Monday, March 19, 2018

Our Inappropriate Friends

While I often comment on things happening in book world, and more specifically romance and YA, I have been both processing and trying to not speak over the victims.  There was a twitter thread about one YA harasser in particular (Daniel Handler), that was posted by a longtime friend of Handler's who talked about how of course he was bawdy and inappropriate, that's also exactly why kids loved him.  There was rightful pushback as people noted that bawdy and having fictional characters tee-hee about masturbation is not the same as telling librarians you meet at a book event to go make out with strangers. Telling an inappropriate joke in a friend's living room is not the same as making a racist joke as you introduce a black award winner.  
So, it is with this I bring up the recent issues in romance, with Santino Hassell, who turned out to be engaging in inappropriate behavior with fans and fellow authors.  And the subsequent revelations about Sarah Lyons, who worked at Riptide (one of Hassell's publishers).  I've known Lyons a while.  I liked her.  But nothing in that story sounded unlike her to me. (The victim has since gotten a number of threats, so I'm not going to link to that.) And so, I have had to sit back and think about what that means.  I met her at a fan event, so our relationship started in a setting where the power dynamics were pretty equal.  Discussions that were appropriate between us, would not necessarily have been appropriate between co-workers or editors and writers. 
Olivia Waite had a good thread on Twitter recently where she talked about how outside of romance, many people assume we are all either dried up prunes who've never had good sex and have to write about it, or randy sex addicts who think about it so much and must constantly be practicing for our writing.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground.  But as such, outsiders often harass us, assuming that we are all fair game, since there are fictional people having sex in our books, we must enjoy being touched by strangers, having strangers discuss their sex lives with us without warning.  And that within romance, most of us get that discussing the emotional arc of a sex scene is professional talk and that is distinct from discussing whatever I may or may not have been up to last night.  
All of this is to say, I'm so sorry for all the people hurt by this.  We, big we, in romance need to think about how we can prevent these types of situations.  Waite had said in her thread she didn't think romance had a higher than average issue with harassment, and I think that's true.  But it's also clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.  
NB: RAINN has a number of resources for survivors of all kinds of sexual assault. 
NB 2: I had previously recommended Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell's co-written book.  In light of things, the book has been pulled from publication.