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Squeamish?

Squeamish?

Monday, September 14, 2009
Posted in: Azteclady Speaks, random musings

(If you are, you may want to skip this one)

My beloved and I are reading Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth right now. Or rather, he’s been reading it out loud to me for the past two weeks (if you don’t know, that thing is massive—983 pages of tightly crammed text). I aim to write a review whenever we are done with it, though I can advance the hint that if you don’t like a lot of description in your narrative, this one is probably not for you.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because today we reached a scene where I had to ask Issek to stop. Just flat out, I couldn’t handle what I knew was coming.

A rape.

I am not naturally squeamish. Not only do I enjoy visually gory shows, such as CSI or Bones, but have no trouble reading violent scenes, and I have read rape scenes before. It’s not by any means something I like, but I have read them and have had no more than emotional discomfort—sometimes acute, but only an emotional reaction.

Not today. Today, I felt physically ill once I realized what was coming, and had to stop him from reading further, while trying not to burst into tears.

Overreacting much?

Or perhaps I’m hormonal?

I honestly cannot tell you.

It could be that it’s not the same to read violence against women on my own—or watch it on a screen, “outside” as it were—than to listen to the man I love describing it.

It could be that, while I won’t call Follet the best at writing characters, he takes pains to give the reader both the victim and the perpetrator’s point of view—which means being inside the rapist’s head as he is enjoying the victim’s fear and horror.

I don’t know. I only know that today, I just couldn’t handle it.

Has this ever happened to you?

21 Comments »

  • It happens to me all the time- any rape scene, be it in a book, movie or tv show. As a rape survivor, it all too easily takes me back there. I’m generally okay as long as it’s only mentioned in passing, but when the action-so to speak- is being described in detail, I can’t do it.

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  • Oh yes. Right at the beginning of a historical novel I attempted to read ages ago there was a lengthy and detailed torture and rape scene. I didn’t even make it past Chapter 1.

    I read The Pillars of the Earth ages ago, and I have to admit I wasn’t exactly enamoured with it either.

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  • Ah, man. That book. I had a squeamish moment right at the beginning, when the woman has the baby and the father leaves it in the snow, on the dead mother’s belly. And it’s not even as graphic as the rape scene. I don’t know why, but I had to skip some pages.

    I love Follett’s work. But dude, the *size* of his books.

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  • I just don’t *do* violence anymore. Seriously. I don’t read books that have it, don’t watch movies or television shows with it. Especially if it’s violence against women and children.

    Life is full of angst and ick. I don’t need to add extra to mine.

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  • MB (Leah)
    September 14
    1:59 pm

    Heh, I read The Pillars of the Earth way back and all I remember about it is that I didn’t want it to finish even though it’s a long-ass book, because I was so hooked into that story.

    I’ve had strong visceral reactions to violence. Even more so, gross injustice. When people are helpless and or accused and abused for something they haven’t done.

    I watched a movie, or lets say I managed to get through Breaking the Waves. That movie was so intense, the character getting so depraved out of such a deep love and to save her husband that it shattered me, completely shattered me. I stopped watching it to cry on and off until the end. It felt so much like I was actually experiencing these things that the character was going through.

    But it depends on my mood. I had a strong reaction, got physically ill reading one of Shannon McKenna’s books because the hero treated the heroine so basely. After a few months though, I picked up the book again and read it without any problems.

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  • Dead babies. I cannot read them. I was fine with them in my fiction for years and years (not fine, really. But not utterly neurotic) and then, right after my first was born, my husband gave me a copy of Frank McCourt’s book. There’s a dead baby in there and I couldn’t sleep for days. Well, I couldn’t sleep anyway, what with the new baby. But that was the image that kept coming to me. I still have flashbacks.

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  • Wow, what a great book that was. But, yeah, it was long. Try to get past that scene. The rest is sooo good. But he doesn’t shy away from anything. It’s very tough.

    I’m just now trying to get up the oomph to pick up his next one, which is equally as long. Why must this man write such long-ass books?

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  • maddie
    September 14
    3:10 pm

    I guess I’m abnormal, because it does not bother me to read a rape scene in a book, but since I’ve have read one in a while who knows what my reaction will be.

    But I do cry when I watch The Interpreter, the whole premise of the movie is heart wrenching, and Nicholas Nickleby.

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  • Usually graphic scenes don’t usually bother me to the point that I have to skip the part, but it has happened on a couple of occasions.

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  • Lynette
    September 14
    5:43 pm

    That stuff get’s me every time. I’m a wuss. That’s the reason I stopped reading a novel by a romance author whose writing I really love because something similar happened in the first couple chapters of one of her latest books. No matter how I loved the writing, it was too emotional. I couldn’t take seeing a charecter I was invested in going through that. In other words I chickened out and haven’t had the courage to read Chapter 3 even though a lot of people have told me it’s a great book. BTW, I tried to read Pillars of the Earth a couple years ago and couldn’t get into it.

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  • Alexandra
    September 14
    5:46 pm

    I don’t do rape. I can’t. It’s never happened to me or to anyone I know (that I’m aware of), but I just can’t handle anything with rape. I know men can be raped, and women can rape, but it is still mainly a crime against women and I just can’t deal with it.

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  • willaful
    September 14
    6:49 pm

    I get far more upset over awful things in books my husband is reading to me than books I’m reading myself, so I vote for that theory. I stopped him during one of the “Alvin Maker” books, crying “why are you reading me this horrible thing?”

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  • Myra Willingham
    September 14
    9:15 pm

    Rape in a book doesn’t bother me. I don’t like it but I don’t pooh-pooh it, either, if the writer believes it necessary to the storyline.

    I was very put out with one of my authors who described a rape scene in such vivid detail I told her it would be too graphic for a reader to take and might turn that reader off. I argued that the scene was a bit far fetched anyway. Imagine my utter surprise when she told me that was exactly how she had been raped on Thanksgiving Day twenty years earlier…down to the last sick detail.

    Needless to say I have been very careful in not making assumptions that I…who have never had such a terrible thing happen to me…know what rape truly is. There are levels that go far beyond jamming part A into unwilling part B. While is was cathartic for her to write the scene, we eventually compromised and left the majority of it out.

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  • It depends. How’s that for vague? I will say, generally speaking, I can handle just about any amount of violence in my fiction. I might have to put the book down and walk away for a little bit, but I’ll always return to it, assuming the story as a whole is working for me.

    That being said, I’m more of a visual person and cannot handle rape scenes in movies. A prime example? The Accused, for which Jodie Foster won an Oscar. Good movie, she’s incredible in it, but seeing it once was MORE than enough for me. I don’t want or need to see that movie ever again.

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  • Lorraine
    September 14
    11:36 pm

    For some reason rape or forced seduction in romance books doesn’t bother me at all. However, in other genres I can’t stand it because it usually seems more realistic.

    Rape in movies or TV shows is even more difficult for me. I literally feel anxiety in the pit of my belly. I usually just stop watching the show.

    Oddly though, if I’m watching a true crime show that reenacts a rape I make myself watch it. I figure if some poor woman had to live through it the least I can do is spend an hour feeling uncomfortable, considering the fact that she had to actually experience it.

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  • Lorraine
    September 14
    11:37 pm

    Hey, where’d that adorable avatar come from? Thanks to whomever put it there.

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  • Child rape. I’ve only read (skimmed) it in a couple of books and it tears the heart out of me each and every time. I get utterly sick to my stomach. Luckily, it’s not a popular subject matter. :-/

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  • Sarah
    September 15
    2:43 am

    This actually came up, but in a different way, recently, when I was watching Wire In The Blood on Netflix. I rarely read rape scenes in books, somehow it being in my head makes it worse (the only time I can think of was in Alice Seybold’s (?) memoir of her rape, and that freaked me out for days).

    However, I rarely have issues when its on TV, I guess because its sanitized enough that its tolerable. Except in WITB I had to turn it off (after already fast forwarding a bit), and I couldnt eat for awhile. It was too graphic – it was a man being tortured medieval style, and it was too horrifying to see voluntarily.

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  • Rape was the reason that I couldn’t finish ‘The Flame and The Flower’ by Kathleen Woodiwiss. We all have our tipping points.

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  • SamG
    September 15
    2:56 am

    I’m also a ‘depends’. If I’m expecting it in the book (it has serial killers or serial rapists) I can deal pretty well. But, when I’m reading a romance, and the author throws in something vile, I can’t.

    Not that it was a rape, but I have never re-read Blue Smoke by Nora (and I usually do re-read her books). I expect the gritty details of gore, death and sometimes rape in her JD Robb books, but I wasn’t expecting it in a more main stream/romantic suspense book.

    Sam

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  • Kristine
    September 17
    4:43 am

    With me it depends. Like I really couldn’t handle the rape in one Anna Campbell book (I forgot the title) because I felt the rapist (the hero) was not punished for his actions. One of my all time favorite love stories, however, is Special Forces (even though that began with the rape of one hero by another).
    For me, it is more if I feel that the rapist is punished enough for their actions that really influences my take on the book. In Special Forces, the victim gets his revenge. In the Anna Campbell, I think the hero just decided to feel bad about it.

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