The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You want to talk about a book that should have a big fucking “TRIGGER WARNING” label across the front of it so rape victims are aware of what they are about to read? This book right here.

While reading it I asked my partner point-blank, she’s going to get raped, isn’t she?? He declined to answer. He was afraid I wouldn’t read the book anymore and see what happens after. Wasn’t overly impressed with his oversight that warnings are appreciated, but I’ll let it go due to the over-riding mind blown reaction I had to the book as a whole.

So I’ve already dropped the spoiler that rape is a part of this story. If you haven’t read it and don’t want spoilers, do cease reading right about now.

I feel like I should explain that I have been reading insatiably since I was a wee kid. The earliest I can remember inhaling books is grade two. I have, therefore, read a LOT of books. I have not, however, read a book where the author tackles rape with all it’s intricacies the way Stieg Larsson tackles it in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The secondary main character (lets call her) is Lisbeth Salander. She’s a ward of the state and what you would call… non conformist. I actually really like her character. She is outside the mainstream, comfortable with her own sexuality on her own terms and easily moves between male and female sexual partners without feeling the need to label herself in any way. She’s also a huge geek and a hacker. I like.

I am too lazy to write out the details of the whole story so I’ll skip to the punch line. She is raped. Violently. Sodomized too. Held against her will for hours and raped continuously. That is the second time. The first time she is raped by being forced to give the sick twist a blow job. The second time she comes prepared, you see she can’t avoid this cockstain, and has a secret camera with her.

Reading those two accounts was enough to make me want to stop reading the book. I do not like being drawn into stuff that forces flashbacks to my own rape at ALL. If you’ve ever been triggered for previous trauma you know why.

However, immediately after both rapes the author does something I have never ever seen before. He sees things through her perspective. The reader reads it as her going through the list of possibilities of what she does next. Does she report it? How will it look? Will they believe her? Maybe the first time but not the second because she didn’t report it right away. Why doesn’t she report it? Will there be any justice? Will they believe her against such an upstanding citizen when she is just a troubled kid in the system? What other options does she have?

He literally addresses a huge chunk of angles that run through a rape victims mind after her attack. At least a huge chunk of what ran through mine. He address the physicality of it, the emotional side of it, the powerlessness of it, the re-victimization of it. He, in his own way, validates the huge variety of responses rape victims have after their attack and their various ways of coping. And Lisbeth acknowledges something I wish all rape victims acknowledged. It isn’t the victims FAULT, no matter WHAT.

The next part intrigued me. I do not know if he did this to give women power back through story telling or because he realizes how powerless victims feel after or because there is so little justice but her character takes matters into her own hands, takes control and deals with the situation in a way that lets her feel back in control and is able to not only stop him raping her again, but branding the fucker for what he is. She tattooed a huge message across his chest down to his cock about the fact that he is a rapist. Even if her method isn’t what I would choose, you cannot help but love watch her handle it her own way.

The rest of the book also deals directly and repeatedly with sexual abuse, assault, rape and molestation. Throughout the rest of the book not only does Larsson never even touch victim blaming, except when addressing that it happens and it’s bullshit, he seems bent on using his novel to educate the masses on the effects of rape on the victim. At the beginning of different sections there are stats about how many women are sexually abused, the frequency and the lack of justice. As a rape victim, it’s a trip to read. There is the understanding of your situation and decisions in that book. Least there was for me.

Another thing I found was that he didn’t a-sexualize her after her rape. She is still sexually active, with women as well as men. The false dichotomy of whore = rapist fodder is done away with. She still liked sex when it was on her terms with people she wanted to engage with sexually. Fantastic.

Anyone who enabled rapists or sexual abusers, whether men or women were addressed from two perspectives, the gentler and more understanding perspective of Blomkvist the main character (upbringing, traumas, abuse, etc leads to enablers and abusers) and the hard-line perspective of no tolerance for enablers by Salander.

Another aspect that caught my attention in the book was the sex life of the main character Blomkvist. He was in an open relationship with his best friend Erika who is married (and her husband knows of this and is ok with it) and regularly sleeps with other women whenever he likes. He does so with honesty and integrity and everyone is aware of the story before jumping into bed. It was an interesting take on informed adult consent and showing a man who has many sexual partners without being sexual predator in any sense of the word. Some women are comfortable with his open relationships and some cannot hack it. Either way he is upfront about his situation and how things work in his life and all adults get to weigh this to their own standards & values and decide for themselves.

A different subject that was touched on was teens and religion and how vulnerable they are to falling prey to fanatical religions and indoctrination. It was only briefly addressed but I appreciated this subtle exchange.

I’ve totally digressed at this stage because I am in awe of the fact that a crime thriller uses it platform to make poignant social commentary and validates victims of abuse and gives them a voice they rarely have.

There was just so many intriguing elements to this book which is essentially a crime thriller. At the end there is a glaring lack of mainstream justice. When the main case is solved the characters decide between themselves what avenue justice will take. When it comes to Salanders rapes, she dealt with it and attained her own type of justice as the victim. This both grates and satisfies. The part of me that was raised to think justice is always a reality and was not aware of the brutal realities of injustice and re-victimization wants all the bad guys brought to task by the mainstream institutes of law and order. The other part of me who will never ever receive justice for rape and abuse inside of marriage fucking ADORES the justice decided on the victims terms. Have my rapist walk around with the title tattooed on his belly for anyone to see?

Aifinkso.


***Edited to add: After finishing this post I went and looked up some reviews and commentaries on Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and found many of the neglected to mention the violence against women theme of the book, some claim Larsson himself was fixated on violence against women and not in the sympathetic to the victims view I took, and many more have labeled Salander as vengeful, vindictive, vicious, violent and a few other choice negative labels. Female victim takes control and enacts her own justice = highly negative response. Fuck you and you’re safe world mentality and your discomfort at empowered, strong women. ***

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Rape Culture 101

This is a fantastically articulate article about Rape Culture I came across on a blog called Shakesville.

Seeing how April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), I thought it fitting to raise some awareness about why rape is so prevalent in our society and why victim blaming like seen in Listowel mentioned in my previous article is so common place.

Hopefully some awareness can be raised this coming month. I’ve started inundating my FB with links and information and while I am sure I am annoying the fuck out of some people who’d rather stick their heads in the sand, I’ve seen reposts and that’s good news.

Abuse enabler says sorry and shockingly, it means nothing.

I’ve recently subscribed to Feministing which focused my attention on the Catholic Church, specifically in Ireland – my adoptive country.

You’d have to have your head pretty far up your arse to not realize the prolific world-wide sex scandals that have been rocking the church for nearly a decade now.

Having said that even I had no idea how far-reaching the rape and abuse was within the church. The pressure about the revelations has forced a response by the Pope. The same Pope who, himself, was involved in the move of a priest accused of molesting boys to seek therapy in another area but never notified authorities of the allegations of abuse, allowing the accused to subsequently molest more children. Whoops! Dropped the ball there Rottweiler.

How the fuck is an apology from a man who negligently moved and hid an accused pedophile and molester supposed to carry any weight within the church or to the victims? How the fuck is an apology with NO MOVE to provide justice for the victims supposed to carry any weight? Why are the accused routinely protected, re-located and in many cases allowed to re-engage with children in different areas, while the victims are ignored, shut up, shamed and silenced? How does “I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred.” and “submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.” even come close to being acceptable responses to the rape and abuse of children world-wide?

Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish church, read the letter the Pope issued with the apology out in church even though he himself was involved in forcing 2 children to sign secrecy oaths back in ’75. All together now! WTF is THAT? You’re basically mocking the realities of the abuses happening within the church and showing the apology to be the load of steaming horseshit that it is. Why the fuck are these two abuse enablers leading members of the Catholic Church (one as the fucking POPE HIMSELF) when they themselves should be removed from leadership and preferably convicted for being accomplices in rape, molestation and abuse? Cardinal Brady said he would resign if the Pope asked him to… because that’s going to happen when the douche bag himself sheltered and enabled a molester. Clever, that.

And where are the authorities? Why are these pedophiles not being brought to justice in a court of law?

Good question.

I can’t speak for the rest of the worlds justice systems, but looking at my own adoptive country I cannot ignore the shockingly low conviction rate for rapists; as low as 1-2% back in 2003. Or the fact that they get suspended sentences or over turned convictions. It’s appalling – especially when rape has such far-reaching and horrific effects on the victims.

Apparently this Island either can’t or won’t face the realities of abuse and rape and prefers to ignore it or cover it up. The shocking victim blaming attitude so many Rape Victim Advocates speak of was demonstrated in a stunning response to the conviction of a rapist in Listowel earlier this year. That’s right, people lined up in sympathy of the rapist to shake his hand and console the sick fuck over his sexual assault conviction. Thankfully on social networking sites groups supporting the victim sprung up instantly and many spoke up in rage and indignation of such a sickening response and the local rape crisis centre in Listowel was inundated with support for the victim. And too right, too – that girl is being shunned in an assbackwards town for being violated.

You ready for the kicker? One of the men who defended the rapist as having nothing but respect for women? A priest. Who then shook his hand after the conviction was handed down. Father Sheehy has since resigned – thankfully, because anything less would be a mockery of the victim. Or wait – he already did that by defending her rapist. Good on ya, Father.

If Ireland wants to be taken seriously as a modern and progressive country, this attitude of blatant disregard for the victims of violent sexual and physical abuse not only needs to end but do a complete turn about and start bringing the offenders to proper justice. A sorry just doesn’t fucking cut it.