Monday, February 12, 2007

Male Rape Scenes in Romance

Is it just me or is it becoming increasingly common to subject the hero in heterosexual romance to male rape? It is not even that I have a problem with rape scenes, or even titillating rape scenes--although that is certainly not my preference as a reader it is just fiction and people's kinks are their own prerogative. But when a mainstream romance publisher includes titillating male rape scenes my questions are these:

1) If a publisher does not accept any plot lines involving, let alone describing, male on female rape—why is male on male rape okay?
2) If that same publisher does not accept romance that includes male on male consensual sex, why is male on male rape okay?

Examples include: Cross Stitch (US title: Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon, many titles by Susan Squires (also showing female on male rape). I know there are others, can anyone remind me? —one was about Vikings.

I am even more disturbed by readers responding to commentary on the subject like this: Courtney on Amazon.com: “The rape. Ooh, the rape. Diana Gabaldon is NOT a woman who enjoys man to man sex! I don't think any hetro [sic] person does! Now, I have to take a deep breath, cause this annoys me a lot.”

Male rape seems largely used to create that archetype 'the wounded hero'. But by presenting the event erotically I just have this sneaking feeling that these scenes are telling us something... that society's comfort level with gay sexuality is back in the dark ages--you know when heroines needed to be raped because virtuous women would never consent to ‘doing the dirty’ even if they secretly enjoyed it.

5 comments:

Amanda Young said...

I haven't seen this a rape of any kind used in an erotic context in the books I've read, but I have to say that the idea of it disturbs me. Male on male rape is no different than any other kind, and I certainly wouldn't want to read that in my romance.

kmfrontain said...

As an author who has written such scenes, I can give my reasons: I don't write just romance. There is romance in my novels, yes, but the primary focus isn't necessarily romance. I usually have some sort of conflict going on that isn't "mild"--not guy meets guy, falls in love, can't figure out how to win the object of his adoration. The conflicts I write have harsher content, emotional and physical. There is often a dominance theme, and I don't mean in the BDSM way. Real BDSM has rules which don't necessarily relate to the stories I write. And lastly, my characters aren't all human, or normal humans, and have various issues that need sorting out. Sometimes they're just plain animals that do as they please. So yes, I've had rape scenes, but in general, I make the rapist regret he did it. As to whether anyone finds the scenes tittilating, I don't know. That would be something only the reader could say. I write these scenes as stepping stones toward later content. For me, rape is a manifestation of the conflict between characters. It's a plot device. If it's something one character might do, I don't avoid it.

To add to this, I've read many, many (can't begin to count) historical romance novels where the heroine had to put up with the "legal" advances of her very dominant husband. That's rape. Rape legalized and placed in fiction. I always wondered what these authors were trying to say to impressionable girls who read them. I started reading these at the age of eleven. Harlequin was full of dominant men. The themes of every book included how "wrong" the woman was in general, even when she wasn't. This was very frustrating for me. I felt bad after reading them. I think I can safely blame historical romances and Harlequin for dominant male after dominant male getting a comeuppance in all the stories I have so far written. I personally like the beta males the best and they always end up on top.

Emily Veinglory said...

But I was speaking very specifically of the role of m/m rape in m/f romance for mainstream publishers. Everything has its place in fiction but I think the place of m/m as an 'acceptable' rape with publishers that will not take consensual m/m or m/f rape is somewhat hypocritical.

Emily Veinglory said...

p.s. KM, you brin up some great points--who you like to start a now post about this? I could send you an invite to the blog if I haven;t already?

kmfrontain said...

You have a point. MM rape accepted in het based romance fiction once again shows where the general public is at with regards to homosexuality. That might seem a sweeping statement, but it's how I see it. I still haven't watched Brokeback Mountain, you know. Why? Because the only reason it was widely accepted by the common public was because one of the characters very nicely died tragically. Pisses me off every time I think of it. The message is: be homo, but make certain you die beautifully for your sins. And of course, I don't agree.

And sure, I could start a new topic. Thanks. :-)