I witnessed something a while ago – over two years ago actually – and it has stuck in my head ever since then. I was riding the bus into town, on the top level of a double decker. There was a girl one seat behind me, who was listening to music on her headphones. She was one of those people who cranks their music way way up, so that the entire room (or bus) can hear the tinny blare of whatever you’re listening too. It wasn't good music either, Britney Spears or something, as I recall. Yes, it was annoying, but I’m not a confrontational person, so I did my best to ignore it.
At one point in the middle of the bus ride, I looked up from my book to see a guy in the opposite aisle gesturing at me. Instantly I was on my guard. He was scruffy looking, unwashed even. I assumed he was mentally...different, since I seem to attract these sorts of people like a magnet. I continued to ignore him, and he continued to lean forward in his seat, crazy eyes wide, and mouth words at me. Well, it took me awhile to sort it out, but I finally realized, he wasn’t aiming his attentions at me. The situation was this: Possibly crazy man at the front of the bus is angrily trying to get Britney Spears playing girl to turn her music down. Or off, I wasn't sure what all the crazy gesturing meant exactly.
The thing was, I was caught right in between all the drama, since I was sitting right in front of the girl. As I watched, he proceeded to lean out of his seat and hiss at her, scribble furious notes and throw them at her and call her a million horrible names. At one point, he even stormed down the aisle and leaned right in her face, shoving his note into her hands. What did the girl do in this situation? She ignored him. Kept her headphones in and acted like none of this was happening.
Now you may ask, what does this have to do with rape culture? I’ll tell you. This girl, whoever she was, was obviously taught the same thing that every girl is taught. Ignore him, he’ll go away. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t make a scene. Don’t overreact. What she should have done, is take her headphones off and ask him exactly what his problem was. If necessary, report him to the bus driver and have him thrown off the bus. Instead, she didn’t move. She didn’t even move seats. It makes me think hard about how females are taught to handle these situations. Actually, are we even taught to at all? What's prompting this behaviour Why is the correct procedure to "ignore him and he'll go away"? Where did it all start?
When I was in grade one I went to school one morning in a new dress. I was so excited to be wearing this beautiful dress, so at recess, I sat on the edge of our little wooden boat on the playground, careful not to get my dress dirty. Just before the bell rang, a pair of hands smashed into my back, sending me sprawling into the dirt. What did parents and teachers tell the hysterical little me? He probably liked you.
No. He didn’t like me, actually. He was an obnoxious little butt-licker. A bully. So why do parents teach young girls that if a boy hits you/pulls your hair/tells everyone you’re fat…he must like you? It makes zero sense, and I really do believe it contributes to rape culture, it plants the seeds, starts the thought pattern. If a boy treats you terribly, it means he likes you. So don't kick up a fuss, don't report his actions. You're overreacting. He's probably a perfectly nice guy! And there’s where my point about YA literature comes in…
I could compile a large list of YA fantasy/paranormal books that I’ve put down, because the supposed love interest was absolutely horrible to the protagonist, and she was putting up with it. Her “no” was turning slowly to “yes”, and I didn’t like the direction it was going in. The example it’s setting for young readers. There is no such thing as a hot stalker. If he watches you sleep, creeps into your bedroom at night, pops up everywhere you go…call the police. It’s not love, it’s dangerous. Many paranormal romance books are starting to match all the signs and symptoms of abuse.
As writers, it’s up to us to put a stop to this. Don’t help rape culture along. Don’t spread the lies about “bad boys”. Because bad boys in real life are just that…bad. They aren’t sexy and mysterious and hunky, they’ll hurt you. Sometimes physically. And yes, they can be charming and good looking sometimes. Ted Bundy was very good looking. Am I going too far, bringing serial killers into the conversation? I wish I was, but some of the love interests in paranormal books I’ve read lately have come across borderline mentally unstable, but it’s treated as “sexy”.
What do you think? Have you come across YA books that glorify abusive qualities? Female protagonists that are being treated horribly and do nothing about it? Do you think it’s all in good fun, or seriously damaging for young readers?
I don’t care if he’s a werewolf. He better treat me nice.