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Please note that this episode may contain content that could upset some listeners. Audience discretion is advised.
Late in 2016 I stumbled across a post on Tor.com entitled ‘Do Better: Sexual violence in SFF‘ by Sarah Gailey and I knew I had to interview her for Breaking the Glass Slipper. I wasn’t disappointed. My chat with Sarah is easily one of my favourite episodes so far, despite the uncomfortable subject matter. The reliance on sexual violence as a way to create character motivation is a widespread problem in genre fiction, one that needs rectifying, and this podcast is the perfect place to kick off such discussions.
While we see this problematic trope most commonly in regards to sexual violence against women, we want to make sure that we remain aware of violence against men, LGBTQ+, and other minorities as well.
Sarah and I try to get to the bottom of why so many writers use sexual violence as a way to provide character motivation and depth and whether there is anything innate in SFF genres that makes this trope so easy to fall back on. Why is sexual violence so often presented as a given in entirely fictional worlds where gender power dynamics don’t necessarily need to be as they are in our world? Why is it rarely used as an examination of our culture? And is it ever ok to use sexual violence in storytelling?
Sexual violence and its common use in narrative is not only an issue for women but a complicated and detrimental one for men too. This is an example of toxic masculinity at its worst.
Texts mentioned in this episode include:
- Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey
- The Walking Dead
- Necrotech by K.C. Alexander
- The Crying Game
Sarah Gailey is a Bay Area native and an unabashed bibliophile, living and working in beautiful Oakland, California. She enjoys painting, baking, vulgar embroidery, and writing stories about murder and monsters. Her fiction has been published internationally; her most recent credits include Mothership Zeta, Fireside Fiction, the Colored Lens, and the Speculative Bookshop Anthology. Her nonfiction has been published by Mashable, Tor.com, and the Boston Globe. You can find links to her work at www.sarahgailey.com. She tweets about dogs and makes dad jokes @gaileyfrey.
River of Teeth is published on May 23rd, 2017 from Tor.com publishing. Pre-order now (I mean, HIPPO COWBOYS!!)! UK | US
Please note that Sarah’s bio and pronouns were correct at the time of publication. Now, Sarah uses the they/them pronouns.
I heartily agree. So far, only one person has had even a minor quibble about the generalized equality inherent in the world I created (because medievaloid apparently meant sexual inequality as a given for them, but they did admit that since it was my world, I had the right to do it.
Someone else called it “postfeminist lfantasy lit”…which is as good a description as any, I guess.