Was I trying to titillate the reader with my descriptions of what happens to Sally? It’s a question that has been nagging at me since, last week in Rutland, there was a lady brave enough to ask it – maybe even accuse me of it. I know absolutely I am not glorifying any aspect of what is unquestionably abuse – my intention is, of course, quite the opposite.
But what about the titillation?
Sometimes it takes a brave person to mention the elephant in the room – and there were in fact several such brave women at the reading group, where I was invited to answer questions about The Thinking Tank. I’ve talked about feeling naked before – having yourself out there, your written word being analysed, chewed over, interpreted, misinterpreted, whatever. But this was a bit different.
I don’t usually feel the need to justify my choices – no, wrong – if I justify my choices, I usually feel comfortable. But then nobody has used that word, ‘titillation’ before. It has a nasty sting, that word, and is surely almost a subset of the word ‘gratuitous’.
What happens has to be seen through Sally’s eyes, and felt through Sally’s senses and conveyed to the reader as Sally herself experiences what is happening. Do we not all recognise those murky first stirrings of awakening through pseudo-sexual games? Is it not fair to relate it as it is, and with the effect it will inevitably have on a vulnerable player in my novel? If we are not moved by what is happening – aghast, shocked, thrust out of our comfort zone by uncomfortable passages as we follow Sally’s journey, then how can we possibly relate to what is the catalyst for all that happens thereafter? How can dot-dot-dot convey the horror of what occurs?
The dilemma remains with me, but The Thinking Tank is already out there…
Sally was titillated, despite the shame and the horror and the wanting to be wanted. So we, being put into that place and into her mind and body, are also titillated. Is that how it works?
The Thinking Tank is available from Walkers and Waterstones and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.