I'm not sure if I've never noticed it or if my recent reading is somehow skewed, but I am struck by the number of rapes and/or kidnappings of women by men in contemporary fiction. Of the last twenty contemporary novels I've read, ten have some such incident. This strikes me as a remarkable number.
I'm just beginning to consider why this might be and what it might mean, but here are a few preliminary observations about how sexual assault seems to be represented in mainstream literary fiction:
1. Kidnapping (recently encountered in Bloodroot, Room, Savages and The Fates Will Find Their Way) has clear narrative uses. Savages is a ransom situation, but the rest are sexually motivated (at least presumptively so in The Fates Will Find Their Way).
2. Sexual kidnappers get almost no description, motivation, or detail. They are white, middle-aged, and drive automobiles of no recent vintage. They prefer white, teenage girls.
3. There also seems to be a rise in rape as back-story--that is, female characters who have been raped, but that experience is outside the main time of the novel. Patty Berglund's high-school sexual assault is presented this way, even though one might reasonably argue that it was the crucial incident of the novel.
4. There is also, perhaps understandably, an aversion to narrating the actual sexual assault. Much like the identity of most of the rapists, the rape act is usually left undescribed. Except in Imperial Bedrooms (which could go for all of these actually.)
5. The excruciating emotional work of recovering from an assault happens outside the scope of the text, if it happens at all.
6. According to novels, rapes result in pregnancy exponentially more often than does consensual sex.
7. Likewise, 0% of women who have children by their rapists feel any ambivalence at all about the child.
8. Even in novels without a sexual assault, there often is a specter of male sexual violence, depicted either in untoward advances, menacing stares, dangerous situations, or second-hand stories.
9. Men are almost never the object of sexual violence. And never adult men.
10. Teenage boys are either sexually inhibited or future sex offenders.
I'm going to be thinking about how male sexual violence is portrayed in contemporary fiction, so if you have other examples or additional thoughts on the subject, I'm eager to hear them