A male author trying write about sexual assault – responsibly

Greetings friends and readers–

I want to give a little more context, and direct readers who haven’t seen it, to the piece I wrote for this site on the process I went through to write about the sexual assault that occurs in The Void Place in a responsible way.

I am a queer cisgender man who is married to a social work professional, so I am constantly surrounded by people who are very highly aware of numerous intersecting social issues and identities. Because of this, when I knew that writing about the crime that occurs when the future King Arthur is conceived, I was, oh, you know–terrified.

If you don’t know [SPOILERS for a story from 1485] the legend is that Merlin disguises the king, Uther, as the husband of Igraine, the woman Uther is obsessed with, and she takes him to bed, where Arthur is conceived. As an additional nightmare, she is then forced to marry her rapist, in order to protect her “honor.” And as the whole point of my series is maintaining strict fidelity to the actual Arthurian legend, I have no leeway to change any of this. So I was in quite a quandary as to how to deal with it in a way that is responsible and accords with my values.

First, we have seen men excoriated for attempting to write women’s perspectives at all, let alone writing about a woman’s perspective on a sexual assault. But as there’s nothing I can do about that, I decided that the way to go forward, and the most honest way to imagine the whole situation, is to go deep into Igraine’s anguish and bewilderment over the situation, her horror at how her happy life has been destroyed, and her ongoing bitterness about it afterward. I also tried to build out her intellect and personality (like most women, she is little more than a symbol in the Middle English sources), and give her a few moments in which she stands up for herself and strongly expresses her own will.

As for preparation, I wrote an article on how I went about preparing to write this aspect of the book (Preview: The main ingredient was reaching out to women for their perspectives), and you can read all about it here. The full link is provided at the bottom of this page.

As I said, I travel in fairly socially-aware circles, and so I was a bit shocked to humbly take it to Facebook and Twitter and find out that not everyone cares–at all. I was met with the comment that “political correctness jumps the shark” (not entirely sure what that means), people who say that it would not fit the legal definition of rape (and WHY are we so worried about what isn’t legally rape?) and, most surreal, a woman excoriating me for trivializing rape by saying that non-violent, but still non-consentual, sexual assault is not rape.

Still, at the bottom of it all, in addition to being responsible to women, I had to be honest to my own feelings as a human, which could not lead me to write it any way other than as a severe bodily invasion and violation, one with indelible, long-lasting consequences. And we will indeed see those consequences play out all the way to the end of the series.

What do you think? Should I have written about it at all? Do you think I handled it adequately? How would you have done it differently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and feel free to share this post to generate more discussion.

Full link to the article:


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