Why ‘Romantic Rape’ Is Not Cool

Seems like an odd thing to talk about, but as I mill about the internet I see so much of this conversation that I feel it’s probably about time for me to stick my oar in.

First of all, do you guys know of Brian Keene? If not, you should, he’s awesome. Get on over to his blog right now and read up on all the cool stuff he talks about. This post in particular made me sit up straight and realise just how blinkered I am to some of the issues in the world. I do spend a lot of time in my own kinky bubble, but every now and then I look out through the iridescent sides and feel a little flicker of panic.
People getting threatened with rape? On social media? This is a thing?!

angry green monster with teeth - from OpenClipArt

Soooo angry. -_-

I was pissed.

Like millions of others in the world, I’m lucky enough to be able to hold my head up and say I’ve never been raped. But there are millions of people in the world who don’t have that luxury. Hell, people very close to me have suffered that terrible ordeal and every time I think of it I feel so sick inside that I’m sure parts of me curl up and die. Part of me writhes in shame; shame that the species I belong to could treat another of their kind so abysmally.

While that wasn’t the first time such issues became apparent to me, it was probably one (of the many) catalysts that has led me to feel so strongly.

Then, last week, again while mooching, I found this post in my WordPress Reader. If you can’t be arsed to have a look (for shaaaaaaaaaame) the post is from Red Sofa Literary and talks about sex scenes and consent. Particularly why this agent rejects manuscripts in which the hero(ine) is coerced into sex.
Now… it may not appear that this person is coerced. They may be reluctant at first but the truth of this character is that they’re afraid to get caught, or it’s an inconvenient moment or they’re guilty over something else or their favourite TV show is on. Whatever the reason, they may say ‘no,’ but it’s only a flimsy cover for the fact that they really, really (like really, really!) want to have sex. So this other person teases them, coaxes them, eases them into what is, eventually the most mind-blowing and incredible sex the pair have ever had.

Am I right?
You’ve read something like that before, I’m sure. I know I have.
And I know that I’ve sat there thinking the piece of writing was sensual and sexy and thrilling and wonderful.

sad face stylised emoticon

But it’s not. It’s so, so not. And I’m ashamed that it took reading Laura’s post to make me realise that fact.

What is rape?
Well, Wikipedia has this to say:

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms sexual penetration initiated against one or more individuals without the consent of those individuals. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.

Hmm, okay. Seems pretty clear. But what are the key words in this definition?
Let’s see… *skims* To my eye, the key word in the whole of that paragraph is consent. Look at it again, the word comes up three times.

In the examples I gave above, the hero(ine) was reluctant to engage in sexy play for a number of reasons. They probably said ‘no’ at some point, right? Well, isn’t what follows a direct disregard of their wishes? Like Laura says, a coerced ‘yes’ is just as bad as a ‘no.’
Because it’s still a ‘no.’
It’s no different (well it is, but bear with me) from saying ‘fuck good and fuck me quick or I’ll strangle your cute little puppy.’
Icky, right? Horrible? Sick? Scary?
So why is coercing somebody in more animal friendly ways any less disturbing?

Well I could probably write a whole post about that. Maybe I will some day, but for now, what I want to say is this:

Rape is real. It’s not a game. It’s not about sex, but power and one person (or several) holding it over another and that is scary shit.

There’s no such thing as romantic rape. ALL sex should come with a good, strong dose of consent. If it doesn’t, that’s just plain rape. And, as I’ve said above, it’s not cool.
Just because someone eventually comes to enjoy themselves, or ‘gives in’, doesn’t mean that they didn’t at first say no. You may not get arrested for it, particularly if the sex was good (KIDDING!!!) but it is still rape.

‘Romantic rape’ has become so ‘normal’ that even someone as squishy and gentle as me (yes, I am, honest), didn’t see it for what it was until the fact was shoved in my face by someone else. Normalising ‘romantic rape’ just helps pave the way for less cheerful rape to be seen as acceptable behaviour. Which it’s not.

warning sign

Credit: yves_guillou

So there we go.
I think, in future, I’ll be attaching a warning to my future pennings, in the same way as awesome comic artist and story-teller Tab Kimpton:


Raven's Signature In Black

About Raven ShadowHawk

I take great pleasure in writing erotica and am merely one side of the proverbial coin. My other half, 'Ileandra Young' writes fantasy and the occasional comedy piece. My six-part series 'Meeting Each Other' is available in full, through Amazon and Smashwords while my debut novella 'Sugar Dust' is now re-released (!) available through Amazon via Little Vamp Press.
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9 Responses to Why ‘Romantic Rape’ Is Not Cool

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    There are many who fantasize about sex without responsibility, which I believe is from feeling guilty about sex and wanting to enjoy the sensation without the guilt. For this reason, what I would call “fantasy non-consent” is a staple of some forms of romance–where one character (usually male) does what the other character (usually female) wants but is unwilling to admit to.

    Unfortunately in the real world sexual abusers want to do things specifically because they know that their victims do not want them. As has been often observed, rape is about power, about being able to force someone to submit without consent.

    So the trope of “fantasy non-consent” encourages a very dangerous idea–that a person who uses power of some kind to gain a sexual advantage over another will use that power to give the victim what she or he “really wants”. That not only encourages the one in power to continue after being told to stop, it can often make the one abused feel somehow at fault for the abuse.

    Specifically negotiated role-playing scenes aside, no always means no. Consent must be both active and ongoing–it can be withdrawn at any time, and no explanation is required.


    • Eloquent and insightful as ever, Misha. Thanks.

      I especially agree with your last point; just because a person agrees initially doesn’t mean they mayn’t change their mind later. It’s not a ‘tease’ or ‘selfish’ as I’ve heard people say, either. Consent may must be ongoing throughout.


    • I suppose I should also mentioned that pre-arranged games, fantasies or role plays in which guidelines are discussed and set is another matter entirely. In this situation two consenting adults have agreed to play a role and that is not the same as what I described above.
      There are people in the world who enjoy the fantasy of absolute control (or loss of it) and in those situations, a play-rape or however you want to phrase it is one way to express and explore that.
      But consent is still there and ongoing. Given before hand, yes, but it IS there. So it’s not the same.


      • MishaBurnett says:

        There are a lot of people who want to explore fantasy roleplay in their sexuality–particularly when books that contain fantasy non-consent become popular.

        I have, in other forums, done what I can to educate people as to the difference between fantasy and reality. Too often the prior negotiation is rushed because the participants are in a hurry to get to “the good stuff”. This can lead to situations where what began as consensual play becomes sexual abuse.

        Abuse within a context of the BDSM lifestyle is a serious problem. The victims usually feel powerless and isolated because others–both inside and outside the BDSM lifestyle frequently express the opinion that once you consent to a degree of power exchange you are de facto consenting to anything the dominant partner chooses to do.

        The BDSM community tends to marginalize victims of abuse within the community in order to maintain the “Safe, Sane, Consensual” image, while people outside the community usually don’t understand how someone could consent to certain kinds of BDSM play and not others.

        Many forms of BDSM erotica, I feel, contribute to this misapprehension.

        Sorry if I derailed your thread–this is a personal soapbox issue of mine.


        • Part of the problem is that there aren’t enough voices trying to educate people as to what the difference is. Too many of us assume that ‘people know’ because ‘it’s simple’ or ‘obvious.’ But it isn’t. Fantasy crosses the boundaries into real all the time and not just in a sexual context. It can be very easy for things to be misunderstood or misconstrued and the general media does very little to help that.

          I hadn’t thought over much about abuse within a BDSM lifestyle, but now that I do I can see your points. It’s hard enough to explain how it works to someone outside the lifestyle without then tyring to explain how a particular activity can end up being abuse. And the SSC image only goes as far as the community as a whole, ignoring the problem only serves to make it worse. I agree with you whole heartedly in that regard.

          And please, don’t worry, you’ve not derailed anything. I’m enjoying this conversation a great deal (despite the large gaps between my responses – sorry about that!)


        • MishaBurnett says:

          A recent news story came to my attention that illustrates what I mean perfectly. Warning, it’s very ugly. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20140703/NEWS01/307030033/


        • That’s horrific. You’re right. I cried a tiny bit while reading.
          But to me, that just sounds like a vicious case of assault. There’s nothing in there that suggests a healthy BDSM relationship gone awry.


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