(Reblogged from O. M. Grey’s Caught in the Cogs)
I quite enjoyed A Real Piece of Work up until about the halfway point. Once the redheaded bombshell who painted nude self-portraits was introduced, and objectified so heavily, my red flags went up. Although, for a hard-boiled detective story, the misogynistic commentary was quite light.
Once said redhead was sexually attacked in her art director’s office, that’s what it stopped for me. She was called “slut” and blamed for flirting with everyone and then being surprised someone followed through, even though she claimed she beat the man up because “he wouldn’t stop.” She was immediately doubted, not only by some nameless guy who came into the room and called her a “slut,” but also by the protagonist, Dakota Stevens. In the next scene, right before she seduces Stevens with purple paint all over her body, he asks her to confirm that she “didn’t do anything to provoke it.” The protagonist had no qualms about fucking a murder suspect and a client, btw. Real professional.
I did not read on, so I don’t know where this sits in the overall story arc, but it doesn’t really matter. If she was lying about being attacked and the guy refusing to stop, then it’s perpetuating the myth that women often lie about rape. They don’t to an overwhelming degree. If she was telling the truth, then she was blamed for being flirtatious and asking for it.
“You were lone with the guy in Contessa’s office. What did you *think* was going to happen?”
Because, you know, if a beautiful, flirtatious woman is alone with a man, it must mean she wants to fuck him. Because that’s all they’re good for anyway, right? And if she doesn’t, then it’s her fault for leading him on by having the audacity to be alone in a room with him. If your going to be alone with a man, better be willing to put out or at least have the decency to keep your mouth shut if you don’t want it.
If all that rape apologist and victim-blaming nonsense was in the mouth of the antagonist or one of the bad guys, that would be one thing. But it was in the mouth and the opinions of the protagonist, the good guy. Dakota Sevens. This same good guy took sexual advantage of her, fucking her within the hour after she had experienced the traumatic event of sexual assault and attempted rape. Not okay.
Unfortunately, it is realistic and an accurate portrayal of how virtually everyone responds to a rape and/or sexual assault claim, but I don’t indulge in any art for perpetuating rape culture like that. If they include it, then it must be clear it is an unacceptable behavior and mentality.
And, of course, what man isn’t going to bang a hot red head covered in purple paint with “optimistic breasts” and a ” flat tummy,” regardless whether or not she had just been assaulted. She’s a big girl. Right? She can take care of herself.
I’m really rather disappointed, because up until this point I was quite enjoying this book. I don’t get into many books, and I certainly don’t get into many books fast. This one I did. The writing is excellent, and the story is very well-paced, but I draw the line at rape apologists and victim-blaming.
Needless to say, I didn’t finish the book, nor will I be reading anymore of Chris Orcutt’s work. I still gave it three book worms because the author obviously has talent, a strong voice, and a solid storytelling technique, but he would be wise to learn how not to offend survivors, as one in 3 women are rape/sexual assault survivors. I’m one of them.
So, yeah. Good detective story, but…