A Discussion of Rape in Slash
A Discussion of Rape in Slash
by Erin, Feklar and Thamiris

Myth:  Sexy rape stories are written by perverts who don't understand that rape is a terrible, painful crime with long-lasting and widespread repercussions.

Fact: Those stories, where the victim ultimately enjoys the rape, are written both by rape victims and women who have seen the devastating effects of rape on friends and family.

We've written n/c stories, and so-called "happy rapee" ones. Do we know someone who's been raped? Yes.  Friends, family and our own experiences. We've seen what rape can do--we've felt it.  Rape, or sexual assault of any kind in real life is beyond sick. There's nothing sexy about it and anyone who says there is, or that the victim really "enjoys it," should be locked up.

There is a distinction to be made, however, between real life and fic.

Rape isn't about sex.  It's about power:  the rapist exerts a brutal power over the victim and society in general.  Women are so afraid to be alone on the street or in parks or subways that we automatically change and restrict our lives without thinking about it.  This is infuriating and we all resent it.  But if we write rape, then we have the power.  Some of us choose to integrate that particular fantasy into our fic not just because we're able to distinguish between the fantasy of rape, and the reality, but also because it serves an important emotional need.

Fantasy isn't just make-believe, it is also a very important mechanism for emotional survival. It acts both as a necessary pressure-valve (as when you imagine killing an annoying sibling), it helps us deal with things that may be too painful to deal with otherwise, and it lets us do or get things we are unable or afraid to get or do in real life. Fanfic is a way to give voice to these fantasies.

On the other hand, sometimes writers leave in the violence.  Why?  Because of the anger.  Rape leaves survivors with tremendous anger, and that anger can be channeled through fiction. It's like going back to the scene of rape, and taking control over it in a way that's impossible in real life.  We don't want to do it to other people, of course--we just don't want it done to us. So, in our hands, rape often becomes eroticized.  Why?  To erase the pain, of course.  To make the experience, the reality, something we can live with.

But these are only two reasons why we write rape, eroticized or otherwise. Some writers feel guilty for even thinking about sex, especially women, since sex has traditionally earned us labels of 'whore' and 'slut' if we enjoy it.  So, to work around those labels, we show scenes where the characters are 'forced' into sex, although they really want it. This allows us to abdicate responsibility; we can enjoy the experience guilt-free.

Or we write rape as a way to cope with our anger when our lives defeat us. Our fiction, after all, is sometimes the only thing in our lives that we can control, and that frustration and anger with the world around us emerges in a familiar culture paradigm: rape.

The reasons we write rape-fic are complex, and they shouldn't be dismissed. We're not asking you to read these stories, only to understand that we need to write them.

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