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My last post was about writing believable sex scenes. No matter how good or bad the sex is, it's still consensual, and therefore easier to write. Now I want to talk about non-consensual sex scenes, aka rape scenes. Yikes.
In a culture where 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, it's only natural that writers explore this topic. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I don't shy away from writing rape scenes, but I do try to write them in such a way that does not trivialize or glamorize a very horrible crime.
How do you avoid trivializing or glamorizing rape? By understanding it. Rape isn't about love or passion. It doesn't mean your heroine is just that attractive or that the hero desires her just that much. Rape isn't even about sex. It's about power and control. It's about hate and dehumanization.
When writing a rape scene, make sure you aren't falling into the tropes of our rape culture. For those unfamiliar with the idea of rape culture, good old wikipedia describes it as: "a term or concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape."
Meaning do not blame your victim, no matter what she is wearing or doing, and no matter where she goes. Do not excuse your rapist, no matter how much he claims to care for his victim. Do not use rape as a gateway to love. Research into why men rape and into the psychological and physical effects of rape.
Once you understand what you are going to write, you need to figure out how you want to write it. As with consensual sex scenes, consider if the scene is actually necessary. Does it further the plot or character development? If the only reason for the rape is to make the hero and heroine fall in love...STOP! Do not pass go and do not collect $200.
If you understand the implications of rape, and you have a valid reason for including it in your story, your next step is deciding the amount of detail you want to go into. Keep in mind that such scenes may be triggering to some readers, so too much description isn't necessarily a good thing.
And finally, if you understand rape, have a valid reason, and have written the scene with as much or as little detail as you feel necessary, you now have to deal with the fall out. This is a traumatic event. No one just shrugs rape off and gets on with their life. That's why it's important to know why you want to include this scene at all--it will affect the rest of the book. It will affect your characters. Not every character will sob in the shower. Some will try to cope. Some won't. Some will turn to self destructive behaviours. Some will focus on revenge. Whatever the case, your character will not be the same person they were before, so don't include a rape if you aren't willing to contend with the aftermath.
Remember that statistic: 1 in 4 women. 1 in 4 readers. Do not insult them. Do not belittle their pain by writing a scene that is apologetic and aligns itself with rape culture. Rape is not romantic, so whatever you do, don't spin it in that direction. As a writer, you have a duty to convey the human condition to the best of your abilities.