Thursday 26 November 2015

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Sex in Teen Lit Month II - Discussion: Paul & Emma's Scene in Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Asking For It by Louise O'NeillWARNING! There is a scene in Asking For It by Louise O'Neill that I am going to discuss in some detail. If you have yet to read the book and don't want it spoilt for you, please read no further.

After reading Louise O'Neill's Asking For It, people talk about the gang rape of Emma. We don't see this rape as Emma, our narrator, is unconcious when it happens and has no recollection. But there is another rape, one that is on the page, that happens minutes before the gang rape. Except it doesn't seem to occur to a lot of people that this scene is rape, or when the conversation is brought up about the first rape scene, they deny it is rape.

Louise O'Neill has discussed how people see this scene - how some have even related to it, but don't see it as rape. Louise relays to Stuff that she has been told by people about their own experiences, "It wasn't rape, but it wasn't right."

I've even had a discussion about this very topic. And so I thought I would share with you why I instictively saw this scene as rape. Before we get into it, if you have a copy of Asking For It, dig it out and re-read pages 106-107 and refresh your memory of this scene. Done? Now look at this.
'"Maybe we should..." I try and swallow, but my mouth is too dry. "Paul, maybe we should go back to the party."
"Don't be silly," he says. (I brought him in here. This was my idea.) "Don't be a fucking cock-tease."
"Wait," I try and say. "Wait, I don't feel..."
But he pushes me back down, yanking my underwear aside, and he's inside me, and I'm not ready and it hurts...'
There are few things I want to point out about the above extract:
  1. By his very response, we know he doubts she wants to go through with this.
  2. She says "Wait". She tells him to wait.
  3. He doesn't wait. He doesn't let her finish her sentence. He doesn't give her the chance to withdraw her inital consent before he's pushed her down and forced himself inside her. And yes, I say "forced" because she's not ready - she's not turned on and lubricated enough, but she's also not ready because she said "Wait."
Emma doesn't react to being raped how you might expect her too; she doesn't thrash, she's not frozen. But I'd like to point out that there's no correct way to react. The text becomes run on sentences which show her panic and, I believe, her shock. Which is why she's thinking about condoms, and thinking about a boy in the photo. Her moan - her fake moan - might seem problematic but again: there is no correct way to react. She just wants him to stop, and she thinks moaning will make it end sooner. You might say Paul is not a mind reader and doesn't know what's going on in Emma's head, but he already knows she doesn't want this, because his belief that she doesn't is what prompted him to say "Don't be a fucking cock-tease,", but also because she said "Wait."

Yes, she did bring him in there, it was her idea, but she still said "wait" and was ignored. "Wait" might not be No, or Stop, or I don't want to, but it's a clear indication of not wanting to go forward with having sex right now. And yes, not right now might mean later, but it still means not now. And he goes ahead anyway. If a guy/woman has any doubt that someone doesn't want to go forward and having sex, they should not go forward with having sex themselves without first finding out if they have permission to. If they do doubt someone wants to go forward, and they go forward anyway, they are a rapist.

If you discount the gang rape that happens after - imagine it didn't and focus on this scene alone: Paul raped Emma. This is rape.

Talk to me. How did you initally react to this scene? If you didn't originally think Paul was raping Emma here, has this post changed your mind? Or do you still have the same opinion? Let's discuss!


  1. I loved this book. So important.

    1. It is so good! I loved it! Really, really important novel.

  2. Not reading this post because I haven't read the book yet. But you've reminded me that this one should be on my must-read list!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Ooh, I hope you enjoy it (though "enjoy" isn't exactly the right word) when you read it! :)