Last month I made a post on this blog called Romance Novels and Rape: Stuff I Didn't Want to Know in which I talked about a bizarre (to me) situation I got into on an Amazon Discussion Board in which my questions about why some women found rape romantic was met with an astonishing amount of hostility. A week or so later I got into a discussion on Goodreads about Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. Some of the women had just read it, were disgusted and horrified by it and we talked about that. I subsequently wrote a post on Boomers & Books Blog about it, Re-reading Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”… Both blogs generated a fair amount of discussion on various web sites.
Yesterday an anonymous comment was posted to the blog about Romance Novels and Rape. In it the writer proposed a defense of those who enjoy rape literature and she was quite articulate and made some interesting points. In the course of her comments she made the following statement: I love the Sleeping Beauty books, as well as books such as The Psychology of Gang Rape, and Living Dead Girl (a kidnapped middle schooler made to be a sex slave and stay young by waxing and starving). She also mentioned that she had just turned 18 so I assume she has been reading these books for awhile. I did not know anything about the book Living Dead Girl so, of course, I looked it up. It was written by a woman named Elizabeth Scott (above, right) and was published in 2008. It is the story of a ten year old girl who is kidnapped by a man named Ray who uses her as a sexual slave until she is fifteen when he begins to lose interest in her (Lolita was 12 when Humbert took her and sixteen when he began to lose interest.) Descriptions of the book are disturbing to me but what is even more disturbing is that it listed as a Young Adult book – its target audience being “Grade 9 and up.” Honestly, I just don't know what to say about this.
The customer reviews for Living Dead Girl on both Amazon and Goodreads are mixed – some are horrified by it, others praise it. Most everyone compliments the writing and the quality of the storytelling but the reactions to the content are mixed. Some find it too graphic, others not explicit enough. As I thought about this I did a little exploring on Amazon and came across a few more novels that deal with sexually abused adolescents – Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss and Stolen by Lucy Christopher among them. I have not read these books and I am only going by the Product Descriptions and the Reader Comments but it seems there is an entire genre going on here that I was oblivious to: Girl Kidnap and Rape Novels. They are very popular to judge by their Amazon ranking and are getting high ratings.
I'll be honest – this bothers me a lot. On the one hand I feel we live in a time when the abuse and sexual exploitation of girls is so ubiquitous that I am gratified to know that people are writing books about it and readers are responding to them. However, I also worry about the eroticization of the kidnap and rape of young girls and how this will operate in the psyche of the young people who read them. This is uncomfortable territory for me. I'm opposed to censorship but I fear that girls who do not have good parental guidance will read these books and sublimate the helplessness, submission, and powerlessness into their own sexual development.
My eighteen year old anonymous commenter also said: if you're like me and you say f*ing instead of making love, bite, lick, and don't mind a few bruises as battle scars of a great lay, then you should look into the forced romance scene. While I've never thought of myself as a starry-eyed romantic when it comes to sex I'm not particularly interested in “battle scars” either. But more than anything it is unsettling to me that girls are reading about “forced romance” (shouldn't that be an oxymoron?) and finding it arousing.
There is something wrong here and I'm a little appalled to think that maybe I'm just too old to even understand it.
Thanks for reading.