There is a very good, very fair review of my novella Gaijin, over on Dear Author. What marks it as a good review is not that it is wholly positive; there are some very pointed and legitimate criticisms of the story, both in the reviewer’s post and in the comments.
One question posed in the comments was from Marumae: “The fact that the rapist doesn’t get a POV piqued my curiosity me and I wonder the reasoning for it. ”
Certain genres have certain narrative conventions. Often, Romance and Erotic Romance present the POV of both the heroine and the hero as a device for charting the individuals psychological journey towards love and commitment.
Gaijin is not a romance. I could never write it as a romance. As much as I enjoy fantasy, and even have a taste for non-con, I simply couldn’t – as a woman – envision any circumstances under which Shindo was forgivable or redeemable after his actions. I know there are authors who can do this and readers who want it. I’m just not one of them. I was interested in the main character’s physical and psychological survival, not in romance.
My main character, Jennifer, is in a place many expats have been, hovering on the outside of a society alien to her own. She has learned as much of the language as she needs to in order to be functional, and she is earning her living (I’ll be blunt here) exploiting the fantasies that a lot of Japanese men have about western women. But as that experience turns ugly, I wanted to give the reader an experience of that feeling of the impenetrability of the ‘other’ culture. Had I represented Shindo’s point of view, I felt that her sense of isolation would not have been as tangible to the reader.
Finally, at the time I wrote Gaijin (about 7 years ago, now), I simply did not want to represent the POV of the rapist. It was a personal, ethical decision at the time. I feared that to give him a voice in the narrative in such a powerful way might serve to legitimize or excuse his behaviour. Most men who rape do not think of themselves as rapists. They make elaborate excuses, and come up with some chilling rationales for feeling they have a right or the prerogative to force sex on someone who doesn’t want it. I was not comfortable giving air or credence to those excuses. Again, I know there are authors who feel comfortable writing a character who rapes and then feels contrition for it, and all is forgiven in the end. I’m just not that writer.
Several years later, I felt I had a better handle on the craft of writing and did, in fact, write a story that contains rape from the rapist’s point of view. Click was the product of that evolution. By then, I felt I could represent those rationales, those excuses, without allowing the narrative to somehow legitimize the actions. It’s really up to the reader to decide whether I managed to succeed in what I set out to do. However, if fictional depictions of rape are distressing to you, please don’t read that story.
Ultimately, writers make the decisions they make within the context the story, the level of their skills and their own personal code of ethics. Had I set the story at a time in history or a geographical place in the world where the prevailing culture didn’t condemn rape in the same way we do today, I might have felt differently about my decision to not give Shindo a POV of his own.
There have been times in our history when a woman’s consent simply didn’t have any significance in the social order of the era. There are many places today where a woman’s consent is immaterial. But I’m a 20th century Western-born writer, and Japan has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world. In neither my reality, nor in Shindo’s culture, is it seen as acceptable to rape a woman. Within that context, I did not feel compelled to present his point of view.