Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What the heck???!!

I am currently reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. le Guin.

(le Guin is a favorite author of mine, by the way, and I got this book for a mere 50 cents at a library book sale! Lucky me! :D)

While this is not my favorite book of le Guin's I have definitely been enjoying it, but I got to a part of it a couple days ago that shocked me.


The "hero", if he can be called that anymore, attempted rape.

True, he was drunk, and in his naiveness was unaware that it was impairing his judgment.

True, she initially welcomed his kisses.

True, she did want sex, and was only saying no because she didn't have any birth control on hand at the moment, and didn't want to get pregnant by the hero. (What would her husband think?)

Fact: She said no, and he persisted. I'm pretty sure that, whatever the rest of the circumstances are -- even if she is hoping for sex at another time -- forcing himself on her when she's clearly and forcefully saying no is rape!

(Or is it technically rape when there's no penetration? Either way, it's sexual assault, which is just downright WRONG.)

I've read rape scenes in books before, but none of them have bugged me like this. I actually put my book down for the day when I finished the chapter, trying to process it. I think that what has me perplexed is that this is the "hero" who sexually assaulted a woman.

What the heck, le Guin? What are you doing, or saying, that your "hero" has sexually assaulted a woman? Hopefully I'll figure that out as I finish reading the book.

Or, did you set out to make him an anti-hero in the end, not a hero?

Slight change of direction, or change of book, anyways...

I realized while writing this post that there's another book where this same thing happens: Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey.


In Dragonquest you have Brekke and F'nor. The whole situation is more complicated than the situation in The Dispossessed, and Brekke is in love with F'nor. But make all the excuses you like, the fact is that in Dragonquest F'nor forces himself on Brekke when she's saying no.

F'nor is one of the good guys, by the way, and everyone loves him. Even Brekke, even after he rapes her. He's a "hero."

I'm pretty sure that le Guin and McCaffrey are both feminists. And I'm bemused.

Thoughts, anyone? Have any of you read these books? (If so, please don't give anything away in The Dispossessed past the rape scene since I haven't finished the book.) What do you think these authors are doing??

And I just realized that there's another case of a hero forcing himself on a woman in another of McCaffrey's books, though the woman does in the end say yes. Even so, that he persisted when she initially said no...and in the end did she change her answer to yes because she wanted him, or because she figured she had no choice and may as well make the experience as pleasant as possible?

Sorry if this post doesn't make much sense. My thoughts are scattered!


Carrie said...

There's a similar scene in The Fountainhead. My high school english class had fun debating that one. The narrative shows the thoughts of both characters involved in the scene. The woman is physically saying no and putting up one heck of a fight. But when the narrative discusses her thoughts, she's hoping he won't stop. It was a strange scene. In the end, most people claimed it wasn't a rape at all. But honestly, I think if the man involved had been anyone other than the hero, their opinions might have changed. Everyone wants to believe in the "good guy," but the truth is, no one can ever be completely innocent.

Sarita Rucker said...

I agree.

Sarita Rucker said...

I think I also figured out why le Guin had her character do what he did, and I'm about to write a post about it.


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