Recently I saw a post on r/fantasywriters where someone was concerned about writing a rape scene. I felt inclined to make a post about it because I feel it’s something people would either be severely uncomfortable with, or desire to avoid altogether. It can be seen as something a few people would actually enjoy writing, which is another reason why it’s looked down upon in these subreddits.
I find it rather brave and bold that someone could write about it or have it mentioned in their story. BUT! NOT because it’s “oh, why would you do something so controversial? Wow!” But it’s because it’s such a hard subject to tackle, that people would rather avoid altogether.
“But it’s necessary to the story!”
I hear that a lot, and while it can be true for the most part, a lot of people won’t buy into it.
Is it reeeally that necessary? Or perhaps, a better way to look at it is, “Does it really have to be described in detail?”
That’s where I feel people get confused.
When people go into detail, THEN it feels like you’re enjoying writing it. Sounds like you enjoy this peril, and it makes the reader uncomfortable.
Maybe that’s the intention, but then again, it’d depend on the genre you’re writing.
If you’re writing it to be uncomfortable, then how is it important to the STORY?
Rape is a traumatizing occurrence and can ruin a person’s life.
It has a horrible effect on people, and it’s a trauma people CAN overcome. But some, or many people, don’t.
Which group are you focusing on? Is this part of the story of much importance to the protagonist’s life? (It should be, as this is nothing to shrug off whatsoever.) If you’re focusing on how our protagonist grows strong through coping, then you’re on a good track. If you’re focusing on it to give our character a terrible life or it adds into how terrible their life is, then why would you have to go into detail?
If this rape scene is so important, then how does it affect your protagonist?
That brings up another point; How descriptive are you getting about this rape? If it’s happened in the past, the answer is clear.
Don’t go into detail.
Now, maybe you could have a few little moments where or character had flashbacks, without going into a whole SCENE for it, and that’d be a better way to handle it. Maybe something like: “The air was chilly, the hair on the back of their neck stood up as they remembered that terrible night…”
But for those of you who have it happen in the moment or during the current time in the novel, how important would the details be, really?
If the rapist grabs the victim by the shoulder, maybe from then on, the protagonist will feel uncomfortable when touched upon the shoulder, which is something people normally do, and will further ground the point that the victim has been raped, and that it affected them. You wouldn’t even have to go into detail about it, it’s perfectly clear. Those are details you should rather describe, not being explicit. (Again, it’d depend on your genre)
But there are some who’d rather write out the entire scene, including the tiny details.
My first question is, exactly HOW are you going to describe it?
Are you going to go over the details like “the rapist smiled as they grabbed the victim’s ****** and then did **” Or are you going to describe the terror our protagonist is feeling? “As the intruder reached for the victim’s *, they slapped the predator away, struggling to break free. The victim screamed for help as the intruder grabbed their ****” It’s by describing it this way, you’re getting the point of view of our protagonist, rather than going into detail of the disgusting actions.
Keep in mind you CAN do both, but which is more important? If this scene is SO important to the story, then focus on our CHARACTER, not the details of the rape. Because if you lean too far to that side, you’re seen as someone who enjoys writing it. (Again, this would depend on the genre you are writing)
See how I didn’t use HE or HER in those examples. And it’s because ANYONE can be raped, male or female. Anyone can be defiled, and it’s not ONLY women who are attacked.
You can take what you want from this, but I’ll say it straight:
Gender doesn’t matter in this scenario. The act can be done by anyone, TO anyone. Don’t put emphasis on how “weak and helpless” the female is and how “she can’t escape”. She can still fight back. He can still fight back. Take into account reality. You should know your character enough to give them something to DO during this. Stop stereotyping, and write out your scene RIGHT. Because believe me, a rape scene in a novel is enough to make your reader PUT THE BOOK DOWN.
Take as MUCH care and planning into account for this as you should, and you can write it without the heavy weight of what you’re facing.
To finish off this highly controversial post, I can put it simply:
Write ONLY what’s necessary. Don’t enjoy it. No one does. And no one should. If it has no PURPOSE, don’t ADD it. If it’s shrugged OFF easily, don’t ADD it.
This is a touchy subject, and a triggering one for a WHOLE lot of people out there.
RESPECT them. And respect writing.
Don’t overdo it, and don’t underdo it.
Then again, you could skip it altogether. It’s your choice, because you are a writer.
Now live up to that, and write as you feel is morally acceptable.
That is all I can say.
Thank you very much for reading this very, VERY long post, and I really hope it helps someone out there who’s struggling to write it without disrespecting the countless victims of this dark world.