Alan Moore & Rape in Comics

Trigger Warning: discussion of rape and sexual assault in media.

The movie didn’t even include the rapes, so how important to the story are they?

I started reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen once I received it in the mail from Cream and Amber. I’m only twenty or thirty pages in and there’s been two instances of sexual assault. I pause and I reflect on other stories I have read written by Alan Moore. There’s another instance of attempted sexual assault in Watchmen. It made me wonder why Alan Moore utilizes rape with his female characters in his stories. It’s not something I alone have been wondering about. Typing into google “Why does Alan Moore write about rape” and they’re countless articles as to why he writes about rape regularly. I wanted to discuss my thoughts about this because as reader, I’m tired of the “rape female characters to make them stronger” trope in media.

Before exploring this topic, there are a couple of important statements I would like to make. I’m not saying sexual violence or rape shouldn’t be written about nor that if it’s included it’s automatically misogynist. There are ways to write rape scenes where it’s respectful to survivors of rape. Most often I see where it’s only used as a plot devise to demean the characters and it doesn’t aid into their development. The last statement I want to make is anyone of any gender can be victims of assault. I cite female characters in this post as I do see female characters being rape victims in Moore’s work. However, anyone can be a victim of assault.

According to reddit, Alan Moore writes about rape because it’s been considered “off limits” and if murder is okay, why not write about rape. This isn’t entirely accurate. There’s an interesting interview of Alan Moore addressing his sexual violence against women. He states, “As regards non-sexual violence, there is clearly a lot more non-sexual violence in my work that there is violence of the sexual variety, although in our current culture that’s true of nearly everyone’s work, isn’t it?” His instances of consentual sexual activity don’t undo the rape scenes he writes. Grant Morrison has been quoted saying how Moore is obsessed with writing rape scenes.

Moore’s response doesn’t state why he writes about rape, but defending his work. Further into the article, Moore talks about the implications of rape, throwing out statistics of sexual assault. It seems Moore is educated about the origins of sexual assault and why it happens.

In the first paragraph, I mention how I’m tired of seeing rape used as a plot device to make specifically a female character “strong” while also showing how “evil” a character can be. Rape doesn’t always have to be utilized to demonstrate this in media. There are ways where abusers can abuse victims beyond physical intercourse. Manipulation or gaslighting are alternatives versus physical rape to determine how evil a character can be.

One instance in which rape was used in fiction where it didn’t fall under this trope was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I finished re-reading this book a couple weeks ago. Lisbeth is subjected to many forms of abuse. However, there’s so much more to her strength than only surviving her rapes. She’s a hacker, has a photographic memory and is able to intelligently plot her way out of a horrific situation. Plus, Lisbeth gets back at her rapist, physically scarring him. I have never read a book where a rape victim got savage revenge against her rapist. It doesn’t undo the rape, but it makes it more managable to read about.

I still enjoy reading the work of Alan Moore despite the rape in his stories. Moore wrote these stories to be enjoyed by readers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when readers connect the dots between the way he tells his stories. If anyone finds sexual assault triggering in any way, I highly recommend never reading a Moore story. If you remove the rape from Moore’s stories, the stories function exactly the same, so are the rapes really necessary? I’d be happy to hear in the comments section below on your thoughts with rape in fiction along with your opinions on Alan Moore’s stories.

7 thoughts on “Alan Moore & Rape in Comics

  1. I really like how you mentioned that rape should not be used to make the female character stronger and show the evil side of the other character who initiates it. I wrote a Shan Yu fanfiction back in 2016 that explored kidnapping where he sexually abused and enslaved my OC, many times he threatened to rape her and she would obey him due to her fear of that. But it turns out the direction I took the story did not lead to actual rape of my character.

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    • For you and in writing this story, you chose to portray how evil a character was beyond the means of this character raping your OC. There are ways to demonstrate how evil a character can be besides raping another character. I’m not saying it shouldn’t ever be utilized, but if it doesn’t add to the character’s backstory, is it needed? Thank you for your comment!

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  2. A weighty subject to tackle but kudos for doing so. To tangent slightly away, it is interesting how numb in general media we’ve become to certain acts, in gaming no one thinks twice to pursuing an achievement through a macabre set of deaths or abusing a position of authority to seduce a crew member in Mass Effect but go to far and there is, rightly, condemnation. With rape, as noted in your article it has become someone of a short hand way of highlighting someone’s character in the quickest way possible without dealing with the magnitude of consequences in a nuanced and realistic fashion.

    Should he use it to the extent he seemingly does? Arguable, I haven’t read his work to comment on that but I suppose bringing it into the public domain to a wider extent where people can talk about it in a sensible fashion may allow others to tackle it in a more balanced way.

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    • As for your first paragraph, this reminds me of the time I played Red Dead Redemption. One of the achievements was kidnapping a woman, hog tying her and watching the train run over her body. If that’s not macabre, I don’t know what is.

      For sure. I’m not saying he can’t write about rape. However, I have read several of his graphic novels and I find the frequency of rape to be enough where I find it’s worth discussing.

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      • It’s a tangent away from the point but recently been playing a lot of Resi 5 and the numerous achievements of killing people with grenades or electrocution, just makes murder seem like an achievement 🤷🏼‍♂️

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  3. I’ve not read anything by Moore so I can’t comment, however, I feel the same way about Game of Thrones and George R R Martin. In both cases, I feel that the author is writing for themselves rather than for the audience and at what point do we say there’s a line between writing a book to be sold and basically writing glorified fanfiction in which the writer is exploring their own fantasies?

    There’s a female author I read who’s books I used to love called Laurel K Hamilton. Her Anita Blake series started off as a supernatural crime series and while there was always sex in them over time the sex got more and more. A lot of fans started to complain and stop reading them, and I continued reading because there was still a plot and the sex had a point to it. The last book I read had absolutely no point to it. Over the years the author has become involved in polyamorous relationships, which I have zero issues with but it’s leaked into her writing. She has turned her crime book series almost into a crusade for polyamorous relationships. At this point, she’s a bestselling author being paid god knows how much to literally write glorified smutty fanfic.

    From what you’re saying Moore’s not at that stage yet but I thought it was interesting to mention for comparison. There have been instances of magical rape too, and when the main character was out of her home state one such instance involved a minor who would have been underage in her home state. I didn’t really see the outrage with that one as the age of consent is 16 in the UK, however, it was a massive issue with a lot of her fans.

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    • I can see where George R.R Martin is getting to that point. That’s personally one of the reasons why I have stayed away from Game of Thrones is the sexual assault scenes.

      Moore to me adds rape for shock value, but not to actually add on to the story. It’s gotten to the point where it’s so frequent in his work, one has to make a connection.

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