When can sex or violence be justified as a plot point in a story?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I agree with the “add to a larger conversation” line of thinking:

When I read your books, I was like, “Fuck YES”—you both actually created a conversation about assault and about rape culture, rather than just using rape as a plot point, something that will show us how evil a villain is or allow a man to play hero around. This is a rhetorical question, probably, but I am guessing you were both fed up with that type of plot device too?

CS: I think it’s so critical, when exploring topics like sexual violence and rape culture, to ask yourself what your work is adding to the larger conversation about sexual violence and rape culture. Are you undermining it? Are you doing more harm than good? I believe those questions should put a very necessary pressure on a creator to treat the materially thoughtfully, carefully, respectfully, and to do the best by it that they can. If you’re not asking yourself these questions or feeling that pressure when you write about these things, that’s a huge problem and it’s going to show in the work. It’s offensive. It’s lazy writing.

KH: I’m so glad you supplied an eloquent answer, Courtney. This whole topic makes me livid. I decided several years ago that I Am Done With That Shit. Sexual violence on Game of Thrones just because PUSHING THE ENVELOPE! Nope. Done with that. Rape scene on Downton Abbey because DRAMA! Nope. Never watched another episode. Media is inundated with sexual violence as a plot point and it is disgusting and lazy (and usually written by a man, naturally).

But the thing is, I get to choose what to consume. I get to turn off my TV, close a book, not buy a product that is lazily marketed. My one opinion isn’t going to matter to the creators of those products. They don’t care about my disapproval. But that’s not my point. My point is that it matters to me. It matters that I don’t let the normalization of rape as a plot point—a way of making men, usually, a villain or a hero on the literal backs of women’s bodies—enter my own life. And that makes for more internal peace, which is something I need when there is so much rape culture surrounding me that I can’t turn off. Which means, as I wrote Kayla’s story, I wanted to be thorough. I wanted to create something real, human, complex and meaningful. There is no shock value in this story.