Queering Sexual Violence

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Member Reviews

**I received a copy of this book from Riverdale Avenue Books through Net Galley for an honest review**

4 STARS

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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