How NOT to write rape scenes
“Can the power dynamics at play in my plot be served by any other means?
Would I play this scene differently if my character were bigger/stronger/differently gendered
Am I using the rape as sexual titillation in a non-sexual fantasy scenario?
Are the visuals correctly describing rape as about power and control, not sex?
Am I dealing with the aftermath of rape for the victim where appropriate?”
By Eddie Louise
I’m not comfortable writing rape scenes : i.e. I need a very good drink to go through that. But writing rape scenes is not the worse. The worse is writing about the abusers, the aftermath, and people reaction to it.
It’s sickening. Really.
I’ve been told that « Using rape as a plot device is really good. You should insert flashbacks as well. And don’t forget to make the audience needs to relate to the perpretrator. »
The flashbacks. This is something I definitely loathe. If you use flashbacks to show a rape scene, it means that you believe your audience won’t be able to relate to the character who has been sexually assaulted unless we see it. The flashbacks (or just rape scenes which are shown) are used for cheap, ridiculous plot device. And they are used to anger, most of the time, a male character who will, consequently, go and take his revenge over the bad guys who have raped his damsel (Braveheart, Irréversible, etc). And the victims are only defined by their rape. They were nothing before, and no one cares about what will happen to them afterwards.
Using a flashback means that a sexual assault has to be particularly violent, and it means that such a thing is so rare that the audience is not able to relate unless they see it. That’s bullshit.
1 in 5 person has been sexually assaulted. So among the audience, there’s people who have been through that, perpetrators, and also enablers, and people who know (consciously or not) victims. People who use rape as a cheap, cliché plot device love to say that it’s like « killing someone ». No it ‘s not. When you’re dead, you don’t get to watch something about someone that is getting killed. If a good part of your audience have been through that and it’s smething that has very long lasting repercussions, tuns out you can treat like murder where, sorry to say, once you’re dad you can’t really be traumatized by what happenned to you.
So, I can’t even see how using flashbacks is EVER a good idea. In Han Gong Ju, the use of the flashbacks was useless. We didn’t need that.
Let’s go to the perpetrators now.
Writing good, complex characters is one of, if not my main goal, as a writer. No one tells me to show how my characters, the ones who kill, steal, should be relatable to the audience. But when it comes to rapists, I should show how, maybe, they are not that bad. How they should have a very good reason to why they did that. Fuck that.
No, they haven’t been abused in their childhood. No, they’re not innocents. No, they’re not evil, or monsters. Just awful, terrible people. Sexual assaults happen because we live in a rape culture where sex has become a very random casuality, and where consent is a blurred line very few care about.
But it’s something I definitely struggle with. It makes my skin crawl to think that my perpetrators are not good enough because I let my personal feelings get the best of me. I don’t treat them like I treat my other characters. Some of my characters are simply awful but I still like them. Not the perpetrators. I judge them. I can find them interesting, like Hugh, Do I have to like each one of my characters ? Go out of my way to show how great, as characters, the perpetrators are ? Sexual assault, most of the time, doesn’t happen because an old, fat, creepy guy, kidnaps a kid and does whatever they want with them. It happens to ordinary people, most of the time. It happens to everyone. The victims don’t have to be good, innocent person. Mukti fucks things up all the time. She acts reckless. But she is innocent.
Rape is used by writers as a way to « punish » someone, most of the time a woman, who went out of her way or decided to challenge patriarchal rules. Or, even better, as a way to explain why a character is such a « bitch », or to show how a man can be « overwhelmed by his sexual urges ». This is lazy writing at its best, or an inability to have a basic understanding of human nature at its worst.
Hugh did what he did because for him, the girls were available. And that’s all. No big reason. Nothing like that. In my extended research I’ve asked the pedophiles and ephebophiles I know why they did that.
They said that they just wanted it. No one has a huge reason. They are married fathers. I base my characters on ordinary people. This is what they have told me. So why should I go out of my way to show an extraordinary perpetrator ?
 Goodreads, 13 june 2014, How writers treat rape,