Thoughts on Fealty – Rape and the role of fiction

Fealty is not a story I am comfortable with. Fealty is probably not what you think it is. Fealty is a rape story concealing itself as a romance.

Alright, to be fair, there is nothing concealed about the abduction part. Myrtle acted from love and good intentions, but never makes any claims to having acted morally. She abducted Eryk, and makes no bones about it. She made the only decision she could live with, while recognizing and accepting that Eryk might never forgive her for it. Moral? Maybe not. Willing to accept responsibility for her actions? Definitely. Non-consensual? Hell, yes.

The rape. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the people who read this don’t see it as a rape story. After all, she gives him a chance to say no, right?

Right, she gives the man who is tied up, at her mercy, and stuck in an ethical conflict she knows she created a chance to say no, after she physically molests him.

Of course, Eryk wants her to rape him. He wants her to take that decision from him. A desire that many kinky folks are familiar with. But Myrtle doesn’t know that. Can’t know that – she’s a mage, not a telepath. (And kinky folks please take note – YOU aren’t telepaths either.)

But why does any of this matter? I mean it’s fiction, right? Just a story, just a fantasy. Right?

Well, think about this. Consent is a big deal for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, read up on the current insanity ripping through the BDSM community about consent and abuse and picked my side (short version, the more I learn, the more sense maymay makes). And in spite of that, I didn’t realize I had written a rape story until after I published it.

Think about that a minute. Think about how fucked our cultural concept of rape is, that someone can write a rape story and not realize it. Think about how fucked up it is that most of the people reading the story will not realize it is a rape story. This is not okay.

And fiction has a bigger impact on culture, life and behavior than many people realize.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was visiting my cousin’s house when I picked up a book with an image of a long haired man clinging to a white horse on the cover. When Ellen DeGeneres came out, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Because the story of that man had, without my ever realizing it, taught me the most important lesson about homosexuality (or any sexuality) – people are people, however they fuck (or don’t fuck, as the case may be).

Two years ago, I put down a book by Nora Roberts, and swore I’d never read one of her books again. Why? Because I was tired of ‘seduction’ rape. You know, where the woman says “no” and the man says “You don’t really mean that, you’re just [fill in stupid excuse for ignoring the woman’s choice].” Then proceeds to kiss and fondle her until her hormones overwhelm her reason and they have sex. In this particular story, the next day the woman was then blamed by the man, and his family, for seducing the man while keeping secrets from him. Those very secrets being the reason why she was trying to say they shouldn’t have sex.

While I’ve managed to avoid the very disgusting follow up of blaming the victim for the sex they didn’t want to have, I have still written a gender reversed version of the rape that made me walk away from one of my favorite authors. And looking back at the way the fiction I have read has changed my views and influenced my choices, I cannot claim that writing a non-consensual rape scene in a fantasy story meant to include elements of kink doesn’t matter.

Putting a positive spin on despicable things ALWAYS matters.

After some debate, I’ve decided to leave Fealty up. Hopefully, along with this follow up, it will lead to some thought and discussion about what rape really is, the ongoing issues of consent and abuse in the world of kink, and how insidious our own unhealthy ideas about rape can be. And I will definitely be a hell of a lot more aware of my own blind spots when it comes to rape and non-consent in the future.

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Fealty – Rape and the role of fiction

  1. Domina Jen

    Yeah, I caught the rape theme in your story. And I’m glad you decided to leave it up. You’re right, it is fiction, but it was a story about a character you created. Sometimes bad things happen to real people. It only makes sense that bad things occasionally happen to fictional ones as well. An erotic story (or any type of story) doesn’t have to have a positive theme or a happy ending to be a good read. Hell, for some people with rape or abduction fantasies, erotic fiction is all they have, since they obviously can’t act out that particular fetish in earnest (other than role-playing, of course). I loved the story, and yes, I knew he was being raped, and I felt sympathetic to him for it, but it’s the fact that you were able to invoke that emotion from me as I read it that made it a good story for me, not whether or not it was all ponies and rainbows and butterflies and Disney music. Sometimes that controversy and that moral gray area can be fun to explore through fiction.

    1. Ms Mahler Post author

      Thank you. It’s good to know that the emotion and conflict came through. I agree that stories don’t have to have happy endings. though I’ll admit a preference for them.

      Had a long spiel, here’s the short version.

      I don’t mind exploring a moral gray area – as long as it’s clear that area is GRAY. There shouldn’t be controversy about rape. It isn’t gray, it’s black. And I don’t want to be contributing to the idea that it is gray. I don’t mind writing a rape story, I mind writing a ‘she raped him and they lived happily ever after’ story.

      If we didn’t have a culture currently engaged in a battle over what is and isn’t rape, where rapists get more sympathy over lost college scholarships than criticism for having raped someone,if there was clear, recognized acceptance that rape is wrong and people shouldn’t do it, then stories like this wouldn’t carry the potential damage that they do. But this story, in this culture, has too much potential for contribute to memes of ‘if they liked it, it wasn’t rape’ and ‘if they love you it isn’t rape’ for me to be comfortable with it.

      On the plus side, one damaging meme I am definitely NOT contributing to is ‘men can’t be raped.’

      1. Domina Jen

        Yeah, I re-read my comment, and the way I worded it might have implied that rape is in a moral gray area, and that wasn’t my intention.

        So, because even I am now guilty of unintentionally downplaying it, I can see your point. I still liked the story, and I still don’t even mind that it’s a “she raped him and they lived happily ever after” story. Yeah, it’s wrong, and it’s one hell of an unhealthy way to start a relationship, but after reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of the characters’ lives would be like together, and I like when an author inspires in me an interest to know more. Maybe she’s overcome with guilt and begs him for forgiveness, or maybe he grows to resent and even hate her for what she’d done, or maybe she continues to control him in even more damaging ways, or maybe they do really live happily ever after, and the severity of her crime never really occurs to either of them.

        Still, I definitely see your point. I can read this story and I understand that it’s nothing more than a made-up sex story with made-up people put in a made-up situation. Porn.

        That’s not meant as an insult, by the way. I still think it’s an awesome story, and extremely well-written and well thought-out. My point is that I can read this and be entertained by it, but I still know that’s all it’s meant for. Entertainment. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously. But in your post, you talked about how fiction has influenced us more than we think, and the more I thought about that, the more I have to agree. The name “Wendy” didn’t exist until J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan. Waterbeds didn’t exist until Isaac Asimov published a sci-fi book that described one. Hell, the realm of science fiction has impacted our real-word technology more than most realize. So yeah, I can see your point in being uneasy having written this kind of a rape story. Regardless of all that, though, I’m still glad you left it up.

      2. Ms Mahler Post author

        LOL! If I’m gong to be insulted that a story written for other people to get off to is called ‘porn’ I need to be in a different line of work. I assure you, my skin is not that thin! Granted, I like a little erotica with my story, rather than the other way around, but still!

        As far as their future together, well maybe I’ll write that eventually. But one of the nice things about spec fic is being to explore different cultures. While, I as the author, can be disturbed by writing a rape story, they really don’t give a shit. Where for someone from our world it would be, “Okay, you kidnapped me to save my life. Thanks, i guess. But WHAT THE FUCK, woman. You RAPED ME!” For them it’s, “Okay, the sex was good, ASK next time. But HOW could you force me to DISHONOR MYSELF!!!!!!!”

        Very, very different perspective on the whole thing.

  2. Miss Pearl (@OMissPearl)

    Hi, great story!

    I have small problems with that in my story “Catamite”. Unfortunately nature gave me a very strong kink for non-consent, but I feel like I should include some sort of disclaimer with it to reassure people that I am decidedly not into actual people being raped. It is a real challenge!

    1. Ms Mahler Post author

      Having just found and very much enjoyed Catamite, I very much understand. Ironically, it doesn’t bother at all to read something like that (not like Nora Roberts’ rape scene did) but I would find it somewhat disturbing to write something like this.

      I think part of the difference (as a reader) is that in your story there is not pretending that what is happening is the way a relationship should be, it’s the decadent behavior of decadent aristocrats that is expected and understood to be debauched and disturbing (and oh-so-fun.) where in Roberts’ books it’s rape presented as a normal part of the ‘happily-ever-after’ we’re all supposed to dream of.


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