Morality in Fiction, or "Have You No Decency?"
by Lorelei Jones
I write for a variety of reasons, and several of them have to do with sublimation. I have heard others compare writing to both therapy and meditation, and have used it as both. It's the way I exercise emotions that it might otherwise be socially unacceptable to express. I believe that emotion is neither good nor evil, but a part of human nature. However, the actions based on those emotions are good or evil, and it's important to find release in a way that is neither harmful to you nor anyone else.
All sorts of arguments have been made against violence in the media, but here is at least one argument for it. If I can play a video game in which I can slay monsters or shoot bad guys, or watch a movie in which the hero does these things, that need to lash out in some way is not bottled up until I explode. I won't argue whether or not violence in the media can influence an already unstable mind toward violence in real life, but I do know that for a fairly healthy mind, as I've been told mine is, such an outlet is essential. If I cannot find one that suits my needs, I will create one in my writing.
It has been commented on before in the science fiction community that some of the mellowest, quietest people write some of the bloodiest, goriest work. Having met a few of these individuals, I feel their mild attitudes in real life are at least partly attainable because of their freedom to express their aggression on paper. It doesn't always work this way, there are also people who write just as viscerally and still maintain rather famous tempers, but none of them have ever gone out and committed mass murder. Except, of course, in their books. Nor is this to say that emotion and action directly translate. I have no interest in actually killing anyone, yet people die in my stories, sometimes in rather messy ways. Why? I may not want to kill anyone, but I do get mad at people, and I do need to deal with that emotion in some way. Writing out my anger, expressing it in more extreme ways on paper than I would in real life, helps me deal with it in a way I find acceptable.
This brings me to the issue of rape and non-con. The difference between these two terms has been discussed on the FCA-L list before, with the thought put forward that perhaps the two are in fact the same thing, it's just that people uncomfortable with liking "rape" stories find the term "non-con" more pleasant. Personally, I think there is a difference between the two definitions, though it may be a small one. I like both rape and non-con stories. I read and write both. Does this mean I think there is a difference between the two in RL? No, not really. To me, non-con is a strictly literary term.
Now, if I read a rape or non-con story, does that mean I condone rape in real life? Not even close. What it does mean is that a rape story can touch certain of my emotions that no other type of story can, and that those emotions, like all the others, need to be felt. Part of the reason my definitions of rape and non-con are different is because, for me, they evoke different emotions. Similar, but the shadings and nuances are separate enough to necessitate exercising them in different ways. For myself, that's the only difference that matters.
As another example, I like H/C stories, including the subgenres of strictly H stories and H/R (hurt/rescue) stories. Like Renae, sometimes I like these stories simply for the hurt. To know I am not the only one who goes through pain, to see how a character I already identify with deals with it, to realize the randomness of the universe can inflict pain on others and doesn't just zero me out for special privileges. Whether such preference makes me sadistic or masochistic, as has been suggested, is not something I'm really concerned with. If I am either of those things, or if I am not, something in me is given relief by reading or writing such stories, in a way that does no harm.
I may write about subjects deemed as immoral, but I view my very writing as a moral act. I am endangering no one, and I am maintaining my own mental health. Rather than unleashing unexamined or unacknowledged feelings on my loved ones, I let them spill forth onto the page, or I project them onto the characters I'm reading about. I still find release, but I'm not taking it out on the undeserving. Personally, I consider that the most decent thing I can do.