Racism, Rape Fantasies, and Free Speech
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree and Rising.
Someone asked me about Imus’ racist comments and I rolled my eyes because I didn’t have a clue what they meant. Just one of the stupider things I’ve missed by not watching TV or listening to the radio much lately. In fact, I had to go look it up online to find out what he’d said, and that’s more attention than I’ve given him in at least the past 5 years.
Is Imus racist? I don’t know. And I don’t care. Lots of people are racist and are smart enough to keep their mouths shut in public, but boy, does it come out behind closed doors! There are also lots of people who say ignorant uninformed things publicly about my religion or even me as a person and they’re not getting fired, censored, or punished in any way. Why not? Because of Freedom of Speech.
To the people who keep asking me if I think Imus was rightly punished, my answer is no, I don’t. I think the correct punishment is to let the marketplace decide. If you don’t like what he said, don’t listen to him or support his sponsors.
I’ve been much more caught up in a…somewhat…similar discussion going on in two of the online writers’ communities I’ve been part of for 15 years and for 2 years, respectively, where there’s a hullabaloo going on right now about whether romance authors should ever include rape fantasies in their books or risk being tossed out of the official romance writers’ club.
Huh? Ironically, most of the people complaining about the historical novel that’s causing the upset have not even read the book. And no, I haven’t read it either though a reader who loved the book and whom I trust has given me a very good description of the plot. But then, I don’t have to read it. I don’t have to insist that others not read it either.
But watching other authors insist what should or should not be included in a book that’s officially in the romance genre is intriguing. There’s the belief among some writers that romance novels should include one (count’em, one) legally unmarried man (yes, a male with a penis) and one (count ‘em again, just one) legally unmarried woman with all the appropriately working parts as well and even better if she’s a virgin but if not, then no more than 1 lover per decade in her past. No gay couples, no erotica, no threesomes, no affairs, no aliens in cat form with long rough tongues. To some people who write romance, the romance has to look a certain way—their way, both personally and professionally in what they write.
Those who would never put a rape fantasy their own novels would like to ban other writers from putting rape fantasies in their books. And I admit, I can count on one hand the number of romance novels with rape fantasies that I know have been published since 1980, despite that silly bodice-ripper image from a zillion years ago.
Do some women have rape fantasies? Even self-confident no-way-in-hell-gonna-like-that-in-real-life women? Yep. Though women I’ve heard say so aren’t talking about toothless, pocked marked, disease-ridden old men or date-rape scenarios or anything that keeps them awake with nightmares for years. The fantasy is mostly a safe game or a well-plotted scene. Psychologically, there’s….
Well, who cares? Everybody has their own fantasies and if that’s what someone wants to read, let them. And if that’s what someone wants to write, let them.
If the romance genre is to include novels with scenes of rape fantasies, menage-a-trois romps, bdsm, lesbian lovers, long-dead vampire princes, or earnest Christian saving-it-for-marriage-and-for-each-other characters, I applaud it. But then, I’m very accepting of people with different tastes and different opinions as long as they don’t overrun me personally and try to decide what I can and can’t read or listen to on TV or…think.
As for Imus and the romance genre, I say let the market decide. Reprimand Imus for his insults and let him stay on the air for all those who want whatever brand of bullshit he pushes. If enough people vote with their support or lack thereof, his fate on the air will be decided without the burst of passion. And if enough people aren’t interested in a book with a rape fantasy in it, then the publisher can’t afford to print more of that ilk.
We like to preach tolerance but most of us have no tolerance for people who aren’t “tolerant” or don’t think exactly as we do.