www.mabarrett.com

On writing about #sexualassault in fiction

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Please stop writing rape stories,” or, “ We’re inundated with rape stories. If I get one more submission about a rape story, I’ll stab myself in the eye,” from publishing industry folks.

Let’s just take a moment to pause and reflect on the above. Go back. Read it.

Oh god, not another rape story. I’m soooo sick of hearing about women being assaulted. It’s like so 1994.

*Not an actual publishing industry executive

I’ve heard this said in private and, even worse, to a whole room full of writers who’ve signed up to “learn” how to make it in the publishing industry. Every time I hear it, my immediate reaction is:

OH, FUCK OFF.

This isn’t just because I’ve written stories about women and men who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped. This isn’t even about the fact that I’ve been raped (more than once) in my life. This has everything to do with what’s happened in the past two days in the fucked-beyond-all-recognition election we’re witnessing right now.

My reaction stems from EXACTLY what we heard and saw on that putrid #TrumpTape. Rape culture. Rape culture exists. We’ve now seen (another) tape shoving the reality of it in our faces and we’ve heard pundits and the orange fucker himself tell us, “This is just locker room talk. This happens all the time.”

You know how we stop that? You know how we change this from (ignorant) men and women accepting this as the norm in our society?

WE TELL FUCKING STORIES ABOUT WOMEN AND MEN WHO’VE BEEN RAPED. We share the horrors of it. We share every single moment of despair that victims experience during and after the assault. We share the fucked up things we do out of fear and loathing, like not reporting, like blaming ourselves, like fearing that we’ll be killed or raped again, just like the Stanford Rape Victim did in her open letter to the court. We do NOT stay silent, but if fear causes you to keep your silence, then know that your story will be told. Because fuck you, “industry” folks who are just so damn sick of reading ANOTHER rape story. We will not be silenced.

Take note, publishing industry. If you can pour a bajillion dollars into a vampire trilogy or a sub/dom series, you can publish a rape story. Or fifty million. Don’t believe people will read it? Here’s where I show you actual numbers to the contrary:

On Friday at 4:48p, writer, Kelly Oxford posted this tweet:

HERE is the thread: https://twitter.com/kellyoxford/status/784541062119456769

And then this happened:

Rape is not an easy subject to talk or write about. Every time I sit down to write and feel the need to tell a rape story, I struggle with it. How much detail is too much detail? How do I explain how difficult it is to do the right thing? In my current book, VIRAL, my main character, Scarlet Battell, witnesses a rape and in a moment of fear, feels the only thing she can do to help is to record the assault. A lot of people think is maybe the worst, most cowardly thing she, or any human, could do. I’ll leave that up to you. For me, it was hard to write. It doesn’t seem far fetched to me — being paralyzed by fear, but some folks can’t fathom NOT stepping in. I understand. I would step in. I have before. But my character doesn’t and she has her own reasons.

In my humble opinion, we should at least discuss the whys and hows of this situation. I have chosen to create this work and to put it into existence. Imagine all those women and men out there who hear an industry built on a bottom line tell them, “No. Sorry. Not another rape story.” Think of all the voices that have been silenced, all the stories we deserve, but will never have because an executive didn’t feel like reading another assault story.

It’s akin to a Hollywood executive sitting on a video wherein a presidential candidate brags about sexually assaulting women to a bus full of men, because, seriously? Who wants to see this? It’s just locker room talk. It doesn’t mean anything.

xo M

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