One of my Facebook friends, fellow indie writer Sarah Daltry, wrote a post on her blog today that I simply had to read, despite my seeming inability to keep up with all the blogs I follow. It was about the portrayal of abuse and rape in novels as "romantic" if the "bad boy hero" has a change of heart. She said, perhaps not in so many words, that the entire notion was bullshit, and I wholeheartedly agree. You can find the entirety of her post on her blog by going here.
Now you're going to get my opinion on the subject...
If an author chooses to write that his or her character has been a victim of rape, incest, or abuse, then by all means, let them -- especially if the plan is to showcase how that character rises out of the ashes of the horror they endured like the phoenix of legend. Or how, if the abuse victim is killed, the people left behind who cared about them seek justice. That makes for a compelling story. But do not, for the love of all that is decent, depict rape as sexy. Do not depict abuse -- be it physical, emotional, or mental -- as sexy. Do not depict incest as sexy.
BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT.
I don't care if the bad boy hero of your story, who rapes your heroine, ends up regretting his actions and the two fall in love and have a wonderful life together (do the names Luke and Laura ring a bell to anyone?). I don't care if he hits his girl once and regrets it, or beats the shit out of her and regrets it, and the two live happily ever after. I don't care if the mommy who sleeps with her son, or the daddy who sleeps with his daughter, or the brother who sleeps with his sister, has fallen in love with him/her. It's NOT sexy. It's not romantic. It's trash. I don't know any person in my life who would find a novel with this kind of "plot" (to use the term very loosely) an enjoyable read. Most would find it sickening and all would find it highly disturbing. I would never read such material (and I don't care if the parent/child or sibling/sibling relationship is a step-relation, it's still incest), and frankly feel that anyone who does enjoy reading it is a disturbed individual who should seek help from a qualified psychotherapist.
If a man and woman (or two women, or two men, or a combination thereof) are in a committed, consensual sexual relationship involving a little bondage or spanking, or genuine BDSM... more power to 'em. Because it's different, vastly so. In such relationships, the partners involved know exactly what to expect. What the receiver (submissive) is and is not willing to endure is always discussed and agreed upon ahead of time, and the limits are always adhered to, unless trying something new or going further is discussed and agreed upon prior to engaging in play. And even then, the submissive can (and should) use the agreed upon safe word to let the giver (Dominant) know that he or she has reached the limit of their tolerance -- and the Dominant always stops immediately upon hearing this word if he or she truly values his or her sub.
Those that don't are not true Dominants, they're deviants using the BDSM lifestyle as a cover for acting out their perverted fantasies. Anyone who gets any kind of pleasure out of beating another person within an inch of their life is a sick, twisted individual who probably needs to be locked up for the safety of the public.
But I digress...
I've written a character who was raped. I've written two who were sexually abused. All of these situations ended with the characters becoming stronger, better people. My stories showed them suffering, but also struggling with the trauma and healing. This is okay to write. But writing a man or woman being raped as romantic? Writing a man, woman, or child being beaten as fun and enjoyable? I would never do that, and I refuse to read it. Because it is not good literature in any way, shape, or form.