Problematic Love

no-virgin-book

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey’s story.

A tautly told and important book, perfect for readers of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill.

TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE

I recently read a book called No Virgin by Anne Cassidy — a book about rape and consensual sex, and why we need to be having more conversations about healthy relationships and ensuring that the stories we write and the messages we put out into the world are those that promote equality and mutual respect. These themes were really the backbone of Anne Cassidy’s latest novel and dishes out raw and heart-wrenching insight into what the victims of rape and sexual assault have to deal with and the guilt they might grapple with after this. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, I think that’s the point. No Virgin isn’t supposed to be an entertaining or enjoyable read — it’s meant to share the feelings of guilt and self-blame that the main character experiences after being raped in a gritty and honest way that will shock the reader to the core. It definitely did for me.

Writing about healthy relationships is something that has been discussed quite a bit in the bookish community recently, particularly surrounding the problematic elements of some of Colleen Hoover’s novels. Although I’ve only read one of Colleen’s novels, November 9, I can definitely see how unhealthy the relationship between the two protagonists was conveyed at times, and after reading snippets of some of her other novels, it’s safe to say that I won’t be supporting any of them. But this discussion post isn’t about that. It’s about writing about rape and sexual assault candidly so that readers can understand there’s nothing romantic about being ‘grabbed’ or ‘pushed’ in a relationship, and there’s definitely nothing romantic about touching someone or harassing them when they tell you no or when your feelings towards them aren’t reciprocated. To endorse a book that romanticises these elements is almost as bad as committing these acts yourself.

A lot of Anne Cassidy’s novel No Virgin is extremely hard to read and even though it’s such a short book, I found it difficult to finish because of these raw, upsetting elements that frankly, made me very mad at the people who think it’s okay to commit such acts. It’s disgusting. Revolving. And society isn’t doing enough to punish these perpetrators, much less make victims feel as though they can speak out about what has happened to them. The thing that upset me most about this book was how Stacey, the main character, blamed herself for being raped and as a result, was hesitant to step forward and tell her story. There’s few things in society that angers me more than women being called ‘sluts’ for the way they dress or for enjoying sex, and I despise how some people think it’s okay to blame a women for being raped based on what they were wearing. Like we’re responsible for the way others act based on our choice of clothing. It’s disgusting, and it needs to change.

But for every book that romanticises assault and unhealthy relationships, there’s a hundred brilliant novels that have romantic relationships that are respectful and healthy, and these are the books we should all be reading and promoting. It’s extremely harmful to promote books with problematic representation, especially ones that are triggering. So I’ve added some books below that have heart-warming, healthy relationships, and I can’t recommend them enough. Instead of supporting problematic novels, you can read these ones instead. And if you’re looking for a novel that shows the impact of rape in a raw and gritty way that will stay with you long after the final page, I definitely recommend reading No Virgin — but please be advised that some elements are particularly upsetting and not recommended for younger readers.

Let's Talk

Have you read No Virgin yet? Have you read many books that discuss rape and consent? What are some of your favourite books that portray healthy relationships? Let me know!

Thanks to Hot Key Books Australia and Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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3 thoughts on “Problematic Love

  1. Brilliant post! I love how you often take a book and rather than just reviewing it, you use it as a tool to open up discussion. No Virgin is definitely a book I want to read and I totally agree with all the points you’ve made.

      • Though I don’t tend to do it much myself, it definitely speaks to my preferences. It also opens the discussion up to include people who haven’t read the book, too. Your discussion posts are great 💕

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