Dear Authors, Writers, and other Creative People

We need to talk about a little thing called rape culture. I know you’re probably thinking that it isn’t really a thing because RAINN told the White House that rape culture doesn’t actually cause rapes. Yeah, well, even if it doesn’t cause them, it normalizes them. And rape isn’t exactly something that we should desensitize ourselves to. After reading books, seeing movies, listening to songs, and experiencing television episodes where there are gratuitous rape scenes and descriptions, I think it’s actually past time for talking.

I know what some of you are thinking: There is no such thing as a gratuitous rape scene. Sadly, that is untrue. Anytime that a writer or a director or an anyone decides to take something like rape and throw it into a story because they need it to fill time or because they can’t get away with an explicit sex scene or because they don’t think that torture scenes are appropriate. Let’s take some time and think about what that means, shall we?

  • If rape is being used to fill time, then that means that we don’t take it seriously. We trivialize it. We are taking one of the most degrading things that can ever happen in someone’s life and we’re using it to kill time. What does that say about us? If we can do that, then what does that say about our entire culture?
  • If rape is being used to fill in for an explicit sex scene, then we are equating rape with sex and that isn’t the case. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is an abusive act. If it is so horrible to see a consensual sex scene, then shouldn’t be even worse to see a non-consensual act? Shouldn’t it appall us? Again, what does it say about us and about our culture if it doesn’t make us feel sickened or uncomfortable?
  • And, finally, if it is being used to fill in for “more horrific” idea, i.e. torture. This also trivializes rape. Rape is a method of torture. It is an abusive act. It is something that changes a person. Just. Like. Torture.

Basically, we’re showing how fucked up we are if we’re using rape in stories where it doesn’t belong. We need to stop doing that because it’s not just bad from a creative standpoint, it is disgusting from a human one. It is making our species disgusting.

I’m not going to advocate completely removing rape from creative works because, sometimes, it is necessary for a plot. When it isn’t gratuitous and is therefore necessary for the plot to move forward, then putting rape in the story is acceptable. It is not normalizing it. It is not trivializing it. It is not desensitizing the public to the idea of what rape is and what it does to a person. It is, instead, showing us the realities of rape and the trauma that it can cause. It is enlightening us and allowing us to experience a level of empathy with a character that we might not otherwise get. When it is doing that, then a rape scene is acceptable. But when rape serves no purpose in a story?

Well, let’s shut that down.

About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.