Lucy’s written a post about responsibility in writing, and it’s got me thinking.

Which is scary, I don’t like it.

It’s the first half of her post which intrigues me, the part about rape rather than the part about ‘Wolf Creek’ which I haven’t seen, and the heated slanging match in the comments section. A few years back I read a book called ‘The Gift of Fear’ by Gavin de Becker which, amongst other things, talks about stalkers and rapists.

Gavin’s argument (as far as I can remember from reading the book once about five years ago) is rape, and stalking in particular, are instituionalised in our culture because no never means no.

For example, you may have this conversation with someone in a pub:

“Do you want a drink?”

“No thanks.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh go on then.”

Which instantly sets a precedent: no doesn’t mean no, it means persuade me.

Similarly, a lot of rom-coms work on the same premise: one party (normally the man) is in love with the second party (normally the woman). He declares his love for her, but she isn’t interested. He then pursues her until she realises the mistake she made and loves him back.

Which certainly sounds like stalking to me, and again illustrates: no doesn’t mean no.

The basic premise of having to win someone’s heart, having to prove yourself worthy by persistence, is a dubious one at best. With so many tales of love, both in print and in moving image, repeating this message, is it any wonder people go off the rails and become stalkers?

A couple of days ago, a producer asked me to come up with some short films ideas for a friend of his. I thought about this premise and suggested a short film where the first five minutes is a standard rom-com from the guy’s perspective where he pursues the object of his affection. The second half is from her perspective where we see the fear she lives in as this weirdo stalks her.

I think it’s a great idea, unfortunately the person concerned once suffered from a stalker and is unlikely to want to relive the experience for a film. It’s one to keep on the back burner though.

Unless someone nicks it from here and makes it first. Perhaps, in retrospect, I shouldn’t post my half formed concepts on the Internet? Oh well, chances are someone else has already made it anyway. Not that that’s a problem: you don’t have to do something first, you just have to do it better.

Back to the subject of responsibility: I’ve tried my hardest to stay away from this ‘Do you?’ ‘No.’ ‘Go on.’ ‘Okay.’ formula in films. It’s difficult, mainly because it’s such an institutionalised formula and most people don’t see anything wrong with it until you point it out; but I feel it’s my responsibility not to propogate it any further.

I was at a friend’s house recently and she offered me a posh chocolate, which I accepted – something which put her and her boyfriend out.

“You’re supposed to decline once and wait for to be offered again.”

Eh? It turns out, they didn’t really want me to have a chocolate – they wanted them all for themselves. They offered out of politeness, and (apparently) etiqutte demands you say no. If they offer again, then it’s a genuine offer and you can happily take one. They had no intention of offering a second time.

My first thought here was “Fuck off and get a life” but I’m a genial soul and didn’t say it. My second thought was “If you don’t want me to have it, why offer?” but I didn’t want to get into a debate about etiquette, politeness and being honest with your friends.

Instead, I opted for explaining the concept of ‘no means no’ and accusing them of being rapists.

Which, I feel, was the responsible course of action.

Categories: Random Witterings, Writing and life | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Responsibility

  1. Jon Peacey

    Unusually for me I’ll keep this brief. The rom-com paradigm is, to me, a watered down version of the far older Romance literature where the loved person must be won after arduous adventure (guess that’s the old Hero’s Journey thing again) but in the absence of dragons, ogres or, latterly, evil guardians or the like to defeat, the person must be won against their initial response. Of course, this can sometimes be turned around to mean a fight against class, family, culture, wealth, personal hideousity, etc. and then be a fight against an external force but for some reason these have become a bit too cliched and Catherine Cookson.

    The very language of love is littered with such concepts as ‘madly in love’, ‘crazy in love’ (Beyonce!Eep!), ‘amour fou’, etc.

    The switched perspective stalker film has been done rather well (only an opinion) in the French film He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not with Audrey Tautou.

  2. I’ll have to add that to the massive list of films I hope one day to find the time to watch.

  3. Eleanor Piper

    That whole “Here, have a sweetie!” thing … I prefer savoury things, generally don’t eat sweets (except chocolate). But if someone offers me a sweet they don’t want to give me because they believe I’ll decline the offer, I make a point of taking it.

    As you say, they shouldn’t offer something if they don’t mean it.

    … Whether I eventually get around to eating the sweet or not is another matter all together.

    You have all been warned! 😉

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