1. Chameleon

    Chameleon New Member

    Dec 18, 2012
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    Tricky situation to write from; (sexual abuse related)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chameleon, Dec 18, 2012.

    First of all, hello, I am new here! I found this site while trying to search for opinions on how to write for sexual abuse.
    The problem I am having is a bit different than the thread I found on here about writing for a character's backstory, though.
    I will note that I am writing from experience.

    First of all, the scene I am concerned about writing takes place in the story, not a flashback or backstory in any way.
    My character that goes through this is an adult. The abuser is an adult. It is an ongoing situation throughout the whole story, but is only referenced specifically in one scene (the others are implied).
    It is important to the plot. The main themes of the story are about what to sacrifice for the sake of ambition: my main character is studying under this famous composer who is the abuser in this situation. My main character's decision on how to deal with the situation is important because he chooses to stay in the situation for the sake of continuing to work under his teacher (the horror of it only really hits him later), basically forsaking his physical autonomy for his ambition.

    Well, actually I am editing my story I did for Nanowrimo. So it is technically already written but I am going back and trying to fix things.


    The scene in question where I did end up referencing it is it is the first time that initiates the relationship. And my main character ends up convincing himself to go through with it despite being essentially terrified. He keeps on telling himself that he has to overcome his hesitation if he wants to move forward with his life, feeling like hesitation was always what was holding him back in the past.

    The problem is trying to avoid making it sexualized while still not going into full on horrifying. My story is written from first person, the main character and victim of the abuse is the one narrating. So if he is telling himself that he is fine with it at the time of the event, if he is not really absorbing the reality of the situation until it hits him later, then it wouldn't really be something he would describe as intensely troubling. Even if he does, it would be to a lesser extent than you would expect of him. But on the other hand, it shouldn't be written like a normal sex scene either, there shouldn't be any allowance in the writing to lead the reader to think it is supposed to be "sexy", because as it is right now, it just seems like a case of dubious-consent, which is something that has been seen to be sexualized in other media.

    I could cut it off, I guess, just include the first part of it, but originally I tried to write the entire thing. Originally it ended up doing this pendulum thing in the writing where it started off being more intense and troubling, went to more sexualized, then went back to being troubling. But I really don't feel like either solution really works.

    It is just I am having trouble finding some middle ground. Any opinions?

    My apologies for this being difficult to understand. I have trouble organizing my thoughts a lot of the time.
  2. SuperVenom

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Nov 11, 2010
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    South Wales
    Wow harsh subject matter but brave. From what i gather you main problem is trying not to make the scene seem overtly sexual, and wanting to portray it as an ordeal instead. I think it helps that you are using 1st person perspective, as you can keep noting back to any disgust, anger or fear the protagonist my feel. This would help quash any sexual overtones. Treat the act as mundane and cold. It is hard because at the end of the day it is still writing about sex and the readers will still see that. Another way would be to not actually go through with the act but subtly allude to the act. And then have the protagonist shown emotionally broke, in pain or disgusted. The readers aren't silly they will guess what happened. I would say Google scenes but be careful not to look like a serial killer doing it lol. But i bet there are plenty of people here who can name couple of novels to look at. An example would be in a child called it. Though I think its more physical abuse.
  3. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    Your story sounds very interesting to me. Now to your question - you could have him describe factually what happened, only briefly. You won't want to dwell on it, but at the same time you won't be able to stop yourself from dwelling on it. I'd describe his uncertain and troubled emotions, while having the abuser's dialogue shown to the reader.

    I found it so interesting I typed up my own version based on what I think you want - hope you don't mind. If it's something you can use, great. If not, well I had fun writing anyway. I typed it out just now, so I'm not saying it's great, but it does demonstrate my idea of the abused's body language and description in contrast to the teacher's "kind" appearance. (note: I've never written anything on sexual abuse before)

  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    My recommendation is: know your audience. You have to know what your readership (and your publisher/editor) will accept, and what works for one audience won't fly with another.

    You won't please everyone, but pissing off everyone is not good either. Unfortunately, there's no magic formula for finding the best middle ground.

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