RAPE TRIGGER WARNING
I come bearing a gift.
By which I mean bearing a curse. What’s this curse? Over 3,000 words of rapefare from that most favored of punching bags, R. Scott Bakker. Specifically it’s from his non-fantasy thing–I’m not sure what genre it falls into other than “mumbo-jumbo”–Neuropath. Now, by and by I’ve come to view Bakker as rather harmless if socially incompetent; his boon companion Peter Watts is a far more loathsome piece of shit (although anecdotes have it that Watts is, in real life, quite socially incompetent as well and that translates to a certain kind of schoolboy pettiness. Now imagine if he, Watts and Pat have a drink together at a con–but never mind, that’s a vile image: so much smug idiocy concentrated in one place!).
Then someone told me about the rapefare in Neuropath.
Here follows a close reading and dissection of about 3,000 words (more than 10 pages in paper!) of rapefare. I was warned it would be disgusting, but after a while I found it merely hilarious. There’s a weird, off-putting tone to this as of a schoolboy dipping a stick into his own fresh excrement, then running at people to wave said stick in their faces. This isn’t edgy, haunting, horrifying. It’s very simply disgusting in the same childish, mindless way and suggests that Bakker perhaps needs to be house-broken. If Chris Priest believes Charles Stross to be an incontinent puppy, then one can only imagine Bakker as a piglet suffering from explosive diarrhea. It rolls around in–well, you know. Obeying its natural instincts, as it were.
To my Fall 2003 Popular Culture class.
For remaining honest in the face of complexity, and humble in the shadow of mystery.
Jesus, what did his Fall 2003 Pop Culture class do to him? Threaten his goldfish? Argue with him about feminism? Question his feminist cred? Call him a misogynistic fuck? “Self-important roach”?
The following story is based on actual trends in neuro-science, psychology, and cognitive science. Despite all the controversies (and there are many), one fact has managed to rise above the fray: we are not what we think we are.
I’m not sure about the set-up and context for this scene, and wasn’t especially interested in finding out. In fact I didn’t read the rest of the book, in no small part because if the writing in Prince of Misogyny… er, sorry, The Rape that Comes Before er… I mean The Darkness that Comes Before–well, if the writing in that is leaden, then the writing in Neuropath can only be described most charitably by abusing the “piglet with explosive diarrhea” imagery to shreds. It’s bad. It’s really bad. It’s so bad that a rape scene becomes, rather than horrific, gut-tearing funny. Bakker can’t write. I’m not sure what it is he’s doing, but it’s nothing literate.
It’s also a thing that makes it obvious that even Bakker’s flimsy I-think-women-are-superior belief is a blatant lie.
‘She’s government owned and operated,’ Neil continued. ‘A radiosurgical psychopath.’
The room seemed to contort and flatten about her smirking face. Neil’s voice fell out of the narrowing corners. ‘I performed the procedure, myself, Goodbook. Compassion. Guilt. Shame. I scrubbed her clean, old buddy.’
‘Sam,’ he heard himself whisper, but he could taste no spit on his tongue.
‘Did you hear that?’ she cooed close to his neck. He could smell the Aveeno moisturizer she used every morning out of the shower. ‘I’ve been tweaked. My amygdalas have been stripped down to their predatory essentials.’ She licked his ear lobe and whispered, ‘Imagine being locked up and helpless with Jeffrey Dahmer.’
As far as I can tell this hinges on something about removing a sense of ethics and social mores and ehhh I don’t give a shit, never mind. But here’s the context for how the female rapist came to be, I guess. We could perhaps pause to consider that Bakker is not very smart, and likely subscribes to the idea that Rapist are Evil Scary People who ambush women in dark alleyways, being evident psychopaths; Bakker most likely isn’t aware of acquaintance or marital rape. Or rape culture period. Well, why speculate; his reactions to every charge of misogyny have so far proven that he isn’t aware much of anything.
‘They call us “Graduates”,’ she explained. ‘People surgically unfettered by your stone-age biases. People capable of driving the hard bargains, who don’t need to bullshit themselves when it comes to choosing the projection of US power over the dissolution of the Knesset, or Orinoco drilling rights over starving Venezuelans. People who protect their own, come what may. And thanks to us, America will survive to pick up the pieces, believe you me.’
‘You’re wondering how it’s possible,’ Sam said, grinning like a tomboy.
How does that work? In what way do tomboys grin differently from anyone else? How do you distinguish a tomboy’s grin from any other kind of grin? Can Bakker simply not write?
Thomas blinked at the blood and tears, stared at her in numb incomprehension, at the trim manikin nose, the commercial-break smile, the cheek curved to no palm in particular. It was a beautiful face, he realized. It was a beautiful face and it could do anything it wanted. Anything.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t necessarily find this juxtaposition of the victim noticing physical attractiveness out of place, but this is the first in a long line of descriptions that emphasize: Sam is pretty, Sam is desirable, Sam is sexy. Rape or not. Not only that, but she’s reduced to her beautiful face–a beautiful face that “could do anything it wanted.” Not “Sam could do anything she wanted,” but her face as though it’s an independent entity. Or, well, an object.
He started struggling against the plastic cuffs and the tape. Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck…
The pinnacle, as you can see, of edginess. It’s little wonder that Bakker and Richard K. Morgan are people who will generally defend each other to the death.
Holstering her Glock, Sam slapped her hands together and surveyed her handiwork. ‘All this domination has made me hot,’ she said with a heavy breath.
And now, we start to cringe. If you hadn’t already started from the word go. It’s true that there’s no manual for How Psychopaths Talk 101, but play along with me and attempt to separate this bit of dialogue from the script of a particularly unpretentious, to-the-point BDSM porn–”All this domination has made me hot.” Can you distinguish the pseudo-intellectual, self-aggrandizing PhD-dropout writer from the garden-variety director of a B-rate porn shoot? Exactly.
She shed her blazer and began unbuttoning her blouse. [...] From the scissoring of limbs he could tell she had continued undressing.
She doesn’t strip the man she’s about to rape, by the way.
‘Isn’t this fucking wild?’ she said. ‘I mean all the energies flying around, all the boundaries being broken! How fucking wild is that? I can remember what I was like. I mean, the thought of doing something like this was just… just… I’d have a heart attack!’
Neil gasped in her sudden silence.
‘But now! What a fucking trip! I’m sooo fucking wet!’
This is embarrassing. “I’m sooo fucking wet” indeed. Again, can you distinguish this from the script of an especially terrible porn vid? Neil’s the man she is raping by the way.
‘Fucking wild,’ she mumbled. ‘Oh, God,’ – surprised laugh – ‘I’m gonna come already. Watch me, professor. Watch me, unnngh…’
I would say that my face is locked into a rictus of embarrassment, but it started out that way, so…
The running blood had become acid. His eyes screamed, yet he couldn’t tear them away from the slurry of light and dark jerking before him. Sam cried out, a primal voice for primal ears, then everything became still, save for the fluttering of anguished eyelids.
Mr Bakker, when TVTropes talks about Eye Scream they aren’t being literal.
‘Intense,’ she gasped. ‘Fuck me. Did you see that? Bammo, and he’s still so fucking hard.
BAMMO! Who talks like that.
‘Oh, yeah… I think I got another one. How many times did your wife say she usually came? Three? Four? What do you say, professor? Wanna watch me toss another load?’
Laughter. ‘But of course you do! I can see your boner from here. You guys are made for this stuff. Sex and violence. Juice and penetration. Horror versus fantasy, and fantasy wins! Christ, even Gerard’s got a fucking hard on…’
Something evo-psych something men are made for sex and violence.
‘Just so fucking wild,’ he heard her murmur. ‘So hot! No fucking wonder so many men are rapists…’ Though he couldn’t see her, she became Cynthia Powski sucking on her bottom lip. ‘But it’s not the same, is it? I mean, if I were a guy and you were chicks, it would be more, wouldn’t it? The buzz would be bigger…’
As you can see. It’s very Men’s Rights-y. I also find it intriguing that amidst all the horror the guy finds enough mental space to reimagine her as some vulnerable, seductive woman sucking on her bottom lip.
‘I mean before… I was… well, not a prude… but, you know – like everyone else. Stuff like this… like murder and fucking just freaked me right out. So guilty I couldn’t pass a fucking bum without digging through my purse! I just… just wasn’t built for this job. And I wanted it. I wanted it so badly. To be a spook. A real world Lara Croft… I wanted to be strong!’
By this point I’m not sure what point Bakker is trying to make–other than to cement the fact that he’s a very creepy, creepy misogynist–but Sam comes across, rather than a psychopath to be feared, as a very vulnerable woman with a horrid case of penis envy.
Pale lines bucked against crowded shadows, and she cried out. ‘What can I say?’ she continued, talking as though to catch her own drool. ‘Anything goes, professor… Anything.’
‘Are you…’ Sam mumbled. ‘Are you shooooor.’
‘You thought…’ Neil replied drunkenly. ‘You thought screwing me would do it?’
In an astounding gesture of gender essentialism, we have here Neil–a man who I think has also been operated on or conditioned or whatever–who’s absolutely untouchable (more later), pitted against a woman raping him who’s become absolutely incoherent, drooling, and mindless by getting off on rape. Because in Bakker’s fiction women are more prone to losing control, or something.
Thomas stared at the pasty, languorous horror before him. Skin he loved. Limbs he loved. A body he had worshipped, grinding against the pulse of another man.
This is interesting, because let’s compare with another of Bakker’s innumerable rape scenes, the one I’ve quoted before from The Warrior Prophet:
His wife and child were dead. Sacks of penetrated flesh with faces that he loved, and still . . . they did things.
It’s interesting that Sam, the female rapist, and this guy’s wife and child are depicted in very similar ways: things the male narrator loved and lost. Despite her doing the raping, Sam isn’t someone with agency–she very quickly loses control, rationality and even her mind to the high of the rape, in a way not dissimilar to the woman raped in The Warrior Prophet:
Valrissa’s eyes regarded Aengelas, thick with something impossible. She moaned and parted hanging legs to greet the abomination’s hand. A race of lovers . . .
“I don’t know! I don’t! I don’t! Pleaase stop! Pleaasse!” The thing screeched like a thousand falcons as it plunged into her. Glass thunder. Shivering sky.
She bent back her head, her face contracted in pain and bliss. She convulsed and groaned, arched to meet the creature’s thrusts. And when she climaxed, Aengelas crumpled, grasped his head between his hands, beat his face against the turf. The cold felt good against his broken lips.
So, we have got a scene where a woman rapes a man, but the man remains in firm control. Then we have got a scene where a male monster rapes a woman, and the male monster is of course in firm control. In both, the woman absolutely loses her mind to carnal impulses.
Even the narrator in The Warrior Prophet rapefare, Aengelas, retains his mind throughout his own rape and doesn’t lose himself to the stimulus of a demonic cock in his anus.
Back to Neuropath:
The first shot passed clean through her neck, giving her time to turn around and stare at Thomas in round-eyed amazement – at Mia’s revolver shaking in his contorted hands. She raised her Glock in a manikin arm. The second shot took her to the left of her nose, throwing her back off of Neil and onto the floor. She landed like luggage. Her nude body convulsed for several heartbeats, then went very still.
As you know, Scott… Later on–
The guard reached in with thick fingers, withdrew what Thomas mistook for a handkerchief, then recognized as Sam’s white cotton panties.
The guard smiled and scowled at once.
‘You dawwg,’ Mia drawled.
Yep. Her panties. Hurrrrr.
There are a host of things wrong with this shit, but starting from the obvious is the fact that throughout it Sam is eroticized: she’s naked, she’s grinding against Neil, she’s making noises, and the men can’t keep down their erections. Like Valrissa she is susceptible to sex and is unable to keep control of herself. Her lines aren’t that of a psychopath experimenting with sexual violence–she strips herself but keeps Neil fully clothed; she’s some guy’s dominatrix sex fantasy. Sam isn’t in control: the male gaze is.
Later on, Neil experiments with Thomas’ wife and straps her into a machine.
‘But I feel it! It’s the most certain thing I’ve ever…’ Her face was pinned beneath looming circuitry, lines of blood trailing from the bolts that fixed her skull, and yet her expression was one of maudlin yearning, as though she were some teenage diva emoting for the camera. The absurdity of it jarred a wave of nausea from his gut. ‘I mean, why did it take me so long to see? I love. I love!’
‘I’m confused,’ Nora was sobbing. ‘I don’t… I don’t understand what’s happening. All I know is that I love you, Tommy. That’s all I know!’
‘I told you!’ she cried. ‘It’s the deepest, the most awesome feeling of…’ She trailed into silence. Her eyes fluttered. She swallowed, then let out a long, groaning sigh. ‘Ungh,’ she gasped. ‘You are doing something to me, aren’t you? Are you touching me? Are you-you-you-yooooooo - ‘
‘You can see it, can’t you?’ Neil said, glancing at Thomas. ‘See her for what she is.’
No, something said. Yes.
‘Mmmmm,’ Nora murmured in a tone that stabbed for its familiarity. ‘Ohmigawd…‘
Neil made her come, then transformed the data signature of her voice into an algorithm that made him come. He stood between them and cackled as they cried out again and again, driven to orgasm after orgasm by the sound of the other’s climax.
And Thomas did not want it to stop.
Then Neil did the same with pain, so that her wagging shrieks made him buck and howl, over and over again. A pain beyond weeping. A pain beyond succor or reprieve,
A pain only fallen angels could know.
That last line is awful. Awful.
Aside from that, it’s nearly identical to The Warrior Prophet rapefare. And, at some level, the male point of view retains some semblance of control while the women he loves–Valrissa, Sam, Nora–quickly turn into mindless, gibbering goo.
Mr Bakker, you are disgusting. It’s not even that you are edgy or avant-garde. You’re just disgusting in a sad, banal way; reading this is like catching you masturbating to rape porn surrounded by wads of used tissue. Possibly your masturbating aid is your own steaming feces. And, not quite content with being found out (and feeling no shame, for that matter), you record it and upload it to youtube, and share around the link. Bakker is the piglet with the explosive diarrhea that’s very, very proud of the shit he’s just excreted. And he wants us all to smell it. Possibly follow his lead and taste it too. This novel incidentally arose from an argument between Bakker and his wife:
Since the psychothriller is her favourite genre, I suggested, as a warm, loving, generous gesture on my part, that I try writing one after the trilogy was completed. She laughed – a little too hard, I think – and told me (and this is almost a direct quote): “You couldn’t write a thriller if you tried! You-you, I know you. You’d have to stuff it full of all kinds of literary and philosophical crap, and that’s not what psychothriller’s are about. You’d just screw it up!”
So what began as a gesture of love on my part was instantly transformed into an exercise in spite. I had to prove the smug little… wonderful woman wrong!
Who wants to pretend that Bakker wasn’t about to blurt out “the smug little bitch”? Dot dot dot wonderful woman indeed. I wouldn’t presume to know how she feels about her husband, but my, isn’t that a right patronizing smug asshole? Of the novel, he was quite confident about:
You are not what you think you are. Neuropath pursues that fact through a story of lust, betrayal, and a string of serial murders unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Basically, he thinks the book is Very Deep and Very Thoughtful and will expose you to myriad truths hitherto beyond your little minds. At this point, I don’t think “self-important little roach” suffices anymore. This is a man whose ego has inflated to the size of Jupiter. At one point, one might hope, it’ll collapse into a blackhole and suck him in along with his horde of fanboys eager to fellate him. In the blackhole. Forever. He wasn’t too happy that Larry at OF Blog didn’t want to recommend his book either, and showed up in typical classy (haha) fashion to protest.
The cringe game consists of taking the book, fondling it for a minute or so, then randomly opening it here and there to this or that page, and reading a paragraph or two. Your fingers cramp. The muscles in your back tense. Your shoulders draw up. A burning in your gut bends you kneeward. You grimace, and a voice that sounds a lot like your own says, “Yeesh, I write like crap.”
This has been my experience with every book I’ve written so far: I want to take it back, to burn or to rewrite it, or to a least insert several footnotes apologizing to the reader. Or maybe slip a five dollar bill between the pages, with that note says, “Go to DQ, buy yourself a sundae.” I can honestly say that I suffered none of this with Neuropath.
Oh, dear, and to think even people who are vaguely positive about the Prince of Misogyny stuff think Neuropath is his very worst.
Are the muggles ready for Neuropath? That remains to be seen. The vast majority of readers will reject the vast bulk of the claims made in the book – that goes without saying, I think.
The rest is pretty much along the same vein of everything else he’s ever said, in the same tiresome, repetitious, pretentious up-his-own-anus manner. It shows that anyone who takes him seriously is in dire need of reevaluating their own education, intelligence, and gullibility. This is the nadir, this is the deepest depths you will sink to once you take at face value someone like R. Scott Bakker–and submit to the idea that someone so dreadfully vacant has something of real worth to offer because he’s sufficiently long-winded and jargony enough to fool you.
Let alone that this is a feminist man who “battles real misogyny” on his blog every day. If you believe that claim, well… there’s no hope for you, is there? You are just sad. He is sad. Everything about this is a pathetic clusterfuck neck-deep in everything ever wrong with fandom. The shining icon of neckbeardery in its essential definition:
Talkative, self-important nerdy men (usually age 30 and up) who, through an inability to properly decode social cues, mistake others’ strained tolerance of their blather for evidence of their own charm.
Quite. I’m astonished that Bakker’s fanboys remember how to breathe.