It’s called a ‘cultural narrative’–the stories we tell each other about how people are supposed to behave and the way society is supposed to work. Partly thanks to Disney, “Love at first sight, live happily ever after” has become a very strong cultural narrative in America today.
There are cultural narratives for all kinds of things, from having kids, to finding a job, to how crime is dealt with. ‘Alt-‘ culture, in its various forms, is alt- because it rejects one or more of these cultural narratives, and creates its own path. Alternative relationships, alternative sexuality, alternative religions, all reject cultural narratives about [relationships, sexuality, religion]. Which (it’s shocking, I know) I am totally in favour of.
I remember thinking years ago how fucked up the cultural narrative is for abusers. At the time, the only cultural narrative I knew of for abusers was the “abusers are unredeemable monsters who should be cut off from all good and decent people.” Since then I’ve come across another narrative, “The abuser lashes out from old pain and fear, and can be saved and healed with the love of the right women.”
Honestly, I would be hard put to tell which of these narratives is most damaging.
Here’s the thing: we need cultural narratives for redemption. We need the stories of the drunkard who manages to beat the addiction, the murder who repents and turns his life to good, the idiot who unthinkingly hurts people and learns to recognize the harm and tries to start helping people.
Why do we need them? Because cultural narratives are how we learn what we are supposed to act like. And for things like religion and relationship and sexuality, telling society to fuck off, we’re doing are own thing is great.
But think of the person who looks up one day and realizes they are an abuser. There’s not classes in school on what to do when you realize you’ve lost control of your anger and hit someone you love. There’s no classes on what a college jock is supposed to do when they realize they let hormones and peer pressure push them to far and have sex with an unconscious teen. How do they know what to do when they realize what they’ve done?
And right now, the cultural narratives for abusers and rapists encourage them to A) deny they are any such thing, B) just go ahead and kill themselves, because they are now this horrible monster and can never be redeemed, C) turn to the other people in their lives and say “Well if you were good enough you could redeem me, so it’s your fault I do this.”
(Anyone want to take a guess how many people choose option B? Yeah, I’d guess that self-preservation instinct kicks in and option B, the only option that involves taking responsibility for your actions, never even occurs to most people. Because when taking responsibility=I might as well kill myself…THAT DOESN’T WORK!!!!)
Marc isn’t your usual kind of abuser. He isn’t driven by anger, or hormones, or a desire to control and punish. But he doesn’t need to be.
I didn’t start this story intending to create a narrative for abusers. I didn’t start it to shake my finger at the BDSM community and the way it handles abuse. I just had an idea for a character who needed to make a human sacrifice for [reasons] but was actually an ethical guy who wanted to find a way to do it without actually, ya know, killing someone. It was half way through writing it, that I realized the story, and Marc, actually played into my old thoughts about abuse and the need for other cultural narratives of abusers.
Could I have ended it as a Happily For Now? Yeah. But I like this ending better. I hope you do too.