Spoilers below ladies and gentlemen, be warned!
Something happened today. I made my book, The Machine, free for two days, and as a result I had hundreds of downloads and the thing skyrocketed to the number one slot on amazon. I wasn't expecting that. It's frightening to think that so many people now have this book sat in their e-readers waiting to be read. Since it was first published I've had many lovely reviews and comments on the book, but there is one particular part that seems to be divisive.
Let's begin by saying this is not a book for children. I made sure to put a note to say that, along with trigger warnings right at the beginning of the book so there can be no doubt. People of a delicate constitution should not read this book. People who cannot cope with stories that broach the subject of rape, should not read this book.
That said, there is no "rape scene" in this book. What happens is only ever implied and I wrote it that way for a reason. Oddly enough, people don't seem to have a problem with the suggestion of rape, what certain people have a problem with is what follows a short time after. Our lovely Larissa, and her mysterious passenger, Holt, have sex.
There are several reasons I included this, let's start with the physical issues. Larissa is artificially "enhanced" with tremendous healing capabilities from the exposure to the anthonium. As such, any physical issues her body would suffer from after the rape heal almost instantly. There is a suggestion also that she has enhanced ability to cope with extremely stressful situations as well - though this is never obviously stated. These elements do seem to be overlooked by those who don't understand the scene. Perhaps they don't understand the plot at all. Who knows?
Secondly, and most importantly, and in fact this is my main reason for starting this discussion as I feel it is important. There is a misconception that when a woman has been raped, she must curl into a ball and retreat from the world for an arbitrary amount of time. She must cry, and suffer and mourn her experience in an appropriate fashion. The moment a woman does something outside of that expectation then she is frowned upon. This is all part of the ‘rape culture’ that is being discussed heavily these days. Notice that the focus is still put upon the victim after the fact, the judgement is applied to her and everything that she did leading up to and leading on from that pivotal moment.
The reality, ladies and gentlemen, is that most women just get on with life. Life doesn’t stop because a woman has been raped. Yes of course there are repercussions, most people don’t go through something that awful without it affecting them somehow, (and it does affect Larissa) but I will always vehemently disagree with the notion that a person could not go on to enjoy a sexual experience after a rape. Some may be that deeply affected of course, but when you look at the sheer numbers of women who are victims of rape, doesn’t it seem absurd to suggest that all of these women simply stopped having and enjoying sex afterwards?
I’m no statistician. I can’t tell you how many women are raped each year and of those, how many stop having sex, and of those who don’t stop having sex, what the average amount of time that passes between a rape experience and a pleasurable sexual experience is. But we’re not talking about statistics. We’re not even talking about real life. We’re talking about a character within a book.
Now don’t get me wrong. If someone has suffered an ordeal in real life and struggles to read books that deal with that subject, then that is perfectly understandable. That is precisely why I put the warnings at the beginning of the book. I have no intention of purposely upsetting people.
Larissa is a character who is artificially enhanced physically and a strong-headed ass kicking woman mentally – even if she doesn’t seem like it at first. Yes, Larissa can have sex with Holt after she has been raped, and yes she can enjoy it. If you don’t like it, then that’s fine – this is not the book for you. Move along, thanks for stopping by.
I have no doubt that despite this message, a few people will read the book and not make it past that scene. They may leave bad reviews because of that scene. I’m expecting it, but most of all I think it is important that something like rape and all of the issues surrounding it be included in literature. The more we shut it out of society and shoot people down for talking about it, the more we perpetuate the issue.
I won’t ever apologise for writing that scene and the one that follows. In fact the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that it was the right thing to do. I’d be interested to know what other people think. Feel free to comment or ask me anything you like on the topic.