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Realistic Depictions of Rape in Romance by Rebecca Rogers Maher

Remember at the end of the year I said that Dear Author would really benefit from guest essays and guest voices?  Author Rebecca Rogers Maher  ( wrote me with an essay regarding Realistic Depictions of Rape in Romace.  It’s a great guest piece and I hope others will consider contributing to the community here.  Rogers Maher is the author of the Recovery Trilogy—I’ll Become the Sea, Snowbound with a Stranger and Fault Lines. She is a Vassar graduate, a former community organizer and Brooklyn public school teacher, and a mother to two insanely sweet boys.



A recent Dear Author post on slut-shaming generated a fascinating discussion about the internalization of rape culture in women’s novels. In our books, do we blame the victim? Do we minimize the impact of rape and the complexity of recovery from it? Most importantly, do romance writers carry any special responsibility for representing sexual violence in a pro-survivor way?

I would argue that we do, and here’s why. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one out of six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. We all know that the real numbers are actually much worse. Many women blame themselves, fear retaliation from their perpetrators, or fear being blamed or dismissed by their loved ones or communities. So they don’t report it and they don’t discuss it.

They do, however, read romance novels. If one in six women (or more) has been sexually assaulted, and if our books reach hundreds of millions of women, then we can assume that many millions of our readers are survivors of rape, incest and sexual abuse.

In many ways, romance novels are the ideal place to consider the impacts of rape. Our stories deal directly with issues of love, trust, intimacy, connection and sexuality—the parts of our lives that are most affected by sexual violence. Romance novels have the privilege of treating these issues with the gravity and depth they deserve. Because we have the luxury of a happy ending, our characters can think and talk about their feelings, confront their problems, examine their own histories, struggle to make better choices, and heal from their wounds. The presence of detailed sex scenes gives us the opportunity to explore how a sexual abuse history can complicate sex and intimacy. Our stories can dramatize and interrogate sexual violence while at the same time contemplating what it takes to recover from it.

Much has been said about negative portrayals of rape in romance novels. The rapey heroes of our past have given way to more subtly damaging tropes, such as using rape as a shorthand to create false gravitas in our heroines’ histories but failing to realistically explore the impact of sexual abuse on their emotional and sexual lives.

Reflecting on these mistakes does have value. We do need to talk about how we have represented rape in the past and look at the ways these representations might have supported, rather than fought against, a culture that blames the victim and minimizes the impact of sexual violence. But the next step is the more important one. What are we going to do moving forward?

What obligation do romance novels have, exactly, with regard to our depictions of rape? I’d like to contribute to that discussion by talking about a selection of books that portray rape and its consequences with sensitivity and—perhaps most importantly—accuracy. Looking at these exemplary books can help us determine what constitutes a nuanced, pro-survivor portrayal of sexual violence.

hopeless colleen hooverHopeless, Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless deals with sexual abuse of a minor. Perhaps owing to the age of the abused girl, very little detail (thankfully) is offered about the attacks. What we do see is the little girl’s terror of her bedroom doorknob. We feel her fear when the doorknob turns because we know what’s coming, but we are not forced to queasily suffer through a rape scene that could in any way function as an additional sex scene. While this in itself is a welcome gift, the most striking aspect of Hopeless is that the rapist is not depicted as a sneering stranger. He commits an evil act, but he is a contributing member of society, a husband and father, and a person that the heroine loved. He is not an “other.” He is one of us.

This is how it is in real life. Rapists are not caricatures. They are people we know: parents, babysitters, coaches, neighbors, siblings, and friends. It’s important to get this right for two reasons. One, it’s more factually accurate. Romance writers do all sorts of intensive research to get historical and cultural details right, and this issue should be no exception. Two, if we keep acting like rape only happens at the hands of evil villains, we perpetuate the idea that sexual violence committed by “normal” men is not actually rape. It is rape. It the most common form of rape, and our literature should reflect that.

Hopeless also pays detailed attention to the aftermath of sexual abuse. Sky’s disassociation, for example, stems directly from her history and plays a central role in the plot and in our understanding of her character. Her rape history is not just tacked on to give the novel spice. Its reverberating consequences are integral to the story.

Easy Tammara WebberEasy, Tammara Webber

Tammara Webber’s Easy does a similarly wonderful job of depicting a rapist who is a respected member of a community. Although Buck veers fairly sharply into sneering villain territory, he is an established friend and fraternity brother, and many of the story’s supporting characters refuse to believe him capable of committing such a crime. Webber’s examination of the community’s willingness to blame, disbelieve and discredit the victim is painfully realistic. Allowing the heroine and her supportive friends to work through this backlash allows us, as readers, to look at some of the ways we might stand by each other and the reasons why we would want to do so.

Easy also places a welcome focus on the support of friends. Like the heroine in Hopeless, Jacqueline gets through her ordeal not just because of the hero’s magical penis, but because she has friends who love and help her. This process takes place inside a genuinely moving and well-written story.

Broken Wing Judith JamesBroken Wing, Judith James

In many ways a callback to the sweeping, almost absurd melodrama of the romance stories we grew up with, Broken Wing offers a lengthy and thoughtful meditation on the burden of shame. After escaping a childhood of forced sexual labor in a brothel, the hero is beset by years of post-traumatic stress. His fits of violent self-loathing, his commitment to sabotaging his relationship with the heroine, the fact that he routinely cuts himself out of rage and despair—this is exactly what many sexual abuse survivors go through. But where the story really shines is in its depiction of the heroine’s support. Sarah gives Gabriel exactly the kind of love a survivor would need to heal. She listens again and again as he tells his story, she doesn’t judge him, she expresses outrage at what’s been done to him, she’s very direct and truthful, and she tells him how much he’s worth.

Perhaps most importantly, Sarah doesn’t have sex with Gabriel for almost a year, after hundreds of pages of the book. Why? Because she doesn’t want him to feel that his only value to her is sexual. And because she knows that sex will be traumatic for him. She waits and waits and waits, until he’s ready. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever seen the same degree of patience from a romance hero in love with a female sexual abuse survivor. Would we expect a man to wait like that?  Sarah does so, happily, and as a result, when they do make love, it’s a healing experience for Gabriel rather than a traumatic one. To give sex back to an abuse survivor, to help him transform it from dirty, disassociated and shameful into something beautiful, something that forges a connection of love—that is really damn romantic.

The Shadow and the Star, Laura KinsaleThe Shadow and the Star, Laura Kinsale

The Shadow and the Star also features a male rape survivor—Samuel, another forced childhood sex trade worker. Again, I wonder if the issues Samuel faces—as well as the cruel mistakes he makes—are somehow easier to stomach coming from a male character. I’m not convinced we would have the same degree of patience for a female character before we started to judge her or to feel she should get over it. Nevertheless, Samuel gets plenty of time to work through his most painful obstacle: the fact that he is an intensely sexual person who responds to his own feelings of desire with profound self-loathing. It is the job of sweet, steadfast Leda to show Samuel that it’s okay for him to like sex, that it can be beautiful and pure between two adults that love each other.

Interestingly, as in Broken Wing, the love of the heroine in The Shadow and the Star turns out to be not quite enough. Both heroes require extensive adventuring, martial arts training and male companionship in order to recover from their trauma. They need personal journeys too, and the support of their male friends. No magical vaginas here either. Recovery is a process, and it takes more than the relationship between the hero and heroine to make it happen. Again, I do wonder if our female heroines are offered the same kinds of walkabout experiences in their recovery, or whether we over-rely on the magic touch of the hero to heal them.

Blue-Eyed Devil Lisa KleypasBlue-Eyed Devil, Lisa Kleypas

In addition to being a brutally honest look at how a smart, strong woman can become a victim of domestic violence, Lisa Kleypas’s Blue-Eyed Devil also touches on the issue of spousal rape. The story follows Haven Travis through a journey from self-blame to empowerment, and you know what gets her there? THERAPY. This is the final missing piece to our books about rape. In real life, no one man can fix what rape breaks. It is a pervasive, insidious, all-encompassing, devastating crime, and it takes a lot of work to recover from. Without getting too bogged down in details from Haven’s counseling sessions, Blue-Eyed Devil addresses the value of working through trauma with a caring therapist. While a magical dick sure doesn’t hurt, we really do need other resources to help us.

Additionally, Blue-Eyed Devil shows the ways rape impacts the heroine’s sexual experience with the hero.  In the midst of lovemaking, the trauma comes back to her, and she and the hero have to deal with that. It doesn’t disappear just because the hero is hot and touches her in exactly the right way. They have to talk about it and work through it. Details like these matter. They provide accuracy and power to the story. They make the book stronger while at the same time showing due respect to the true experience of abuse survivors.

The books discussed above take romance novels in the direction I believe we need to go. There is depth and value in stories about rape survivors. They are powerful and they are worth telling. With a focus on love and intimacy, and the possibility of a happy ending, romance novels are uniquely qualified to tell these stories. They also reach enormous numbers of women. When we talk about rape in our books, we have the opportunity to do so in a way that shows support for women—for the fullness and complexity of our experience—and that shows what the road to recovery from sexual assault really looks like. We can do this in the name of accuracy, and also as an act of sisterhood with our readers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 04:18:45

    What a wonderful post. Very thoughtful and well written.

  2. Imelda Evans
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 05:06:52

    This is such an important topic and worthy of the most serious consideration. I understand that some people want to leave topics like this out of their romances altogether, both as writers and readers and I have no problem with that. But as a writer I certainly feel an obligation, if I deal with a character with a traumatic past or present, to present them as truthfully as possible. Reading our ‘truth’ in stories is one of the ways we all heal, from all sorts of wounds. It’s one of the function of stories and always has been. Thank you for this thoughtful post and the wonderful story suggestions. I’ll definitely be looking them up.

  3. Brie
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 06:38:55

    Re: Hopeless

    “Her rape history is not just tacked on to give the novel spice. Its reverberating consequences are integral to the story.”

    While I agree that the way the rape affects her and the way the rapists is portrayed are realistic, I thought that this book used rape as nothing but a convenient plot device to emotionally manipulate the reader, and to give the hero many opportunities to show how dreamy and heroic he was. The rape is integral to the story in that the plot involves a bit of a mystery, so Sky finding out what happened is her journey. But there’s nothing else to it. Not to mention that hers isn’t the only rape in the book, and there are also two suicides, all of which are played for shock value and little else.

    Maybe the book deals with some of the aftermaths of rape in a believable way, but it’s also an example of gratuitous rape used as a convenient source of angst. You could keep the book and change rape for any other type of violence, and the story would have been the same.

    To me, this book takes us in the direction we *don’t* need to go.

  4. Merrian
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 06:44:22

    Lovely article summing up the issues, tensions, wants and needs about rape and its representation in romance. Thank you.

    Thinking about your book examples, I am sitting with the seeming reality that we will allow the male victims their journey but still hide from or shy away from that of female survivors. This suggests that we effectively scapegoat these women whose violations are a mirror showing us truths about our world we don’t want to know. Doing so, we leave them to carry a terrible burden of their experience and our fears and anxieties.

    I have been thinking lately that the most realistic and moving recounting of lead characters surviving violence and PTSD or addiction are encountered in m/m fiction not the m/f I have read. There is so much here about what women portrayed in the genre are not allowed to be, feel or do. Is their silencing what is required in order for them to be relatable or heroine material?

    I am always moved by the cover for Broken Wing.

  5. Karenna Colcroft
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 07:32:23

    Thank you for this. Just… thank you.

    I am a survivor of molestation and rape, and I’ve been known to throw books across the room–even those on my Kindle–because of how they present survivors. Especially the “magic wang” trope where the survivor is all better now because she found the right guy to screw.

    I have heroes and heroines who are survivors in my own books, and I try very hard to present them as strong, to show them getting help in dealing with what has happened to them, and to make it clear that finding the right wang isn’t going to cure them. And I try to present that it is not their fault and it isn’t something they can “just get over.” Hopefully I do it right.

  6. Lori
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 08:25:05

    This is a wonderful post, thank you. And it’s so important to remember how much power a book has to help a person feel better, understand and even heal. If only to read about a heroine who avails herself of therapy it reminds a survivor that healing is a process, and she’s not the only one.

    Every time it’s written about with understanding, it tells another woman you’re not alone. Is there a better message to send out into the world?

    And I loved Easy, just loved it. The heroine learned to fight for herself and for others and despite rumors, backlash and non-support from others, she still fought back. That was a true heroine.

  7. Suleikha Snyder
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 09:52:20

    Great post, Rebecca, and I think you raise a really good question about how fiction seems to give men more room and more leeway to heal. The Prince of Tides, and its lengthy exploration of the male survivor’s process, comes to mind. And I have to wonder if that’s because male rape is still viewed as something rare — and therefore intrinsically more in “need” of the long-journey healing process and also of understanding. (I could launch into a whole diatribe on rape, gender and masculinity, but I’m going to spare you all the thread-jacking.) I go back to Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, which became an instant wall-banger and DNF for me when Bourne rescues a woman who’s been raped and, two chapters later, they were having sex. Sure, it could just be that Ludlum was a sexist asshat, but I also think it’s a pervasive thought in both literature and society that rape is something women are conditioned to handle and to get over.

    It’s why romance-themed fiction that touches on issues of sexual assault is so important: because it allows women the full gamut of the emotional spectrum, the healing process and the acknowledgment that you don’t “just get over it” but you CAN move on.

    When we talk about rape in our books, we have the opportunity to do so in a way that shows support for women—for the fullness and complexity of our experience—and that shows what the road to recovery from sexual assault really looks like.

    So, basically, YES. THIS.

  8. Michelle Kemper Brownlow
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:27:38

    This is so important!
    I hope everyone reads this guest post!

  9. Janet W
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:30:16

    Five examples in this blog and two of them are men that are raped? It makes me think of that old *not* joke about if men got periods, menstruation would be a sacrament. Not that men don’t deserve the long times to heal but of course women do too, as has been pointed out in an earlier comment. It just struck me the wrong way.

    Too often rape is gratuitous — in the context of many books I read — and I don’t like it. Very few books get it right — with the heroine after therapy and friendship and whatever else she needs — taking back her personal nightmare.

  10. Carrie G
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:42:53

    Another thing I haven’t seen in romance books dealing with sexual abuse when a girl is young is another common aftermath–sexual promiscuity. I’m not talking about slut-shaming–that is, a healthy active sex life. I’m talking about teens and young women who, through sexual abuse, have been “programmed” to respond to men in the same way over and over again. It’s like replaying your “role” over and over again. It can be a form of self-loathing and it sabotages healthy relationships as surely as fear of sex can. And it isn’t healed by the magic penis either.

    It took me decades to understand that what happened to me not only amounted to abuse, but colored how I related to men afterwards. I’m almost 30 years happily married with 5 children, so I’ve been functioning just fine on the surface, but increased panic attacks, insomnia and more have plagued me for years. My husband’s “sexual prowess” didn’t erase the affects of the abuse, but years of his absolute respect for me has been amazingly healing, breaking the cycle of self-inflicted punishment for my “sins.” Now I’m in therapy unraveling the damage my swim coach did all those years ago.

    Therapy is absolutely the key.

  11. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:45:22

    @Brie: I disagree about Hopeless. I see it as a story that is first and foremost about childhood sexual abuse. The first time we see Sky disassociate during sex, it’s clear that she’s having a reaction to sexual trauma. The fact that her memories are repressed makes it difficult for her to understand her own reactions, and the ensuing plot is about her efforts to piece her own history together and understand herself. The fact that her abuser is someone she knew, trusted and loved means that her own ability to love is implicated and complicated, and it may explain why she’s repressed the memories to begin with—because the events were so confusing and disruptive to her sense of self. As in reality, though, what happened to her is impacting her life whether she remembers it or not.

    In many ways it’s simpler to write a stranger/perpetrator because the lines between good and evil are much clearer and easier to draw. It’s also easier to write these stories in third person, because the differences between right and wrong can be spelled out to some degree even if the main character can’t see it. Because Hopeless is written in the first person POV, and only covers the beginning of Sky’s recovery process, she doesn’t completely untangle the confusion of love/betrayal/trust/sex. We have to read between the lines to see it, but it’s there, as in lines like “My damn body is a traitor,” or “There’s nothing like the guilt you feel when there’s room in your heart to love evil.”

    To me, this represents a clear effort to look not just at the rape but at its harrowing and complicated consequences. Hopeless certainly contains a lot of high drama, but I have to say that I think real-life sexual abuse does in fact lead to dramatic events like multiple perpetrations and suicide. I appreciate the complexity of the relationships in Hopeless as well as the level of detail Hoover offers about how the trauma actually affects Sky.

  12. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 11:00:05

    @Jane, @Imelda Evans: Thank you for your kind thoughts. It’s so important to talk about this.

    @Merrian, @Janet W: Believe me when I tell you that in researching this article I read A LOT of romance novels that deal with rape and sexual abuse. I too was struck hard by the level of depth and complexity given to the male heroes in Broken Wing and The Shadow and the Star compared to most of the stories I read about female survivors. In general, I think we give a lot more leeway to our heroes. As readers, we do see ourselves in heroes too and identify with their struggles, so telling sexual abuse stories through them is certainly not a waste of time. Also, many men experience sexual trauma, and their abuse is far more under-reported for a variety of awful reasons. Still, I want to see more stories about how women work through this. I want us to consider these stories to still be romance and not the (dreaded!) women’s fiction, just because they look at rape recovery deeply and because they involve extensive/necessary detail that doesn’t revolve around the hero’s magical dick. The most striking thing about Broken Wing and The Shadow and the Star is how many pages are devoted to plot and character development that don’t involve the heroine. Would we ever allow such a thing if the gender roles were reversed? I think we should.

  13. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 11:13:15

    @Karenna Colcroft: WORD on throwing books across the room. My walls are irreparably dented from just such a reaction. Thank you for your comments, and thank you for representing survivors holistically in your work. That’s how we reclaim ourselves—by telling the real story.

    @Lori: “Every time it’s written about with understanding, it tells another woman you’re not alone. Is there a better message to send out into the world?”

    Beautifully said.

    @Suleikah: I haven’t read The Bourne Identity, but I’ve read that very scenario many times, in books by women too, and it makes me crazy. So let me say this very directly. Someone who has just been raped or almost raped is not going to happily have sex two chapters later with anybody, no matter how hot he is. I can’t tell you how many wonderful stories have been ruined for me when this happens. Please, let’s not do it anymore.

    @Michelle Kemper Brownlow: Thank you so much.

  14. Lisa J. Yarde
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 11:33:27

    This was an excellent post, thank you so much for raising the topic, Rebecca. For those of us who grew up with the “rape as seduction” theme in romances, it’s refreshing to see how far the industry has come, especially in the acknowledgment of men dealing with rape and sexual abuse. Strength comes in varied forms for survivors but sometimes I still see authors relying on turning a survivor into an avenging angel or relying on “the love of a good man.” As a survivor of sexual abuse, it’s important to me to see characters seeking help from others and finding strength within themselves. I’ll add these titles to my TBR pile.

  15. Mari
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 11:45:21

    THe only think I would add to this excellant anaylsis is the importance of a faith practice in some survivors’ lives. I know at least one survivor who would not have become a whole person again, were it not for her deep Christian faith. Would be nice to see this aspect of peoples’ lives taken seriously in mainstream (not nessescarily ‘inspirational”) romances. Can be a very important part of healing….or not of course, depending on character, story, etc.,

  16. Brie
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 11:56:14

    @Rebecca Rogers Maher: True, her memories are repressed and she doesn’t know or understand her reactions. But the ensuing plot of her piecing together what happened only serves as a background to the romance and her relationship with Holder. This is not a book about rape and its disastrous consequences; it’s a romance that needed a source of angst and shocking plot twists.

    The relationships in the book aren’t complex. There is potential, especially between Sky and her mother, and Sky and her father, but they are never explored. The only relationship that’s actually developed is Sky and Holder’s. But there’s nothing complex about it. She just feels a sudden, almost magical attraction to him that’s in no way grounded in reality or in authentic interactions. One could argue that the connection comes from her memories, but not even that is dealt with in the book. He does manage to cure her with sex, though.

  17. Violetta Vane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 12:08:45


    @Rebecca Rogers Maher:

    I agree with your observations but the reason behind them strikes me as simple and obvious. Here’s how the logic goes:

    Male [rape] is more erotic/symbolic/sophisticated/interesting/compelling.
    Female [rape] is less erotic/symbolic/sophisticated/interesting/compelling.

    You can replace rape with pretty much anything. It’s internalized misogyny that creates that dynamic.

  18. Rebecca (Another One)
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 12:22:39

    In a timely aside, NPR is discussing how rape victims are being treated by police. One of the cops said to someone “well I wouldn’t be out at this time of the night by myself.” Really, we’re still blaming the victim.

    npr dot org/2013/01/22/169950224/rape-survivors-d-c-police-down-play-their-attacks

  19. Diane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 13:20:58

    Many years ago I read a category romance novel in which the heroine’s sister is raped. The “hero” announces that unless he has sex with her she will always think of sex as something tawdry, so he sacrifices his own desire for the heroine to selflessly help her sister “get back in the saddle.” Thus, the sister is spared any trauma and the heroine is deeply grateful to the wonderful hero. They all live happily ever after.

    Yeah. It was probably ten or so years before I read another romance novel.

  20. Fiona McGier
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 15:32:19

    I wrote a book 2 years ago that dealt with the aftermath of the heroine having been raped years earlier. Her loving family tried to help her, but she was still afraid to trust any man, even one she was attracted to. Once the hero found out, he told her he was willing to wait until she was ready to act on her attraction to him. They had petting episodes, but not sex. Until she is almost raped again and this time she is able to fight back, because damn it, she’s not going to let this happen to her again. She almost kills both men, using a pocket knife the hero gave her for protection, and gets away. Only then is she able to reclaim her own sexuality and head towards her happily-ever-after.

    Fiction? Of course. But I thought it was cathartic to write. As the statistics say, many of us were raped or at least forced against our will, and through fiction we can finally get our own sense of power back. My publisher refused to consider the book because “it had a rape”. So I put it up as a free read on, where it still is, with a cover that my daughter threw together for me.

    I dislike BDSM because I find nothing erotic about being forced to “enjoy” something. I don’t want to be spanked or whipped or have my hair pulled. To me, those are not acts of love. And I avoid books that have over-powering alpha males because I had too many bad experiences with men like that who think their big physical size gives them the right to do what they want.

    As authors of romance, we shouldn’t be participating in the national past-time of slut-shaming. But when I’ve mentioned that to friends, I’ve been called a “raging feminist”, and who knew a hetero, happily-married mother of 4 who also writes erotic romance, could be a feminist?

  21. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 15:54:18

    @Violetta Vane: Who said male rape was any of those things? My takeaway is that women are more patient, caring and willing to wait.

  22. cleo
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 16:09:39


    I have been thinking lately that the most realistic and moving recounting of lead characters surviving violence and PTSD or addiction are encountered in m/m fiction not the m/f I have read. There is so much here about what women portrayed in the genre are not allowed to be, feel or do.

    I’ve noticed this too – and especially in dealing with abuse (ie Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton and A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan). I think that one of the appeals of m/m romance is that it conveniently bypasses our cultural baggage about women and women’s sexuality. Which is a strength, because it shows us what romance can look like without the underlying misogyny / negative attitudes about women. I’m starting to wonder if isn’t also a weakness, because, um, it erases women.

    But – I really do think that m/m could point the way towards better, healthier m/f romance. If Marie Sexton can write a believable hero who is patient and willing to wait until his (male) partner, who was raped as a child, is ready for sex in Between Sinners and Saints, then someone can write that in m/f.

  23. leslie
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 16:10:43

    The above link gives some definitions of feminism beyond Merriam-Webster.
    “Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.”

    @Fiona: It’s good sense to be a feminist.

    This is a very good post, Thank you.

  24. Violetta Vane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 16:11:27

    @Jill Sorenson:
    Both the people I was replying to mentioned in their comments that portrayals of men dealing with rape were common, and very complicated and psychologically involved, in m/f as well as in m/m. And there’s a ton of eroticized rape in m/m romance.

    I’m just saying that we as women (and I’m definitely including myself in terms of struggling with internalized misogyny) are taught to center men, always. And this often includes focusing more deeply on male suffering than female suffering, more on male rape than female rape, when it comes to fictional portrayals. More women are attracted to portrayals centering men than vice versa. This can include writing it, reading it, talking about it, saying or believing that a narrative centering male rape falls within certain genre bounds but a narrative centering female rape cannot. Men are always allowed to be more than women. It’s pretty sad, but I like to look things like this in the face in terms of recognizing where we are… so we can move forward from it.

    Sorry if I didn’t make my observation clear.

  25. Ridley
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 16:20:25

    @Fiona McGier:

    I dislike BDSM because I find nothing erotic about being forced to “enjoy” something.

    I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but I have to call this out. BDSM is not about force or coercion. It’s 100% consensual. Both parties benefit in the arrangement

    BDSM without informed, enthusiastic consent isn’t BDSM: it’s abuse.

  26. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 16:55:21

    @Violetta Vane: Thanks. I did read the comments you referenced (maybe not the right ones, as Maher has responded to several) and wasn’t sure how you came to the conclusion that male rape is being heralded as more moving, important, etc. I don’t see that point made in the original post. Having read Easy and Blue-Eyed Devil, I think they both center on the female character’s growth and recovery as much or more than the romance. The heroes are patient, caring, protective etc. Both have a women’s fiction, heroine-centered vibe in my opinion. I haven’t read the other books mentioned, so maybe my perception is skewed by that.

    “Men are always allowed to be more than women.”

    I don’t believe this, and I think anyone who does isn’t looking at these examples (or the romance genre) in the same way I am. Yes, we champion heroes in romance, but “always”? There are many heroine-centered books as well. Right here in this post.

    Also, if male journeys are more moving to the reader, doesn’t that say something about the reader’s ability to connect with female characters, not necessarily the depth or nuance of the author’s portrayals?

  27. Ann Somerville
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:05:54

    @Violetta Vane:

    “there’s a ton of eroticized rape in m/m romance. ”

    Agreed, and even more in its parent genre, slash fanfiction (especially in anime fanfic). Although the polite writers label it ‘noncon’.

    Ridley said: “BDSM without informed, enthusiastic consent isn’t BDSM: it’s abuse. ”

    Absolutely. Also the ‘m’ (masochism) bit is incredibly varied. It doesn’t have to mimic an attack at all.

  28. Violetta Vane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:18:08

    @Jill Sorenson:

    I do believe that men are always allowed to be more than women in general as a function of misogyny, and romance simply reflects that, as do almost all other genres. In these narratives men have the broadest range of roles and can be fictionally appealing in any role… including the role of victim and/or survivor, whereas women’s roles are more restricted. Again, this isn’t just about romance, it’s everywhere. Women are judged in these books if they don’t deal with their rape in certain ways—I see it all the time in reviews. And male characters aren’t held to nearly the same standards. One example: m/m romance is full of formerly abused sex worker heroes. Hell, I’ve written one myself. Where are they in m/f? For whatever reason people don’t find the female equivalents as compelling—and the reasons are many and complicated—the end result is an absence that speaks very loudly.

    And when it comes to authors versus readers, I just don’t believe in the distinction in terms of saying who’s responsible for what. All authors are readers to a certain extent—they read other books in the genre, they get inspired by other books, they see what’s popular and what’s not. And readers have enormous power to construct new meaning out of these books and decide which ones they’re going to talk about and which ones they don’t.

    I’m not being prescriptive, just descriptive of the present state of things as I see them. And I don’t think any genre, including m/m romance, is the one source of the problem. We’re seeing reflections of a wider problem of privileging male suffering over female suffering.

  29. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:43:53

    @Violetta Vane: I see what you’re saying, but I think it’s more about simplification. For better or worse, I think we are more sympathetic and forgiving when it comes to our heroes. They can be assholes in a way that our heroines can’t. By giving a rape history to a male character, we can look at some of the causes and effects of rape without the complicating filter of our judgments toward ourselves and each other. I agree that that’s internalized misogyny.

    @Rebecca (Another One): Thanks for sharing that link. Feels like there are thousands like it every day. I have to say that the police who responded to my attempted rape were very kind and professional. I wish that were true for every woman.

    @Diane: That is appalling.

    @Fiona McGier: Thank you for sharing your story. Let’s all be feminists together! It should be a joyful, expansive word that we can all claim. As for BDSM, I see no problem with consensual sex of any kind. Love and sexual pleasure can also be expansive and varied, as long as all parties agree and enjoy it. I think it’s a separate subject from rape, because rape is not consensual.

    @Jill Sorenson: It’s probably true that more women are patient and willing to wait, but I think there are more men in real life that fit that category than we see in romance novels. I want to see more heroes who behave like Sarah does in The Shadow and the Star. I’ve known many men with that level of compassion, and they are just as interesting and sexy to me as your typical alpha hero.

  30. Technology fail and an important subject « Wine, Women & Wordplay
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:49:24

    […] It’s about the depiction of rape and rape victims in romance stories and it’s here. […]

  31. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:53:56

    @Cleo: “I think that one of the appeals of m/m romance is that it conveniently bypasses our cultural baggage about women and women’s sexuality.” – Excellent point. I’d like to see us address and do something about that cultural baggage in m/f romance. I’m sure you agree!

    @Leslie: Thank you!

    @Ridley: Agreed.

    @Ann Somerville: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @Violetta Vane and @Jill Sorenson: Your discussion is here is so great! Thanks for talking this out together.

  32. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 17:59:28

    @Violetta Vane: There are two examples in this post of abused sex worker heroes. Do you mean abused sex worker heroines? I’ve read plenty of courtesan and mistress romances. Eden Bradley’s 21st Century Courtesan has a modern call girl heroine (I didn’t love it). I just read Q. Kelly’s Strange Bedfellows, a lesbian romance with a prostitute heroine. Really well done depiction of sex work IMO.

    I agree that romance reflects problematic social attitudes and that readers are harder on heroines. I know I am. But I don’t think I agree that male suffering is privileged (in romance and this post, not the world) and female roles aren’t so limited that I can’t come up with examples of almost any type of heroine. Well, maybe not Navy SEAL heroines. ;) I’m pointing this out for the same reason you are, perhaps–because I think it’s important for romance writers/readers to diversify and not buy into the idea that female roles are so restricted.

  33. e_bookpushers
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 18:05:06

    I have broken up with authors, not just a book or a series but the author for their depiction of the aftermath of rape and how it affects the survivor. I completely understand that it is the author’s prerogative to put what they want in their story so I am not trying to dictate how or what they write. I personally am unable to see that event through a fantasy or fiction lens and as a result I expect to see realism when dealing with the aftermath. Some authors I think handle it beautifully while others not so much.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  34. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 18:37:59

    They can be [insert your choice of characteristic here] in a way that our heroines can’t.

    Please see previous discussion on formula, form, expectations, and the Unwritten Rules of Genre Romance.

    Hey, Heroine, suck it up, Princess. Oh, you poor Hero. Come here and let’s heal you no matter how long it takes.

    I find discussions m/m incomparable in a discussion on rape and rape culture where the premise is that the victim is primarily the female because, as someone so astutely pointed out, women are completely erased. How does this help?

  35. azteclady
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 18:39:07

    @Merrian, Janet W, @Rebecca Rogers Maher:

    I would like to recommend two books–probably hard to find, as they are both very old.

    The first one is Lindsay Mackenna’s Morgan’s Marriage. First published in 1996 by Silhouette’s Special Edition, it deals with the aftermath of sexual slavery and enforced drug addiction. One of the most realistic–and difficult parts–to read is how long the effects of the repeated rapes show up in the protagonists’ lives. In fact, in the epilogue, after having sex, the hero checks with the heroine, and she muses that this was a good day/a good time, because years later she still can freeze up during sex with the man she loves and who she knows loves her above and beyond everything.

    The second is Kathryn Shay’s Michael’s Family. A 1997 Superromance, this one deals with date rape and teen pregnancy, and also addresses the long term effects of the rape on the heroine’s life–not just her sexuality, but her life choices.

    Neither of these novels is perfect, but I commend both of these authors for striving to address rape in a more realistic manner–sixteen years ago and more.

  36. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 19:15:08

    @azteclady: Not so HTF: The Mackenna title was re-released by Harlequin in e-book form (a bundle with other books in the series):

    And the Shay title has been self-published:


  37. Ann Somerville
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 19:56:58

    @Moriah Jovan:
    “I find discussions m/m incomparable in a discussion on rape and rape culture where the premise is that the victim is primarily the female because, as someone so astutely pointed out, women are completely erased.”

    In some stories, yes. But as m/m is largely authored and consumed by women, female rape and rape culture as a whole has a large influence on m/m. I suspect many writers and readers use m/m as a way to distance, filter, manipulate, understand issues surrounding rape and rape culture in a safe way.

    And, you know, a not insignificant number of rape victims are male. They are affected by rape culture as much as women are. Talking about rape as a woman only issue is disrespectful, and ignores the fact that rape is about power, not sex (or gender).

    M/m is part of the romance genre, like it or not.

  38. Confessions of a Romance Reader « RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:09:48

    […] definitely on a more serious note but I felt it should be included. Dear Author has a post titled Realistic Depictions of Rape in Romance that has stuck with me all day. It’s well written and has left me very conflicted about my […]

  39. Jane
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:10:54

    @Ann Somerville: It might be part of the genre, but I fail to see how using m/m as an example of triumphing over misogyny when the women are largely erased from the books. The fact that it is written and consumed by women doesn’t make the tropes less misogynistic.

  40. Ann Somerville
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:16:35


    “I fail to see how using m/m as an example of triumphing over misogyny when the women are largely erased from the books. ”

    I wasn’t aware I was using it as an example of any such thing. I was simply pointing out to Moriah that depictions of rape in romance can reasonably include those in m/m because (a) it’s part of the genre and (b) it’s still a woman-centric genre.

    “The fact that it is written and consumed by women doesn’t make the tropes less misogynistic. ”

    No, indeed not. M/m – and its depictions of rape – suffer from the same kinds of issues for the same kinds of reasons as het romance. However the crucial difference is that m/m often uses rape for titillation, which is now unacceptable in het romance.

    More than that, I wasn’t venturing.

  41. Sunita
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:17:15

    I read m/m romance.

    Once in a while I get a sympathetic, nuanced depiction of a woman character. Other times? No women. Or demonized women. I’ve stopped counting the can’t-get-a-date friends, the evil ex-wives, the homophobic family members, the mothers who abandon their children so that the main characters can have happy families, the conveniently dead mothers, etc. etc.

    So no, I don’t agree that m/m is the place to go to escape misogyny in romance.

    Interestingly, the well-rounded women characters are frequently found in books with lower heat levels, which don’t sell as well.

  42. Shinjinee
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:34:38

    @Fiona McGier:
    @Fiona: thanks, I will download and read this one. I live in India, where suddenly, people are beginning to discuss rape and other forms of sexual harassment.


  43. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:45:44

    @Ann Somerville: When we speak of “rape culture,” we talk about what we shouldn’t say to women:

    * don’t wear immodest clothing
    * don’t walk alone at night
    * always stick your car keys between your fingers
    * Raped? Oh, you must have been asking for it

    M/m is irrelevant in this discussion because men are not told these things. Yes, I am very well aware that the incidence of rapes of males is not insignificant. And I’m aware that it’s probably higher than we know because they are ashamed. Ashamed of what? Being weak? Retaliation? Sure. But they are not MORALLY shamed or Ashamed of:

    * having dressed provocatively
    * having walked alone at night
    * not being prepared to fend off any attack from any angle always
    * Raped? OMG let’s catch and kill that fucker NAO!!! (See: Penn State.)

    In other words, male rape victims are acted upon. They are, in fact, victims.

    Female ones incite their attackers. Even when they’re in burqas. They are somehow felt to be at fault. How? By existing.

  44. etv13
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 20:46:25

    Adding to what Sunita said: All too often, the well-rounded woman character in a m/m romance is either the mother of one of the heroes, or she’s a lesbian.

  45. Ann Somerville
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:03:05

    @Moriah Jovan:

    “Rape culture is the fact that every concrete example that I’ve given so far has involved a woman as the victim and a man as the rapist. Let’s be really clear on this: this isn’t because men are never raped or sexually assaulted—they are, and we know this. It’s because rape culture prevents men from reporting their assaults; it ridicules male rape victims, and makes a joke out of what they’ve been through.”

    There’s more to rape culture than what you list. I think you’re also ignoring the impact of rape in the gay male population, and the use of rape to punish men for not being masculine enough.

    If rape culture didn’t affect men, all prison rapes would be taken seriously and prosecuted.

    ” They are, in fact, victims.”

    All too often, they’re considered legitimate prey.

    I don’t want to derail this conversation by arguing that rape is as *much* a male problem than a female one, because it’s simply not true. But to pretend rape culture doesn’t have any effect on men and especially male victims, is ignoring reality.

    I missed that you and Jane were reacting to this comment by Cleo: “I really do think that m/m could point the way towards better, healthier m/f romance”

    I couldn’t disagree more. I think the majority of m/m takes the worst aspects of het romance and applies to male characters, and the misogyny in too many stories is appalling. I think too many m/m authors have simply too weak an ability to handle serious themes in a serious way, and while using male avatars, do a disservice to women and gay men alike.

    That’s a separate issue from what I was talking about. I’ll shut up now.

  46. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:12:15

    @Ann Somerville:

    you and Jane were reacting to this comment by Cleo: “I really do think that m/m could point the way towards better, healthier m/f romance”

    Yes, that. But then, as she noted, she wasn’t sure how, because women are largely erased.

    I couldn’t disagree more. I think the majority of m/m takes the worst aspects of het romance and applies to male characters, and the misogyny in too many stories is appalling.

    Ah, okay then. We’re probably at least in the same book and maybe the same chapter, if not on the same page.

    But please note: I am not miminizing male rape. Two themes running through the comments caught my attention that I agree with:

    1. heroes can do and experience stuff bad and good that heroines can’t, and
    2. male rape victims in het romance generally get more TLC from the heroines than the female victims get from the heroes

    both of which go back to my obsession with the Unwritten Rules of Genre Romance.

  47. Ann Somerville
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:15:08

    @Moriah Jovan:

    “Two themes running through the comments caught my attention”

    I can’t really comment on these because I’ve never read a het romance with a male rape victim (and I don’t read het much at all now.) But insomuch as rape in m/m is seen as a wonderful opportunity for hurt/comfort, and I can’t imagine that being the case in het with a female victim, I certainly can’t disagree with your points.

  48. Tamara
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:25:36


    “I think that one of the appeals of m/m romance is that it conveniently bypasses our cultural baggage about women and women’s sexuality. Which is a strength, because it shows us what romance can look like without the underlying misogyny / negative attitudes about women. I’m starting to wonder if isn’t also a weakness, because, um, it erases women.”

    Not if it’s properly written.

    But you don’t have to look to m/m romance to build “better, healthier” m/f romance. I’ve read m/f romances featuring compassionate, sensitive heroes. I think authors want to write them. But do they sell? Immature, selfish alpha heroes seem to continue to be far more popular.

  49. Sunita
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:26:45

    @etv13: Yes! I forgot those. My favorite stereotyped mom is in Scott Sherman’s series (First You Fall, etc.). She’s totally Libby Gelman-Waxner. I shouldn’t enjoy her, but what a guilty pleasure she is.

  50. MrsJoseph
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 21:50:08

    @Rebecca Rogers Maher:

    I wish someone would tell Peter V. Brett this! When reading The Warded Man I was shocked to read a (non graphic) gang rape – to see the woman almost throw herself at a man two days later. Quite a few people commented to Brett about it – and he left some horrible long winded response on Goodreads that basically said, “rape is realistic and shows how strong survivors are (character development was also used) and the woman wanted to have sex afterwards because of disorientation.” WOW, Brett. WTF? So, I no longer read Brett.

  51. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 22:11:29

    e_bookpushers: Me too!

    @azteclady and @Evangeline Holland: I was hoping for recommendations. Thank you!

    @Moriah Jovan and @Ann Somerville: I haven’t read enough m/m romance to comment intelligently about this topic, but I appreciate you two hashing it out. Thanks for contributing! In general, to state the obvious, I want the same considerations to apply across the board – that rape be treated seriously and accurately for both men and women.

  52. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 22:13:40

    These responses were swallowed earlier. Apologies if they end up showing up twice:

    @Lisa J. Yarde: Thanks for bringing up that point about the “avenging angel.” That makes me uncomfortable too. It suggests that the goal of recovery is killing the perpetrator, which is problematic, again, for people whose abusers are not evil villains. It over-relies on good/evil dichotomies that aren’t helpful or accurate in the real world, where normal men commit acts of sexual violence all the time. We need more paths to recovery than vengeance and magical penises.

    @Mari: That’s an interesting point. Faith certainly comes into the picture for many real-life survivors, many of whom probably experience a crisis of faith as a result of their trauma (along the lines of “How could God have let this happen?). It would be a fascinating part of the process to explore.

    @Brie: I hear you. This seems like an issue of interpretation to me, and we’re reading the book differently. I see more strengths than you do, but I respect your take on it. Like you, I wanted to see more development of the relationships outside of Holder. But the narrator is seventeen, and sees her history primarily through the defining lens of this relationship, exactly as I would have done at seventeen. More significantly, as discussed in terms of the different leeway given to heroes, romance writers run a serious risk when we include extensive detail in the heroine’s life that falls outside her relationship to the hero. Then, the book is not “romance.” It’s “women’s fiction.” (I heard this thought expressed many times in reviews of Fault Lines.) So, what’s a romance writer to do?

    @Carrie G: Hats off to you and your bravery, for working through your history and building a solid marriage and family life. That’s not in any way easy.

    I actually see sexual promiscuity-as-response-to-rape quite frequently in erotica and erotic romance, and I have to admit it makes me uncomfortable. Often, in this context, the posited solution to sexual trauma seems to be lots and lots of the right kind of sex. Also, it’s suggested that the rape history somehow justifies a level of sexual activity that we might otherwise judge the heroine for. It’s very, very tricky. Again, I think the solution is basic: If we’re going to bring rape into a novel, let’s treat it seriously and spend time with it, and if we’re going to (directly or indirectly) propose solutions, let’s make them more complex than The Healing Powers of Good Sex.

  53. Rebecca Rogers Maher
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 22:29:30

    @Sunita and @etv13: I need to start reading these books so I can see for myself what you’re talking about!

    @Shinjinee: Thanks for your comments!

    @Tamara: Thank you for bringing up that point about what sells. As an author, I have to make a conscious decision not to care about what’s popular. If we all just tried to mimic that, nothing new or interesting or meaningful would ever happen.

    @MrsJoseph: Oh dear. That is grim.

  54. etv13
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 03:07:29

    @Sunita: You know, I totally loved Libby Gelman-Waxner — we shared a passion for Daniel Day-Lewis — and I felt really betrayed when I found out she wasn’t real. I mean, I knew she wasn’t completely sincere, but I thought she had something important to say nonetheless, kind of like the way Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior contains a complete philosophy of life. But I used to sit behind Judith Martin at the opera, and the Shakespeare Theater, so I knew that while Miss Manners wasn’t quite real, her creator was an identifiable person. Oddly, I didn’t feel nearly as flummoxed when I discovered that Madeleine Brent was really a guy.

    @Ann Somerville: You gave Jerna’s long-suffering wife a really raw deal, you know, and while it’s noble of Jerna to give the rotten kid forgiveness on his own behalf, I can’t help thinking it puts too little value on the suffering of Jerna’s wife and daughters. I don’t think I could ever forgive my parents if they forced me to divorce my husband as Jerna’s wife’s parents did, and that’s only part of the destruction the rotten brat wreaked. The overall impression I got is that it was really only the mens’ feelings that mattered.

  55. Karenna Colcroft
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 09:33:12

    @Rebecca- Thank you. I do my best with my books; I’m sure I fail sometimes. But I at least want to present a realistic portrayal of a woman or man recovering from abuse. The “magic wang syndrome” has been too prevalent in romance, I think. (And I lampshade it in one of my contracted books; as the hero is learning about some of the things that have happened to the heroine, he wonders if making love to her as he wants to is a good idea because “he didn’t have a magic wang; he couldn’t erase her past just by f***ing her.”)

    On the subject of M/M romance: while I write both hetero and M/M, because of my own history, I find it easier to write M/M. When I write hetero, I find myself relating closely to the heroine, and that becomes problematic when I’m writing a heroine having positive sexual experiences, when I was conditioned most of my life to believe that sex was very negative and there was something wrong with me if I ever enjoyed it.

    Some of the heroes in my M/M have been sexually assaulted in their pasts, mostly notably the Alpha in my Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series, and I try to present that as sensitively and realistically as the female characters I have who have been through similar experiences.

  56. Estara
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 14:15:00

    @Jane: Hmm, Ann’s m/m (especially her Darshian Tales) and Amy Lane or Tamara Allen do have positive and strong females included in their m/m, but it’s true that the focus is on the m/m romance, so the females are sidelined.
    Admittedly I’m not widely read in m/m, but the books I’ve read by them (which doesn’t include the Jerna book, while I’m looking at comment 54) didn’t make me feel like women were erased.

  57. Linkspam, 1/25/13 Edition — Radish Reviews
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 05:32:33

    […] Realistic Depictions of Rape in Romance Superb guest post at Dear Author from Rebecca Rogers Maher. […]

  58. Michael’s Family, by Kathryn Shay « Her Hands, My Hands
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 06:10:30

    […] just re read this old Superromance after reading this essay by author Rebecca Rogers Maher. And, having stuck my oar in with a recommendation, I can’t […]

  59. Shelley
    Jan 28, 2013 @ 18:35:21

    Pretty late to the game but I wanted to say what a great post and discussion!!

    The Shadow and the Star is in my top 5 historical romance list because I loved both main characters and the realistic unfolding of their relationship as well as the flashbacks of Samuel’s life after his abuse. This was actually started in an earlier book, The Hidden Heart. I remember I was absolutely shocked to read not only a virgin hero but one who had been horribly abused. I almost put it down but am very glad I didn’t. Always come back to it when I need a good cry.

  60. stefan
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 15:54:53

    My dear friend , I’d just like to thank you for this wonderful posts , the first time I comment . , So I’ll be brief , You are great ! Have a nice day. maxima with love

  61. Colleen K
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:46:20

    This subject is absolutely, truly important and most authors really don’t give it the treatment it should have, they don’t even call it rape, or recognize it as such.
    I started reading romance novels when I was about ten yo, and it was pretty much the only thing available next to thrillers and suspense, I don’t regret that, romance novels make me happy, and I like the more or less known plot.
    But, I do regret that it limited a lot on how i saw their sex scenes; the books I read were old ones, 70’s or 80’s old, where, I have come to know recently sex scenes of “forced seduction” and rape were pretty common.
    But I had no idea I was reading a rape scene, the heroine suddenly felt numb and waited for him to finish then they went on with their lives. And of course there was the added factor that it was the hero who was doing this to her, how could I possibly imagine that is was not a good thing but a terrible terrible thing?
    I truly believe that yes, we should talk to our moms and dads, and kids, but authors do have a certain responsibility in what they write, that’s why we don’t make books glorifying mass murderers -or at least why we don’t sell them so much-.
    Authors have to own up to this responsibility and make sure their influence is a positive one, because I can count with the fingers of one hand the number of times a man has said in front of me X woman is a slut and she had it coming; but I can’t really be sure the massive amount of times another woman -the readers of romance- have said exactly that.

  62. lee
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 09:29:09

    actually it is usually rape, not just “sexual assault” and every woman i know gets off on reading about it, and frequently watching it. amazing how many women love watching scenes from

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