Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire
seanan_mcguire

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Things I will not do to my characters. Ever.

I am not in the habit of cut-tagging my crankiness, but in this case, I will, because I'm going to be discussing the sexual abuse of women, and I try not to be triggery when I don't have to be. This is your notification, and your warning.

There are a lot of ways to reach me; I try to be accessible and responsive whenever possible. Sometimes, this leads to my being asked questions I would never dream of asking an author who wasn't a) a personal friend, and b) in the process of getting drunk with me. I try to answer them nicely, for the most part, assuming I can answer them at all (I can't, always; some questions simply can't be answered).

Last night, I was asked—in so many words—when either Toby or one of the Price girls was finally going to be raped.

Not "if." Not "do you think." But "when," and "finally." Because it is a foregone conclusion, you see, that all women must be raped, especially when they have the gall to run around being protagonists all the damn time. I responded with confusion. The questioner provided a list of scenarios wherein these characters were "more than likely" to encounter sexual violence. These included Verity forgetting to change out of her tango uniform before going on patrol, Toby being cocky, and Sarah walking home from class alone. Yes, even the ambush predator telepath with a "don't notice me" field is inevitably getting raped.

When. Finally. Inevitably.

My response: "None of my protagonists are getting raped. I do not want to write that."

Their response: "I thought you had respect for your work. That's just unrealistic."

Verity is the bastard daughter of Dazzler and Batman. Toby is what happens when Tinker Bell embraces her inner bitch and starts wearing pants. Velveteen brings toys to life and uses them to fight the powers of darkness. Sarah is a hot mathematician who looks like Zooey Deschanel but is actually a hyper-evolved parasitic wasp. The unrealistic part about all these characters? Is that they haven't been raped.

Needless to say, I was a little bit annoyed, and I still am.

Statistically speaking, one in six women will be raped in her lifetime. This is just the statistic we know; it doesn't account for the fact that right now, reporting rape is a minefield all of its own, and many women choose not to subject themselves to that process. I do not know how many of my friends have been raped. I know that five of them are safe because of me, if you trust statistics. So you know. There's that.

Rape in fiction can be a powerful and important thing. It can be used to make important statements, it can be used to drive important stories. I love Robin McKinley's Deerskin as much because of the discomfort it causes me as for the beauty it contains. There are authors I will always trust, or try to trust, and it's important to show uncomfortable things through fiction. I am not saying that no one should write about rape, ever.

But rape in fiction can also be a problematic and belittling thing, used to put cocky heroines in their places. When Janet goes to Caughterha despite being told not to, her punishment is rape by the eponymous Tam Lin. When a superheroine needs a deeper, edgier backstory, there's always some previously third-tier villain with a de-powering ray and an agenda waiting in the wings. I read a lot of horror, a lot of comics, and a lot of urban fantasy, and the one thing these three things have in common is rape. Lots and lots and lots of rape.

And I don't wanna write that.

I do not understand—I will not understand, I refuse to understand—why rape has to be on the table for every story with a female protagonist, or even a strong female supporting cast. Why it's so assumed that I'm being "unrealistic" when I say that none of my female characters are going to be raped. Why this "takes the tension out of the story." There is plenty of tension without me having to write about something that upsets both me and many of my readers, thanks.

Toby will not be getting raped. Verity, Alice, Sarah, Antimony, and the rest of the InCryptid girls will not be getting raped. Velveteen will not be getting raped. Rose will not be getting raped. If this makes my work unrealistic, then fine. There's a reason I write science fiction and fantasy.

But I do not write rape. And the fact that this somehow makes me "unrealistic," rather than making me an author who makes choices about what she wants to write...that's the part I find upsetting.

You know. In addition to everything else.
Tags: cranky blonde is cranky, don't be dumb
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  • 985 comments
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Granted.

Nathan Helfinstine

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

bastets_place

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

amaebi

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

amaebi

5 years ago

Betty Angleton-Halsey

5 years ago

I agree with your icon.

autopope

5 years ago

tandw

5 years ago

Karen Ellis

5 years ago

tashabear

5 years ago

museclio

5 years ago

Not enough *facepalm* in the entire godsdamn multiverse. Who the hell a) asks something like that, and 2) even thinks of it in the first place?
I do not even know.

nyxalinth

5 years ago

jimhines

5 years ago

missingvolume

5 years ago

::applause::
Thanks.
That question, and all of the assumptions (spoken and unspoken) that went with it, is one of the most ignorant, rage-inducing things I've heard in a long time.

"Respect for your work"? "Unrealistic"???

Fuck that.
Apparently, if people don't PUT THEIR PENISES in my characters AGAINST THEIR WILL, I don't respect my work. Who knew?

spectralbovine

5 years ago

krfsm

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

mrs_norris_mous

5 years ago

This is one of those times I feel compelled to apologize for members of my gender.
Not all members. Many of you are pretty damn awesome.

autographedcat

5 years ago

filkerdave

5 years ago

Deleted comment

autographedcat

5 years ago

filkerdave

5 years ago

Deleted comment

scarybaldguy

5 years ago

ckd

5 years ago

pauamma

5 years ago

ckd

5 years ago

groblek

5 years ago

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

Deleted comment

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

Deleted comment

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

autographedcat

5 years ago

Whoever asked that is a horrible human being. Period.
Agreed.

readingthedark

5 years ago

fearsclave

5 years ago

tylik

5 years ago

readingthedark

5 years ago

tylik

5 years ago

carmy_w

5 years ago

tylik

5 years ago

carmy_w

5 years ago

tylik

5 years ago

carmy_w

5 years ago

tylik

5 years ago

carmy_w

5 years ago

jennygadget

5 years ago

readingthedark

5 years ago

druidspell

5 years ago

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
*pillow*

bearhand

5 years ago

I think it is just as Unrealistic to assume that just because a female character is independent and bold, it is inevitable that she will be raped. Even if she is a loner. Why would this be anymore realistic than a male gettign raped? I know a lot of strong, outgoing women, many who are loaners... who have never been raped.
Don't listen to this idiot, Seannan... your ladies have enough trauma and drama to deal with... and we love them!
Thank you.

aliaras

5 years ago

Deleted comment

I think worry of that sort is a very reasonable reaction. That question would make me keep a close eye on the commenter and make sure he doesn't get someone alone in a corner or something.

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

braidedmane

5 years ago

I need a clapping icon. Or a gif. Or a gifset. Something to say "I approve, this is awesome, have a sheet of gold stars" that's more than just worrrds.

Eh. I'm a writer. Words will do. I LIKE YOU AND HAVE SUBSCRIBED TO YOUR NEWSLETTER.

If not having rape in one's stories makes the stories unrealistic, I don't want anything to do with realism. Oh, wait, I've got this one story involving a space heist and a wise-cracking pygmy dragon that acts like a human-level-intelligence cat, I already have nothing to do with "realism". To say nothing of the fact that rape is an upsetting, dark topic to me, and when I write I write to get the hell away from that kind of messy stuff.

Also the assumption that rape will happen (Why? Why?!) and has to happen is... eugh. Upsetting's one word. Fragging disgusting is another. Just because it does happen in the real world doesn't mean it should, or that it has to in fiction. We're writers! We can make our own worlds, our own pictures of what a world could be like, and we can have whatever the hell we want in it and no one can tell us what should or shouldn't be in it. They can make suggestions, but we can also make suggestions as to which dock they can walk off of if their suggestions don't fit the stories we want to tell.
Yes, all of the above!

nimbrethil

4 years ago

anne_d

4 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

mouseycat

5 years ago

I've just finished reading Mad Ship by Robin Hobb, where a female cast member gets raped. I nearly put the book down. I know that it's horrid reality. I know that there is a lot character growth that can be gotten by such a story line... but I always love the characters in books (such as yours) too much as if I ever could ask for them to be raped. Yes, it's part of reality and maybe it makes your books a tiny bit unrealistic, that none of the women have to experience this but... I'm glad. And I wished so much that realtiy was more like fiction in this regard.
I know that there is a lot character growth that can be gotten by such a story line...

It's possible to get plant growth by using animal-sourced organic fertilizer. But there are other ways to make a plant grow.

For some reason, female characters seem to have rape, pregnancy, and miscarriage in their top five choices for character growth. In my opinion, that's bovine-sourced organic fertilizer.

lysana

5 years ago

full_metal_ox

5 years ago

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

dragonsally

5 years ago

jammiesest

5 years ago

Deleted comment

I just don't know how I would have responded to that. The idea that a female character must be raped is so disheartening and awful and upsetting. I've just had a flashback to my old writers' group, where one of the men asked me if the character in my WIP was a drug addict because she'd been abused. When I said no, he suggested I make her an abuse victim to make her addiction more reasonable. I was floored. I'm still floored when I remember it. Rape should never, never be an expected element in a woman's life, be she real or fictional, and it saddens me immensely that anyone would think it should be.
... wow. WOW. Not only is that tremendously sad, it's also incorrect. Most recent science, afaik, says that potential for addiction is genetic, not circumstantial. Multiple kinds of wrong.

tylik

5 years ago

... yowza. *facepalm* What a toolbox.

Thank you for that response, and I am SO SO GLAD that you're not into writing rape scenes for your characters.

Toby deals with the intersection of hostile mythology and hostile modernity; what part of that lacks tension?

And you know what?
It's really nice to be able to pick up one of the Toby books with the solid knowledge that in these pages, the heroine will not be subjected to sexualized violence for giggles.

(Full disclosure: I have not read InCryptid. This is not due to lack of desire. When I do read those books, I will be glad of the main characters not being raped.)
Disclosure not needed: just means there's more waiting for you in the future. :)

hazelchaz

5 years ago

hoppytoad79

5 years ago

ironed_orchid

5 years ago

bercilakslady

September 28 2012, 15:57:14 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  September 28 2012, 16:05:20 UTC

"None of my protagonists are getting raped. I do not want to write that."

Thank you. I don't want to read that, though if you did, I would trust you to do it well.

I have no idea at all how I would respond to such a thing, and am saddened by the existence of this person's attitude.
As am I.