Discussion: The rape of female characters is a lazy, overused, plot device.


  • BrionyHeneberry
    BrionyHeneberry
    11 months ago

    I'm bringing this to the table here in Non-Teen (though horrifically on Wattpad I still seem to find this in spades in Teen Fiction, and in stories here written by children), because the use of rape as a plot device is so prolific on Wattpad (and also in other venues, both written and in television and film).

    Take the time to look over this opinion article, to help both inform and fuel your own, before responding.

    http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/can-we-stop-using-rape-as-a-plot-device-20130812-2rrwh.html

    So, I put the question to you: Is, or has rape become, a cliché?

    My opinion: I don’t do a lot of reading on Wattpad, for various reasons, including the demanding reading load of my profession as an English teacher.

    When I do glance over the myriad of options, I am saddened, and perhaps a little sickened, at the number of blurbs that include indications that a female character is going to be, or has been, raped. I’m sure that there are many that don’t mention it, but do include it.

    My aversion to reading stories that include female rape goes beyond the obvious: beyond the fact that rape is an abhorrent trespass against anyone, male or female.

    The author of the above linked article makes the point that, rape is the ‘go to plot device’ for writers of various caliber, but that it has been so overused that it’s lost its impact. How frightening is that? How shocking is it, that any audience reading or viewing such content, might be numbed or apathetic because it’s been done to death?

    That’s a side issue though, one related to things such as violence of movies and video games affecting people’s perception of reality and boundaries.

  • BrionyHeneberry
    BrionyHeneberry
    11 months ago

    What we need to consider, is whether having a female character raped in our stories, is a good, thought provoking, edgy, multi-dimensional, and/or ultimately worthwhile, way to create fear, tension and facets to a character’s emotions, motivations, and a reader’s conception of who they are.

    Here on Wattpad, it feels like many writers are asking themselves, “how can I shock my audience?” To me, it reads as if they consider torturing a character with rape a brave and somehow confronting plot choice, especially if they choose to describe the act in detail. Shudder. If a victim of this atrocity is describing their harrowing experience to me, then it is going to reach deep inside and twist every muscle, every sinuous scrap of my being, and on some level scar me as well. If it’s “what’s the worst thing I can do to this woman: oh, sexual violence,” then I hate to tell you, that you’re jumping on a bandwagon headed straight to clichéville.

    NOTE: I am sure there are some stories that do not use rape as a necessary element to defining an interesting female character, however, the trend of using it as the ‘thing that will make this story stand out from others, and be the most tense, suspenseful, skin crawling, shocking and tense thing ever,’ makes up the majority.

    What do you think?

  • Bittersweet_Rose
    Bittersweet_Rose
    11 months ago

    I am by no means as eloquent as you both are, I think not only has it become cliche but my concern for the overuse of rape as a plot line fin far too many stories especially in the teen club is the complete acceptance is that the violence is considered no big deal by many by the young authors who write the stories. It has often made me wonder if the writer is really a pervert in disguise using wattpad as a dumping ground for their material. The untold number of the stories especially involving celebrities is mind boggling and the fact that the victim often falls in love with the attacker shows how little is understood by the author for the devastating effects the violence has on its victim.

  • TashaW
    TashaW
    11 months ago

    @Bittersweet_Rose I agree with you so I'll keep my reply short. I believe the reason for this plot device is because rape is glamorised in so many movies/tv shows and even books that for some young writers it almost becomes something that needs to written in to make the story dramatic and emotional. To be honest I'm disgusted at how popular Fifty Shades of Grey has been because it glamorises an overpowering man who can get away with controlling her simply because he's 'hot' but then again I haven't read it and am only aware of the subject from others who read and hated it. So if I'm wrong then please correct me.

  • Bittersweet_Rose
    Bittersweet_Rose
    11 months ago

    @TashaW Personally I can't correct you because I've never read that garbage either. :)

  • TashaW
    TashaW
    11 months ago

    @Bittersweet_Rose We seem to be a minority :)

  • Jaye_Ripley
    Jaye_Ripley
    11 months ago

    It is a worthy subject to discuss as it is such a traumatic experience in life yet it somehow makes its way on the page numerous times. In a culture where it is hard to even discuss, report about, and prosecute, so many writers feel the need to add it as part of a character's development. I would posit that perhaps it's because it causes a character to be completely broken in order to give them a reason to be "fixed". If you think about it, many authors also use other traumatic experiences like death to do a similar thing for character development. But by using rape, it breaks a character down completely. Then the character must make the journey to be put back together, usually done by the romantic interest of the book.

    What's hardest about this is that, as @TashaW said, it glamorizes the recovery. As if that experience is needed in order to achieve the romantic fix. Does rape happen in real life? Absolutely. Should writers write about real life? Absolutely. But it feels forced to use such a traumatic experience in order to build a character's journey.

    It may be controversial to say this, but for something this traumatic I wonder if it really is something a writer should write about, especially if he or she hasn't experienced it personally and are only mimicking what's being used over and over again in works?

  • TashaW
    TashaW
    11 months ago

    @Jaye_Ripley I agree which is why I can never see myself writing about it because I would never be able to do the victim justice. Even if I researched it, unless it had happened to me then I'd be hesitant because it's careless books like some on Wattpad that make the situation so much worse. Kids don't realise that some abusive relationships aren't right at all because the abuse it subtle, I didn't understand that when I read twilight at twelve years old but now I see these things.

  • Jaye_Ripley
    Jaye_Ripley
    11 months ago

    @TashaW You bring up an even bigger point, which is while the act of rape tends to be portrayed as violent, not all abuse is truly that overt. There is also slow and insidious abuse that takes as big of a toll, and your example of Twilight is a good example. There's also the precedence being set that if a girl feels weak, it takes a boy to "rescue" her to feel empowered. There's a mistake of what constitutes power.

  • Chemical_Insanity
    Chemical_Insanity
    11 months ago

    I'm reading this one book (actual book, mind you. Not on Wattpad... that I know of) called By Reason Of Insanity , and its by Randy Singer. It's about this string of murders, and this one girl who gets visions of the murders, so she goes to the police, and everyone thinks she's has Multiple Personality Disorder. She gets this lawyer on her case, who helps quote on quote "mentally insane" people in their court cases.

    Anyway, the story begins with a court case involving the lawyer's sister. The lawyer's sister had been raped and abused by their dad, and then when older, she married a guy who was the same way. So one night she shot him. That's why she's in court.

    Anyway, my point is, there, it was a nice backstory because it gives her a motive and everything.

    However, people here on Wattpad think that rape is "cool" and "unique" and not as bad as it really is.

    Who in reality would think "hmm.. Hey! I wanna get raped"?

    No one. Better yet, who would like it?

    No one.

    Even better still, what kind of former rape victim would go "hey... I wanna get raped again!"?

    No.

    One.

    Rape isn't "cliche"... But people on Wattpad have taken it too far.

    I rest my case.

  • TashaW
    TashaW
    11 months ago

    @Chemical_Insanity You also made a great point that some writers on here don't know but a lot of rape victims are attacked by people they know, on Wattpad it is almost always a hot stranger who they fall in love with rather than the disgusting, messed up people who actually commit these crimes in real life. Better yet who would find their rapist attractive? I don't care if he was Ryan Gosling, the very thought of what he did would not make you notice their attractiveness.

  • Chemical_Insanity
    Chemical_Insanity
    11 months ago

    Exactly! Although I have no clue who Ryan Gosling is... @TashaW

  • TashaW
    TashaW
    11 months ago

    @Chemical_Insanity He'd an actor :) maybe I'll say Brad Pitt instead?

  • Chemical_Insanity
    Chemical_Insanity
    11 months ago

    Johnny Depp more like @TashaW

  • Bittersweet_Rose
    Bittersweet_Rose
    11 months ago
  • Chemical_Insanity
    Chemical_Insanity
    11 months ago
  • BrionyHeneberry
    BrionyHeneberry
    11 months ago

    @Chemical_Insanity

    I hope it did not come across as if I was saying that rape itself was a cliche, as that is very far from my intent: just its use as a plot device.

    Let's momentarily step away from the horror of it that we all agree on, and look at it from a literary point of view.

    Even 'where it seems to fit', as you've mentioned in By Reasons of Insanity, I have definitely lost track of the number of times rape has been used in that very context: to justify homicide. Does it justify it? Maybe, but that isn't what I'm focusing on here, but rather originality in stories.

    There are plenty of other ways to break characters, female or otherwise, or to have them be broken - even to the same extent. It all depends on what a character is designed to value.

    My deep concern, and the reason why I agree with the article, is that it feels like no effort or thought is being put into this. It's simply easier to have a character raped because everyone knows that breaks a person, rather than expending effort establishing characters who are multi-dimensional enough to have different things to lose.

    Especially here on Wattpad, this creates shallow, flimsy and transparent cookie-cutter characters that I cannot invest any interest or emotion in. It's not that I'm immune to the horror of rape, just immune to its impact in a text.

  • JoOlogy
    JoOlogy
    11 months ago

    I agree.

  • Chemical_Insanity
    Chemical_Insanity
    11 months ago

    @BrionyHeneberry I see your point

    Your right, it's use as a plot device is cliche, and overdone.

  • OwensMartin
    OwensMartin
    11 months ago

    If rape is too cliché and should not be used as a plot device, then the century of detective and police mysteries should make murder a cliché not-to-be-used device a million times over.

    But they haven't, because it isn't.

    Cliché is execution, never premise.

  • BrionyHeneberry
    BrionyHeneberry
    11 months ago

    @OwensMartin

    I can agree with that, and amend... The way rape is largely depicted has become cliche - as above: an easy 'dun dun duuuun' requiring little to no other development of a female character, who is very often defined only by the event.

  • SeeThomasHowl
    SeeThomasHowl
    11 months ago

    If it wasn't rape it'd be something else. Pick your poison.

  • BrionyHeneberry
    BrionyHeneberry
    11 months ago

    @OwensMartin Now that I think on it, I do want to add that while murder and crime is used prolifically, it is used to develop characters in ways that do not define them entirely.

    In detective stories specially, a lot of effort is put into developing the motives of a killer, as well as the driving force of the one(s) pursuing he/she/it, as well as what led a killer to become what they did, their background, their triggers… I’m not seeing that in many stories where a character is raped; it is the thing that defines them.

  • OwensMartin
    OwensMartin
    11 months ago

    @BrionyHeneberry But that's the point...

    Your original argument was that we shouldn't use rape because it's traumatic. Okay, but here's the thing. If we remove trauma from literature, what are we actually left with?

    And in my murder mystery example I was attempting to prove that we do NOT get desensitized to something just because it's written about in a cavalier and not necessarily psychological way.

    Thousands of mysteries (known derisively as cozies by my mystery-addicted mother) use thoroughly uninteresting killers and murders that are neat, pleasant, and make no attempt to show it as wrong. Because you're really there to read about the solving of it, I suppose.

    In this recent post, you make the argument that all too often rapes are written to be the only defining thing about a character/characters. But, hang on, that's an entirely separate issue to whether it's cliché and should be banned.

    Is it sometimes written poorly? Of course. Do I like books where rape is portrayed as romantic (almost all of those, by the by, exist only on wattpad)? No.

    But is "rape as a plot device cliché?" No. It can't be. Cliché is simply HOW you write something, not what is actually being written.

  • SeeThomasHowl
    SeeThomasHowl
    11 months ago

    @BrionyHeneberry The problem is bad, reckless, irresponsible, hacky writing. Not necessarily what bad, reckless, irresponsible, hacky writers write about.