Queering Sexual Violence

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Have you ever read a book that pleasantly surprised you, one that turned out to be something totally different that what you expected? Queering sexual violence is not that kind of book. Its uniqueness and beauty can be found precisely in the fact that it is exactly what it promises to be: a collection of raw, brutally honest essays on violence, abuse and how their cycles overlap or meet or “define” the spectrum of gender identity and sexuality.

Throughout the course of the book abuse is widely explored; its aspects, its forms, its consequences and variations. None of the authors shy away from it, each of them exploring a different side of it, or a different perspective. If you expect to find a book that feeds into the male/female, gay/straight or victim/perpetrator dichotomy and binary, back away now! The “co-authors” of the book explore and challenge stereotypes and views that may not sit well with many people at first, spilling truths that are hard to shallow.

I would not like to dwell on a specific essay or author, since I found all of them to be equally important and vital in terms of understanding violence within and in relation to the queer community. Family, forgiveness, recovery and understanding are recurring topics of conversation throughout the length of the book. Race, ethnicity, religion, disability, class and work status are also mentioned as factors that affect the reality of abuse many queer people are facing. Queerness and abuse are not studied separately, but in relation to each other, which brings up a very controversial topic of conversation: violence and abuse in relationships between lgbt+ people and how often it occurs. And when it does, should it be reported?

I know some of you may find the above question bizarre; of course it should be reported! And I couldn’t agree more. Violence in any way, shape or form and within any kind of relationship is unacceptable and should not go unnoticed. However, lgbt+ people hiding or not reporting incidents of abuse, in fear of painting the community in a negative light or feeding into negative stereotypes is not unheard of. The marginalization and oppression of lgbt+ people is a key factor on these essays, essays that make sure to put trans women, bisexuals and gender non-conforming people(among others) front and center, giving a voice to groups that are often neglected or oppressed even within their own communities and safe spaces.

While I found this book to be a very educational and important one, I would advise you to not got into it lightly. The sheer nature of the topic the author chose to explore, makes it a tough one and the brutal, unyielding honesty of each and every one of its essays make it even tougher. I found myself in the verge of tears, disgusted or frightened more than once, so, please, approach it with caution.


*An ARCopy was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
**Trigger warnings for: ab*se and r*pe**
*** I used the term queer as an umbrella term, because it’s a term I, myself , feel comfortable using and because it was also the word the author used in the book***
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Thank you for the chance to read this book. I wasn't able to read it before it was archived.
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**I received a copy of this book from Riverdale Avenue Books through Net Galley for an honest review**


As you can probably already guess from the title of this book, there are major trigger warnings associated with this. Rape, abuse (sexual, mental, and physical), and incest. There are also a few essays in here that detail BDSM. 

Rating this book was really complicated for me. Reading it was, too, if I'm being completely honest. This is definitely one of those much needed books but there were a lot of things that were hard to stomach which I will talk about it more detail. 

The things I liked about this book:

1. The fact that this was about sexual violence as it pertains to Queer people. We have a very heterocentric view of sexual violence where the perpetrator is male and the victim/survivor is female. Society is too willing to overlook sexual, physical, and mentally abuse in relationships between same-sex couples and I think it stems from the fact that society doesn't see our relationships as being real. I've talked before about how many m/m stories written by cishet women involve physical abuse and it's written as foreplay because men are expected to be violent with each other. We don't allow men to be soft and in love, and when we have that mentality that they are supposed to be "rough" with each other, it's easier to turn a blind eye to violence between m/m couples. On the opposite end of the spectrum with f/f relationships, abuse between two women is seen as women being typically "catty". It's masturbatory to think of two women who are sexually involved as being mean to each other before turning soft and sexual. 

2. It challenges safe centers and crisis hotlines that cater to cishet women but exclude trans women, Queer women, and non-binary people and the fact that there are no spaces for cishet men to talk about their own abuse. The first essay in the book is about a genderqueer individual who could not find a space that would talk to them about their sexual abuse. They were turned away from hotlines and in person meetings because of the notion that victims/survivors are only cishet women. 

3. The essays that discussed sexual violence that happens inside families. Incest is such a taboo topic that even most crisis centers tend to shy away from talking about it but it's such a painful for reality for those of us who have survived being sexually assaulted or raped by a family member. The two essays that really stuck out to me was the story of a woman who was forced by her family (who were feminists and human rights activists) to keep silence about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her step-grandfather. The other essay talked about something I haven't seen except in Sapphire's novel PUSH- the abuse of a female child by a female family member. While incest is taboo, sexual assault of a female child by a mother seems to be the ultimate taboo and something society has worked hard to sweep under the rug. I loved the fact that these writers blew the top off of these topics and shed some light on a very painful experience in a way that wasn't shameful. Too many times we look at incest and shy away from the victim because of the implications of incest. 

Things I didn't like about this book:

1. Twice in the book it was pointed out that a lot of perpetrators were once abused and that they shouldn't be punished. I disagree with this so vehemently that I actually ranted about it on twitter. I do understand cycling and while I feel for anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, that victimization is not a free pass to go out and victimize someone else. Everyone has a choice on whether or not they do harmful things. If you choose to harm someone else, there are consequences and the fact that anyone would think otherwise is troublesome. 

2. Relating to my above opinion, I also disagreed with how many of the writers believed that abusers should be included in circles with the abused. The one story that stuck out to me was how a woman wanted an abusers to be included in the 'Take Back the Night' festivities on campus so that the abuser "might get an understanding of what they were putting their victim through". Abusers know what they are doing and the only thing that happens when they are included in circles with victims/survivors is that the circle stops being a safe place for victims/survivors.

3. There were no trigger warnings on any of the stories which would have been very useful to navigate this book. I, personally, can't read stories that involve BDSM as a method of dealing with past trauma and it would have been nice to have been able to skip over those stories before I actually started reading them. 

4. The insinuation that being Queer comes from sexual abuse. While the next essay disputed this, it was still very troubling to see my sexuality minimized to sexual trauma. 

Overall, this was a very informative read. The book was interesting and well put together
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Queering Sexual Violence is such an important book opening up the discourse around sexual violence. Bringing together plenty of different voices, the anthology does not shy away from accepting differing views. One of the main arguments might be: There is not one story about sexual violence, not one way to speak about the topic and not one solution to help all survivors. Accepting difference and challenging common narratives is important to go on helping all survivors and not excluding certain people, because their stories and experiences do not fit neatly into the small box of accepted survivor tales. 

The book is at times difficult to read, especially because of some graphic depictions of violence. Also the four chapters (Redefining, Reclaiming, Resisting, Reimaging) are a great idea, but sometimes it was not 100% apparent to me why certain texts were subsumed under a specific chapter and not another one.. But all in all this book should be ready by many - especially if you are already involved in anti-violence work but want to keep on making this work better.
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