I Would Love to be a Fly on the Wall at This Panel

I ran across this snippet at author John Scalzi’s blog Whatever this morning. It’s from the schedule at Penguicon, which is this weekend in Troy, MI.

6-7PM Promenade East Limited Female Roles In Fantasy, Comics, and SF TheFerrett, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Sarah Monette, M. Keaton Why is it that a female character will either be raped or lose her child? Do TV writers have difficulty coming up with a motivation for women that isn’t vagina-related? We rarely see every man’s worst fear: castration. For equal rights, what if every time a woman gets raped on a show, they also neuter a male on the cast? The panelists will evaluate the causes and discuss this and other solutions.

*Snort* But here’s something funny that this just reminded me of. In the only fantasy novel I’ve read that involved a major male character being castrated, he was able to magically grow his bits back in a later book. I am not making this up.

Pity no one’s ever tried to magically “unrape” all these female characters…


  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    Actually, that reminds me of a fantasy book someone advised me to read one time, in which there was a sort of un-raping, only it didn’t assuage MY trauma from what I’d just read which failed to persuade me the victim’s trauma had magically gone bye-bye, so ultimately I just found the whole thing incredibly disturbing. I got what the author was trying to put across, and that was cool, but it didn’t work.

    I think there may be several factors at work here, but mostly, fantasy books are written by men, for men. They don’t want to think about penises losing their little buddies. But penises in vaginas? Yessiree, and it doesn’t much matter how they got there!

    Oh, I’m not saying all guys who read and write fantasy think rape is a perfectly acceptable form of sex in real life. But I think that’s exactly what they think in fiction, and I disagree heartily. Castration might be just the thing to make them understand what it feels like to read those scenes when you are a real person with a 1 in 9 chance of being raped. Because, you know, unless I work my empathy muscles, the idea of castration doesn’t bother me at all because it can’t happen to me.

    And that’s where I don’t accept ignorance as an excuse: if you can’t be bothered to have enough empathy to figure out what an experience you don’t need to worry about might actually feel like to someone who does have to worry about it, then you don’t deserve to be a writer.

  2. says

    I realize I ought to have put a sarcasm tag on that, by the way. I am not actually advocating magical unrapings. (There is kind of a magical unraping in one of Robin Hobb’s books. It’s a trilogy with strong female characters, and it’s my favorite series of hers, but the character’s recovery from the rape is a bit too rushed for me, and I plan to write about that at some point.)

    I think it was my empathy for the male character who’d been castrated that made the plotline more interesting for me. I thought, “Wow, he’s in love with this woman but he’s been castrated, so that could lead to some interesting stuff.” And then the author went back on it, without addressing it, and it disappointed me.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that fantasy is a male-dominated field and we don’t see a lot of castration. Which is why I don’t buy the “rape is a reality of war and torture– the author’s just being realistic” argument. I’m sure plenty of people historically were castrated in violent cultures. How come we don’t see that? Because many men are uncomfortable writing about and exploring their masculinity.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, I think it was clear you were being sarcastic – it just reminded me of that book and I had to mention it then. 😀

    Which is why I don’t buy the “rape is a reality of war and torture– the author’s just being realistic” argument.

    I’m thinking of Anne Rice’s book about a castrati, Cry to Heaven. Decades later, I still remember not because of the really interesting gender role critiques she brought up, but because she made his involuntary castration the violation that it was; she made his pain no more or less real than the beauty he also found in life. She must’ve spent so much time imagining being him.

    That’s what so few male writers can be bothered to do when they write about rape. I say if you can’t do the homework, just write something else.

  4. says

    That does sound like it’d be a really interesting panel (and with some very cool panelists, too).

    I’m gonna go count the days until WisCon again… 😉

  5. says

    MaggieCat, I dunno – because I link to it in I Read the Internets with fair regularity. Does this mean you’re not reading my column…? *sniffle* 😉

  6. MaggieCat says

    Okay this is slightly off-topic, but how have I never seen that comic before? This one made me laugh so hard that I scared the cat. It’s the “perfectly” that clinches it. Hee.

  7. MaggieCat says

    No, I read them! That’s how I found Wonderella! I just seem to have missed this one somehow. Eh, maybe the first linked one I followed just didn’t work for me and I forgot to go back after that.

    Now I shall go sit in the corner in penance, without even my laptop for company. *sigh*

  8. says

    In my novel THE ARGUS PROJECT, the hero is castrated by the military while he is rebuilt into a combat cyborg.

    This is never “fixed” — but instead of lamenting his loss, he overcomes it by connecting his mind directly to the (cyborg) heroine’s mind.

    Baen Books didn’t approve of the novel…

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Baen Books didn’t approve of the novel…

    How very interesting. 😉

    Sounds like in your novel the castration may reinforce how his “humanity” has been taken away, which seems to me a very appropriate use of it. And the connection he forms with the heroine could then show that no matter what is done to him, he manages to maintain his humanity anyway? See, that sounds like a perfectly good device to me. Wonder what Baen’s problem with it was?

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