This post will contain possible triggers, so be warned.
I was browsing my Twitter feed when I saw a friend of mine had RT’d the following:
Hey fantasy writers, if you show your female MC is tough by having her fight off attempted r*pe… whats that say for those who couldn’t?
— Carrie Ann (@Writer_Carrie) September 7, 2016
The thread included some great links to articles and pages where women discussed the very nature of how rape is presented in SFF. Check out Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF by Sarah Gailey. Another is a 2012 Livejournal post from Seanan McGuire. The fact that this was written four years ago means nothing, for these are ongoing issues. And I hate that it is.
Guys, I’ve read a lot of fantasy and sci fi over the years. The fantasy novels I’ve read are almost wholly guilty of including a sexually assaulted female character or one who narrowly escapes an attempt. And why? Plot device, mostly. Female character earns the ire of an enemy? Capture her and lock her in a room with lots of men. Female character leads an army? Better make sure she gets overpowered in a corner. Female character doing some grocery shopping? Best make sure she’s followed back to her car and/or saved by the Dashing Hero. Female character sitting on the subway with headphones on and reading a book? Make sure the guy next to her makes her as uncomfortable as possible, needles her for ‘not smiling’, or follows her home. In other words, if you have a female character, you as the writer are expected, nay, REQUIRED, to make sure her plot arc includes one or all of the above.
What’s that? It’s unrealistic not to include any of the above? Fuck you. None of my female characters are destined for sexual assault. NONE.
Why is this so common? Why is it we read so many books, watch so many shows, or pay to see so many movies, and we’re mentally counting down before a female character gets assaulted/harassed? It’s bad enough we as a society have become so goddamn desensitized to the subject that we can watch/read about it and not bat an eye. This, to me, is an insult to those who experienced it. Don’t add this element to your fantasy world. Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution. Like Sarah Gailey says: do better.