I really like Liz Bourke’s reviews, so I’m kind of surprised that she’s pushing for more male rape in “grimdark” fantasy: Realism, (Male) Rape, and Epic Fantasy
The argument appears to be that having violent male rape will make “grimdark” less violent and rapey.
I joined in and made a comment and I’ll agree I could have been clearer.
However, the response resulted in my being dismissed as “delusional” and “mentally ill”, which shows what sort of idiocy is driving this argument.
Even more disturbing is that Liz doesn’t seem particularly keen to approve the response I gave to those who condemn me, so I’ve copied my reply below:
Oh dear, it seems I have stirred up the haters. The fact the the main foils to my statement are that I am “delusional” or “mentally ill” show an intellectual shallowness that undermines what should be an interesting and important discussion.
Joe Abercrombie is held accountable for a mere whisper of sexual assault towards the end of the third book in the First Law trilogy – yet, apparently, the fact that a protagonist is a torturer goes unnoticed for over half a million words by these critics. Does this therefore imply those accusing Abercrombie of being “rapey” are therefore supportive of torture? Because no one appears offended about *that*. Yet apparently no male torturer would ever suggest anything unpleasant to a woman, and when a fictional character eventually does, it is used to condemn the author. That’s the argument being used.
George R R Martin – well, accusations of misogyny are understandable, but the argument is not one of misogyny but of A Song of Fire and Ice explicitly using rape as being part of “grimdark”.
But even Fade’s grand denouement of my reply has difficulty in identifying actual examples of rape and instead veers off into applying modern Western social standards of sensibility to the topic of consent in arranged marriage and slavery. This simply feeds into the “historical realism” argument because those exact same issues apply through the same European mediaeval history GRRM is sourcing. Yes, he uses exaggerated violence, but in the 1.7 million words in the A Song of Fire and Ice series to date, there appear to be 2-3 actual offscreen rapes – yet these are used to condemn both the author, the series, and any modern fantasy story that includes anything of the subject on sexual assault.
I think the main problem isn’t “grimdark”, as much as people dislike having their comfort zone challenged. So criticisms fall into exaggeration and misdirection.
That is what I was trying to point out here – if fantasy novels contained a lot of male rape they would not be lauded for “realism” but instead condemned as “grimdark”. My perception was that the premise of the discussion here presumes otherwise and I disagreed.
The fact is that some people do not want to see mature content, or made to question the violence their heroes inflict.
I’m not saying every incidence is done well, but I do cheer the fact that the fantasy genre has grown up enough that we are forced to even have these grown up discussions about grown up subject matters. I can only hope future books handles the subjects better.
PS: Other people have thrown Scott Lynch into the “grimdark” camp. Because he swears. A lot. And no good fantasy novel should have swearing, right?