*Spoilers* and Scumbags: The Use of Rape as a Plot Device in Fiction by Sean P. Durnin

Bring out your dead (And sick. And crazy…)

Nearly all of us have seen what is commonly dubbed a “horror” movie, or read some type of horror themed fiction at some point in our adult lives. Some are serious (examples: The Grudge, The Ring, The Light at the End, Swan Song), others… not so much (examples: Phantasm, Dead Moon Rising, John Dies at the End, Resident Evil). We know the elements that are involved.

-Psycho-alien-murderer-zombie goes on killing spree.

-At this point, insert one of the following at random: a clueless blonde co-ed, a lame-brained buxom animal rights activist who has a healthy set of “lungs”, a latex-covered space-babe with a nice… *ahem*… posterior, or a Valkyrie sporting a chain-mail bikini.

-Psycho-alien-murderer-zombie wants to torture, or mate with, or fillet, or just plain eat said co-ed/activist/space-babe/Valkyrie, who begins to lose articles of clothing at an astounding rate.

-Then (if events progress as we expect) our half-nekked, mentally and physically traumatized, co-ed Valkyrie drops the psycho-alien down a chute leading to the molten core of the planet. Or into an industrial grade wood chipper. Or… Well, you get the idea.

- Valkyrie co-ed then skips off to meet up with her boyfriend or girlfriend (See? It’s all equal here. Nobody is screwing around) while zombie-murderer may very well be pulling themselves back together for the second installment of the series.

It’s scary, at some points comedic, the movie-goer/reader gets that adrenaline rush (if the director/author did their job and didn’t just half-ass it), a little mental titillation, and a good time is had by all. It’s fiction. Escapism at its very finest. It’s not Real Life (quote/unquote), nor –thank the many gods- will it ever be. While I myself deal in zombie-based fiction on a daily basis, believe you me, I have no desire to encounter an actual, mobile, hungry corpse. Whether or not it’s chasing a half-nekked co-ed (or five) or not. That’s simply because the real world has plenty of its own monsters.

Nothing new under the sun.

Be it the cult-classic Evil Dead movies or the epic The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels, they both address something not many of us even like to think about.


(Note- Let me make this absolutely clear, right off the bat: I. Do. Not. Condone. Rape. Rapists (be they male or female or “trans-gender” or whatever the hell mealy-mouthed, politically correct nitwits may dub someone) are the lowest form of life on this planet. My disgust for them is surpassed by only three things: diarrhea, pedophiles, and backward-thinking ass-hats who murder innocent people for religious reasons. Thus endeth the rant.)

That said, sexual assault has been applied as a plot device within stores/fiction ever since the Earth was green and unicorns stalked the forests. As the saying goes “There is nothing new under the sun”. Yes. That is sarcasm, but you get the point. Here are some examples:

-Philomea in Greek and Roman mythology (raped by King Tereus).

-Rindr in Norse mythology (raped by Odin in Saxo Grammaticus’ version of the engendering of Baldr’s avenger).

-The Sabine Women (raped by the founders of Rome, according to legend).

-Tamar of Christian mythology (raped by her brother Amnon, son of David).

-Mariyam from Islamic mythology (slave woman considered “property” by Muhammad).

See? You thought I was pulling your leg, didn’t you?

Oh, the humanity..!

Believe it or not, even after the astounding advances made by humankind (agriculture, biochemistry, philosophy, medicine, space exploration, Pepperoni Pizza Hot Pockets), despite all the monuments to our own hubris we’ve built over throughout the many years(Stonehenge, the Sears Tower, the Great Wall of China, Big Ben, Disneyland), sexual assaults can and do still occur.

Why, you ask?

Simple. Homo sapiens as a species are basically unchanged. In the grand scheme of things, we have what, perhaps… perhaps… a few thousand years of actual history? And much of that is pretty sketchy, due to the lack of reliable written records? Please also note that I’m discounting any type of religious dogma here, because I’m speaking of verifiable factual records, and not beliefs based upon whatever mythology someone may subscribe to. Facts are irrefutable, beliefs based on faith can be misplaced. If you’ll notice, during that time what stands out the most? Yep. You guessed it. Our atrocities.

Is it really surprising that we see (perhaps fictional, perhaps not) examples of the worst humanity has to offer in the history of every culture, in every nation on Earth? Because there have always been –and always will be- people walking this little mud-ball that orbits Sol, with nothing resembling souls. It’s a fact. Human beings can be noble or depraved, saintly or sadistic, heroic or horrific. It depends simply on their nature. The predators are out there and, unlike in horror/fantasy/science fiction, the world doesn’t work the way we want it to. Anyone who attempts to convince you to the contrary? Ask them if their shoes are soggy and if they can see the Pyramids, because they’re standing squarely in “Da’ Nile”. No matter what you or I may wish were so, the real world isn’t perfect. In a perfect world, evil always loses and we all know that isn’t the case.

Once again for the record, I Do Not Condone People Engaging In Sexual Assault, I’m simply stating a fact. Rape is nothing to make light of. It’s brutal, repugnant, and vile.

Little known fact: Most (if not all) of the authors I know and have engaged in meaningful conversations with, are of the same opinion. You can clearly pick that fact up from their creations, be those short films on YouTube or 90+K novels set during the apocalypse. Virtually all I’ve encountered –which have such an event included- attempts to convey their own revulsion for rape. I’m not just whistlin’ Dixie here, people. Rapist characters in works from most modern horror authors (at least those that I myself have read and enjoyed) tend to come to painful, messy ends. Castration is a popular one. So is lynching, or even letting the victim deal with their attacker with the aid of a handy, gunpowder-based solution. I’m good with any/all of those really and, when you get down to it, methods that are even more “creative”. 

While writing the first Keep Your Crowbar Handy novel, crucifixion on the back of a tow truck -with razor wire- became one of my favorite ways to deal with such moralistically challenged individuals. Now that I’m working on the fourth and final novel of the series, I’ve experimented (in the literary sense) with incineration, decapitation, death by mini-gun, and the ever popular “break his/her legs, then leave their worthless ass for the horde of zombies shambling up the overpass behind us”.  Let me tell you, that last one was very, very satisfying.

And don’t give me that “You’re contributing to a rape culture by objectifying women!” bullshit, either. Both men and women are constantly objectified. Now, I don’t expect my wife to look like a Barbie doll. I didn’t marry my Better Half with foolish thought that she’ll always look like a goddess made flesh, or some waspish model in dire need of a Big Mac or three. I wouldn’t want her to be either. And, on that note, just so we can all remain on equal footing here, guys and gals…

Get what I’m saying here?



Oh, and don’t think men can’t be sexually assaulted either, ladies. It can and has occurred. There have been plenty of verified instances all throughout history, long before Jamie Fraser’s torture and violation at the hands of the sadistic Black Jack Randall in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. That’s because, as a fellow author pointed out to me recently: Rape is seldom about sex. It’s more often about the offender gaining power and control over their victim, which is a sure sign of a sycophant.

I’ll admit it. Like most people I love seeing –and reading about- such low-life assailants shuffling off this mortal coil, and then heading for all the fun being used as a prophylactic by thorn-crotched demons down in the Seventh Circle of Hell will provide them. Hope they remember to take some lube along.


Da-a-a-a-am..! Did you see that shit?!?

Yes, yes. I know. There are those out there who yowl that using something as horrible as sexual assault to advance the plot of a story/novel is “unseemly”. Okay. What’s your point? Rape –to express it in politically correct way- is unseemly. If I’m to express it my way, I’d say “Rapists, are vile animals who deserve nothing. No “therapy”. No “empathy”. No “understanding”. Zip. We should be too busy insuring their victims recover from such a traumatic event , so the perpetrators should be dealt with via  Zombieland Rule Number Two.”

For the uninitiated among you (Seriously? If you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it. Now. You don’t wanna end up as zombie-kibble.)  Zombieland Rule Number Two is known as “The Double Tap”. That means two in the head and dead. Full stop. End of story. End of problem. Don’t get all stingy with your bullets, people.

Now. There are some who will have a problem with this particular twist being in a work of fiction and scream “That’s the lazy way out! You shouldn’t do that to express the lack of morals or compassion in a character! You don’t need to have a character survive having that done to them to show they’re strong! Only crappy authors reference it in crappy novels!” Huh. Okay. If you’re talking about porn, then yeah. I’m not a fan of novels that are pretty much nothing but graphically written smut for fap-fests either. There is a hell of a lot of work out there that uses such an awful event to genuinely advance a particular character and/or story. Let’s just go down a short list here, shall we?

-Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott.

-The Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton.

-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

-Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

-Red Sonja from Marvel Comics.

-Spartacus: Blood and Sand by Steven S. Deknight (and others).

-The Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin.

…Yeah. That about sums it up, wouldn’t you say?

Is committing rape/sexual assault deplorable? You bet your ass it is. Is it ever a good idea to shove your head in the sand, thereby sticking your rump in the air (we all know what happens then, now don’t we?) to ignore it and hope it goes away? Of course not. Don’t be dense.

Speaking as an author, I can tell you many of us consider the “need” for such a plot twist long and hard before we’d put it into a novel. Few would have the poor taste –or completed lack of taste rather- to glorify it in any way for that matter, and I can promise you this: You’ll never read a book from me where the guy (or gal) who raped someone rides off into the post-apocalyptic sunset. That’s just not going to happen. When it comes to killing off evil antagonists, I’ve got a whole notebook of ready-made ways to send them to their final reward.

Well. Maybe reward isn’t the correct phrase.

Would pumping them full of morphine, skinning them from knees to groin, coating them in molasses and hot sauce, then lashing said rapist out on top of a mound of army ants be considered a “reward”…?