I’ve been a blogger off and on for 11 years. I never did it with the intent to become well-known. I write because it’s what I do, whether or not anyone reads it. While I am aware that there are people who make a living doing this, it’s not really the norm, nor is it necessarily my goal.
I tend to treat my blog as an online journal, one that I know others will read. Initially, I tried to pretend that it was a real journal. I didn’t name any names, but if you knew me in real life, you could figure out who I was talking about online. Needless to say, that had some real life ramifications. I damaged some friendships and even lost a job, which was more than enough collateral damage for me to rethink what I was doing. That was more than 10 years ago, when hardly anyone was watching. Now, potential employers try to make you reveal your Facebook password so that they can monitor your social media account. That I chose to re-enter this world knowing the kind of scrutiny and harassment I could face says something about my ability to determine acceptable risk and it’s not good.
So, in November 2015 I decided to start a new blog. I’m learning the new online landscape as I go, so I’m fucking up a bit, which I’m okay with doing right now. I even reached out and offered to do some guest blogging on other sites in an effort to boost my visibility and web traffic. That comes with some pluses and minuses. My first blog, “The Reimagining of Self: Why I Love Marvel’s Typhoid Mary” did pretty well. I received a lot of positive feedback for it and for the first time in a long time, I felt as though my writing had been legitimized. Then I got scared. What if I wrote something that no one cared about? What if people hated it? What if it just straight up sucked?
I kept writing for my personal blog because it’s almost my practice space where I can write about whatever the hell I want and no one cares. The online journal, remember? I have a ton of half-finished essays waiting on me to get over my fear and finish them and post them. That didn’t solve the problem of what to submit next. I opted to do a kind of safe, cosplay piece for The Anime Complexium website – “Types of Cosplay Photographers.” I’d originally posted this list on my site last year.
The article I chose, “Rape Disguised as Romance: Why I Stopped Reading Most Romance Novels” was one I hesitated to post on my personal site. It was intensely personal and discussed a topic that I was still learning to manage – coercive sex, i.e. rape. I decided to ground the personal narrative in a societally accepted medium – romance books. I chose this mainly because I grew up reading them and learned a lot of my romantic expectations from them. Not to mention, they very accurately demonstrate the disconnect between consensual sex and coercive sex, as many of the male leads actively kidnap, lie, cheat, steal, and force themselves onto the female lead, and it’s intended to be titillating and sexy. There are many mass market romance books on the shelves with these “dominant” male leads who are, in fact, rapists. There are authors I used to buy religiously that I eventually walked away from because they wrote sexual encounters that I considered rape, and these depictions blur the line for people to know what’s acceptable and what’s not.
I wrote about my confusion about what’s acceptable in a sexual encounter and what isn’t. I wrote about how I’d read things that led me to believe that I’d misinterpreted the situation and that to this day I continue to struggle to define it for myself. I was scared to post it because of what I thought it said about me, but then I decided to submit it and see what response I would receive.
I was genuinely surprised that the site planned to publish the essay – flattered, but surprised. So when they told me that it was going out yesterday, I prepared myself for the response, if any.
That day was just the day for me to be surprised because the response was not to the pervasiveness of rape culture. It wasn’t to the question of how we define rape. It wasn’t about people’s ability to define it for themselves.
The response was that I was attacking the romance genre and that I was trying to paint all romance books as rape stories.
Let me say that again, because I’m still fucked up on this one.
- I shared my experience with coercive sex.
- I shared my inability to reconcile it with what I understand sex to be now.
- I grounded my perspective in the muddled depictions of “consensual” sex I found in romance novels, depictions that we also see in movies, on TV, and hear about pretty regularly.
- I acknowledge that our societal norm is to continue to muddle the concept of consensual sex.
- I discuss how California is working to clarify it.
Yet the take away for many readers was that I was attacking the romance genre and saying all romance books are pro rape.
So, yeah, I was surprised by this shit. Especially when people couldn’t say that I was wrong – they told me I was reading the “wrong” books or that they’d never encountered any rape-promoting romance novels, but no one could say that these books didn’t exist.
In fact, many of the people who criticized the article and me didn’t even read the article or if they did, they made up shit that I didn’t say. For anyone that’s interested, I captured the tweets responding to the article so that you can read through them. Form your own opinions about the response.
In response to the backlash, I felt pressured into writing an addendum adding some context to my essay. Ironic, right? In response to an essay about coercion, I felt coerced into writing something I didn’t feel was necessary to write. In the addendum, I stand by my essay. I still stand by it. I’m just sad that so many people missed the point in a knee-jerk response to what they felt was an attack on their literary preferences – to which I feel compelled to say again – IT WASN’T.
Today the website published a rebuttal to my essay. I was going to read it, but in the interest of self-care, I’m going to let it go. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years of writing, it’s that you can’t control how other people respond to it. People are going to run the information through their personal filter and walk away with whatever message that comes through the sieve and it’s not my responsibility to change that.
All I can do is trust myself. I shared my experience and put myself out there. If you love it, great. If you don’t, great. Either way I’ll be fine. What I am not going to do is tie myself up in knots trying to make you feel good about my experience and fuck you if you try to make me. If you want to chat, I’m available on Facebook or email. If you want to try to make me feel bad, fuck off. I’m making my space. If you don’t like it, go make your own.
I talked about self-care and that is an important part of living in the information age. Here are some of the things I do to manage this instant gratification, often overwhelming, digital life.
- Don’t allow comments on your blog (If you need to share something, email me. This space is for my thoughts, not yours).
- Log off of social media.
- Turn off the phone.
- Walk away from the computer.
- Leave the house.
- Go for a walk.
- Talk to people.
- Spend time with offline friends.
- Eat (sometimes I accidentally skip meals).
- Talk to my therapist (Yep, I have one and she rocks).
- Play with animals (the nice ones, unlike that asshole cat that sits in our driveway but won’t let us pet him).
- Take a hot bath.
- Read books that don’t trigger you.
- Play video games.
- Hit a punching bag (a real one, not a convenient person).
- Write (which is what this blog is – me pushing out the poison of other people’s bullshit).
- Dance (because dancing is the best thing EVER).
You don’t have to do all these in the same day, but you know, use as needed. Just remember to take care of you.