First off: this is a controversial issue. I invite people to share their views/opinions on it, but largely, the point of this thread is to help guide people through realistically portraying sexual assault, in their fiction. Since it’s becoming more prevalent in Fearblogs (or, at least, discussion of it has come to light a little more) there really ought to be an official discussion for it.
It should be noted, some authors don’t want realism. Be warned that this may offend, but you’re the author; it’s your vision, and your prerogative to include sexual assault in your story.
So, to open with:
When is it okay to include sexual assault in the story?
Short answer: When the plot doesn’t feel complete without it.
Long answer: If you can’t see the plot moving forward without it, or feel it’s in-character for one of your characters to sexually assault another (I feel this especially applies for characters that ‘write themselves’; you know, when you start going with the plot, and before you know it, they’re saying and doing things that manage to surprise you, but just feel natural). Do not include rape for shock value – I realize that the aim in writing is to make your readers feelfor your characters. When you include sexual assault for shock value, what you think is being included to draw sympathy actually detracts from the narrative.
No matter what the reason, always try to portray sexual assault in a realistic manner. Not just because of the delicate balance of offending your audience; it creates a lot more of an impact if you show the real consequences.
Now, most people will think this isn’t necessary, but:
What is sexual assault?
Any uninvited sexual contact might be sexual assault. Ever. Genders don’t matter. Previous relationship between the two doesn’t matter. Does that mean that all sexual contact is assault? ‘Course not – implied consent is totally a thing, just tricky. If person A and person B are married for ten years, and consented every single time before that, it’s not unreasonable to think that’s long-standing implied consent…but it can still happen.
Hence, it’s a tricky thing. I’ll also take this opportunity to say I’m not an authority on all things rape-related! In fact, that sentence made me flinch!
…Still, it’s an important matter, so, continuing:
I’d say, primarily, sexual assault is any uninvited sexual contact that causes damage to one partner. Physical damage, psychological damage – anything of the sort, and that’s sexual assault.
What are the consequences of sexual assault?
Oh, god, there are so many.
So, so many.
Everyone’s different, but the important thing to know is: the consequences never end. Not truly. Even someone whose rapist is behind bars (closure) and had twenty years to come to grips with what happened (time to heal) – they’ve still got that mark, in their brain. It may manifest as trust issues. Maybe they flinch when someone touches them. Maybe they still have dreams about it.
In my experience, when I say that, there’s always someone who goes: “But what if -”
“But I knew this person -”
People lie. People especially lie about their mental scars. They lie to the people who care about them, and they lie to themselves. They may even think they’re okay, but that’s a massive event in their life; that shaped the victim, a little. It leaves something behind, no matter what.
Some common after-effects are:
– Issues with physical contact.
– Intimacy issues/commitment issues.
– Anxiety (social anxieties, phobias, etc.)
– Post-traumatic stress, or triggers.
– Self-esteem/self-worth issues.
Physical damage (warning: potential squick factor here) is most often internal scarring or damage. Those scars can re-open and cause a lot of pain or bleeding, even after they’ve healed, even during consensual sex. Not just talking the rough stuff, either. Since the damage is internal, it doesn’t heal the same way. For more realistic portrayals of the internal damage, you can pretty much research that anywhere, but, here are some links:
Not exactly GREAT information sources but, you get my drift. Important to note, not all physical scarring is the same either. If your victim wants to know more about their own scarring, their best bet is to see a specialist (an OBGYN or proctologist…you know, depending. In case I wasn’t getting squick-y enough).
Other physical damage can include… Well, have you all heard the stories about men breaking their penises? That’s not rape exclusive, but…
I honestly am having trouble expanding more on the psychological effects, just because there are so many.
So, as for the rest of this thread – feel free to post questions, comments, etc.
And, again – sensitive topic, I’m aware of that, so please avoid being argumentative and try not to make anything too personal, here.
Addendums: Rape is never, ever justified.
That said: in typical cases (AKA Eldritch abominations aside) rapists are people. They are not monsters, they are not sick, twisted, impossible-to-comprehend creatures that are beyond redemption.
Because it’s fresh in my mind, I’ll cite the forum game ‘Red’, by GraciousVictory. The protagonist, Bianca? Yeah, she raped her girlfriend. As we are shown several times over, this does not make her a monster.
In the rapist’s mind, the abuse happens for a reason. People do not rape For The Evulz – not in real life.
Maybe they think the victim’s consent was implied. Maybe they are mentally ill and have a harder time figuring out what’s a ‘no’. The darker reasons, of course: maybe they’ve objectified the victim and feel they’re exerting their power. Maybe it’s out of hate.
Not a single of those reasons is excusable, but none of them mean the assailant is the lovechild of Satan and Hitler.
Gender, sexual preference, age, and how they relate to sexual assault:
Also, I’m aware, I’m probably gon’ repeat a bunch of stuff from my first big post. Oh well.
So, most of you probably already know the heavily-disproved myth about ‘The Homosexual Who Molests Young Boys’. If you don’t know that’s bullshit, here is your friendly notification that it’s a horribly offensive myth.
Let’s start with gender! It’s totally simple: everyone is capable of sexual assault, and everyone can be targeted. There’s a general stigma of ‘women are sexually assaulted more than men’.
Is that true? No freakin’ clue. If you look at any statistic, you’ll find the ratio is considerably tilted…but, one of the things that I feel ought to be kept in mind when writing: media and society say men aren’t allowed to admit they’re a victim.
It’s horrible and disgusting, but with the stigma that ‘all men want sex, all the time’ and the ‘if a man is a victim, he is less of a man’ – I mean, who’s to say how wrong the statistics are?
For an example, I direct y’all to the movie Horrible Bosses, because I watched it a couple days ago and it’s still in my brain. One of the characters wants to kill his female boss because he aggressively hits on him, threatens to fire him, etc. His friends react by telling him to shut up, she’s hot, what the fuck is his problem that that is a problem?
So, if you write a male victim, keep in mind – reactions he gets will be very different. They’ll be different based on the gender of the rapist, too.
As aforementioned, homosexuals do not have a predilection towards molesting children. Sexuality is sexuality; preferences are a big target for ‘the reason why someone is a rapist’, but…it isn’t, really. At least, in my opinion.
By that I mean…a heterosexual is not more inclined to sexually assault someone than a homosexual. Vice versa. Gender preference may be part of the person, but it’s not ‘That person raped the victim because they’re _____.’ They’re doing it because there’s something about that person compelling them to do so, and I will bet you money that reason isn’t their homosexuality in shoulder-devil form going, “Rape that guy. You’re gay, so totally rape that guy.”
Now, about the whole age-thing. Anyone, of any sexual preference can experience any form of chronophilia. As I just linked, chronophilia refers to having specific sexual attraction towards particular age groups.
I’ll clarify those, too, in case you don’t feel like browsing Wikipedia:
Nepiophilia is a sexual preference for infants/toddlers. Wikipedia defined it within 0-3 years of age.
Pedophilia is about kids who haven’t reached puberty, but as y’all know, it’s the most commonly used term for sexual appetites that lean towards anyone under the age of consent. Or 18, in places where age of consent is younger than that (like Canada, where it’s sixteen).
Hebephilia is the penchant for teens, pretty much. Anyone who’s reached puberty falls into this category, but thattends to be broken down further. Hebephilia I (also referred to as ephebophilia) refers to really young teens – like, Happy-Thirteenth-Birthday kind of young – and then there’s Hebephilia II for middle adolescence (the driver’s permit stage) and Hebephilia III for late adolescence.
Then, believe it or not, we’ve got more.
Teleiophilia is a sexual interest in adults. Not so squick-y, unless it’s not a fellow adult…
And then, lastly, gerontophilia is the sexual yin for the elderly.
Like how I slipped in the implication, under the ‘teleiophilia’ definition? …Yeah, how’s that for squick? Granted, sexual intent has to be there – a five year old groping you is innocent enough, but maybe age that kid up to thirteen, and it stops being innocent curiosity.
That’s also a very delicate writing balance, if you subvert the usual older-preying-on-the-younger, in fiction. There’s a whole host of other things to consider: if it’s a younger/child sexual predator (which makes me awkward to even type), how much of that behavior was learned? How much of the intent is malicious? How do you think people will treat the victim? (Spoiler: really badly. People are not inclined to believe the adult, pointing fingers at a preteen.)
How does rape change your gender preference?
That girl is not a lesbian because she was raped.
That guy is not gay, now, because a man raped him.
Yes, the sexual assault left scars on your character – that does not mean their sexuality changed. I’ve actually heard someone say they’d be bisexual, if they hadn’t been raped by a man – that’s not true. She’s still attracted to men; I’ve seen the evidence of that.
The character may be more comfortable identifying as certain way due to the scars, but a person’s preferences do not magically change after sexual trauma.
Okay, so – gender-preference-sexuality is one thing. Then there’s lifestyle sexuality…
How is BDSM different from sexual assault?
In BDSM, the partners know each other’s limits. They have safe words (or gestures, if, y’know, words aren’t so easily accessible). They’ve experimented with what works for them, what doesn’t. They talk about it regularly. There’s aftercare – which is super important.
If one of the participants pushes too far, and ignores the safe word? Yeah, that’s rape.
That can also go for the submissive, incidentally. I’ve known incidents when the dominant partner safe word’d out, for various reasons. If the submissive keeps going, that falls under rape, too.
If you do choose to include a relationship in your works that involves BDSM, please read up first. None of this 50 Shades bullshit (which, if you have read it – that is not an accurate portrayal of a BDSM relationship. There’s a reason so many people in the community are irked/offended by this book). There are legitimate sites to find out more about this stuff.
The most important thing about writing a BDSM relationship, though, is that it’s not rape. Don’t write it that way. Know the differences, ‘cause they are huge differences.
(This article will be added to.)