Robin York on Writing the Hard Topics

So right this moment, while I’m writing this blog post, I’m also arguing with someone on Twitter.

I know. I really shouldn’t. But, in my defense, she started it.

*snortlaugh*

What we’re arguing about is revenge porn. I tweeted a supportive comment at Charlotte Laws, whose daughter was a revenge porn target. Laws has been a major player in getting legislation passed to criminalize revenge porn in California. The person who I’m arguing with tweeted back at me, saying that Laws is on a witch hunt and her daughter is responsible for what happened to her.

I pointed out that what Laws’s daughter did was allow nude pictures to happen. What the perpetrator did was intentionally share those nude pictures without her consent with the aim of shaming and harming her.

These two things are not equivalent.

One is, depending on how you look at it, either a neutral act or an act of poor judgment.* The other is an act of violence. Or, if you’re unwilling to classify an attack with no physical component as “violent,” then it is, at least, a form of harassment.

The woman and I have agreed to disagree. I couldn’t change her mind. She couldn’t change mine. We both tried.

Sigh.

Every time revenge porn comes up, this happens. The conversation veers from what was done and who did it to—that is, from the attacker and his attack—to who he did it to and whether or not she deserved it.

It’s called victim-blaming. You may be familiar with it—it’s a classic move in discussions of rape, domestic battery, and countless other forms of violence against women.

The conversational move from talking about revenge porn itself and the need to legislate to prevent it, to talking about revenge porn targets and whether they deserve what happened to them, is exactly, exactly, why I wrote the novel Deeper.

Because I’m tired of it, and because I had something to say, and because I’m lucky enough to have a forum in which I can say it.

I don’t want to suggest that Deeper is an anti-revenge-porn tract, because it’s not. But my hope, certainly, was that I might write a beautiful and affecting love story about two college-age people, and that in the course of fictionalizing how life and its challenges transforms these two characters and teaches them what they need to know to come into their talent, their fierceness, their sense of mission and purpose moving into adulthood — all of that — I might also affect how some of my readers think about revenge porn.

I wanted to make it possible for my readers to walk in the shoes of a revenge porn target. To care about her. To watch someone else care about her, and hear him talk to her, and experience his more-generous perspective.

I wanted my readers, from this place of sympathy with the characters I’d created, to watch my heroine interact with other people whose perspectives are less generous.

I wanted them to be on her side.

This is why I write the hard things. This is why I write the stories that challenge me, and make me cry, and make me angry, and make me frustrated.

This is why I write stories, sometimes, that are unbearably sad. Or dark. Or difficult. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who had an abortion and doesn’t regret it. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who struggles with intimacy following her ex-husband’s infidelity. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who struggles with integrating her sense of self with her motherhood. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who marries a good man and finds herself, ten years later, stuck and drowning, unable to figure out what’s gone wrong with her marriage. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who lacks personal boundaries and uses sex as a tool to obtain approval. It’s why I’ve written a heroine who is a target of revenge porn.

I write these “hard” topics because I want to make a difference, and I also do it because I see myself in all of these characters. Every single one of them.

I want my readers to see themselves in these characters, too, even if they don’t expect they will. Because the thing is? I love these characters. I love these parts of myself, of my life.

I love women — all women — women who make mistakes, women who freeze, women who despair, women who learn, women who are attacked, women who have no fucks to give whatsoever, women who are fierce, women who are sexual, women who are sexually repressed, women who are joyful, women who are ambitious, women who can hardly drag themselves out of bed in the morning, women who are close-minded and judgmental about all the things I think are important. Even them.

I love them, too, and I hope that someday I will write a book that sneaks up on one of those readers and offers her a new perspective.

Or maybe I’ll write a book that speaks to a girl who isn’t a woman yet, and the story I tell will be there in her subconscious when she needs it, and it will cheer her on to fight for herself.

If I sell a hundred thousand books and that happens — even once — that’s a good enough reason enough for me to keep at it.

* Personally, I don’t see a problem with nude pictures. Cave walls have drawings of giant penises on them. Greek vases are adorned with crazy sex images. Looking at images of naked bodies, engaged in sex or not, is a basic human impulse. It isn’t going away, whether we approve of it or not.

Want to read what I have to say about this subject? Check it out over at Robin’s blog.

deeperWhen Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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  1. Gail D says:

    I thank you for writing these kind of stories. To me this is the best kind of story to read. It’s about life, good & bad.

  2. Bette Hansen says:

    Great post! Never stop writing about the “hard” stuff!

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