14 May

Shaming Your Heroine

NSFW: Bad language ahead.

I want to rant about a book. I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the book that I want to read, that I’m probably never going to write, but that I wish someone would write.

In that book, someone tries to shame a girl. Let’s say her ex-boyfriend posts pictures of her giving him a blowjob on the internet. Revenge porn, that’s what it’s called.

But this girl, unlike Jessica Logan and Audrie Pott and Hope Witsell (Note: just the top three found after searching “teenage girl suicide naked photos” on google, without even leaving the first page)… this girl says, “Oh, hell, no.”

This girl goes straight to the ex-boyfriend and says, “Dude, you get those photos down or you are never having sex in this town again.” Turns out it’s too late–it’s always too late–so she does what she says she’s going to do.

She gets her sisters–not literal sisters, but women who are sympathetic, which is what, all of us, except the very few evil ones?–to plaster the campus in posters. Maybe even her pictures, with the most x-rated bits blacked out, his parts circled and the heading, “John Smith. The kind of guy who takes photos and puts them on the internet without permission.” Or “John Smith. He’s the kind of p***ck who posts photos of his girlfriends on the internet. It’s ’cause he doesn’t know how to use his.”

She buys the domain names for his name, all of them, and posts his image, with a detailed listing of what he did, including the number of times she’s had to hear about her photo from friends and acquaintances and how she feels it may affect her future. She ends the post, on all the domain names, with “Warning: Sleeping with this man may lead to future humiliation and pain. (And won’t get you off. He’s a lousy fuck.)” She looks into SEO optimization and learns how to make her pages the top hits on every google search for his name. Every future employer, every future girlfriend, will find her pages first.

And then she gets nasty. Every time she sees him, she makes the circled finger blowjob motion with one hand and a hard slashing knife motion with the other. She gets her girlfriends to do the same. They get their girlfriends to do the same. Pretty soon, every woman on campus, at the sight of John Smith, the crappy smug ex-boyfriend who thought it would be funny to post her picture online, threatens to castrate him. But not with words, just with a gesture. He complains, of course. People get called into the president’s office. But the women go with wide-eyed innocence and start making their moves more subtly.

He gets nasty, too, of course. That would be inevitable. But she’s been waiting for it and the moment he threatens her, she slaps a restraining order on him. Clever girl, she was carrying a recording device in her pocket and caught the threat on audio recording. (Digital, I’m sure–probably just her iphone, ready to go at the click of a button.) She never goes anywhere alone and she lets him know that if he violates the restraining order, she’ll be perfectly happy to kneecap him with the gun she carries with her.

Meanwhile, when her English teacher gives her the look–you know the one–she looks back at him steadily. Should he even hint at something, she says, acid in her voice, “Been looking at porn, Mr. Jones? I wonder how the administration would feel about that. I hope you haven’t been doing it on your work computer.” He’ll think twice before he tries again.

Books that slut-shame girls by making them think they should be humiliated by photos of themselves engaged in sexual behavior are supporting the culture that tells girls to kill themselves over those photos. I want someone to write the book that tells them to get angry instead. Tells them to be furious at the betrayal of their right to privacy, of their ability to trust. Tells them that there is nothing, nothing, NOTHING wrong with the sight of their naked bodies and that what is very, very, VERY wrong is the behavior of a guy who would share a private moment with the world without permission.

I want someone to write this book. It would be so much more useful to the New Age readers than the books that encourage them to think that their lives are over if people they know see pictures of them engaged in sexual activity.

Rant over.

5 thoughts on “Shaming Your Heroine

  1. If no one is going to write the book, maybe you can get the story out there as a short. It comes across very forcefully – and so it should do.

    • I might give it a try. It would be very different from anything I’ve written or am writing, but I found myself thinking about it while I walked the dogs this morning and often that’s a sign that the words will need to make it through the keyboard eventually. I pictured the heroine as a tall, blonde, Texan who grew up with brothers and part of the dynamic being her telling her brothers to f-off, she didn’t need them to protect her honor. A sorority girl, the kind that never leaves the house without lipstick on. So far from me that it is an absurd picture. But it might be fun. And let me work out a lot of fury about the state of New Age Romance. I am so TIRED of women as victim in our own stories, having to work out our victim-hood through the love of a better man. It’s just gross.

    • Oh, yeah, all of those teenage girls–if you read the stories, it was not just one random guy, it was the way the entire community behaved. But that’s why it’s time to start modeling something different. New Age heroines who wallow in shame teach teenage girls that shame is how you’re supposed to feel when someone does something awful to you. It’s not that I think genre fiction is supposed to be “message” fiction, but I am really tired of the messages that we are sending instead.

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