Romanticizing Sexual Abuse In Fiction Affecting Youth

Is Romanticizing Sexual Abuse In Fiction Affecting Youth?

Glorification of sexual abuse and violence over women has been adapted by all sorts of platform lately that its portrayal everywhere is scarily degrading the place of women in society. We are not unaware of the BDSM culture; however, the fictional display of dark romance is not entirely influenced by this culture. Feminist outrage is not superfluous when these fictions (novels, movies, music videos, television series etc.) are romanticising forceful and non-consensual sexual activities, and sometimes rape.

Since I am an author/writer and an avid reader, I have to research and read various kinds of content/stories for my work. I have a reader base on online platforms like Wattpad, Inkitt and several other platforms. A major portion of the readers there are teenagers and what surprises me that most of the popular stories there belong to the very popular category, Dark Romance. Dark romance is such a genre where abusive portrayal of relationships is romanticized.

There is an intersection between mafia and bad boy romances and dark romance stories. Almost all of these stories have a tough, alpha male protagonist who in the beginning is being a total a$$ to the female protagonist, and surprisingly the heroine falls in love with these men in the end of the story. As I stumbled upon these repetitive scenes, I wonder whether these are the portrayal of Stockholm syndrome of the female characters or just a misogynistic fantasy of the teenage authors.

In the past, I often had conversation about various kind of stories with my cousin since she is an avid reader too. Sometimes when she’d tell me about the storyline briefly that she had been reading, it’d left me speechless often and sometimes absolutely disgusted. A lot of these stories are filled with depiction of abuse, violence and manipulation of some kind. Most of these stories are later justified as the female trying to ‘fix’ her abuser since he’s a victim of emotional instability, and finally they fall in ‘love’ with each other.

I wonder if equating violence with passion and dominance with possessive love is worthy in the long run. Because, more or less, these stories are affecting the young minds because most of the readers of these books belong to the young adult or new adult age group. What’s scarier is these readers are primarily women and by consuming and believing in such practices are making them subconsciously unwilling to fight for equal rights. In the name of possessive love and passion, young women are being the victim of internalized misogyny, and which is leading them towards their own subjugation.

Since we shape our minds through what we consume, these misogynistic depictions by these novels, music videos, or movies take a major part in shaping our minds. Romanticizing sexual assault and violence is a common trope that is affecting young minds especially the young adults. Romanticized violence, and non-consensual sexual activities are provoking the new culture and maybe this is why the percentage of rape has increased over the years.  

A few days back, I came across a mafia story, where the male protagonist wasn’t really that abusive, but, because of some third-party manipulation, turned to his girl’s place and raped her. Later that same guy apologized to her and convinced her somehow to marry him. They did marry, and she did forgive him, eventually. I mean, rape is a crime, right? Since India still hasn’t criminalized marital rape, marrying the girl you’ve raped earlier would save your guilty self from the prison, and that advantage is taken by these rapists. Not just the Indian culture, I’ve seen many similar stories belonging to various culture all over the world.

Also read: How Could Indian Men Still Legally Rape Their Wives?

Since I was kind of pressed, I put up an open discussion forum for my readers and followers where I definitely received some interesting viewpoint.

Rape is absolutely heinous in its own accord, and people must get this straight inside their brains. Especially teenagers need not to be encouraged to believe and fantasizing about these kinds of toxic relationships. What upsets me more, is media nowadays promotes this toxicity everywhere. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or ‘365 dni’ are such products where forced and non-consensual love is getting romanticized and glamorized. Violence, abuse and domination is unjustly and vastly accepted, adapted and adored by the young generation. The impact this has been leaving on young minds are pretty scary, because these kinds of depiction of romanticised violence and abuse are attracting and manipulating youngsters towards crime, and which is totally ‘NOT COOL’.

The day before yesterday, I was having a conversation with my friend from Sweden. She made me aware of their cultural approach towards this same concept. According to her, sometimes people are just invested in fantasizing these forceful, violent depiction of love, but they would not entertain the idea of engaging in the similar scenario in real life. They like the fantasy, but hate it in real life. In their culture, rarely anyone distinguishes between the two genders role except the physical one. If anyone does so, they would be regarded as a person wanting the superiority of their gender. To her, equity is more important than equality between genders, since there’ll always be inequality in terms of physical characteristics.

Along with these novels and stories, social media affects today’s generation the most. Because what they see, they consume, they believe and they practice in real lives. Teenage minds cannot really differentiate between the right and wrong since their mind and brain haven’t fully developed yet. This is the reason they get drawn towards these gruesome representation of dark romance. It affects and thereafter shapes their thinking abilities into not a healthy one. Psychologically, this might be the reason why today’s generation has turned more hostile and aggressive lately.

I personally believe there’s a psychology that plays around in young minds when they read something captivating and exciting. Who would even deny the role of teenage hormones? So, these overtly sexual scenes, ever so, romanticized violence and domination of one sex, affects them just like any visual depiction of any toxicity including fetishes such as Dom or Dominatrix. And perhaps, these fantasies have given birth to so many psychopaths and misogynists in real life, ultimately leading to real life crime scenes like abduction, rape or murder.