kaigou: this is what I do, darling (W] vortex of stupidity)
[personal profile] kaigou
I'm not going to name names here, so if you know the title, keep it to yourself. I just need to get this out of my system, and perhaps we'll all learn from someone else's actions so we don't ever make the same stupid offense ourselves.

Recently I picked up a title that looked promising, or maybe I was just really bored, or perhaps it was that you just don't see too many stories where one of the characters is dealing with PTSD. I don't mind digging for gold even amongst the crack, but I couldn't make it past the first chapter or so.

First, author dearest, when you write any kind of bondage club and you have Joe Character walk in and order not just an alcoholic beverage but the entire bottle, right there I say WOAH. There's a reason most cultures are very much against the drunk-driving thing: slower reflexes, bad depth perception, inability to make clear and conscientious decisions... so how is it that alcohol could, in ANY way, be a good idea prior to, oh, getting tied up and whapped?

Sure, this is fiction, and if the story were marked as fantasy I might be able to rationalize that in that world, "vodka" is another name for "colored water." Unfortunately for you, the story ain't, and vodka ain't, and I just can't get around the utter stupidity of a person doing that, let alone a good friend (the bartender) enabling him to do that.

It adds insult to injury when the characters actually agree on a safe word. There's a reason the laws regard someone's ability to say 'yes' as questionable once the person has ingested alcohol or drugs. And, too, a reason plenty of people still consider 'no' to be of dubious value when a person is drunk. The logic's the same: s/he is drunk, so s/he doesn't mean what s/he's saying -- and I'd expect a bartender, of all the people, to know this best. Add in the fact that legally (and physically) alcohol reduces your mental and legal capacity to consent, and the author's just turned a crucial element of a safe BDSM scene into a farce.

Anyway, that aside, all it took was a single statement and I made it another page before saying, wait just a minute: did the author just say what I think was said? I'm going to attempt a rough paraphrase, rather than quote, just for the sake of some last diplomacy:

...while a hostage, his keepers whipped him, something most likely to stimulate him and least likely to break him...

That's like saying, "oh, I've always really enjoyed sex, so being raped wasn't traumatic at all."

I remain boggled by this. I can see (in both fiction and real life) how sometimes you need to re-experience something that had once been enjoyable, then been twisted and agonized by a painful experience -- like re-mapping the brain's wiring to recall the pleasure that had once existed. But this isn't the same at all; this is dismissing, entirely, such a negative and horrendous experience on the grounds that it's, y'know, the same thing.

It's not. It's not at all. To think so, to even imply so, isn't just utterly bastardizing the positive aspects of D/s, or S/m, or even sex (to extend the analogy) into something that's basically the same thing as the worst-case violence one can imagine (that of torture). It's also completely trivializing the experience of torture, itself -- which is very much a kind of rape. It's a violation, on a physical, emotional, and psychological level, on a par, I'd say, with the sexual (and psychological and physical) violation that takes place during rape.

Certainly, plenty of people have rape fantasies, but I have yet to meet anyone who wanders down dark alleys in hopes of actually, y'know, being raped. They're more likely to act such out with trusted lovers, which means underneath all the play-acting there's an element of trust, and the ability to call a halt. Good luck calling a halt when you're being tortured/raped by a stranger. It's just not the freaking same at all.

When I discussed this with CP, he suggested it's a sign of the author's ignorance, while I say it's beyond that, it's got to be a willful ignorance. Torture has been such a massive conversation-piece in the Western world for the past few years -- you would have to be living under a damn rock to have missed all the debate. CP's thought was that perhaps the author figured (similar to folks with rape-fantasies) that having never actually experienced it, and having some part of his/her psyche turned on by the fantasy version, that the author couldn't comprehend the actual event being a bad thing.

[ETA: If that's true, we've gone past willfully ignorant into terminally stupid.]

To which I say, that's bullshit. I would hope that the authors of my favorite thrillers have never killed anyone, or heisted a million dollars, or set off bombs in a fancy hotel, but the authors are certainly able to extrapolate -- from research, and from considering their own reaction to the situation and context -- and create as close-to-likely storyline as one could desire, short of actual first-hand experience. If an author can't damn well extrapolate to come up with a pretty good idea of what X would really be like, then s/he is failing on one of the most fundamental skills that an author must have.

More likely the author was just being lazy: oh, I want the character to have X and Y symptoms of PTSD, but I don't want to actually have to deal with the attendant difficulties of someone whose favorite past-time has been twisted into a perverted form of itself. In other words, let's give this guy some angst, but, y'know, not too much.

The worst part, if you ask me? The fact that we have soldiers who are overseas, in war zones, who are returning with PTSD. Some from the battlefront, some from possibly being in hostage situations (or similarly life-and-death not-in-own-control terrors), or even possibly suffering from the psychological damage of having been the captors themselves. And while this is definitely a story written for a female audience, I can't help but wonder how many potential readers have spouses, siblings, friends, or lovers who might be returning with that kind of damage to the psyche. I'm not saying it'd be all the readers, but still, it's incredibly offensive to those who aren't so ignorant as the writer.

The fact that a writer can't see past his/her own nose to recognize that context is such a huge part of things is both an insult to the trauma suffered by survivors of hostage-situations, torture, and rape -- and it's a massive insult to those who practice BDSM and respect the importance of trust and clear-minded negotiation for the sake of mutual pleasure and healthy power-exchanges.

Well, like the use of alcohol as an accepted, even expected, aspect of a BDSM scene wasn't insult enough, I suppose.

So, to sum... dear author: please stop helping. REALLY. Neither the military nor the BDSM world needs this travesty. In fact, your story reveals such complete disrespect and contempt for its characters and their situations that it leaves me speechless.

As for the rest of you: I catch you doing this, and I will be forced to tie you down and make you watch the entire final season of Fantasy Island. Five times.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
Well put.

And, a lot of full time writers _do_ life under rocks. I've been to cons where I heard the amount of time since certain of them last left their house measured in months, some double digit lengths.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Granted I'm not the most social person myself (and it doesn't help that I telecommute, too), but still -- you've got news on the teevee, on the radio, on blogs and the internet. If I can pick up on the information -- sans TV, sans radio-listening, sans socializing -- then I'd figure those who do get those additional resources are even more inundated, and I'm already saturated myself.

Which is to say: no, not an excuse. And triply so when we just went through a long election cycle in which torture was a massive (and internationally-watched and -discussed) topic of the campaigns.

I've also met folks who were born in Rhode Island and are now in their fifties and have never left the state. (Yes, the mind boggles.) But that doesn't mean they don't know what's going on outside their state's borders.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
I didn't say it was an excuse, just a reality. A somewhat disappointing reality but hardly shocking given the entropically increasing number of ways homo sapiens find to refute the designation.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] onyxhawke.livejournal.com
oh yeah, can I link to this?

Date: 2 Jul 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Of course! No need to ask, even.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feochadn.livejournal.com
Thanks for this. I find your posts really interesting and thought provoking. But...
Why the reluctance to name names? This reads to me as something of a review/anti-rec, and as someone (like you) who WOULD pick this up for the subject matter, headsup on blatant stupidity are always appreciated.
I understand the concern when you're discussing authorial intent (and lazyiness) but maybe they should be called on it?
Just wondering.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
If you msg me privately, then I'd answer with title. But publicly, I don't think (in some cases) it does much good; it seems to me that then it becomes a matter of this book gets it wrong while my goal is to consider the universal application. This particular instance, not so with the graceful on that -- since the example & context is a bit specific -- but I do prefer to at least try.

If I didn't write, myself, or I had my writing completely divorced from this journal's name-recognition, I might not care so much, perhaps. But I don't, and I don't, so I do. Or at least I try.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clarentine.livejournal.com
In the interests of getting it right, would you recommend any particular works of fiction as depicting PTSD correctly?

Date: 2 Jul 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
I'm sure there's some. If I come across any, I'll let you know.

Date: 2 Jul 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clarentine.livejournal.com
Or even nonfiction, I guess - since I haven't myself had to deal with that issue personally, I'm not sure how else I do get it right. It would be very uncomfortable to go up to someone I know who has suffered from PTSD and interrogate them on their feelings. *g* Thanks for your help in ensuring versimilitude!

Date: 2 Jul 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taraljc.livejournal.com
I borrowed a bunch of books from [livejournal.com profile] amilyn at one point, and I think this was the most sueful (http://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Recovery-Aftermath-Violence-Political/dp/0465087302/) (tho I can't remember for 100% sure, becasue it was a few years back). I can check with ehr tho. Also not specifically PTSD, but After Silence (http://www.amazon.com/After-Silence-Rape-Journey-Back/dp/0609804197) and Recovering from Rape (http://www.amazon.com/Recovering-Rape-Linda-E-Ledray/dp/0805029281/) had indepth looks at trauma and PTSD as well.

Date: 3 Jul 2009 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clarentine.livejournal.com
I think I'm going to look for the Judith Herman book at the library. Thanks for the links!

Date: 3 Jul 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Ah, I knew there was a good post on it, too. Look back through [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanjia's posts, I think it was, b/c I'm pretty sure she's the one who had the three-parter on PTSD.

Date: 3 Jul 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clarentine.livejournal.com
Those, I read and bookmarked. So rare, that glimpse inside!

Date: 3 Jul 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
hokuton_punch: Text icon captioned "Unfailingly delighted by the absurd." (Default)
From: [personal profile] hokuton_punch
... duly noted. o.O (Lord, that does sound like a pile of stupid...)

Date: 3 Jul 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Well, I can't speak for the rest of it, since I read no further. But that much? Yeah.