Rant #6: Fiction And Reality

It scares me that there are some people who can't differentiate between fiction and reality.

And I'm not talking about someone who reads a story and then goes out and does whatever the story suggested. I'm talking about the people who believe that if someone writes about incest, rape, murder, homosexuality, or anything else that the people in question find "squicky," then the writer bears the moral responsibility for the reader.

People aren't programmed like machines. I highly doubt there's a one-to-one correspondence between someone reading a violent story and then doing violence. In spite of all the studying they've done, they've yet to turn up correlations between rape and pornography, much less violent stories and murders. Do all murderers read detective novels? I doubt it. Then does that mean that someone will read a fic about incest and promptly decide to have sex with a relative?

NO.

The boundaries between fiction and reality are perhaps thin in some places, but I would hope that someone retains enough sense to differentate between words on the printed page or screen, and actions done outside them. Lately I've been reading far too many outcries of "If you write about rape, the readers will decide to rape!" or "Nobody should write about incest because there are so many people who have been abused by their relatives!"

To these people I would like to say one thing:

Do you really think that if people stop writing stories about these things, they'll stop happening?

I would laugh in the face of anyone who suggested that when people didn't write about rape, rape didn't happen. Absence of talk about incest would seem to help mask the fact that incest did go on, rather than squashing it. I don't understand people who think that making words vanish, or restricting the topics that people write about, will stop real-life actions. What about all the people who have gone along their merry way and committed child abuse without ever reading all that "EEEVIIIL" Harry Potter/Snape slash?

Now, admittedly, I'm probably over-sensitive to the problem. I'm currently writing a novel that features an incestuous relationship, a consensual one and one entered into with full knowledge, between brother and sister. I've slapped all the warnings I can think of on it, including in the summary and author's notes, and it happens on another world and in a non-human society. There's even a supposedly sane viewpoint to balance out the two 'insane' ones. In spite of all that, or because of it, I've had readers who assured me they liked the characters participating in the incest better. Does that mean they would approve of an incestuous relationship in real life? I doubt it. Does that mean someone would object to my story because, in their view, I'm not treating this subject with the "sensitivity" it deserves?

Oh, probably!

I see this attitude as the same one, at bottom, that would insist all fiction should be realistic, or all fiction should be Christian, or all romance stories should only focus on heterosexual couples. People get intensely worked up about personal issues: abuse, religion, politics, ethical beliefs, and on and on. That's their right. But insisting that everyone else should conform to their views, and therefore not write about certain things unless they do it in the "right" way?

Why?

Is it really so hard to hit the back button on your browser if you don't like something? I know that I don't hang around fundie sites that condemn me for being an atheist except for shits and giggles, and then I go into it with full knowledge of what I'm getting into. If I find myself getting upset, I leave. Similarly, if I'm looking for fic and stumble on warnings that would irritate me, I leave. Would it really be so hard for these people who disapprove of Weasleycest fics, or RPS, or slash, or het, or whatever these people happen to object to, to do the same?

No, apparently not. The whole Internet must be made safe for their tender eyes, and because they can't distinguish between people writing about certain topics and people actually doing them, they use that as an excuse to protest "But you're encouraging [name of squick]!"

There. Phew.

Probably a little wanky, but it's out.