CW: sexual assault in fiction

Two books in a row where I've been reading and enjoying the story when suddenly... I can't even call them "gratuitous" rape scenes.

They feel like they were written as the default. "If I'm writing this kind of story, I have to include rape."
I don't know who needs to hear this, but no. No, you don't.

You can write a perfectly good, powerful story without rape. You can motivate and develop your characters, build your world, create emotion, show good and evil, all without tacking on rape scenes.
"But what about *realism*?"

Rape is a horribly common crime, yes.

Diarrhea is also common. Pretty much everyone has experienced it, yes? Does that mean you have to add a diarrhea scene to every story to make it "realistic"?
The fact that rape is common means your scene is potentially going to reopen wounds for a lot of readers.
There's also a depressing undercurrent of "This is just what guys do."

When these scenes are inserted as the default, it's not just the default of "women get raped." It's also the default of "men rape."
Far too many men--too many people in general--are ill-informed about consent. Too many view sex as a competition, and "no" as a hurdle to be overcome. Far too many men are predators, or defend/excuse predators.

That doesn't mean we have to normalize rape.
It's tiresome. It's hurtful. And most of the time, it's bad, lazy writing.
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