Censorship, Readership, and Rape as Romance

CW: As the title of this post implies, there will be discussion of rape in romance novels and graphic description of rape scenes.

This weekend, romance Facebook got its weekly friend-and-acquaintanceship destroying controversy. It centered around a book–that I won’t name–which featured a plotline that goes like this: a survivalist-style woodsman and unrepentant murderer finds a young female college student he likes. He drugs her, kidnaps her, ties her to his bed, rapes her, and of course, by the end of the book, she’s realized that being owned by this sexy “alpha” hero is far preferable to the life she’d planned for herself, and falls in love with him.

You’d think this would outrage me to the point of bringing back my “Don’t Do This, Ever” column, but it doesn’t. This has sadly become a trend that readers clamor for. The days of the “Alpha” hero who asserts his dominance over the heroine through his forceful personality, yet surprisingly tender heart, are over. The new “Alpha” is the one who commits numerous felonies in pursuit of you and feels no remorse for having done so.


This particular case gained attention through the liberal application of drama within the erotic romance community. The author–who I won’t name–is rumored to have a long-standing feud with another author, against whom she made unsupported allegations of plagiarism. As outrage over this author’s rape-as-romance spread across social media, the accused plagiarist took action–by asking her readers to sink the book by contacting Amazon. After the call to have the book removed, readers tossed around the oft-used warning that “censoring” the book is a “slippery slope.” No censorship took place in this case; while Amazon chose to stop selling the book, it remained available from other retailers. No law was enacted to prevent the sale or possession of the book, which is available on the site once more, fitted with an alternate title and new, more mainstream cover. The slippery slope is a logical fallacy, and an unlikely scenario. Many books have been removed from Amazon for quality, formatting, or cover issues, as well as for content, and it has yet to result in a sweeping ban of erotica and erotic romance across the platform. There’s a lot of cash to be made selling erotic titles; it’s doubtful Amazon would yield those figures to their competitors. And if Amazon chose to no longer sell “dub-con” or “non-con” books, that would be their prerogative as a business, not a censorship move.

But the outcry over this act of “censorship” and the motives behind it reveal the disturbing thought process of some of the authors and readers of these types of books: any criticism of their fantasy is “judging” them, and any “judgment” is censorship. “Don’t judge people for what they want to read!” more than one Facebook post demanded. “Don’t tell people what they can and can’t enjoy.” But it’s not about what they are or aren’t allowed to enjoy. It’s the fact that fans of the rape-fantasy subgenre are able to so easily distance themselves from the subject of actual rape, to the point that their defense of their kink becomes active reinforcement of rape culture and blatant victim-blaming of real life survivors.

One GoodReads review for the book includes this passage:

After hearing the outrage over this book and talk of rape and the woman being unconscious, I expected something quite horrific, but really it wasn’t. There was no violence, he never lifted a hand to her and he did everything he could to care for her and give her everything she could ever want.

There was no violence, the reader asserts, because despite the fact that the hero uses horse tranquilizers to keep the heroine unconscious while he anally and orally violates her, he “did everything he could to care for her and give her everything she could ever want.” That the hero wouldn’t have had to “care for her” if he hadn’t drugged her and kidnapped her in the first place apparently never crosses the reader’s mind. Nor does the thought that “everything she could ever want,” to most women does not include captivity and forced “breeding,” as the book charmingly describes the hero’s ultimate goal.

“You can’t judge people for what they want to fantasize about!” was a rallying cry in defense of the book. But for all the insistence that readers instinctively understand that it’s just fantasy and they would never condone or desire such behavior in real life, GoodReads reviewers disagree. One says:

(Who doesn’t like a gorgeous bearded almost-savage hunk to take control and sweep you off your feet every day of your life, right?)

While another asks:

Where can I find one? [hero] was raised differently and saw the world differently. So going old school he found a woman …..and took her. Through patience most people wouldn’t have he brought her around to his way of thinking.

If you can suspend your beliefs in right and wrong and just read to enjoy the story you will find [hero] just as hot and sexy as the rest of [author]‘s men and be glad she came up with such a hot and fun story to share with us

The reviewer clearly states that she suspended her “beliefs in right and wrong” in order to enjoy the story, but still found the hero “hot and sexy,” as well as “patient.” Ah, yes, that rare, patient man who, in lieu of conversation and the usual getting-to-know-you process, jumps the gun and kidnaps you instead.

Another reader goes so far as to deny that the drugging, kidnapping, and raping is the hero’s fault at all:

[Hero] is all alpha but he is a softy. I love how he see what he wants and goes after it (her). Is it kidnapping? Nope. She is telling the world here I am. The number one mistake most people make. If don’t want something to happen then don’t tell people where you at 24/7. Be smart. Be safe. She is lucky it was him and not someone with ill intense.

Yes, she’s lucky it wasn’t someone with “ill intense,” like a guy who would…kidnap her, drug her, and repeatedly assault her? If women didn’t want to be kidnapped, drugged, and raped, this review says, they should be smart. And if they’re not smart, then they apparently deserve what they get and should be thankful for it.

On Amazon, another reader praises the book for exposing the reality of what it takes to make a healthy relationship:

This story knocks any fluffy piece of writing out of the water with it’s basic and bare boned portrayal of what a man and woman truly need to survive happily…and a man not afraid to take what is his.

Again and again, readers and authors who were disturbed by the content of the book and reader response to it were told that their objections were harmful, sexually repressive, and childish. From an Amazon review:


Get past it. This book is hot.


Get past it, reader who may have experienced mental health consequences due to the content of the book that, even after republication under a different title, still bears no content warnings. It’s just rape, after all, a sin on par with bad grammar in the opinion of another reviewer:

Yes there is rape and a couple grammatical errors, but that’s it. There is a happy ending and it really is a great story.

The book was marketed as not just erotica, but an erotic romance with BDSM elements. Which re-opens an entirely different can of worms that BDSM just can’t seem to keep closed in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey; our cultural understanding of what does and does not constitute BDSM is now defined by readers of a specific subgenre of romance who have likely never engaged in or researched actual BDSM. In this case, that definition now includes actual rape, as opposed to consensual rape-kink.

At the end of the day, authors are free to write whatever fantasy strikes them. Readers are free to consume it. But those readers and authors must accept that others will not be silenced so they can enjoy their fetish without guilt. No matter how it may be dressed up as “non-con” or “dub-con,” these books are rape fantasy. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying rape fantasy–as long as that fantasy isn’t normalizing rape as a romantic aspiration, and as long as readers don’t reject the notion of rape being harmful just so they can flick their respective beans guilt-free. As long as that attitude persists in romance, people will judge readers and writers who contribute to that narrative. If you’re one of those readers or authors and that judgment makes you uncomfortable, well. That’s a whole lot of your problem.

54 thoughts on “Censorship, Readership, and Rape as Romance

  1. Some of these people need to read John Fowles’ “The Collector,” in which the kidnapper is a dreary little office clerk for whom the heroine feels not just no attraction, but active contempt. Outside of fantasy, the really hot guys aren’t doing most of the kidnappings.

    1. Oh, I read that recently and it is scary and horrible and full of flimsy justifications by the stalker/kidnapper for his actions. So, kind of like FSoG, except good. And I doubt any readers of The Collector are going to fall for the guy’s victim-routine and excuse his behaviour like they so massively did with FSoG.

      Or maybe I have too much faith in the critical reading abilities of people. Judging by this post, I totally do.

    2. Which is kind of funny now that you think of it. Back when Ted Bundy was captured and tried for his killings, the overwhelming narrative was that good looking guys can be serial killers too. It was like society as a whole, couldn’t believe somebody who was good looking was completely capable of being a monster. (Ted Bundy was considered very good looking, was an educated psychiatrist, and was played by Mark Harmon in the TV Movie.)

      The message now seems to be that sure that hot guy raped you, but who cares? He’s hot. And has money. And the balls to just take what he wants because that’s so hot. Society turned these guys into something that fits their personal narratives better and are making it acceptable.

      The types of guys who will come in the middle of night and grab you, are monsters, not romantic heros. They’re monsters dressed up in human suits.

  2. Good for Amazon for not wanting to sell this book. And thank you, Jenny, for not rewarding it by naming it or the author.

    Because while I’ve certainly had some fantasies that I absolutely would not want to experience in real life, this book strikes me as way too close to too many news stories we keep seeing — Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugan, those four women in Cleveland, the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, etc. And those are just the women we know about. This stuff keeps happening. It’s probably happening to someone right now as I type these words. The women who suffer through this lose years of their lives and parts of themselves to real-life monsters. There is no way to make this okay.

    The idea that someone would even try to present this as “romance” is appalling — let’s not normalize this kind of criminal behavior and abuse of women in any way.

  3. One particular stomach-turning detail I noticed in the Goodreads reviews – the “hero” killed two people, chopped them up, and fed them to his pigs. That’s the same way of disposing bodies as the most prolific serial killer in Canada (Robert Pickton) used. He killed at least 49 sex workers and fed the bodies to his pigs. That’s the sort of person this author and her fans are romanticizing. Absolutely sickening.

    It sickens me that women are justifying this type of fantasy – he doesn’t beat her, she gets wet while he rapes her unconscious body, so that must count as consent. Me, I can’t and won’t “get past” romanticizing rape and kidnapping. I understand BDSM fantasies, even taboo fantasies like rape, but I’m not okay with people asking “where can I find a man like that?” or justifying rape and kidnapping, because they’re not seeing it as just a fantasy.

    1. I think a lot of people don’t know how to be comfortable with having that kind of fantasy, and therefore have to justify it in weird ways to not feel like a freak. Sort of like how people want to ignore racism/sexism in themselves, so they create loopholes to explain why what they do or like is really actually okay, and everyone else is just reading too much into it. Otherwise, they can’t feel like a good person and enjoy what they do. It’s all about avoiding introspection, in a lot of ways.

    2. Ewww… I’m a true crime buff and there was a highly prolific serial rapist who defended his actions by claiming the women he raped enjoyed it because they got wet and climaxed. These are physical responses our bodies make when responding to certain stimuli. Just because you suffer from these reactions, doesn’t make it any less a rape. That’s just mind blowing and horrible that real life victims will have their experiences discounted because “I was wet when he penetrated me”.

  4. I’m in kind of a weird place, because “dubious consent” is one of my most frequently searched-for tags on AO3, but at the same time just reading the description of this makes me feel sick. I could see where dub-con COULD be romantic (the difference between “no, I shouldn’t” and “no, I don’t want to”; neither should be violated and both set an uncomfortable precedent, but . . . okay, I don’t really have a defense, but I’ve fallen for seduction stories despite knowing there’s ickiness involved) and where either could be hot, but the idea of selling this as a romance is where I get confused. It’s kinda why I feel a lot of kink-lit works best in fanfiction or other short-form online fiction; the stories usually end shortly after the smut, because there’s no real way to make it a healthy, romantic relationship from there. It usually just . . . you know, ends.

    I really don’t want to kink-shame or anything, because it’s not the actual sex that bothers me (though seriously, TW are very needed somewhere), but the story beyond that. What do they talk about? Does she miss her friends and family? Is he just going to club her every time she’s not in the mood, and is she going to be okay with that? Once it goes beyond a one-time thing into a day-in, day-out relationship, the questions really start to form.

  5. The correct answer to “where can I find a man like that?” is PRISON. All kinds of killers, rapists, and kidnappers. Easy pickin’s for the horny hybristophiliac!

  6. It’s this kind of re-inforcement of rape culture and normalization of rape that lead to me being raped in the first place. I also don’t understand the idea that all kinks should go uncriticized and unanalysed. It’s not like sex exists in some sort of vacuum where it is untouched by societal norms, values and cultures. Sex in it’s turn also reinforces our societal norms, values and cultures. When we normalize non-consensual sex it reinforces the rape culture that already exists. I’m also not that pro rape-play. As a rape victim I feel it’s both disrespectful towards me (other victims may of course disagree and that is totally okay) and it also contributes to the normalization and fetishization of rape. The thought of someone taking the event that gave me issues for years and then turning it into something sexy bothers me alot.

    1. Just to add some nuance to your claim (and I realize that you already made room for it, but I just want to expand on it a bit) — I’m also a rape survivor and I have absolutely zero issue with rape fantasies or rape-play.

      In fact, having my own rape fantasies, and actually deriving pleasure from them, has been a way to work through the trauma of my own assault and move past it. It’s been strangely empowering.

      Moreover, even if I didn’t personally enjoy them, I wouldn’t ever think to criticize what goes on in a person’s head, loins, or bedroom — so long as everyone is legally consenting. I think anything and everything is up for critical analysis, especially large-scale trends and social norms — and even sexual and romantic preferences — but I draw the line at telling individual people that their desires, predilections, or habits are wrong. I passionately believe in bodily, sexual, and reproductive autonomy, and that means following through on that even if it intersects with realms that make the average SJW uncomfortable. If we believe that folks are entitled to their bodies and sexual agency, we can’t pick and choose what it’s okay for them to do or like, so long as everything is legal and everyone is consenting.

  7. Wow. Take out the rape, switch the characters around and oh look, you’ve got Misery. Which, coincidentally, is also what I feel when people defend this kind of crap.

  8. I’ve read my share of Rosemary Rogers/Naughty Highwayman/ Dashing Pirate/ Rhett Butler-type fantasies, and aside from the fact that real highwaymen and pirates were probably smelly with rotting teeth, part of what makes the fantasy palatable is the larger-than-life HEROINES: Scarlett O’Hara, Amber St. Clair etc are all tough, resilient vixens who are more than a match for their ruthless rake love interests. The fantasy of being an irresistible Southern Belle or a saucy Restoration jade who can’t be tamed is very different from being a bloodless little doormat, who also can’t be tamed but mostly because she has no spirit to begin with.

    1. This is what bothers me most about this new crop of “romances.” I can roll with the old skool bodice-rippers because, like you said, the heroines gave as good as they got. But in these, the heroes are way past alphole into actual sociopaths and the heroines all seem to be doormats about as interesting as watching paint dry.

    1. If you feel that you can’t in good conscience not report it, then that’s for you to decide. The re-uploaded version is classified as erotica and not erotic romance this time, so while the book is still troubling to me, it’s not something that I would report, myself. Reporting the book only resulted in the author being cast as the victim and people mistaking its removal for censorship or a book ban. At this point, she’d practically be canonized as a martyr if it were removed again.

      1. “Reporting the book only resulted in the author being cast as the victim and people mistaking its removal for censorship or a book ban. At this point, she’d practically be canonized as a martyr if it were removed again.”

        That’s why I haven’t reported it, because I thought it would only make more people take the author’s side. Plus, Amazon allows a lot of other skeevy content in its erotica section.

        I’m still not going to agree with the fans that anyone who’s offended should just get over it. Fuck that.

    2. Would you mind sharing the title with me? There’s been a lot of discussion here, but rather than receiving the information (and impressions) secondhand, I’d really like to read it for myself and discern whether or not rape/kidnapping/control is presented as normalized and aspirational, or whether it’s presented an id-powered escapist fantasy.

    1. + 10000

      There are days where I’m all “where’s that tentacle rape link again?” and there are days when everything better be completely and ENTHUSIASTICALLY consented to. I’ll read dub and non-con, I just want to know.

      Fwiw, I find both this and 50 shades way more disturbing than most fanfic with consent issues because the narrative is supporting rape as romance and is trying to get us to root for a rapist to get a HEA with their victim.

      1. So this guy meets a woman through the personals whose ad said she is “up for anything.” Their first time together, she asks how he wants to start. He answers, “How ’bout some vanilla?” and she runs out of the building screaming.

    1. Ha, this. When I was young I thought it was ‘cool’ to be into kinky and rough stuff. Now I’m grown and fuck that shit. It’s mostly performative sex anyway, and I rarely got off. Now I want gentleness and clitoral stimulation.

  9. “No matter how it may be dressed up as “non-con” or “dub-con,” these books are rape fantasy.”

    …Maybe I’m just slow and missing the point of this sentence, but non-con and dub-con are non-consensual sex and dubious-consent sex, yes? How can anyone use those labels and not already be acknowledging that it’s rape? Rape is, by definition, non-consensual sex, so ‘non-con’ should mean ‘this is a rape story’, and ‘dub-con’ should mean ‘some of you will feel this is rape, others think it falls into some sort of grey area, but it’s kinda a rape story’.

    I’m legitimately confused by this. Are people saying ‘non-con’ titled erotica doesn’t count as rape because it’s called non-con instead? Is that a thing? How can you justify that to yourself? It’s LITERALLY the *definition* of rape.

    I can *kind* of see the appeal of a rape *fantasy*. In a fantasy you’re always in control, so you know nothing is really going to happen to you, so you can explore things like power dynamics and fear without genuine danger. Personally I’m pretty boring about sex and mostly get turned on by being wanted, but to each their own as long as it’s just a fantasy and you’re smart enough to acknowledge that just because it’s hot in your head doesn’t mean it’s a GOOD thing. I fantasize about killing people that fucked me over, doesn’t mean I’d actually ever do it or even that I wouldn’t freak the fuck out if someone else did. So honestly while the book itself is kinda horrifying to me personally, I don’t really care if people want to read it. HOWEVER, the people who are defending it and saying they’d want someone like that, THEY scare the crap out of me.

  10. I hate it when these stories are tagged in the wrong genre. I’ve read some novels that purported to be crime thrillers or mysteries, but then have extremely detailed, eroticised rape scenes. A bit jarring. Even worse when they morph into snuff fantasies.

    Or freaking historical fiction novels that somehow end up being in highschool required reading lists. I’m still pissed off about having read Pillars of the Earth.

  11. While I’m new to this whole erotica experience (Jenny is my first foray into the genre) and I am into some kink, I’m mostly just sick and tired of people acting like it’s not okay to be critical. I can not like things. I can question the intent or position of things. I am allowed to express those questions. I am so fed up with being called a “hater” or a “troll” because I express a dissenting opinion. I just, sigh. I guess I am the grumpy old person now.

  12. Thank you. You sum up my thoughts exactly. I’ve been shouted down on Facebook all weekend, but there are just as many people who are disgusted, and rightfully so–because this is not a subversive text that turns rape on its head and finds agency for a reader to explore her fantasies. This is a rapist’s fantasy, surely, as the heroine is unconscious for the first assault.

    I find myself unable to stand with readers who loathe a heroine so much they want her to be sodomized, that in that violation they find pleasure. That they read that scene and think, yes, of course he must do that.

    Another commenter mentioned Robert Picton. I’ve heard someone else compare this to the awful Ariel Castro story. And with a reader being brought in as a sort of accomplice, you could see Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, too.

    In short, serial killers are the new romance hero?

    No. I won’t be silent and just watch that happen.

    1. I’m curious as to why you think readers are drawing voyeuristic pleasure from having the heroine sodomized, rather than vicarious pleasure.

      Don’t you think that a straight woman reading (and enjoying that scene) is much more likely to identify with the heroine, and in doing so, derive thrill from the fantasy of being subjugated and dominated by the novel’s “hero” as it’s written?

      1. Books like this and Fifty Shades tend to do best in areas where Twilight did best: red states, rural areas, and white exurbs. Trump country. Areas of deep sexual repression and misogyny. The same areas that dominate consumption of internet porn. The husbands are on Pornhub watching cuckhold videos and the wives read Fifty Shades and Twilight. For some of these women, those aren’t enough anymore and they’ve graduated to fapping off to literal serial rapists and serial killers. In short, these women are sexually repressed, self-loathing misogynist women who have been culturally conditioned to hate other women, especially feminists who want to determine their own destiny.

        My understanding is that the female lead in this book was a college student, a no-no to many of these women. Because of that detail, they see her as one of the evil pussy-hat wearing feminazis whose ‘liberal tears’ need to be drunk by white alpha males who know better and should be in charge of everything, including women’s bodies. They get off on this female character’s violation because they hate all women who aren’t them, especially those who value education, autonomy, and independence from male rule. In short, she’s an uppity bitch who needs to be put in her place.

        These women have been so beaten down that they take it as a given that all relationships with men will involve manipulation, emotional and/or physical abuse, and perhaps even rape. They won’t call it that but they know what it is and accept it. Since abusive relationships are all that exist for them, they might as well fantasize about ones with men who are rich, hot, and/or ‘take care of everything for you’, which is probably more than can be said for their abusive husbands. That’s the saddest part. For some of these women, these sick “heroes” are a step up from what they have, even if only superficially. Every woman I know who loves the Fifty Shades books are in abusive relationships and assume that’s just how it is for everyone so, wouldn’t it be nice if he were rich, hot, and at least had a few rules?

  13. I think one of the more disturbing things that you describe about the defenders of this book, is the victim blaming. They aren’t putting themselves in the position of the victim and saying “I want this for myself,” even as they ask where to find a man like that. By saying that the victim should “be smart” or “know better,” or even that she should be somehow grateful for her aggressor’s attention, they’re really playing the role of voyeur. They are getting off on WATCHING the girl get assaulted. They don’t see her as a character they connect with, they enjoy watching her be assaulted. This has to be the case if she’s unconscious and the reader isn’t in her head. That’s different than having a fantasy about being raped. It’s a fantasy about SEEING someone being raped, or, worse, being the rapist, if the pov is the murdering rapist. “He’s hot, because he lowers this woman to her true place in society, as his toy and possession.” That’s less about wanting to be submissive, and more about internalized misogyny. Also, yes, prison is exactly where you can find a guy like this, if that’s your dream. It certainly sounds like it’s where he belongs.

    1. You nailed it. Its like the camera in a slasher movie: you see through the eyes of the killer, not the terrified victim (except for Scream, which broke the mold). As an audience member, you are made complicit.

  14. I hadn’t heard anything about this, but I’m a little confused. Isn’t this all just “dark” romance? I’ve run into a lot of books like this, because it took me a bit to cotton to the fact that “dark” meant, more often than not, rape as the catalyst for a relationship. I’m a little surprised that this one book is getting so much attention, when there are so many of these kinds of stories out there. Not that they *shouldn’t* receive the attention, but it seems odd that just *one* book out of so many would attract it at this point in time.

    Am I wrong? Is dark romance supposed to be something else?

    1. I’ve seen and rage read ‘dark’ romances. But not ones where the guy chops up people and feeds them to pigs. And not ones where the hero anally rapes the woman.

      I think this might just be the next level down.

      1. Shakespeare shows what really happens with bad boy lovers in Richard III (literarily–the actual historical couple seem to have had a pretty good marriage). Lady Anne gets seduced by Richard right over the coffin of one of his victims, but eventually he adds her to the list. See the Olivier one for full bad-boy appeal.

  15. I’m so over the Cool Girls who make this shit popular. They’re always so proud of what they’re able to tolerate. I don’t see what’s brag-worthy about being a doormat for all men. And they attack other women at the slightest criticism. Girl, bye.

    1. Exactly. These books aren’t really about fantasizing about sex. They’re a fantasy of feeling superior to other women, namely the heroine who somehow deserves what’s happening to her.

  16. I have not heard about this book until now but this subject is something I’ve been talking about now.


    Everyone thinks just because the man doesn’t violently force himself on the woman as she struggles against him, crying “no” and telling him to stop, it’s not rape. People need to be more aware that rape isn’t always like that. Once consent hasn’t been given, it’s rape. Doesn’t matter if the guy is not holding her down or not. If she doesn’t consent or says no, it’s rape no matter how you slice it.

  17. This is one of the most vile things i’ve ever read. I actually feel ill now. The hell is wrong with the people leaving these reviews?*

    *I’m not trying to kink-shame people with rape fantasies, whatever floats your boat etc. I I ain’t judging. But those comments go above and beyond “your kink is not my kink and that’s OK” and straight into normalizing/victim-blaming/being unable to distinguish fantasy from reality and that is what’s so disturbing here.

    If you want to find a guy like this in real life you need professional help

  18. I feel like there’s a really, really big difference between people who are comfortable with their kinks and able to say “This is fucked up, but I also find it really hot?” and people who are uncomfortable with acknowledging that and so try to normalize it. I feel the same way about books like this as I do about things like choking and face-slapping and verbal degradation making their way into more and more “mainstream” porn. Ugh.

    1. That’s what I was thinking while reading the reviews. I’m going to take a guess and say that the reason they’re reacting so vocally to criticism is that they can’t parse that themselves, therefore everyone else is wrong.

  19. I’ll be honest, I’m very curious about this book. I would totally read it. But as a fictional story. Were this an autobiography I would be mortified and devastated. I don’t understand how others can’t seperated the two. Seems super easy to me.

    1. It may be fiction but to romanticize something so horrific that actually happens to real women is grotesque and anti-social in a very dangerous way. Fiction has a very real effect on culture and the more this garbage pervades society, the worse off women will be. We are already fighting an uphill battle with raging sexists in charge at the highest level. The last thing we need is flat out kidnapping, drugging, and violent rape made not only socially acceptable but desirable. Fifty Shades was bad enough but this is legitimately sick.

  20. I am very much a fan of something that was once among the most notorious fanfics in Harry Potter fandom. But I’m well aware it would be massively problematic in real life. I am… not entirely sure the author was aware of that, but I feel okay going “I love this!” while also maintaining an awareness that this is only okay as long as it stays in the book.

    These reviewers don’t seem to be able to make that distinction– possibly because mainstream readers aren’t encouraged to critically engage with their fiction, so they don’t know how to handle it when someone does. I’m almost thinking the thought process goes “I like this, they’re saying it’s bad, if it was bad I would be a bad person for liking it, so it can’t be bad!”

  21. Great, now I really wanna read it, just out of curiosity.

    I think literatures obsession with these all consuming, all controlling relationships is that they’re so easy. There’s no actual work to be done.
    The characters are so busy with the drama of whose got the control and who feels more intensely that the whole ‘getting to know you’ part of the relationship can be skipped. It hasn’t gotten anything to do with reality and that’s exactly what people want when they read romance novels, I guess.
    The actual process of getting involved in a serious relationship can be pretty exhausting. Relationships are hard, even if you fit together very well with someone.
    It’s never as easy in real life as resolving one huge problem and then everything is fine, cue the music, roll the credits.
    In books it is though. The characters have this oh so terrible obstacle that they need to overcome and once they do all the others pieces fall into place and they have a happy ending.
    Sex being forced on Person A by Person B actually makes sense in this whole construct. Person A, having no agency, never has to think about what they want and need. They also dont have to think about what the other person wants because, well, if they want it, they take it. The, occasionally uncomfortable, conversation that has to happen about sex between partners in real life can be skipped. So we can also skip the embarrassment that comes with teaching someone else how to pleasure you.
    I think these books just skip all the important things about relationships and get right down to the juicy goodness of ‘I can’t live without you’ ‘You don’t have to, ever and I will never betray you because we are perfect together and made for eachother’.
    Rape isn’t a real problem in these books it’s just a device to create some drama that can be really easily resolved without consequences. I don’t know what that says about these stories and about the readers who enjoy this concept so much that they actively seek it out in the romance that they read.
    Rape is a shortcut to romance and to characterisation and as long as we don’t carry these beliefs into the real world then, yeah, whatever floats your boat. Or whatever doesn’t.
    As always, it’s peoples reactions and the conclusions people draw from these stories, applied to the real world, what is actually problematic.
    In an ideal world, people could have civilized conversations about all the problematic topics within books that they like. In that ideal world we would all be educated about misogyny, racism and rape-culture and we’d all be able to talk about it in a calm, composed manner. This isn’t an ideal world, and we have to choose our battles.
    That author is making money the easy way by catering to prejudice and taught insecurities and I can’t even blame them.
    At this point, I’ll honestly just be thankful if I never have to read a book by Jack Ketchum again.

    1. Anna,

      Very good points on the fantasy vs. reality. Men have lots of fantasies, too, like having sex with two women who actually get along with each other. That’s great for fantasy-land, but it doesn’t work out so much in real life when that jealousy-thing gets in the way.

      The really sad thing is the effect the rape-fantasy books have on our rape-culture (Do the novels promote the culture? Gads, I hope not, but the more socially acceptable they become, would that excuse the actual events int he minds of jurors?)

      I’d like to add in my experience I recommend we take your analysis one step further with an adage I conjured up after many years of failed relationships, to wit: (and this is real-life, mind you, not fantasy novels)

      “The skills needed to start a relationship are the exact opposite of what is needed to maintain a relationship.”

      In other words, all that flirting, mind-gaming fun stuff doesn’t cut it in the long term if one partner expects the other to ‘read their mind’ and don’t ask for what they want directly. Then the arguments start “You should know what I want!!” only to be met with a quizzical stare by the partner because it was never mentioned in the first place. Pretty much soon afterwards both lose respect for each other, and then the relationship is soon on its death bed.

      I suppose the novels are OK as long as the reader realizes it is, indeed, rape and is able to separate the fantasy from reality. Trouble is, I wonder how many can’t?

      1. Thanks for your reply!

        I think you’re absolutely right. I do think that we see an alarming trend with these novels and in societies reaction to them. The problem is that the phenomenon of media being widely accessible at any time in any place is still so new to most of us, that we never really learned how to not only consume the media offered, but also how to incorporate it into the way we view the world and the people around us.

        I don’t know if these types of novels support rape culture. They might. Whether they support it more than a Dolce & Gabbana add, that looks like a bunch of men rape an unconscious woman (YES seriously), I can’t tell. I guess a lot more men see that add than read a shitty novel that ‘caters’ to women.

        I know that media influences all of us, subconsciously. The people who wrote comments like the ones Jenny provided, didn’t start thinking this because of this one book they read but because of the plethora of women-hating bullcrap out there. Misogyny is insidious and it’s everywhere.
        Even the most enlightened feminists of all will have a slip up, because it’s inevitable.
        Am I worried about the lonely housewife, whose kids always put ketchup on everything she cooks with so much love, reading these books thinking that the rapist hero is hot? Not really. I think the tendency is to want everything that is not what we already have.
        Am I worried about teenaged girls reading this thinking it’s hot? Yes, actually. That is a valid concern.
        I don’t know how the book even adresses the issue, maybe it does make a point of saying that this is assault and it’s wrong. It probably doesn’t.

        My point is, that these media are only as dangerous as we allow them to be. We have to focus on teaching people the difference between reality and fantasy (this is sad because it’s technically a Kindergarten issue that shouldn’t need adressing past the age of ten) and how to actually handle media.

        As you so rightly said, everyone has fantasies and seeing them play out is usually not what we thought it would be.
        I really loved the quote you posted. It basically explains why so many romance books, stop after the heroes get together. Because the illusion would fall apart (also, dealing with the earth-shaking issue of dirty socks and clogged drains isn’t really a page turner, I presume).

        I guess, every time we see a comment that blames the victim in a book for the aussault we can choose between starting the lecture all over again or walking away. I usually just direct people towards better litarature without outright saying that it’s better.
        In case of rape fantasies I just point them towards Lilah Paces Asking for It.
        In case of BDSM I usually just point, you know, to Jenny.

        People will get it. Eventually.
        There will always be good literature to cancel out the bad somewhat and I love looking for that yummy goodness.

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