Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rape or DubCon?

Rape is a horrible, ugly word. I would never, ever condone or try to soft-pedal it. So when my editor calmly let me know my "big scene" in "Viewer Discretion Advised", one of the stories in the 4Play collection,  met all the criteria for rape, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. Rape? I didn't write rape, did I?

Let me share a little history. When I began writing erotica as a hobby in the late 90s, I posted stories at "Viewer" was originally written as my one and only entry for the Non-consent/Reluctance category, similar to what many erotica authors refer to as DubCon (dubious consent) today. The scne in question fit the category. I remember the bodice rippers, tales of women taken against their will by pirates, barbarians, warriors and the like. These books made up a big part of the romance market of the 70s and 80s.As long as the man and woman involved eventually fell in love, it was all good and not only in written form. If you're old enough to remember the Luke and Laura love story on General Hospital, you may also recall he raped her in the early stages of their storyline.

We've become more sensitive, even with regard to romance novels, since then. Our alpha males are now billionaires, cowboys, firefighters, and they are polite and protective of women. If the actions turns a bit hardcore, it's in the throes of consensual passion or part of a D/s scene. What pushes our arousal buttons has evolved. It is interesting to note, though, that rape appears in other genres with little fuss. Anyone who's read the highly popular Song of Ice and Fire series can attest to that, not to mention the incest and sexual abuse of children. (I love those books so don't send me hate mail. It's just an observation!)

So, I had a decision to make  Leave the scene as is, or rewrite it. I gave a lot of thought to the emotions I wanted to provoke in the reader. Horror and disgust were not among them. I wanted readers to see that Sara and Brad ware both flawed people. Sara embodies all the negative stereotypical qualities you'd expect to find in an overly ambitious actress - egotistical, self-absorbed, and pretentious. Brad, a former pro quarterback, hates to lose and will do whatever it takes to win. In this case, what he wants to win is Sara. I rewrote the scene and feel it still accomplishes what I want. I've sent the revision to my editor for her thoughts, and we'll talk about it next week.It is ultimately my choice, but I greatly respect her opinion and experience.

Do I feel like changing the scene is a compromise of my principles or a sell out? No, not in this instance. If my intention had been for Brad to be a black-hearted villain or for Sara to be a sweet, vulnerable victim, I would have been a different story (literally). This isn't The Perils of Pauline; these characters are human and far from perfect. Just the way I like them.

A quick note of thanks to my editor, Ekatarina Sayanova of Red Quill Editing. I love a woman who tells it like it is.

Excerpt from "Viewer Discretion Advised" from 4Play, coming in September

Eventually Sara accepted a dinner invitation after her agent reminded her of what the publicity could do for her. “Everybody will love the idea that two sexy co-stars are falling for each other,” Nathan told her, and she begrudgingly agreed. It would have been easier to swallow if he had refrained from pointing out Brad was being booked for all the late-night talk shows to promote their series, and no one was as yet beating down her door. Nothing like your own agent bruising your ego to boost your self-confidence.
On the night of their date, she dressed for the paparazzi in a version of the “little black dress” never envisioned by Coco Chanel. With a plunging neckline and tightly fitted, it showed off every curve of her body. In a pair of designer stiletto heels and with her trademark tousled “just fucked” blonde mane of hair, she would not pass unnoticed or go unphotographed. That she would be on the arm of a popular and handsome guy was gravy. She checked her reflection in the mirror as she put on a pair of long, dangling silver earrings. Her face, which she had long ago accepted as not conventionally pretty, was attractive, and her wide, pouty smile gave her a provocative look most red-blooded, American men found sexy. Turning to check the view from behind, she decided she cleaned up pretty good.
Brad wouldn’t hear of meeting her at the restaurant and insisted on picking her up at her apartment. When she opened her door, he gave a loud wolf-whistle. He seemed to think she was all dolled up for his benefit alone, which she found naïve, but sweet. Surely professional athletes knew about TMZ, Entertainment Tonight and the Hollywood Insider, to mention a few of the shows on which their date would most likely be mentioned.
“Thank you, sir. You’re looking quite nice yourself!” He certainly did look good in a white button down shirt open at the neck, black pants and a faded denim jacket. She looked down at his feet; yes, he was wearing cowboy boots, but on him, they worked. She locked her door and they walked out to the apartment complex parking lot, his arm on her elbow. “Where’s your car? I don’t know what you drive.”
He pressed a button on his keychain, and the engine of the big black Chevy pickup truck in front of them roared to life. “A truck, you drive a truck in LA.?”
“Yes, ma’am. I was born and raised on a cattle ranch, and cars are less than useless there. I’m used to a truck, and besides, I like my truck.”
“I’m sure it’s great, but what I’m not sure of at all is how I’m going to climb up in it wearing this dress.” She eyed the side of the truck with doubt.
He opened the passenger door and reassured her. “Not a problem. Face me, put your hands on my shoulders and duck your head.” She obeyed; he placed his strong hands on either side of her waist and lifted her into the seat as if she weighed no more than a child. “Buckle up,” he ordered.
She watched him as he drove, navigating the infamous LA. traffic with ease. “You had to cut your hair for this part?” she asked.
He brushed a large hand across the sandy blonde buzz cut. “Yup. It hasn’t been this short since I was a kid. My mom used to cut my hair exactly like this with clippers in our kitchen. She didn’t charge a hundred fifty bucks for it either.” If his down-home boy attitude wasn’t legit, he was a better actor than she knew.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, the valet was amused by Brad’s vehicle, but he recovered quickly and caught the keys one-handed as Brad moved to help Sara down from her perch. They walked the media gauntlet, smiling, posing and answering questions. Once inside and seated, he gave her his undivided attention, even making sure his cell phone was turned off. Everything he said seemed open and honest. She wasn’t sure what to make of a man who said what he meant and meant what he said, a rare thing in Hollywood.
“Sara, I hope you know how much I appreciate your patience with me. Without your help, I’d be screwed, probably canned already,” he confided.
“How did you get this gig anyway, Brad?”
“Well, I was at the end of my career according to my knees and my orthopedist. I didn’t want to go into broadcasting like every other ex-jock, but I had no idea what I was going to do. My agent is the one who got me the audition, although we both knew it was a long shot. I guess I’m a lucky guy, especially tonight, sitting here with you.”
If anyone else had said it, she would have known it was a line, but she was warming up to him and actually enjoying this date. He was sweet, obviously came from a close family, and based on his manners, his parents had raised him well. Maybe there was more to him than a photo op.
They had finished eating, and conversation was flowing freely when another diner approached their table, something in her hand. “Excuse me,” she said, fidgeting nervously. “Aren’t you Brad Watson?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am. What can I do for you?”
“Could I please have your autograph? My friends will go crazy when I tell them I met the Sexiest Man in America!” The woman made air quotes with one hand as she said the title.
Brad looked confused. “The what?”
“You haven’t seen it yet? It just came out today!” She placed a magazine and a pen on their table. On the cover was his smiling face with a caption reading “Gridiron legend, now leading his team on the set of True Blue.”
Looking extremely uncomfortable, Brad signed the issue for the woman, and thankfully, she quickly went on her way. She had shown no sign of recognizing Sara, but then she had never glanced in her direction.
Sara couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Being upstaged by this rookie made her inner little green monster fume. “Excuse me a moment, would you?” she muttered in his direction. On her way to the ladies room, she asked the maître d’ to check the entrance. As soon as she was assured the coast was clear, no more photographers outside, she requested a cab and returned to their table.
“I’m sorry, but something has come up. Thanks for dinner.” With a peck on the cheek and a “see ya, babe”, she strode away, leaving him looking puzzled and wounded. The taxi ride home was long enough to allow her time to cool off, but she didn’t. Rationally, she knew the resentment and jealousy she was feeling wasn’t Brad’s fault, but it was easier to focus the blame on him than acknowledge her own childishness.

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