Why on Earth Rape Fics Exist
Rape fics exists. That is a fact. It may be that the web community
feels obligated to look at them with a moral disgust, but here they are and
they are read. Why? This is a really subjective matter and I can answer only
First, it's about angst. I love it. Overwhelming feelings, pain, confusion, sadness, etc. If angst is written good, you can have this physical pressure in your chest when reading. So it's not the act of violence where we get our "kicks", but the power game, matters of self-worthy and other problems that reader knows will follow after. The source of the pain is not as important as the psychological aftermath.
Second, you have to torture your characters to make the little things matter. In one of my favorite stories the victimized person grabbed a too big shirt from a laundry basket after a shower to cover himself, and it came a security blanket for him. In the end he is ready to return it to it's owner... That kind of things are great in the right context. Peter Brooks calls this "melodramatic imagination". It is a psychological strategy to overcome the material meaningfulness of everyday existence. In western society, everything is relatively well. Nothing dramatic happens in our lives, even if we would need it to let our emotions out once in a while. In melodramatic imagination, we consciously take on use the whole scale of emotions, from euphoric happiness to deep angst. Just because normal life's normal emotions just aren't enough. In other words, we can't have the comfort without the hurt.
Third, it's about fantasy. Surveys say that most of the women fantasize about rape. I don't know if this is true, because I don't, but I do read these m/m rape stories and enjoy them. Maybe I have moved my "natural" rape fantasy in different setting. A male/male setting? Most of men think a woman/woman-setting as truly erotic. (They have told me so.) A far less women see a male/male-setting erotic, but they also exist. It's also far more safer, psychologically, to remove women off altogether from the story. It's safer to make up stories that are really hard for females to relate to, at least at the first glance. A fantasy doesn't harm anyone. Blaming fiction for real life violence would be like believing those teens in prison claming that "Rock Music Made Me Do It."
Fourth, a novelist, I forgot who, once said that torturing your characters is only a sign of affection. (Ever read Joan D. Vinge's "Cat"-trilogy? A school book example of that!)
Fifth, some think it's a easy way to make "seriously dark" fiction. Some may even think that the act of rape is erotic in a pornographic sense. I don't think this way. If the fic is not-too-well-written, I skip the actual rape part, but only because it's nothing new to me. For the same reason I also skip some of the sex scenes in the fics meant for more general audiences.
Sixth, we fiction writers write them because we CAN. You can't read it from books (well, not many books) or American style comics, can't watch a decent movie about it. Japanese have their manga, for example "Street Guerillas" and "Banana Fish", but we western don't...
Let's add one more scientific angle in the mix. Media culture researcher Ien Ang has a theory of women's fantasy. In this context, fantasizing means watching soap operas, reading and writing fiction and fanfic, etc, not only bedroom fantasies or daydreams. In her theory, we have to acknowledge that woman's identity is not solid, but she is in the continuing process of building it. Fantasizing helps her to try different roles, settings, personalities, even different lives and through that, maintain and build her identity. In fantasy, nothing is sacred, because the society can't punish its members of the anti-social behaviour that exists only in persons minds. Ang says, that Fantasy and fiction offer a private and unconstrained space in which socially impossible or unacceptable subject positions, or those which are in some way too dangerous or too risky to be acted out in the real life, can be adopted. In the real life, the choice for this or that subject position its never without consequences.(1)
But why some of these fantasies are so negative, even masochistic? The answer can be found again in the constructing of identity. It's not fun, it's hard work. The society gives us too many different clues of what we are supposed to be: Beautiful, erotic, helpless, mothers, virgins, aggressive... The entire process of constructing identity is so tiring that one of our main fantasies is to *stop*. To loose, to let the people walk over us, let the others do the thinking for us. In that moment, the continuos process of identity building stops and for awhile, we linger in peace. Rape fantasy is the ultimate fantasy of loosing, of just letting go, to just be. The fantasy could as well be about having a nervous breakdown, but that wouldn't be as emotionally fulfilling as the rape fantasy. (So in this case, we really don't need the comfort, but the hurt.)
I admit that sometimes reading them makes me feel bad and I don't like to read about them "in loving detail", but mostly they end with a purifying catharsis, leaving me in a good mood. If I wouldn't like them, I wouldn't read them, right? And neither should you. In the end, there is a lot of good and a lot of bad fics out there. It's not about genre. It's about finding the good stories.
(1)Ien Ang: Living Room Wars Rethinking media Audiences for a Postmodern World Routldge, London 1996