Note: This reader emailed me yesterday and wanted to share this story with me. I didn’t think it belonged in the comments even though the topic of this piece is on point. I also thought we should post it today rather than allow another week to pass because of its relevance. Without further ado, from Reader A.
I’ve wondered sometimes whether the fact that I’ve been raped was the impetus for my interest in rape fantasy fiction. It’s more of an academic question since it’s impossible to really know, seeing as I can’t go back and relive my life without being raped. Plus, the answer doesn’t matter. Even if I knew for sure that was the cause, I would still read and enjoy rape fantasies. This is who I am – the sum of all my experiences.
What I can tell you is that rape fantasy fiction is just that: fantasy and fiction. For me, rape fiction is nothing like rape and maybe that’s why it is acceptable to me. It’s, for lack of a better word, romanticized. Even when it’s explicit and forced and violent, it is still fundamentally different from the actual experience, at least to me. When I read rape fantasies, I get turned on, similar to reading a regular sex scene but more intense.
I like reading rape fantasy fiction because it gets me hot. I’m not exclusive to it, I enjoy clean romance and vanilla erotica and all the other sub-genres (gay, BDSM, etc). In fact, my widespread tastes lead me to think that my enjoyment of rape fantasy may not have anything to do with my experiences. I’m an avid reader. Rape fiction isn’t my vice – my Kindle is my vice, at least to my finances.
Out of many erotica stories, I have read one erotica scene ever that left me chilled instead. Ironically, it was actually consensual rough sex scene, not a rape scene. I actually felt cold and violated after reading it. I can’t even define what it is that made this scene different from the rest – it wasn’t the most humiliating or most demeaning or even very much like my personal experiences. I do know that I won’t ever reread those particular scenes, because I don’t enjoy that feeling.
In case you are wondering, the book in question was Mercy by Annabel Joseph. I want to stress that I don’t have a problem with the book or the author, despite my reaction that scene. In fact, the book has an actual rape scene later on that didn’t bother me. By this I mean, if it happened in real life, of course it is wrong, but in the book it didn’t inspire bad feelings.
No one wants to be raped, pretty much by definition. Most people will agree with that statement vehemently. Those same people will condemn a woman for reading rape fantasies or playacting rape with her lover. After all, despite our earlier assertions, they must want to be raped. But reading rape fantasy doesn’t promote rape or imply that we secretly want it anymore than watching CSI promotes crime or playing water balloons promotes bombing. It’s entertainment, or a game, not a cry for help.
The other argument against rape fiction is that it promotes rape culture. I don’t know whether is true but it makes sense that it could be. Just like video games and action flicks and so many other aspects of popular culture promote violence and gratuitous sex. Being in exalted company still doesn’t make it right, but asking those of us who enjoy rape fiction to abstain while basking in their own vices is a tad hypocritical.
Still, it gave me pause. Not only do I enjoy reading rape fantasy, but I occasionally write it, just for fun. It makes complete sense to me to share it with readers who may enjoy reading it, just as I enjoy others’ work. So I had to think hard about whether I wanted to read and write rape fantasy, and possibly contribute to a rape culture.
If I get raped or someone I know, will some small part of it be my fault? I’m pretty sure I would feel that way. It’s been years but I still feel the guilt of all the actions leading up to my rape, even though intellectually I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I should have been more careful, I should have known, I should have fought harder. It’s a vicious, crippling line of thought and by now I don’t think it will ever go away completely.
I don’t claim to be anything close to a therapist, what a laughable thought, but I have learned to do what works for me. In the end, that’s why I’ve decided to continue reading and writing rape fiction. I know that I enjoy it. I know that it doesn’t hurt anyone directly. I know that it might hurt people indirectly in a vague, small way, but I learned long ago that I can’t be everyone’s protector everywhere.
I could abstain and still lead a pretty great life, but the fact that I’d rather read not means something would always be missing. I rather think this is what it would feel like to be gay and to have to deny that part of me. These are my preferences. It’s not for another person to decide whether I should prefer something else.
I am far from a rape fiction champion. Among people I meet personally, I’ve adopted a don’t-ask-don’t tell policy about my reading habits. It’s not because I am ashamed of what I read, but merely because I don’t want to have to defend myself against possibly rude comments. Similarly, I don’t usually volunteer the information that I am a vegetarian or that I still nurse my three year old. I am perfectly comfortable with my choices, but these all fall under the umbrella of things-people -feel-entitled-to-berate-you -for and that’s something I’d rather avoid, honestly.
This article is the result of seeing rape fiction and the people who read and write it vilified more than a couple of times. I know that some people will always be accusatory but I also think that some people are genuinely puzzled. I wanted to explain my personal reasoning to those who want to understand.
And in those threads, despite the telling sales numbers of rape fiction, I almost never see any readers fess up, perhaps out of fear of condemnation. If you read rape fiction, I don’t want you to feel like you have a dirty, shameful secret – unless that’s what you’re going for, of course.
If you don’t personally enjoy rape fiction, I hope you’ll see it as something that is not to your tastes, without passing judgment on the reader who enjoys it. There are thousands of sub-genres out there: gay, interracial, action, BDSM – and rape fantasy is just one more.
– your friendly reader next door