This book and this post both discuss sexual assault, including from the perspective of the perpetrator.
As far as I’m concerned, this book — Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable — was one big potential trigger. I spent 176 pages unsure of whether I would dissociate, so I picked my reading times and places carefully. It was painful, but it was worth it to me.
The premise (no spoilers beyond the book jacket): Keir considers himself a good guy. Therefore, he could not have done what Gigi is claiming.
Why I’m Writing (probably contains spoilers): I’m of two minds on this book. On the one hand, I do believe Keir believes he’s a good guy — at least on the surface. But there are a fair amount of people who reinforce this good guy persona, including his dad, the people who offer him college scholarships, and pretty much everyone on the football team — the evidence of Keir’s actual conduct notwithsanding. So, Keir believes himself a good guy. Hell, as a reader — even one who is conditioned to be skeptical of Nice Guys — I read so many times from so many characters that I started to internalize it. Not enough so I fully believed him, but enough that I didn’t fully disbelieve.
BIG ASS SPOILER RIGHT HERE: Keir rapes his friend in this belief — that he is a good guy and good guys don’t do things like this — deluding himself that he loves her at the time.
And I don’t know what to do with this.
On one hand, it’s crucial to counter the “rapist as monster” misconception that a lot of people have. Not that sexual assault isn’t a terrible act — it is — but sometimes people then assume that rapists are all-around noticeably terrible people. They have this idea of rapist as Other, someone who is so far out of the norm that they’ll surely be recognized for what they are. This isn’t true. While stats on this are admittedly varied and flawed, somewhere in the area of 6% of men admit to attempted or completed sexual assault. Six percent translates into roughly one out of every seventeen men.
I know a lot more than seventeen men. Even accounting for the men in my life who I know to have committed sexual assault (namely, because they were committing it against me), statistically, there are likely other rapists among the remaining people I know.
It’s a really big deal that people bump up against the idea that they might know a rapist. It’s a really big deal because when I confided to friends immediately after my rape, they — to a person — said something that amounted to, “[Name of rapist], really? Are you sure? He’s such a nice guy; he wouldn’t do something like that.” In other words, based on someone’s reputation as a good guy, they dismissed and negated my understanding of an unequivocal and fairly violent attack. It’s a really big deal because my story is not unusual.
In addressing that, Keir is compelling, and Inexcusable is successful.
Where I’m having trouble is the premise — the delusion — that Keir truly didn’t understand what he was doing at the time that he did it. (EVEN MORE SPOILERS): He initiates sexual contact at a time when the other person is incapable of giving consent. He uses a sufficient amount of force, from my understanding of the character’s own narration, that the victim’s verbal and physical protests could be dominated. Later, when he realized what he’d done, he was repulsed by his own actions.
Maybe it’s my own personal bias, but I call bullshit. I do not believe that anyone could be so self-aggrandized and predatory in the night and have a genuine epiphany and change of heart the next morning. Not even in fiction.
But then I think: Maybe I’m not supposed to believe. I can’t parse author’s intent here. On one hand, it may be that he was trying to use Keir’s remorse as a way to create a sympathetic character. (I write plays, and I grow to love my characters, and sometimes it is hard not to throw one a sympathy lifeline sometimes, even if that detracts from the power of the story.) On the other, it may be that Lynch was simply carrying Keir’s self-delusion through to its natural conclusion — That he’s deluding himself into believing he’s remorseful, without really ever addressing all the shit that got him there.
Heartbreaking though it will be, I suspect this is one novel that calls for rereading.