Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly!

I am sure you all have heard by now about the flat out ridiculous "opinion" piece written by an associate professor in Missouri. The one where he equates rape to soft porn, and completely misses the point of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak? He even goes so far as to bring in Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, appalled at the teenage drinking and sex in it and again completely mischaracterizing not only the book but the purpose of the events in it.

He's got his opinion (which I find to be a piece of crap and ridiculous), and I've got mine. And that opinion is that Speak was one of the first YA books I read, without fully realizing it was YA. It was a movie I rented one night, because it sounded both interesting and heartbreaking. And I was right. It was gutting to watch this teenage girl suffer through memories of being raped. Of wanting attention from a guy, and being held down, and hurt, and violated. That is not soft porn. That is horrible and painful. That is something that is hard for the victim to get over, not because they can't handle things, but because it is the ultimate invasion to a person.

Speak is not a novel of family dysfunction. Could her parents have been better? Maybe. But they didn't know, because she didn't tell them. She didn't tell anyone, and she didn't even have friends. What would you do, Wesley Scroggins, if you were held down and raped? If you had no one to tell because everyone turned their back on you? And even if you did tell, it isn't instantly over. It doesn't work like that.

I didn't just finish reading the book, or later watching the movie, and go about my life. It made me think. It made me feel horrible for this "fictional character" because there are so many people this really happens to. I can give you a list, right now, of books I've read that deal with rape and sexual abuse. Cheryl Rainfield's Scars, which takes on a whole new element because it's her story. Because her parents abused her. Because she was taught to harm herself to forget. And what does Cheryl think about this nutjob's opinion? She's appalled, because as she says, how can anyone think rape can be erotic, unless they are like her parents? You can read her full opinion here, but hers is an opinion rooted deeply in reality.

But did I find any of those books to be a turn on, and did I find some need to go do that to someone else? No. I thought about the people in my apartment complex, in the neighborhoods I've lived in throughout my life. I thought about what could really be going on behind those doors. I thought about the girls at my schools who were quiet and kept to themselves, who seemed to have poor social skills. What was really going on? And was I just too oblivious to realize, when maybe they were screaming for help without a voice to do it?

Speak and the other books that deal with this subject need to be in schools. Teachers, parents, educators and students need to have access to this. They need to understand how it isn't the victims fault, and that they can help. Victims need a link to something that lets them know they aren't alone, and that they can speak up. This isn't just an author's work that needs defending, but a voice for the thousands who have had to endure sexual abuse.

And what I want to know, more than anything, is why Wesley Scroggin's issue is not with the fact that teenagers are being raped, but that an author included them and he now thinks it's porn. How many teenagers in his community have been date raped? How many were drugged and don't even know it happened? But are those the issues he's having a problem with? No, despite the fact that they should be. Despite the fact that he is making some big call for Christ, and yet something that is far more heinous than teenage (consensual) sex is what he is targeting.

That's my opinion on this. My opinion on how important Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak is. How Speak is not just some book, but a strong message that can reach so many, both victims and not. Rape is not to be taken lightly. Rape is not just something that happens and you move on. And "opinions" like this one are not to be ignored.


  1. AMEN! what is wrong with people? Apperently this guy gets turned on by rape... gross! I agree with you Speak needs to be in schools first of all to bring teachers to the problem and to alert students that it happens. You are right it doesn't, no, rape can't just go away. I just read the mockingbirds (Which is about a girl who gets date raped) the main character struggles to forget what happens but it follows her constantly, she won't even go to the cafeteria to eat lunch because he is there.I can't imagine what would posses someone to think that RAPE(!!!!!) is 'soft porn'. Great post!

  2. Well said. I will give the guy this... he has created a wealth of discussion on this subject. Even if it wasn't intentional. :)

  3. Very well said. Thank you for this. I hope everyone lends SPEAK the support it deserves today!

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I understand free speech but sometimes people really should not open their mouths. Sadly, he already has and against such an amazing book. Speak is one of those books that has stayed with me long after I've read it and I truly hope that readers continue to read it for years to come. Nicely said!

  5. I cannot applaud this enough, and I'm so looking forward to seeing how not only bloggers but authors and everyone who has read SPEAK or has been affected one way or another through this ban together to make sure this book is not taken away.

  6. Great post, Kari! Glad to see everyone speaking out against this!

    My thoughts on the subject are here

  7. SPEAK and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE are two of my all time favorite books...not because they entertained me or (how sick) titillated me in any way, but because they both have powerful messages.

    Sad that the young people in this community might have to face the real horrors of acquaintance rape and possible involvement in war without the benefit and support of these two books.

  8. Well said. I have never read Speak but I think I'll go out and buy a copy now in support.