commodorified: They say one thing and another thing and both at once I don't know It will all have to be gone into at the proper time (at the proper time)
[personal profile] commodorified
I wish to thank [personal profile] legionseagle and [personal profile] staranise for invaluable listening and critique while I was writing this. It should never be assumed that their assistance means their agreement with my conclusions, nor that I speak for them in any fashion, nor that they necessarily agree or disagree with one another. All errors and idiocies stem from my very own personal inadequacies, and I look forward to having them addressed. Also I wish to apologise for asking them to do work on this and then sitting on it for ages. I appreciate the indulgence.

I am also, as always, grateful to [personal profile] fairestcat who fixes my coding and my spelling and my punctuation and whose perspective informs pretty much everything I do, particularly when it comes to fandom.

I also want to acknowledge the fans and the academics I have learned from who were not consciously with me as I wrote this. This thing we do is always a communal production, and I've been reading, writing, and talking about these things for many many years now, the last fifteen of them as an active member of fandom. If you recognise your uncredited thoughts or influences here, or those of another, please let me know, with links if you wish, and I will find a way to credit you.

Permission to link/quote: granted. Anon comments are screened on dw, off on lj. Journal rules as laid out in my profiles will be applied here. Anon will not be unscreened unless signed in some fashion allowing me and readers to tell anons apart. Initials and nicks and so forth are just fine and need not be the one you normally use, nor known to me.

So one of the things we do in fandom is talk about writing about rape.



This essay was originally inspired by this post, but a) I sat on it for awhile and b) this isn't, except in one important detail — the quite possibly unconscious assumption saturating that advice that nobody who writes fiction and/or fic has ever been raped, or gone in fear of it, and all that implies about said advice — a particularly terrible example. There's some very good stuff there, if applied cautiously. So I want to acknowledge Swan Tower, as well.

This is my assumption: we all live in rape culture, and we are all injured by it. Victims of sexual assaults - all ages and genders - are injured by it. Those who have at one time or another been threatened with sexual assault and evaded it are injured by it. Women, queer men, transfolk, and others at high risk of sexual assault, who must learn how to negotiate the world under threat, are injured by it.

And yes, although we will not be prioritising their experiences at this particular time, men socialised under rape culture who are not themselves either perpetrators or victims nor at particular risk are still injured by it. They, as the rest of us, are not the people they would otherwise be.

There is no objective perspective. There are only less- and more- experienced and instructed perspectives.

When a friend of mine was doing ethnographic research on Paganism in Canada awhile back, the one-in-four statistic (Canada, women, not broken down by race or trans status) on sexual assault1 came up a lot, mostly in the grim-humour way. "Where are the other three?" we kept asking. None of the other three were in the room. Very few of them were in the survey responses.

She also had to rewrite the question about "was your upbringing typical?", early on, to account for the large number of answers that were something like "One of my parents hit me and the other one drank too much after the injury, so, yeah, pretty typical."

I am not aware of any such ethnography of what I will describe for now as "the socially-aware fic-writing and other transformative works-making and reading/viewing corner of media fandom", hereafter "fandom", also "you people who I gladly call my people", but my artisanal data anecdotal impressions suggest that we're in much the same position, probably for the same reason we wound up positing for paganism: because something(s) in this type of fandom is/are valuable to survivors.

That is not a general endorsement of either community as safe, comfortable spaces, by the way: they contain some safe spaces, because we build, maintain, and rebuild them. Some of them last longer than others, but fandom, as with paganism, as a whole is big and porous and complex and variously safe and unsafe. For one thing, large groups of survivors tend to attract predators, saviours, and voyeurs. For another, trauma does not actually build character. It doesn't make you a stronger, kinder, wiser, braver, more interesting person. It doesn't even give you some kind of profound insight into your own particular trauma that you can then generalise onto others with similar experiences.

That only works in fiction - and I'm not necessarily condeming it in fiction, just noting that it is, depending on execution, usually either a cheap trick to give a character a bloody backstory, or a fantasy of agency.

In real life, what doesn't kill you frequently leaves you bruised, bewildered, angry, mentally shredded, and so acutely aware of how much feeling powerless hurts that you're ready to savage the next person who looks at you crosswise.

Recovery, now, recovery can produce great glories. But so can other things, like having a safe, nourishing, secure environment to grow and learn in in the first place. Assuming that the fruits of recovery somehow make it "worth it", or that the person wouldn't have been just as glorious, or even more so, had they not been hurt? Please do not, and I am not talking about in your art here, do that.

Had I not been assaulted I wouldn't be the person I am now, this is true. I might be head of lighting design at the Stratford Festival, though. I might have taken that internship there, that I got offered that year because right before I was raped I did an amazing job lighting a community production and somebody Important saw and liked my work.

But anyway. I digress. As usual.

What this means in practical terms is this: not only is it quite probable that a fic reader2 is a survivor of sexual or non-sexual assault, it is equally probable that the writer, the beta, and the person(s) writing a critical response to the fic are survivors of sexual trauma or other violent trauma. Or both, or many traumas.

Which goes some way towards explaining why these topics are always so damned difficult.

[personal profile] staranise points out that

... back[ing] up and say[ing], "That's your experience and that's valid, but that is NOT the way I do it and if I tried it would go very badly for me," without meaning your way is bad or wrong ... is something survivors, especially ones with early invalidating environments or severe psychological trauma, [often] find incredibly difficult or totally impossible.


Which is one of those things that any community worth having has to grapple with at some point - usually at a lot of points. Because survivors of trauma, in our damage, can hurt each other terribly, and part of recovery is learning how not to do that, and it's very hard, and we're all at different stages.

Add in the Inevitable Outsiders with their Invaluable Objective Opinions who always show up at some point and you're suddenly participating in a three-ring armed-goat rodeo in a hurricane. On an unmarked minefield.

But sometimes - even often - we - some subset of us or another - manage some amazing insights, some incredible breakthroughs and share them around, and make both our community and our communal output better. We do that by writing and drawing and vidding and podficcing what seems true to us and reading and viewing and listening to what seems true to us and discussing it as truthfully as we can in all sorts of places and ways while at the same time recognising that we are vulnerable readers and creators surrounded by vulnerable readers and creators, and choosing - of our own will and experience and using our own understandings - to see each other whole and steadily, and by seeing both the work and the community that makes the work, and by valuing both whether we're praising, critiquing, or arguing.

We get there, in my experience, by making rules for ourselves, not by making rules for other people.

This is not a global defense of No Rules About Anything. I don't think I even need to expand on that, given current events in and adjacent to fandom (this does not need updating. Whenever this is read, current events are probably eventing in such a way as to make this valid, alas.) If we don't make rules for our spaces, and defend those rules, we will cease to have those spaces.

It is absolutely not an argument against criticism, meta, or critique.

It is certainly not an argument against critiquing work by someone who has survived sexual assault or other violence, for three reasons:

First, we don't necessarily know and we shouldn't assume that we get to know. It's not our business. It's great that we have this space where we can talk about this stuff somewhat more freely than we're used to, but nobody should ever have to bleed in public and on cue to defend their right to think or argue or write certain things.

I'm choosing to identify as a survivor as well as a person with some research under my belt — as both experienced and instructed — here, but that's my choice, because I have decided that I'm comfortable with it and it suits my approach.

Secondly, surviving an experience does not give you the ability to portray it perfectly or talk about it in a way that rings true to anyone else. Among the many things being raped did not do for me, it didn't make me a writer. I was one already, and have continued to become a better one since via the usual method, endless bloody practice.

Thirdly, if we say "never critique a survivor’s work because it's their way of coping” we're taking their creative work out of the general stream of art and moving it off to the side, treating it as a psychologically or anthropologically interesting artifact.

I have, on the whole, a problem with this. I have the same problem with this in fandom that I have in the art world in general, where what gets called "art" and goes in a gallery or performance space and what gets labelled "craft" or "cultural artifact" and goes in a museum or documentary has been, rightly, a multi-decade controversy involving questions around gender, race, nationality, and disability status, along with a bunch of other stuff.

I propose to take fannish creativity and creation seriously, on its own terms, and my understanding of those terms is that we have set out to make transformative works and by that we are shorthanding "works of art".

So how do we move past the world of simple ordered lists and clear-cut rules for writing about deeply-felt, difficult stuff without dissolving into constant terror that in telling our own stories we’re Doing it Wrong, or fading away into a relativity so ruthlessly egalitarian it takes away our tools to say what works and what doesn’t? 

We’re not the first people to face this problem, and we can learn from the people who have gone before us. We have, among us, an amazing array of tools. Mine are, mainly, work as a sex educator, as a hopefully intersectional feminist (anything worth doing is worth doing badly, if that's where you have to start), as a peace activist (see previous parentheses) and, on the academic side, the social sciences, primarily anthropology, specifically focussed on women and feminism and religion - which ends up talking about sex a lot, to the shock of exactly nobody.

I am always trying to get people in fandom to read Ruth Behar's The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, and I'm going to keep trying to get people to read her, because the things she talks about as necessary to anthropology are also, I think, potentially incredibly central and important to fandom.

She talks about vulnerable critique and about art and scholarship that breaks your heart and about being rigorous while being open and soft, and you guys, I think we need these concepts a lot.

At one point, she talks about her experience of getting up on a stage and discussing the incredibly important2 anthropological work Grief and a Headhunter's Rage for an audience which included Renato Rosaldo, the author, who she admires greatly, who was the incoming President of the American Ethnographical Society, and who had, not that long ago, suffered a terrible loss:

When Ilongots told me, as they often did, how the rage in bereavement could impel men to headhunt, I brushed aside their one-line accounts as too simple, thin, opaque, implausible, stereotypical, or other-wise unsatisfying. Probably I naively equated grief with sadness. Certainly no personal experience allowed me to imagine the powerful rage Ilongots claimed to find in bereavement. My own inability to conceive the force of anger in grief led me to seek out another level of analysis that could provide a deeper explanation for older men’s desire to headhunt.

Not until some fourteen years after first recording the terse Ilongot statement about grief and a head- hunter’s rage did I begin to grasp its overwhelming force
[...]
In 1981 Michelle Rosaldo and I began field research among the Ifugaos of northern Luzon, Philippines. On October 11 of that year, she was walking along a trail with two Ifugao companions when she lost her footing and fell to her death some 65 feet down a sheer precipice into a swollen river below. Immediately on finding her body I became enraged. How could she abandon me... [Rosaldo, R: Grief and a Headhunter's Rage]


"Later," Behar says, "they will tell me [Rosaldo] sat in the lobby, alone, while I spoke." Behar talks about both complex heartbreak, that her talk was too painful for Rosaldo, who she profoundly admires and desires to please and impress, to hear, and deep compassion for his pain and a desire not to worsen it while still saying what was important and true. This, in itself, I find important to my experience of fandom.

From the talk she gave:

I think what we are seeing is an effort to map an intermediate space we can't quite define yet, a borderline between passion and intellect, analysis and subjectivity ... art and life. Consider, for example, the debate around Bill T. Jones's dance work 'Still/Here' ... sparked by Arlene Croce's ... essay where she announced she had refused to see the work on the grounds that ... dancing inspired by the movements of HIV-positive dancers and video testimony by AIDS patients turned the art of dance into 'victim art'...The anxiety around such work is that it will prove to be beyond criticism, that it will be undiscussible. But the real problem is that we need other forms of criticism ... rigorous yet not disinterested ... not immune to catharsis ... Criticism which can respond vulnerably, in ways we must try to begin to imagine. [Behar, Vulnerable Observer]


Rosaldo's work is profoundly personal and deeply informed by his own pain and loss. At the same time it is a piece of ethnography, an attempt to express an understanding of a people, vulnerable in their turns to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It matters that he be rigorous and honest and skilled, that he get it right. It matters that his work can be discussed, critiqued, responded to. If Grief and a Headhunter's Rage were a personal essay about Michelle Rosaldo's death and Renato Rosaldo's personal grief and anger, it would be perhaps a good essay, but it would be an abject failure as a piece of ethnography, and perhaps an appropriation of the Ilongot culture.

Only perhaps. Much would depend on execution. There's nothing wrong with using your experience and learning to untangle your own life. There is something wrong when you label that as ethnography.

Fiction, vidding ... the rules are different. The lines are different. There is no ethical prohibition on the act of creating art to express or address one's own inner turmoil — though there is also no law that says you have to do that.

I firmly believe that in declaring that authorial intent to be dead we do accept a certain obligation to leave authorial intent quietly in its grave. We don't get to dig into a writer's experiences and identity and then use our impressions of them to judge the work while ignoring their own expressions of them as irrelevant. Requiring someone to bleed on demand and judging them on the quantity and iron content thereof is not a form of artistic engagement. It's a form of abuse.

I'm not arguing for imposing the rules of anthropological enquiry on art, only hoping to point to the places where the dilemmas are similar, because there's some good stuff there.

So, there's that. At the end of the day, the work is the work, and the work is either the best you can do, or not. And then you put it out there, because sharing our work is part of fannish creativity, it's partly about a conversation between works, and we all have our reasons and our stories but there's the work, and it's good or it isn't, and it's loved or it isn't, and people find truth in it or they don't.

Oh, I know we do this for fun, I know it's a game, I know. But the work doesn't know. Games are most fun, as a rule, when you play them as well and as fully as you can. Fannish writing is a lot of things, but it's still writing. It's not somehow easier than professional fiction-writing. We want to write good stuff, however we define "good", and we want to read good stuff, again, however we define that, and the trauma and the demons and the pain get dragged along for the ride and dressed up in weird costumes and made to serve the purposes of the writing, which is to serve the purposes of the writer and of the reader.

How do we encompass all of that, Behar asks. How do we do - and respond to - work which breaks our hearts?

She doesn't answer the question, and I'm not going to either, because there is no single answer. If I have an argument here it's not "do it my way", but "consider these things and whether they are of value to you in doing it your way."

Fannish creativity, I often think, is about making art that breaks our hearts, and heals them too. I am proposing, here, that we take ourselves seriously: that we go hard and stay soft, both.

Appendix:

So, for those who wish some actual advice:

Here is what I think writers should consider when they find themselves at a point in their story where there is going to be rape. (Note: up to a point, for "rape", read also "abuse". Use your own judgement as to where that point is.)

First, if you are in the common, awful position of already knowing more about rape than anyone anywhere should ever need to:

I will defend your right to deal in the ways and spaces that suit you best, to read and write and draw and say what you want and need to read, write, draw, and say, even if those things will hurt me and I need to stay away from them and I trust you to already care about other survivors and to consider their needs as best you can.

I have no general advice for you on this topic beyond: remember that the experience of trauma is always both general - if this were not so we could never usefully talk about rape survivors or abuse survivors or combat vets as a group - and particular, because people are individual and idiosyncratic and so is each event that happens to them - and believe people when they say their needs and wants and problems are different from yours.

Believe them, without feeling responsible for their needs and wants. Believe them without feeling like you have to then disbelieve yourself. Nobody has to be wrong for you to be right, or bad for you to be good. There is nothing you must write, and nothing you mustn't write, except the thing that you know, yourself, to be bad.

If you are in the fortunate position of not knowing much about the topic, okay, I have SOME advice, which is this:

Don't casually replicate other people's fictional handling. Do your own work, make your own decisions, bring your own understanding to it, because if you copy someone else's product without having their understanding, you are almost certainly going to end up with something dishonest even if the original was good.

To make matters worse, there are a lot of writers out there, in fandom and out, who have been happily copying each other's casual replication of stereotypes for years already, so the odds are that you have read a lot of dishonest garbage and accidentally stashed some of it in your head.

Consult, instead, a decent scattering of NON-fiction on the topic. Prioritise survivor accounts, or readings that survivors visibly approve or commend. Become instructed.

Then proceed as you think best.

1) I'm aware that that statistic lacks nuance. That discussion is not within the scope of this post, and will be ... firmly ... discouraged in comments. It is cited as part of an illustrative anecdote, from a conversation many years back.

2) I have tried to include fanartists, vidders, meta writers, and other fannish creators in this essay where I could, but a) it is primarily about writing and b) if I just use "creators" then I end up stuck with "consumers", too, and - I thank [personal profile] legionseagle for helping me make this connection explicit - the logic of capitalism, that "we deserve good, honest, representative stories" can be freely translated into "writers are obligated to provide us with the narratives we want", has no place in this essay.

3) You should read that, it's a work of literally heartbreaking genius. You should also read some Michelle Rosaldo, because she was an amazing feminist anthropologist and she did some absolutely groundbreaking stuff in the time she had.

Date: 2015-08-28 07:09 pm (UTC)
recessional: human hands holding the moon (personal; claim the moon)
From: [personal profile] recessional
[rambly and incoherent comment is probably rambly and incoherent]

the quite possibly unconscious assumption saturating that advice that nobody who writes fiction and/or fic has ever been raped, or gone in fear of it, and all that implies about said advice

*may have ended up with her back up high enough to use as a ladder about that particular detail* (I was having a bad week. >.>)

Like, I get where that assumption comes from, because usually this conversation at least starts in reference to a story written by a man we're assuming hasn't been raped (bad assumption!) and written in a very specific, very male-gaze-y "throw in some tragedy" or "make it 'realistic'" or "backstory horrors make characterization better, yay!" way.

Because what I get a lot (as someone who frequently has sexual violence/abuse/etc in her stories) is when I go "um, no?" at the various assumptions, everybody goes "oh I didn't mean you! You're doing it okay!" And it's like, no, when you make blanket statements like that and blanket assumptions, you are talking about me. And you say "adding rape/abuse/etc for 'realism' is bullshit", you are going to get me going "actually - "

I remember specifically reading a comment-thread related to that post where a survivor was worried about whether she was "allowed" or if she was doing it wrong and hurting everyone, and at that point if your justification for telling people what to write and what not to write in the first place was "but think of the survivors!*", something has gone terribly wrong.

(Also on a personal pet peeve, if I never hear "you put DRAGONS in your story but you're hung up on 'REALISM'?" as an argument again I . . . .will still want to punch things for how often I've heard it so far. Yes, actually, I am. Half the point of this silly thing is exploring as groundedly and realistically as I can what would happen with these normal human dynamics and structures if we added dragons. Or whatever.)


We get there, in my experience, by making rules for ourselves, not by making rules for other people.

One of the things that I've tried very hard to deal with in and around your blue-eyed boys is related to this, if even . . . not even "rules", maybe closer to "judgements". Because I knew, coming out of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that there would be a lot of a particular kind of recovery/reconciliation/etc fics and I also knew that absolutely none of them would work for me. That I would get no satisfaction out of them.

Okay, I exaggerate: I knew there was a one in a million chance someone would write exactly what I wanted, but I wasn't about to go wading through the stuff that would make me grind my teeth.

The thing about that stuff is, of course, that it's not bad. A lot of it's written and devoured and adored by people who have my experiences or much worse than my experiences, and it's deeply soothing/comforting to them, and that's fine. It just isn't for me; it doesn't make me happy, it just makes me (at this point) grouchy and resentful. (At one point it used to be really bad for me because obviously if $fictionalperson could be fixed by the pure power of love and I was still in my depressive shit-hole, there was something wrong with me.)

In the same way, a lot of depressives and anxiety-sufferers got wonderful mileage out of Frozen having Elsa's powers and loss of control be a metaphor for anxiety and depression, whereas I stay very, very disengaged from that idea and firmly on the side of, Elsa has difficult to control and sometimes dangerous powers, and she has these problems, because otherwise a movie I mostly find adorable starts feeling like a slap in the face.

MMV, you know?

Secondly, surviving an experience does not give you the ability to portray it perfectly or talk about it in a way that rings true to anyone else. Among the many things being raped did not do for me, it didn't make me a writer. I was one already, and have continued to become a better one since via the usual method, endless bloody practice.

This is very true.

I mean, I won't say having had experiences of some things hasn't, nrr, made me more comfortable with my ability to portray them, but on the other hand sometimes it goes the other direction and sticks a whole area into something I can't weave words around at all, and sometimes it makes no difference.


Not until some fourteen years after first recording the terse Ilongot statement about grief and a head- hunter’s rage did I begin to grasp its overwhelming force

. . . I find that so hard to understand. That he couldn't understand how grief-rage worked. I mean I believe it, it's just unbelievably weird to me. This is not an unusual reaction, I grant, as I tend to have it every time someone doesn't understand how something can lead to overwhelming rage, it's just . . . still weird to me, every time.

I firmly believe that in declaring that authorial intent to be dead we do accept a certain obligation to leave authorial intent quietly in its grave. We don't get to dig into a writer's experiences and identity and then use our impressions of them to judge the work while ignoring their own expressions of them as irrelevant. Requiring someone to bleed on demand and judging them on the quantity and iron content thereof is not a form of artistic engagement. It's a form of abuse.

Thank you.


if I just use "creators" then I end up stuck with "consumers", too, and - I thank [personal profile] legionseagle for helping me make this connection explicit - the logic of capitalism, that "we deserve good, honest, representative stories" can be freely translated into "writers are obligated to provide us with the narratives we want", has no place in this essay.

Huh. My pair with "creator" is "audience". Interesting.


*I really wish there was another succinct way of saying "person who has experienced this thing", whether it be abuse or sexual violence or life-threatening illness or WHATEVER. I resent a lot of the connotations of both "survivor" AND "victim". /tangent

Date: 2015-08-28 07:13 pm (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
Re: your footnote: Some impish part of me wants to claim "alumna/us"

Date: 2015-08-28 08:24 pm (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
"Do I count?" "Is it over? Good. You've graduated."

Date: 2015-08-29 11:31 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Oh, I like.

(& commodorified, I have read and am mulling!)

Date: 2015-08-28 09:35 pm (UTC)
recessional: back view of a nude young woman on a bed, hair back in a messy knot (personal; bare)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I support this healthy choice.

Re: the stories - for me the magic id "make me feel better" stories are ones where things help but don't cure, which is often what I write. (Particularly in fanfic: I have stories that are uglier and harder for original fic but I don't have to write them for fanfic so I choose not to.*)

But that's also a more recent development in my life, because like ten years ago I gobbled up the other kind, and wrote the other kind. My needs changed: I stopped needing stories that told me I could be fixed and started needing stories that tell me that I can be a worthwhile human being even if I never get fixed. (I have a lot of difficulty with that one.)

Which, I'm not really going anywhere with this other than, yeah: not only are needs different, but needs change.



*I'm totally aware that statement does not necessarily make any sense to anyone who doesn't experience creativity the way I do, but I have things that are my responsibility to write and some of them are terrible and brutal and just end badly; fanfic I have to actively decide to go out and write or adopt the characters, so I don't have to, so I don't. Which is why I've been able to write fanfic through my incredibly suicidal phases, but not my own: writing many of my own would have put me at SERIOUS risk. Anyway. /babble

Date: 2015-08-30 02:44 am (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
To some extent for me that crosses over into ethics of art and conceptions of art and I know mine aren't necessarily other people's just they happen to be wrong (that is a joke) but on reflection I have had probably too much bourbon to safely have this conversation in public. >.>

Date: 2015-08-31 08:45 am (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
Also on a personal pet peeve, if I never hear "you put DRAGONS in your story but you're hung up on 'REALISM'?" as an argument again I . . . .will still want to punch things for how often I've heard it so far.

This is the world's most tangential comment to a thoughtful comment on a very thoughtful and interesting post ... but THANK GOD IT'S NOT JUST ME. I have such a huge peeve for this.

The thing is, I understand where people are coming from with it, and that they mean well and they are usually using it to argue against the kind of people who insist that women cannot be pirate captains or spaceship fighter pilots BECAUSE SCIENCE.

.... but .... but it's not the same thing at all; it's apples and oranges. Not only is there absolutely no reason why accepting dragons in my fiction means I have to give up on things like people behaving like actual human beings, but the more realistic the whole thing is in terms of people, the more willing I am to accept the dragons. The problem is that some people just don't think female spaceship pilots are how people work, and I can't see how [if unrealistic thing] --> [then completely unrelated other unrealistic thing] is supposed to be a convincing argument for why someone SHOULD accept something that flies in the face of how they think people operate, even if I am firmly convinced they're wrong. (Besides, it can just as easily be used the other way around: if I accept dragons in my fiction, does that mean I can't complain about the same book having a medieval society with no farms and a population that's 90% male?)

... apologies to the OP for this tangent. >_> The post is great! I just don't have anything to say beyond "great post; +1!" and this particular comment apparently engaged my peeve-o-meter.

Date: 2015-08-31 06:31 pm (UTC)
recessional: "I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a wider academy, of which human nature is merely a part." (personal; monkeys are funny)
From: [personal profile] recessional
It seems also to inherently assume a didactic/"morally improving" goal in all fiction, ever. Bluntly. Like the only possible reason you would include a bad thing is because you either cannot possibly avoid it due to Realism, or to Deal With The Bad Thing In A Teaching Story Way. And also that rape is worse than all other bad things.

I once had a profound moment of mental whiplash when someone thanked Maguire for not having rape . . . as part of her detailed torture scene. Like because there was no rape, the torture was not an issue. Now intellectually I actually can understand where that can come from, on an individual level - my own hard limits for that kind of thing are different - but in terms of a gut feeling, like this was ONLY not horrific, voyeuristic and awful in watching a fictional human being's agony and debasement . . . because it wasn't sexual? Was . . . yeah. That's not my measure/limit/division.

But yeah. I have many many arguments about why GRRM's construction of sexual violence in his stories is wrong EVEN IF YOU'RE GOING FOR BRUTAL REALISM, but that has to do with "actually people don't work like that AND HERE'S MY CITATIONS", not "you have dragons so you shouldn't have violence against women unless you're an evil misogynist."


. . . I may have a chip about this particular issue.

Date: 2015-08-31 07:10 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
It led to a hell of a lot of people in my circle of awareness going on at great lengths about how horrible it was that rape happened in fiction and how it was clearly all titilative and exploitative and how only people like Maguire were ever safe and the only right way to deal with rape is if you were going to deal with it like Deerskin (which is a novel I actually personally loathe), etc.

And then a lot of "wait, no, YOU don't do the bad things! we didn't mean you!" when I went "erm."

I'm totally supportive of it as a personal rule, and I understand entirely where Maguire's coming from in making it, and more power to her for deciding what she does and does not want to write. It's just to me "plain" torture is just as horrifying and violating as if it were sexualised, so I have a moment of " . . . okay then", and from my point of view the discussion led to a whooooole lot of exactly the kind of "this is Truth about rape in fiction! always!" that makes me twitch and growl.

So I guess in my experience of it (which is just mine) it actually narrowed the conversation. Hard. Not because of anything she said personally, but because of where other people went with it.

Date: 2015-08-31 07:42 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I didn't see much of the other pole (if any, now that I think about it) so that colours my reaction lots too - me going "erm" and people showing up in my comments going OH GOD THANK YOU or whatever were basically the only places I saw anything else.

I've found most people are okay-ish at accepting other truths . . . once they're pointed out. (Most, definitely not all.) But on the flipside are super quick (and I'm not excluding myself although I try hard not to be as bad these days) to declare One Truth really loudly and in a way that implies that any disagreement is a moral flaw. And there I worry about people who aren't as mouthy or pushy as me (*looks at frequency of comments on this entry from self, coughs in embarrassment*), who don't feel safe going "erm, hi, no" and just sort of internalize the shame instead.

But yeah, I mean I don't think there's necessarily a way to avoid that in the overall. That particular bump was just part of my experience of the overall that sticks out, in part because of my "wait what?" moment.


(Ironically I actually deal poorly these days with rape or torture scenes in fiction, especially without a content note to let me brace myself, and largely avoid them. >.> Which always amuses me, when the topic comes up.)

Re: *thinking*

Date: 2015-09-03 06:17 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
(GRRM's flaws are pretty simple: he fails to fundamentally understand how social power structures affect sexual violence and how little-to-NOTHING that has to do with supposed "orientations"/etc etc. The net result is that actually for a society as fucked up as Westeros it's not that he has "too much" rape, it's that . . .it's often happening to the wrong people, in the wrong circumstances, for the wrong reasons, and is bizarrely and implausibly absent in OTHER circumstances. This misunderstanding happens to align just about perfectly to how a middle-class North American white guy who's never been in prison and not done extensive research specifically on this stuff would understand sexual violence.

So it's basically that what his stories posit happening is actually in conflict with what we know about what happens in general situations like that. /EXPLAINATHON)

yes, well, and every human culture has rules and taboos around the thing you mention, even though they do differ in the details, so, you know what, no

That and there's some fascinating stuff in the edges of people finding things to do with it (or something else) traumatic but not HAVING any way to frame the reason for the violation/trauma in their cultural construction. So.

So a fantasy character responding to a sexual assault may do so in ways that are strange to us, even *ought* to do so in ways which are strange to us.

BUT. The readers do not live in that world, and neither does the writer. Critically evaluating the response of that created world to sexual assault against one's own values is completely and utterly valid and in fact pretty much inevitable.

Does that make any sense?


Yes! Definitely.

And see, as long as all parts of this are being kept in mind, I actually love this tension. Some of the things that fascinate me most are things exactly like that and hell, a couple of my worlds are built precisely around that tension.

Just, my experience of it (outside the people who are basically friends who think much like I do) is usually that the part of "a fantasy character responding to a sexual assault may do so in ways that are strange to us, even *ought* to do so in ways which are strange to us" (or any other sort of violating violence) gets thrown out of the discussion, in favour of "well the AUTHOR is from our culture so this means that we will judge whether or not they are a good person or a sexual assault apologist based on our cultural reaction to the story."

What did you realize about ABO? (ABO emphatically falls under "this is not my id, but it's actually just close enough to my id to cause unpleasant FRICTION, moreso than if it were just not-my-kink-at-all", if that makes sense.)

Re: *thinking*

Date: 2015-09-03 07:00 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
What we require in order to function is to believe that the world makes sense, and that we are functioning correctly and usefully inside it.

Which is why behaviours of groups like Dawkins' "New Atheists" or whatever they call themselves now, operate and function more or less exactly the way a religion does: this is the CORRECT WAY to make sense of the world and they are functioning CORRECTLY inside it.

And very frequently, any different way of functioning is very threatening, because it implies we might be wrong.

Date: 2015-08-28 09:20 pm (UTC)
thatyourefuse: Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful, walking along a bloodtrail in the snow. (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatyourefuse
I don't know whether this is a topic I want to talk about in public and/or someone else's space, but:

So how do we move past the world of simple ordered lists and clear-cut rules for writing about deeply-felt, difficult stuff without dissolving into constant terror that in telling our own stories we’re Doing it Wrong, or fading away into a relativity so ruthlessly egalitarian it takes away our tools to say what works and what doesn’t?

RIGHT between the eyes.

Date: 2015-08-28 11:30 pm (UTC)
thatyourefuse: Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful, walking along a bloodtrail in the snow. (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatyourefuse

It's an unavoidably painful topic. This is a good essay and you should feel good, but I have an intense ground-in flinch around the entire subject no matter the context.

Reader's Digest condensed version: I have the full package of problematic kinks without the personal history that would make that defensible by what I understand to be currently prevailing fannish standards, I'm not going to really talk about it here A. because public and B. because I don't want to hijack, but that paragraph in particular has given me a lot to chew on.

Date: 2015-08-29 01:55 am (UTC)
thatyourefuse: Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful, walking along a bloodtrail in the snow. (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatyourefuse
I highly suspect that a lot of fandom spaces at the moment have a certain amount of unexamined investment in blurring the boundaries between artistic and (self-identified) therapeutic/support-oriented environments, but I know I'd basically ruin my entire month if I went looking for the evidence to back up that assertion.

Date: 2015-08-29 02:24 am (UTC)
thatyourefuse: Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful, walking along a bloodtrail in the snow. (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatyourefuse
Whereas, f'rex, I am aware of people whose helpful therapeutic thing is making sure the good end happily and the bad unhappily and there are no real bumps along the way.

Which... is great, to the extent that it helps them, but it sits uneasily with me as a blanket artistic philosophy, and overexposure thereto makes me feel like I've just climbed out of a sewer covered in slime in the middle of someone else's tea party.

Date: 2015-08-28 10:11 pm (UTC)
cathexys: dark sphinx (default icon) (Default)
From: [personal profile] cathexys
I have nothing really to comment but I wanted to say thank you.

(think of it as a DW kudos :)

a request

Date: 2015-08-28 11:24 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
1. I want to read this, but later, not this very minute.

2. I am reading on my smartphone, whose screen displays about five or six words of this post to a line (I counted).

3. That makes for a very long post to scroll through, twenty screens or more (counted this too).

Ergo: Would you please cut-tag most of the post?

TIA

Date: 2015-08-29 01:37 am (UTC)
everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)
From: [personal profile] everbright
I can't really add anything constructive to this discussion, I just wanted to thank you for putting it out there.

Date: 2015-08-30 01:51 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (feminism - she's someone (iconriot))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
Is it okay to link to this?

Date: 2015-08-30 02:40 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (feet in water)
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
Thanks!

Date: 2015-08-30 07:14 pm (UTC)
futuransky: socialist-realist style mural of Glasgow labor movement (Default)
From: [personal profile] futuransky
I read and appreciated this very much, and also appreciated the link to the "Headhunter's Rage" piece, which I hadn't previously encountered. Thank you!

Date: 2015-08-31 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
I appreciated this post and its comments so far. I might have something more detailed or personal (and if so, likely less coherent) later, but for now: good post, would read again.
Edited (fycking spelling) Date: 2015-08-31 06:03 pm (UTC)

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