Seven days ago, Missouri Republican Todd Akin made a comment about rape. He said that woman who are raped can't get pregnant because their bodies shut down.
He was using this pseudo science to argue against abortion but instead ended up creating a firestorm of bad press. Shuana Pruitt responded with a very strongly worded open letter. Obama and Mitt Romney both asked Akin to withdraw from the election. And some very angry grannies made a song.
An acquaintance told me a story about the time she was raped only she didn't call it rape. It was just a bad experience with sex. The story she told, the details she gave cut me to the bone. It wasn't a story like you'd see on Law and Order special victims or that long drown out violent seen in The Last House on the Left. It was messy, filled with strange choices and she never tried to escape. Part of it was, she didn't know this is what rape looked like. Books, movies, TV have a tendancy to portray one kind of rape, the violent kind. Since her experience did not fit any the scenarios she associated with rape, she, herself, did not connect her experience with that word. After listening to her story, I wanted to change that. But what can I do, I thought. What can I really do? I felt impotent and then I realized I could write.
I decided to write a story based loosely on her experience where the rape is not black or white. I wanted to write a story for young woman in their late teens and early twenties so that they would have another picture of what rape is. To know what it is because knowledge is power.
I wrote Boys as Nice as John. The working title was Misty and after I wrote it I was so embarrassed, I put it away. I put it away for six months. Then one day while I was messing around with our computer-- I had hers and she had mine and we were going through each others files. My friend suddenly said, "What's this?"
I leaned over and to my horror she had located my ideas file and inside that file she had zeroed in on the sub file called "Trash Stories."
"A lot of these are trash, but this one isn't. You need to publish this. You really do." There was a tear in her eye. "My experience wasn't exactly like this, but, gosh I've never seen anything like this in fiction. I just haven't. I wish I'd read stuff like this so I'd know what was happening."
This was a much closer friend the first. Her response cut me to the bone in a different way. Here I was sitting on this story that had the power to do what I had intended; create a dialogue that asks the question. "What does rape look like?" j
I submitted the story for critique and I got the most responses I've ever gotten on any story. Overall, the response to the topic was positive. Obviously it need polishing and stuff. And yet, I was still shocked by some of the comments. One review wrote that the MC shouldn't have gone to bed with boys so easily. In the story Misty has had sex three times prior to being raped. Once with her high-school sweetheart and twice with a college boyfriend.
Another person said this story horrified him, that as a man this was the kind of thing he feared and to see on paper like this made him uncomfortable. After critique, I sent Boys as Nice as John out to dozens of magazines. The form rejections started rolling in and one magazine said they just couldn't publish a story with this content.
Finally, I settled on publishing the story in Midday Musings which to date has sold zero copies. Though, to be fair I also made zero effort to promote said book and I recently pulled the book from publication.
As Stephen King once wrote, the most important things to say, are hardest things to say. Of all the things I've written this story was the hardest and it still isn't exactly what I wanted. At it's best, it's a reflection of an idea. But even for what it is, it might be the most important thing I've every written and it's still gathering dust. So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to post it here for free and make a free e-book to night after work. I ask you to share it. I ask you to send it to all your friends and family and start asking the question, "What does rape look like?"
Boys as Nice as John