22 comments on “Editorial: “I’m Gonna Hurt You ’til You Love Me!”

  1. No one can disagree with what you wrote. In fact, I find your article one of the best formulated arguments against crappy BDSM/dark fanfics with no point behind all the crap. If written without proper cause and solid plot/foundation, such stories pollute minds and pervert souls.

    I would like to bring up another, unfortunately understated, issue: an extreme abuse of a lead male character. While we deem torturing the heroine in every (un)imaginable way shameless and degrading, we tend to glaze over the fact that the big bad guy is overly vilified – for what possible reason? Some writers go the extra mile just for the heck of it and turn him into a pig, a liar, a cheat, a criminal, a rapist, etc., etc., even arguing that he deserves such treatment. Meanwhile, the female character is allowed to be stupid, insensitive, wrong, crass, and yet the reader should forgive and love her just because she’s a she. We cannot assign value based on the sex of the characters, and it saddens me to see such unwarranted gender bias. What happened with equal partners in life? What happened to working together against common enemies? Call me naive, but there are infinite possibilities to create a story where both characters show at least some measure of mutual respect and understanding without turning the drama/romance/mystery into a boring mush. Yet it seems respect is harder to write than “the guy beats on the girl, and she takes it, because it’s love, and she’s gonna change him.” Never happens. At least, I’ve never heard of it happening in RL. Usually she ends up either dead or in a hospital, and he gets arrested and then released to harass her some more.

    At times, I think women who write stories demeaning to the male character on purpose are men haters and they take out their hate on the fictional guy who to them personifies everything vile with a penis, just as those who crucify the female character are women haters for all the reasons you stated above.

    • Excellent reply. And I agree. I’ve met a fair few man haters in my day. The ones you see today are usually running around screaming, “the patriarchy causes all the world’s problems because I say so,” but that doesn’t account for all of them that you don’t see. It stands to reason that whatever they’re doing to express their hate is much more subtle.
      Great points and awesome to hear from you.

    • Your editorial inspired me to put something on my blog other than “Hello World”. Thank God ’cause that’s just embarrassing.

      Onto my next issue:
      Before I found your site, I used to read my fanfic ‘pretend porn’ stories without any thought of style, credibility or anything other than prurience. Now that I’ve read you–my happy prurience has changed.

      I’d like you to apply your particular critical style to this bit of fanfic–it tripped me, and I wouldn’t mind the validation:

      “I was still riding my high when he flipped me and drove his personal stake into me.”

      That’s just wrong. I know it’s only 1 sentence, but it comes from an otherwise effective story. It’s from a vampire fic unashamedly offered as PNP/PWP. That’s exactly why I was reading it. Even taking into account that it’s aimed at a female audience, I find this ‘speed bump’ very unsettling (and not in the good way). Talk about ruining the mood; now I have to start again.

      Am I becoming a critical reader? Will this continue?

      I hope you won’t forget to check out the fic I mentioned on fb – Good Things come to those that truly deserve them. http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5827589/1/

      • I will, I’ve got quite a list of things to get to, and I’ve been sick all day. (Illness of my own doing, I just can’t seem to remember that 20 beers is my limit.)

        As to the quoted line, I find it quite off-putting. Without context I can’t say much more than that.

        Becoming a more discerning reader can be a double edged sword. While it’s harder to find something good, you will get more satisfaction out of what you do find acceptable.

  2. I enjoyed your analysis and tend to agree with it. I am saddened that misogynistic themes are so pervasive even in a genre/medium largely dominated by female writers. Gratuitous violence against women seems to be a staple of a lot of contemporary narratives whether in popular culture, high brow literature or fan fiction. To me the major driver behind this is discomfort from those in positions on power (primarily men) in the face of significant social change leading to women having access to positions of power/economic welfare traditionally reserved to men. Domestic violence and general violence against women tends to be greater in societies (or groups within societies) experimenting fast social change and women emancipation. I hope little by little things will change and writers will be able to imagine heroines who do not need to go through such trauma to be compelling characters. I want us to be able to imagine strong brave self-reliant heroines without subjecting them to violence.

    • Thank you for stopping by to read my editorial, and I really appreciate your input. Not to critique your comment, but as a skeptic I have to doubt that the correlation between rapid social change and domestic violence is causally related. Most rapid social change occurs during a weak economy and completely out of necessity to ensure survival of a familial group. Women who might have otherwise stayed at home are compelled to enter the work force and employers, faced with an overwhelming number of female applicants begin hiring more women, to use a past example. During said times average stress levels are high, sleep times are low, work hours are long, budgets are tight, alcohol consumption goes up, drunk driving arrests skyrocket, people become more likely to drink heavily at home on a regular basis, assault and battery soars, and domestic violence rises, to name a few. To place the blame on the changing social paradigms and intimidated men is, in relation to the base of knowledge I have, unsupported by evidence, though a definite correlation exists.

      Basically what I’m saying is that they both seem to happen together but one doesn’t directly cause the other, they’re more likely caused by the same thing though.

  3. While I can see a writer wanting to write about an amazing journey from abuse to survival to triumph over said abuse, unfortunately such stories – if they were even meant as such – tend to fall well short of their (theoretically) intended goal. All too often they end up being nothing more than yet another boring, misogynistic sexual/emotional abuse fic, and I am heartily sick of that kind of tale.

    Even when the intended goal of “triumph against all odds” is rarely or vaguely (somewhat) achieved, it’s too often done so to the tune of gratuitous sexual violence and torture. These over-used plot devices are all too often drawn out and repeated over too many unnecessarily graphic chapters filled with overdone, overly-described, crass, sensationalistic sexual abuse and torture scenes to the point that, sickeningly, one begins to wonder if the writer “got off” on writing said abuse.

    I’ve stopped reading fics and books that even hint that they’re written along those lines. Simply put, I’m the only one in charge of what I choose to put into my brain, and I do not choose to defile my brain with unnecessary tales of rape, incest, torture, man-controls-woman (or, in all fairness, woman-controls-man), bondage, punishment, “Master/slave – dom/sub” tripe, and other forms of abuse. Thankfully I know how to stop reading and go take a shower.

    Your editorial is awesome, and well-timed. I sincerely hope it draws attention to the misogyny running pervasive in the world of the written word.

  4. It’s hard to discuss this subject apart from the premise of Twilight, a young, young woman who literally dies for the love of a man, after multiple attempts on her life, and a man who is ridiculed for wanting to leave her alive. She is, literally, selfless to the end. So if I take away these beloved characters, I agree with you. It is a lack of experience, empathy and skill, that drives these stories.

    I, too, would like the next author who decides to work around a rape, assault, molestation, stolen kiss, betrayal or attempted murder, to think long and hard about the victim, and to ask themselves, how the fuck would said victim end up happily ever after with her assailant?

    If a survivor is writing of her own experience? If she or he is hoping for something cathartic to come from it? Her protagonist would move on without her abuser. It’s an ending I haven’t read yet.

  5. Bravo! There are many, many fics out there much like those you describe, and I’ll admit to reading them. However, because I write book reviews for a living, I make attempts to write encouraging, thoughtful, and kind reviews for the writer. It takes real courage to put one’s self out there for the type of criticism these folks receive, especially from those who have never picked up a pen! Your final paragraph speaks quite loudly though. There are those who do write of situations, good or bad, relating to their own lives and this is therapeutic for them. I won’t begrudge them, nor will I judge them. I agree with you that this may be their coping mechanism.
    Am I tired of the tortured heroine? God, yes! Is it going to change? No, because one has to change their POV of that heroine, and then there are those who just really like that sort of thing, like bodice ripper romance novels. To each his or her own I suppose. I may find a story, start reading it, and if it becomes too clichéd, I stop reading it. Pretty simple! Kinda like changing the channel!
    So what if you’re a feminist? Good for you. The “Mein Kampf” stuff has me laughing, but I enjoyed your editorial, and in no way do I agree that you’re the type of guy for why these women are writing their damsel in distress stories! I’ve often thought about writing one of these too…but then I would be called catty, petty, or bitchy! Well done, and good luck!

    • I don’t exactly write reviews that are even remotely friendly, though I try to always point out what is wrong rather than ridicule pointlessly. In the end, I expect people who don’t have a sense of humor about themselves or are arrogant and stubborn will likely throw a fit after one of my reviews. I try to be funny, critical, and to keep my reviews about the work itself. It’s a lot harder than people think.

      • In no way is there anything wrong with that! That’s what that “review” button is for, and some of the writers are seriously asking for reviews such as yours. Some people are more sensitive than others, but I always wonder what the hell they’re doing on a public forum! It is difficult to write a more critical review than a kind one, but even when I write my more critical ones, I still try to do so in a positive manner. For work? I’m way harsher! Those are still difficult sometimes. I can’t really rip someone’s work apart as much as I might like!

  6. A friend of mine linked to this blog post from Facebook and I read it with great interest as you`re asking some of the same questions `ve been asking in the five (or so) years I`ve been reading (and writing) fan fiction. I even wrote a one-shot about Eric Northman wondering why he’s so often turned into a rapist in fanfiction because I wanted to ask those questions in the fanfiction community.

    I don’t have any answers as to why the heroines are perpetually raped and abused in fanfiction but I do think you`re correct when you point fingers at the misogyny behind it. I don´t think it has to do with the writers being envious of their heroines but the fact that the women writing those stories are just as much misogynists as some men can be.

    And why not? Women grow up in the same society as men and learn the same values as men do. Women can be just as hateful towards women as men can simply because that`s the lesson women and men are both taught. It`s sad but that`s the way of the world. I read a statistics once saying that female jurors are less likely to believe female rape victims than male jurors are and that`s really saying something.

    I`m not trying to say that women are women`s worst enemy – only that women are a part of a misogynist world too.

    Now, I don´t mind reading about my heroines being abused or even raped if there`s a point to this – and this point is not just shock effect or lazy writing. Unfortunately, I`ve only rarely seen these topics dealt with in a respectful manner in fanfiction. I will absolutely not hold it against a writer if she chooses to deal with her own ghosts through her writing (and I will definitely not call it “dirty laundry” – it`s way too serious for that). I just hope – mainly for her own sake – that she manages to deal with it in a way that is actually helpful to her. Spewing hate all over her heroine is not the way because, in a way, she is showing how much she hates hersef for what happened to her.

    • In retrospect, I agree that “dirty laundry” may have been poor word choice. What I meant by that statement was that with an issue so serious, it would seem best not to put all your issues out there for the world to see, and especially not in a place where it might garner criticism.

      • Oh, I figured you didn`t mean any disrespect by your choice of words.

        I think it can work both ways, really. In the fanfic world you can be anonymous. Even very popular writers hide their real names and can therefor use fanfiction as a way of dealing with things as a different person. The downside is, as you say, they might garner criticism or even hate. Luckily that doesn`t happen too often. Fanfiction readers are generally pretty nice to writers. Reviews are usually just “great story” or “write more”. But the writers are taking a chance when they write about personal experiences like that. They might stumble over someone cruel who will use their experiences against them. And, not all fanfiction writers are really anonymous and bad fanfiction experiences can drip into their real life, which is a shame.

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