Hi, all! It's Kate here. On my personal blog, The Bookshelf, I'm talking about an incredibly important issue: how we model consent and respect in our manuscripts. It's important to me, particularly, because power advantages were a scary part of my high school experience, and I think we really need to slow down and think a bit harder about the finer lines of consent and respect.
Even if you don’t write about young adult relationships, consent and non-consent in fiction needs to be handled intentionally and fairly. Most of us try really hard in our writing to not promote slut-shaming and rape culture and victim-blaming, but writing about healthy, considerate relationships requires more than that.
So what shouldn’t we be doing?
Showing force and manipulation as sexy– sometimes we think hey, isn’t it sexy if he/she wants him/her that badly? And I hope you know the answer there. Selfishness is never sexy.
Allowing our characters to react as if being pressured isn’t a big deal. Power and influence are incredibly strong forces on people, especially young adults, and being pressured for something you’re not ready for is traumatic and frightening. Enough people blow it off already; we shouldn’t let our characters do that, too.
Implying that “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” Playing hard to get can be a fun part of a relationship story, and teasing/flirting can be great. But when you’re building a healthy relationship between your characters and one says no to a date, a call, a text, a kiss, anything– the other one had better respect that. Sometimes we think it’s charming to have the guy take being turned down as an invitation to try harder, and when everyone is well-intentioned and our characters have no ulterior motives, it can be. But in real life, what does that look like? What does that feel like to the person who said no, to know they’re not being taken seriously, that their current wishes aren’t being respected? It’s scary. It’s offensive. We shouldn’t be modeling that as charming. It’s not charming; it’s dangerous.
So what should we be doing?
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