Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Damage'.

Sometimes people say the most ridiculous things. Often, they say them because they don't have direct experience with the issue.

The latest example that came up is sexual harassment. Somebody tried to tell me sexual harassment was not 'damaging' to a person, whilst physical violence was.

As somebody who has been sexually harassed although never, thankfully, sexually assaulted, I know which one makes me start to tremble in fear. You can get over a black eye or a broken nose. You never quite get over being sexually humiliated. It sticks around.

Thinking about this makes me finally understand why people are less worried about violence than about sex in their media. Violence may do more damage than a bit of fun in bed, but sexual violence is worse than 'regular' violence.

As writers, we can't hope to avoid everything that makes somebody uncomfortable. One person might shudder to read about a character trapped in a cave-in, another might not be able to keep reading if giant spiders show up. You can't legislate for that.

But you can show respect for the fact that what is 'not damaging' to one person might be deeply so to another. That one person's 'just a kiss' might be somebody else's flashback central. That some people really are terrified of spiders, or snakes, or hornets, to the point where they can't read about them. And that this means there will be people who will not be able to read and enjoy a certain piece...or your entire body of work. Accept it and respect it. If you use rape as a plot device, some people will not be able to handle that. (If you glorify rape, then I don't have much respect for you).

Respecting your reader does not mean taming everything down to what will offend nobody. It means not getting upset when somebody gets offended.