The right way

Aditya Shukla

Looking forward, Nguyen aims to find a few basic tenets when dealing with sexual violence. Nguyen finds that sexual violence needs to fit the theme of the fictional work, finding that thematic elements are essential in setting the mood of a story and sexual violence really should only be included in dark stories to give the discussion of the topic the tone of respect it demands.  

“If [sexual violence takes place in] a darker fictional setting, for example, like Guts, that’s the kind of literature where it’s like, OK, this would make sense for it to happen in,” Nguyen said. “But if you’re watching something like [a kid’s show], and then something like that happens, there are moments when ‘yes, this would be appropriate’ and there are moments where this is completely inappropriate” 

Along with the thematic requirements behind sexual violence, Marwaha also wants future works that contain sexual violence to have their depictions become an important turning point in a fictional work, stating that these moments need to be essential in defying character arcs. Furthermore, he also states that how characters deal with their trauma is also an important part, noting how “Berserk’s” protagonist Guts deals and recovers from his experiences. 

“If [sexual violence is] done just for the sake of it or done just as a side thing and is glanced over as not important, I wouldn’t really enjoy that,” Marwaha said. “I wouldn’t really support that as much as I would  authors taking the time to actually use [sexual violence] as a turning point in the plot, because it absolutely deserves to be. In the prologue of [‘Berserk’], [Guts] gets sexually assaulted as a as a child, and that trauma carries with him up until he’s in his late teens, and he doesn’t let people touch him. He doesn’t get friendly with people. Basically just shuts everybody off. And that I believe, is how sexual assault and things like that should be handled, in a serious way that have lasting effects for the character. I believe there should be a level of importance that’s placed on the topic.” 

Another problem that Chauhan believes unnecessary depiction of sexual violence causes is  desensitization. Much like Nguyen’s experiences watching anime, Chauhan recalls feeling indifferent to the various scenes of rape and abuse in “Game of Thrones” and found that the tension and weight behind such scenes was significantly reduced on subsequent rewatches of the series. While still acknowledging that the show never portrays sexual violence in a positive light, she still argues for a balance between too much and too little when the subject matter is discussed.

“If throughout the show you [see] so much sexual violence [to the point where] you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I expected that,’ that’s not a good look for the show,” Chauhan said. “But if it’s something where the show is supposed to talk about that sort of stuff in a way that’s informative, [it fits the theme]. For example, ‘Criminal Minds’ has a lot of episodes where the focus is on sadism and people who take sexual pleasure in [acts] of sexual violence. There’s no actual graphic imagery of it, but there’s a lot of discussion of it. So in that case, it’s not surprising whenever they have an episode where it’s [dealing with] sexual violence.”

Aditya Shukla

Nguyen finds value in people encountering such violence in fiction, stating that while anyone should be able to opt out of reading or viewing such media, it is still an essential experience for the development of young people today. Subscribing to a philosophy of knowledge over ignorance, Nguyen states that mature interpretations of sexual violence help people become more exposed to dealing with events that have affected the MVHS community. 

“I do believe people should have an option to opt out. I don’t think anything should be necessary for anyone,” Nguyen said. “There should always be a choice. You are never forced to take the red pill.  Would I strongly encourage them to participate in learning that material? Yes. I think everyone, at least at some point, should get the opportunity to have that discussion and truly understand the gravity of [such a] situation. I think it’s very important to the development of a young adult because especially in our current society, it’s a modern day issue. Sexual assault is not something that’s like, ‘It only happens in the movies, it only happens in fantasy or it only happens like in a very small proportion’ — this is something that happens, regrettably, to way more people than you think.”