A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter fifty six


Today’s review is going to be a bit different from usual.

I am not going to be reviewing today’s chapter in detail.

Chapter 56 contains the graphic sexual abuse of a child. Peter, Donna’s son, is abused by one of Riker’s female bodyguards.

I do not want to look at this chapter in detail because I find the use of such an act to be disgusting. A romping paranormal thriller has no business detailing a graphic scene of sex abuse. It is not what I want in a book which is trashy and ultimately supposed to be fun to read.

Rape is a matter that has to be dealt with very lightly in a book because it is such a serious and horrendous crime. This goes doubly for the abuse of a child. LKH has already displayed an almost fetishistic fascination for rape; in fact, in her e-short ‘Shutdown’ Anita, her self insert, admits to being into rape fetishism. I find rape fetishism to be entirely beyond the pale – I have known too many women and men to have gone through abuse that I will never find it acceptable. The pain of another human being is not to be used for your kink.

Every single Hamilton villain so far has been into rape. It is tiresome, but unfortunately, it is a seeping cancer of the paranormal romance genre. It is the trope that just will not die. Anita is such a horrendous character that a line has to be drawn somewhere. The line is sexual assault – the villains all do it, but ‘saintly’ Anita Blake can be known as a hero because while she spews bigotry, tortures, and murders people, she hasn’t really raped anyone yet.

However, for some reason, it has been decided that Riker must be extra evil. He must be made into a very clear villain, so he’s ordered a goon to assault a child. I don’t understand why this has been done. If you are a good writer, you should be able to make it obvious who your villains are. By saying ‘hey look, this guy is extra evil, he orders people to rape children’ demeans and degrades the experiences of real survivors. Hamilton, you did this to shock people. You wanted to make people hurt and angry. You wanted to be ‘edgy’.

There are a myriad of other ways to make Riker into a bad guy. You pushed this into your text with no thought or care about what you did. Reading the scene makes me feel sick. You thought this was a ‘cool’ idea. You physically disgust me.

Throughout the scene, all LKH cared about was the impact on Anita. ‘Some sights cut through your mind leaving a scar behind that never really heals’. She actually is smug about how she never turns away but watches Peter’s sexual assault until it’s finished. Oh, then she has the dignity to be sick, so we know that this was A Bad Thing.

LKH does not spare a thought for how Peter should be feeling in this scene. Why? Because Peter isn’t important as a character. The only important character is Anita, and all LKH cares about is providing drama for her character.

If you are not willing to discuss the impact of sexual assault in your fiction, do not fucking include it.

I have heard many things about Obsidian Butterfly, many fans and ex-fans discussing how it is their favourite book, how it is the shining star of the Anita Blake books. I have one read one response discussing the abuse of Peter and the graphic detail in which it is discussed.

Commenters, I think you are great. But reconsider your thoughts on this book. Because if I read anyone defending Hamilton, this book, and her fucking sick fetish for rape, I am going to fucking block them from this site and eviscerate them as I do.

Hopefully, tomorrow’s chapter is going to be lighter. I’m going to sing songs from Cabaret with my budgie and play video games until I stop feeling sick.

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11 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter fifty six

  1. I’m so tired of rape and sexual abuse being used for cheap shock value. And later in the series, LKH uses it to justify Peter sexually assaulting his girlfriends, as well as to explain why he wants to hunt like Edward. Which is something that I find as objectionable as the rape itself. Because the idea that a child who suffers sexual abuse will grow up to be an abuser is not one that we need.

    As well as that, from a story telling perspective, it adds nothing. It doesn’t make the villains more threatening, it makes them look like unprofessional caricatures. I actually found it more effective that they cut off Becca’s finger. The cheap use of rape-as-drama makes this feel like a bad fanfiction. It’s something that should have been cut.

  2. I feel like I should point out that some victims do sexualize what happened, and do go on to find sexual validation in CONSENSUAL enactments of similar scenarios. I mention this because I’m not too comfy with potentially shaming people who have found a measure of control in this fashion. Of course, this isn’t what LKH is doing so the criticism is more than valid in that context. I’d love to read a thoughtful, nuanced treatment of that idea. This is not it.

    • I do not wish to shame survivors and any means of therapeutic help that they choose to pursue. I simply felt that LKH’s obsession with rape seems fairly fetishistic, and that feels incredibly wrong to me.

      • Absolutely no argument there. She works it in wherever she can but there are never any lasting consequences. I feel that if an author is going to write about rape they have an obligation to portray it in a nuanced and serious fashion.

      • Yes, exactly. Rape needs to be handled with care, especially child abuse. If you cannot be careful with it, then never include it in your story.

      • The way in which LKH treats rape is wrong. But having ravishment fantasies and consensually roleplaying said fantasies is not wrong.

        And yes, I’m upset because you just called something I do “beyond the pale”. I know the difference between fantasy and reality, I’ve worked hard to fight rape culture, and telling women they are not allowed to have certain kinds of fantasies is harmful. It’s why I don’t even look at the Shakespeare’s Sister website any longer.

      • I’ve been trying to word a suitable response to this for a while. It’s hard to do, because there’s a lot of sensitive information that I don’t want to divulge on the internet. I did that once before, and it triggered a sort of mental breakdown that I don’t want to experience again.

        I know a lot of survivors. It is impossible for me to be unbiased about this situation. I’m sorry, but I can’t be objective about behaviour that hurts and offends those I love and care for. I hope you can understand this.

      • “But having ravishment fantasies and consensually roleplaying said fantasies is not wrong.”

        I don’t think Dottie is saying they’re wrong. She’s saying the flippant way these issues are handled in LKH’s works in particular is offensive and superficial. I brought up the same concern higher up in this thread and I think Dottie did an admirable job of explaining her reasoning.

  3. I feel I should clarify that just because someone fetishizes rape doesn’t mean they are necessarly fetishizing real rape. Fetishes can be very metaphorical sometimes and someone who has a rape fetish might be dream of a partner who knows what they want and can give it to them even when they deny themselves. In real people and real life this trait is manipulative and a sign of being a majorly unempathetic and controlling jackass. But fiction can be a method of exploring fantasies in a safe envirnment where no one can be hurt. I don’t think fetishes cheapen real experiences as I hold fetishized rape in porn or erotic stories and real rape in two completely different mental categories. Except in works that give the victim the same reaction and traumas they would have in reality but play it like it’s hot…then I get squicked.

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