For the most part, my attitude can be found in a short-short I sold to Sword and Sorceress XXV. Since it isn’t worth running out and buying the anthology just for that, I’ll state it here: For a long time now, I’ve been really tired of “strong female characters” who must have been raped in order to find their motivation to be strong. I mean, c’mon. Lazy much? Or, for that matter, female characters who are raped only in order to inspire the male character to seek vengeance. Stop making me vomit in my mouth and yawn at the same time; it’s messy.
So far, my opinions don’t challenge any orthodoxies, and you all know how much I hate that; let’s move on.
Have I ever depicted a rape in one of my stories? No.
Would I ever depict a rape in one of my stories? Maybe. I’m unwilling to say that rape never belongs in a work of art. Or even that it never belongs in a work of art created by a man. For example, I think it’s pretty clear that the world would be poorer without Gimbologna’s “Rape of the Sabine Women.”
The thing is, whenever there is human suffering of any kind, you don’t want to make it cheap. You don’t want to make it easy. You don’t want to make it meaningless. For fuck’s sake, there is enough meaningless suffering in the real world–one purpose of art is the struggle to find meaning in things around us that appear meaningless.
But, okay. In my opinion, murder is a worse crime than rape. There are people who have recovered from being raped; no one, so far, has managed to recover from being murdered. I am willing to write about murder (in fact, a lot). Why have I not been willing to write about rape? Well, one answer is that it’s never come up; there has never been an occasion where I felt that the story called for it. But that’s evading the question.
One of the things that most drives my work is a deep fascination for what’s happening in someone’s head in a moment of crisis, of danger. In my arrogance, I believe I can successfully explore that when the danger is mortal. My imagination runs free, and I put myself there, and I go, “what am I feeling, if I’m this person?” One trouble with writing a rape scene, is that I’m not interested (or able? or willing?) to put myself into the head of the attacker or the victim deeply enough to do a competent job of it.
If I’m ever confronted with a situation where the story demands it, I don’t know what I’ll do. I hope I won’t shy away from it. I hope I’ll approach the subject honestly and respectfully, and not let myself be intimidated by a difficult subject, or by fear of social consequences from those who believe it ought never be written about, especially by a man. On the other hand, if I never write a story that demands it, I’ll be just fine with that.
But I love the saying that, “Nothing human is foreign to me.” In my case, that is not a fact, but it is something of a goal (so long as it falls short of me having to be raped or murdered just for the experience; there are limits to what I’ll sacrifice for my craft). In other words, I do not believe that rape, or anything else that is part of the human experience, is forbidden to anyone working in any of the arts. I merely (merely!) demand that everything an artist explores be explored honestly, with all of the tools available, and that the artist avoid cheap, stupid tricks.
Now I’ll have to do another blog post about when and where I’m in favor of cheap, stupid tricks. But let’s wait on that.