Cindy Miles’ Stupid Girl, where the heroine is drugged and raped right at the start of the book. But don’t worry! Her brother (in one of the romance genre’s most creepy and paternalistic acts) gives her a purity ring!
Then when we meet the hero, the first thing he does is sexually assault her. But don’t worry! When he finds out she has been raped not all that long ago, he says he would never have assaulted her if he’d known about it. But it’s just fine if she’s not a rape victim, it seems.
I get that people don’t want to read this sort of thing in their books. I don’t want to read this sort of thing either. This is not dealing with rape sensitively; it’s gratuitous and disturbing, and really worrying that female authors would use this sort of brutality as a plot device to make the heroes look strong and caring.
There are better ways to deal with serious issues than over the top brutalisation and degradation of the female (and male) characters.
PLEASE, authors. Write about rape. Write about assault. Write about serious issues instead of cupcake shops. But for God’s sake, use some sensitivity when you do it.