This week I’ve been writing and rewriting a lot of Only If You Want, as patrons voted on. That said, I don’t really want to spoil what I’ve been writing about in these blogs until it comes out, so I’m going to return to a point about GBM that’s always kind of bothered me.
A few people that have read The Good, the Bad and the Molly have pointed out that the story is kind of immoral. It’s told from the perspective of someone who does something sexual with someone without their consent, then is forced to confess to their crime/sin/whatever, then blames others for this before accepting it. Then… his victim, in a way, forgives him and a complicated situation arises.
People like to point out that Molly should not have forgiven him. Some people don’t like that in the story Molly forgives him, and that he should get what he deserves – loneliness, a life without her. To that I say: no shit.
I get that stories should have themes to allow a reader to reflect. If bad decisions like these happen in the real world, to an extent we as storytellers have an obligation to teach people of the world about consent and consequences and what happens to rapists and all that. I take issue with the notion that we should always show what people should do morally in these situations. Yes, this is an uncomfortable story of a man who did a bad thing. In a perfect world, he should get what he deserves. But I’m not writing about a perfect world.
I have many friends in the real world who have been assaulted or locked in toxic/manipulative/abusive relationships, and even when given the choice of leaving, they stayed. Why? It varied from person to person. Sometimes it was naivety, sometimes it was fear of being alone, sometimes it was a direct result of the abuse (I guess a minor form of Stockholm Syndrome?) and sometimes people knew the bad parts sucked but still wanted to have sex or be with that person anyway. In the real world, it happens.
And it’s such a dangerous message to be writing about a girl that elects to stay with her abuser, I get that. But at the same time, I’m interested to see this is my most questioned decision. Not the rape itself, not any of the dozens of morally gray situations that happened in Being More Social, nothing. People really want justice for a character that did wrong, perhaps because they’re used to that from me. Sadly, the situation of my story is morally gray. My story contains characters, not themes.
As I’ve mentioned before, that’s how I write. I create characters and write about their interactions. I didn’t write BMS thinking about how the theme was growing up or whatever, I discovered the themes of my story as the readers did. In the same way, I didn’t write GBM with the intent of the story being ‘let’s write about the theme of non-consensual sex.’ If I wanted to write with a moral in mind, yes, I absolutely would have written it with them never reconnecting. But I’m writing about an accidentally manipulative selfish overthinker and a naive easily-influenced addictive personality. They’re both going to make choices they ‘shouldn’t,’ and both have the capacity to make choices that hurt both the other person and themselves.
I will say that I’m planning to put a disclaimer at the end of the story to deter people from thinking I’m advocating for forgiving your abuser if the sex is good or whatever. I’m aware of the moral implications of writing this story. If that’s your worry, rest assured, I’m aware of how nightmare-inducing some of the decisions my characters make are. That said, we’re going forward with the understanding being I’m going to be writing flawed, idiotic, destructive characters. In both sex and life, I think it’s a more common theme than erotica portrays, and it’s what I happen to write about. The best I can say is I’m aware of how fucked-up it is and I don’t want it to become my reality, I’m merely writing about what’s around me, as it were. I’ll talk to you all next week.