Tag Archives: silence

Rape in Fiction

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

Sex is a loaded topic in American Culture. There is always someone with an opinion on it. That makes sexual violence, such as rape/ childhood sexual abuse/ sexual assault, also a loaded topic. However, the reality is that one out of every six women will either experience an attempted or completed rape in their life time.

Sexual violence is the skeleton hidden in the closet of this country. No one wants to talk about it. Not even me. But, part of being a writer is exposing those things that no one wants to talk about or think about. Dorothy Allison, who wrote an incredible novel called Bastard Out of Carolina, advises writers to write toward the fear. Right now, in talking about sexual violence in a public way, I am definitely writing towards my fear.

So, with that preface, I bring forth my topic. Is rape appropriate in fiction? Obviously, there is no easy answer to this question. However, I am talking about it because silence keeps rape and sexual violence hidden. Rape culture thrives on that silence.

I’ve seen some scathing reviews of the recent Lara Croft game and the sexualized violence within. Furthermore, there are a variety of television tropes about rape and sexual violence in our culture. And the assumption that rape equals automatic drama. These are ways in which rape are used to superficially deepen a character, add tension to a story, or support the rape culture in which we live in.

Rape culture is an insidious thing. It wants to keep women shamed and self-blaming when they’ve been violated. Rape culture wants to keep a monolithic view of its victims – white and often young – and supposed to act a certain way and dress a certain way. If this woman wore the wrong clothes, went to the wrong neighborhood, etc, then it is her fault and the culture begins to blame her. Or if she is the wrong color – think of the eleven year old girl in Texas who was gang raped and was called a slut. Would she have been shamed this way if she were a white little girl? I highly doubt it.

In any case, rape culture, wants to keep survivors silent – in order to keep survivors victims. Furthermore, even if many women have not been raped, almost every woman I know has been harassed in one way or another at least once. And it pains me when I hear that harassment being characterized as “not that bad.” Because, women like men, should have bodily autonomy as a right and not as a privilege.

So then, the question I started with comes up again, is it appropriate to talk about rape in fiction? My answer is a tentative yes. As with all serious topics, it needs to be handled with care and not used as just another trope or device. It is all a matter about how you treat the topic.

As a survivor myself, sexual violence is a topic that keeps coming back to me in many of the novels and short stories that I write. Many of my short stories are of a gritty nature than my novels, which I write primarily in the fantasy genre. However, as with most of my art, sexual violence comes up in one way or another.

I often write about sexual violence as a way to try to make sense of my own experiences. These pieces are often intense and explore the depth of emotion, personal reaction, and experience. Mostly, I explore this from the survivor’s side of the story, and not the perpetrator’s side of the story.

In my mind, nothing makes rape or sexual violence excusable. However, rapists don’t see women as people with their own bodily autonomy. Rapists see women as objects from which they can take.

Furthermore, my story is different from other stories. There is no right way to be a survivor. There is no right way to react to having your boundaries ripped apart. Often our culture expects a certain narrative for the survivor. However, survivors are people too, and that means that reactions are as varied as the people who are taken advantage of.

Overall, I think that rape is a loaded topic in our culture. But, if we refuse to examine the way in which the culture silences and diminishes survivors/ thrivers then we are allowing rape culture to win.

© K. Klein 2013

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Filed under feminism, health, writing

Struggling against the Silence

Writing is a struggle against silence. Carlos Fuentes

My anxiety has been riding me hard for the past week. Some days; especially today that has made it hard to concentrate and get things done. I hate the feeling of being arrested and unable to accomplish anything. When it feels like every task – even finishing the laundry – is too much. I did get the laundry done today, but it feels like I didn’t accomplish much else.

This is so damn frustrating to me. I know I am capable of accomplishing many things. And yet, days like today happen where doing anything feels like an uphill battle against me. Even typing these words is a chore.

I want to write or journal, but it feels like I am in a tank of water and every motion I do takes the extra effort of working against not only the air, but the water too. I don’t want to be silent. I want to be able to speak up. Or write. Or communicate. I want to write – even when it is hard or scary. Perhaps, especially when writing is hard or scary.

I hate this feeling that fear is ruling my life. I want to live my life despite the fear I feel. I want to be able to do what I want to do. I want to accomplish things in a day; more than just getting the laundry done and feeling exhausted because it took that much exertion to just start it. So here I am, writing this blog post, trying to work over that feeling of not being able to accomplish anything today.

There is also that voice of doubt in the back of my head. This post is stupid. Why don’t you stop whining? If you post this to the internet people are going to think you are a whiner. You don’t want that, do you? Argh, listen up, doubt – please just shut the fuck up. All right? I am striving against the silence. I am writing despite the uphill battle. I don’t need your help.

©K. Klein 2012

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Filed under anxiety, inner critic, writing