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.