S. K. Nicholls had a great post the other day about sexuality and author responsibility. This is a topic pretty near and dear to my heart, because I spent a lot of time worrying about the sexuality in Asylum/Havenverse. More on line with this post, I worry about Rain’s story leading younger fans to Asylum before they are ready for it.
There is a line, I can’t say at what age it happens, but somewhere in there, you’re just ready to handle grown up ideas. Before then, you’re not. What happens to your brain when you cross the line before you’re ready?
I really can’t say. I feel like I grew up with a pretty atypical mature understanding of the world, so I can’t really relate. But I know that 12 year old girls don’t need to read about casual rape in a non-violence setting. …I feel like that needs a bit of explaining. There’s the “This is a bad thing! The bad guy is doing a bad thing, and it’s an EVENT! and unusual and violently set apart in the story as a one off” and then there’s “This is just the way the world works. You understand that the event is bad because you’re mature enough to get that, but there’s nothing directly in the context that says this is a bad guy doing a bad thing. Everyone is acting so normal, even the one being raped, because for them, it is normal.” That’s a special kind of horror on its own, but what I worry about is teaching young people that rape is ok. That rape happens. And that everyone is just normal about it.
Yes, these characters are bad guys. Yes, they are punished/stopped eventually. But no, it’s not in a “This is the moral of the story” kinda way – the world just happens. The good guys get the upper hand and they stop the bad guys from doing bad things. But no where in there is there are “Rape is Wrong. Seriously, don’t rape each other.”
This is just one example, and its the one that bothers me a lot. I don’t have a problem exposing kids to polyamoury, bisexuality, open relationships, casual sex, sex as food or any number of “amoral” things my characters do, because I don’t believe they’re wrong. Rape is always wrong. But if I bundle that in with all that, what is it saying? What is it teaching younger readers?
What is the right answer?