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