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warn: discussion of sexual assault in fiction

The past few days I've been a bit more stressed than usual. Part of it is due to coming off of a big project, and part of it, I suspect, is due to my lunchtime book: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

In common with many other feminist science fiction authors, Jemisin deals with rape culture in the context of dystopian forces, including imperialism, racism, and sexism. And let's be clear, unlike many other authors in the speculative fiction world, Jemisin is pretty damn careful about not using rape and abuse either for titillation or as a "kick the puppy" moment to prove the villainy of a character. I have to take Alan Moore at arms length because of how he frequently deals with sexuality. Jemisin wrote on this issue with a previous series:

There’s only one way to get rid of rape culture: acknowledge it. Discuss it. Subvert it. Don’t stop talking about or even depicting sexual violence — just try to do these things in a way that does not at the same time perpetuate it.

I appreciate what Jemisin, and Butler, Atwood, Tepper, and Slonczewski write regarding rape culture and abuse. But when I encounter it as a survivor, I have to do conscious work to process that particular scene. If I'm reading that text out of professional or academic obligation, I will make space to do that. But if it's just for entertainment, well, I need to make a choice about whether I really want to tackle what is going to be a difficult text. I'll probably tackle Fifth Season at some point in the future, but not this week.

That's why I take advantage of content warnings. It's not about keeping myself in a bubble, but about giving me a fair estimate about how much work I'll need to understand a particular text.

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