Shannon Suggests…. #NotAskingForIt

Shannon Suggests...

Welcome to the first post in a new “thing” I am trying: Shannon Suggests… In this little feature, as you might assume, I am going to suggest stuff. It may be reading a book, or checking out a genre or author, or maybe brushing your teeth, because that’s just good dental hygiene. Basically, it’s whatever I want you to want. Or not want. I could suggest you do not eat worms, because those are gross. Today’s topic is incredibly serious, but they won’t all be.

When it applies to books, these are going to be me coming at you from a personal level as opposed to a reviewer one. I am not really going to structure it like a review, and I am not going to say I’ll be pointing out all the things I’d point out in a normal review. I am not even going to rate it, except for personal purposes.

Today’s suggestion is that you read Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. Because it is important. It won’t be a fun book to read, and it will make you mad. And it should. So… let’s do this!

Shannon Suggests…. #NotAskingForIt Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Published by Quercus UK on September 3rd 2015
Pages: 352

It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes...

**Please note that this book contains contents that may be triggering to some readers.**


How do I even begin to beseech you to read this? Perhaps you remember back in the day when I said you needed to read Louise’s debut, Only Ever Yours for a lot of the same reasons I am going to talk about here. Here’s the main difference: the content of Only Ever Yours was a bit of a dystopian version of a present day awfulness. In Asking For It, it is straight up present day awfulness. The events in this book are not only plausible, but they are happening. This isn’t a “what if?” or a “worst-case scenario”. This is our society, this is where we live.

Emma is our main character. Emma sucks. If you met Emma on the street, she’d probably point at you, make fun of your shirt, and then sleep with your boyfriend. But there are reasons. Oh, there are reasons. First, Emma’s parents aren’t really the greatest example of human parenting themselves. Mom is… vain. So it’s no wonder that Emma is obsessed with her hair and makeup and such. Because Mom basically judges her on that shit alone. Dad seems okay, not as annoying as the mom. (Seems is the operative word at this point.)  And of course, Emma’s core friend group isn’t exactly sitting around doing volunteer work and hugging kittens either.

So on a usual night, Emma’s at a party. Drinking, kind of sloppy. And takes something (drug related) that a guy offers. And then decides to sleep with him. But she feels “off”. And then… everything goes black. I won’t go into all the details, but she doesn’t even know what happened until pictures appear online. Let me make this even clearer: there are explicit pictures, of Emma unconscious and being raped by several (yes, several) boys at the party. Photographs tell the tale here, and there should be no further debate, right? Sadly, that isn’t the case. In fact, when the pictures were uploaded to social media, people made comments by the dozens- by the hundreds in some cases. And were they of outrage at this girl being assaulted? Oh, no. They were comments about Emma’s body, her personality. Rude and vulgar and downright evil comments akin to a virtual high-five to the boys.

I am not even going to talk semantics here- this is rape. I hope everyone reading this knows that. The people in Emma’s town do not all know that. Hell, the people in Emma’s damn family do not all know that. And her case (the case even Emma herself didn’t know if she wanted to pursue) captures the attention of media around the world.

There are people who absolutely agree that Emma has been raped and that this is not okay. But an alarming number of people don’t. Even more alarming, they blame Emma, the victim. For asinine reasons like “she was drunk” and “boys can’t control themselves” and “she had consensual sex before” and “she dressed provocatively”.  Examples, from various sources:

“Come on. No one forced the drink down her throat or made her take shit. And what guy was going to say no if it was handed to him on a plate?” She laughs. “She was fucking asking for it.”

“You can spout all the nonsense you like about equal rights, but the truth is- women have to take responsibility for themselves and their own safety. If they are going to insist on wearing such revealing clothes, if they are going to insist on getting so drunk they can barely stand, then they must be prepared to bear the consequences.”

And these gems from her own mother and father, respectively:

“They’re good boys, really. This all just got out of hand.”

“‘Why did you drink so much, Emmie? Why were you in that bed in the first place, Emmie? I thought you knew better. I thought we had reared you better than that. Why, Emmie?’ He kept asking, and asking, and asking, only stopping when I started to cry. ‘Crocodile tears,’ he snapped. ‘Oh, just get out of my sight. I can’t stand to look at you.'”

Yeah, this was the consensus of most of the town. And the rage it filled me with was palpable. Because you know what was beneath Emma? Beneath the girl who was impossibly vain and irresponsible and not kind to others? A human being. A young woman who had been violated in such an unimaginable way, who now had to be violated all over again by these statements that came from friends, family, the media. Who was advocating for her while she silently fought these demons? Almost no one.

Do you know why you need to read this book? Because until one hundred percent of people agree that what happened to a woman in this circumstance was absolutely, unequivocally rape, there will be a problem in our society. Emma’s story is fictional, but the concept of  a woman”asking for it” is anything but. No one “asks” to be raped. No. One. To say that anyone could or would is demeaning to women as a whole, but especially to the women who’ve lived through such a heinous act.

And consent isn’t a blurry line. It’s a solid black line that needs only ask “was the person able to give consent while not under duress?” and if you can’t say that, there was no consent given. It isn’t even a close call in Emma’s case- she wasn’t conscious enough to say no or to stop her attackers. I don’t really care how she got unconscious. Alcohol, drug use, it wouldn’t have mattered if she had hit her own self in the head- once she was unconscious, her ability to consent to anything went out the window.

You need to read this book because the number of women (and men, in smaller numbers) who have gone through this is staggering. There are some statistics here and here that will make you ill. Based on these numbers, it’s almost certain that you know or will know someone in your life who has been affected by rape. And we need to be able to hold ourselves to a much higher standard when it comes to both the care for these victims and the prosecution of the perpetrators. We need to educate people before these crimes take place. There’s so much more that can be done, and Asking For It tells you why it’s absolutely imperative to do so. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, and all the Emmas of the world to not turn a blind eye, to not blame the victim, to not praise the attackers. This book reminds us not to jump on a bandwagon of hate. And most importantly, is a terrible reminder of how much harder we need to work at eliminating this kind of thought process.

Thoughts? Do you agree that books with strong social messages are important? 

Posted December 11, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Quasi-Review, Review, Shannon Suggests... / 33 Comments

33 responses to “Shannon Suggests…. #NotAskingForIt

  1. Oh I absolutely agree that books like this are SUPER important. *nods* I’m still traumatised from Only Ever Yours…like…seriously traumatised. AGHHHH. It was an important book though and I think the message really needed to be said. Sounds like the same for this one. But is it awful of me to admit I don’t want to read it?!? Like I agree 100% that rape is rape and it absolutely HORRIFIES me that stuff can go down like this and the girl can be blamed and there might even be no justice. AGhhh, it turns my stomach, tbh. And reading about it really just…crushes me. So idek if I will read it but I DO THINK IT’S IMPORTANT!!

    • This isn’t as traumatizing as Only Ever Yours, I will say that. It is horrible and wrong and awful, but it’s sadly something that we’ve all heard about, so it isn’t as mind blowing, which is super sad in itself. I guess it’s a different kind of awful, if that makes any sense. The message is amazing, as always.

    • Oh wow. It’s sad that this is such a real topic that there are multiple books about it- and they’re accurate. It breaks my heart, no woman (or man, because it absolutely can happen to men too) should have to go through such a thing, and then on top of it not be believed. So awful 🙁

  2. Oh wow! This sounds like a REALLY rough book, Shannon, but it’s definitely so relevant. I would need to truly emotionally prepare myself when I read this. Even though I know what to expect when I go into books like this, I can’t ever seem to curb the rage that often time comes along with books like that.

    People make out the topic of consent to be this controversial and blurry thing, when really, like you said it’s straightforward. And ugh. The blaming the victim. I just really want to slap people and do very dangerous things to them when that happens.

    I definitely think books like this one are important especially since this is a genre that caters to younger audiences. I think anyone from teenagers to adults can learn something from books with social messages. I also think they should be more available to high school students at their school libraries and such.

    • I agree, the rage is real. Especially because it was just so realistic. And YES- I love that, that it needs to be available in high schools and such. WHY aren’t we having kids read these important books!? I mean, fine, read Shakespeare or whatever, but in life? Sorry, this is going to help a hell of a lot more than Romeo and Juliet. NO ONE talks to kids about this stuff. I know no one did when I was in high school. It’s all “let’s pretend this is not a thing!” and never discuss it. Imagine the good it would do if EVERYONE was reading stuff like this, and having open dialogue? Then maybe we’d make some progress.

  3. Larissa Holt

    Hello…it’s me [;
    Hahaha hey Shannon! It’s been awhile and I miss you more than words can express. Just felt like leaving some comments on wonderful blogs (like yours) (: I find it incredible that I’ve come back to such a thought provoking and important post.

    This book sounds so important. As obvious as it is to me about what rape is and what consent is, apparently it’s not the same for some people in society. Like have your heard of the Steubenville High School rape case?? It sounds nearly identical to the events in this story. A girl was raped (among terrible other things) by some football players at a highschool party while intoxicated. The case was filmed on some people’s phones and shared online. There was so much controversy surrounding the case. Many blamed the girl herself for the incident, blamed the alcohol and blamed her for “casting a negative light on the football team.” Are you fucking kidding me!? The thing that really shook me with this case that there was so much build up of the perpetrators (so young, they have such a bright future ahead, poor boys…etc) while the victim was just trashed. Apparently the school officials and local officers were protecting the football players too!? Fucking unbelievable. And now they’re both released damn.

    It is cases like those which is why these books are so important. This one if so high on my TBR now.

    • HIIIII! I MISS YOU. I am so glad that you popped back in. It isn’t the same around here without you 🙁

      I have heard of that case! And YES it was definitely similar- I mean, it was set in Ireland so they were soccer kids of course- or football, in their country! I loved that Louise did basically everything she could to make you HATE Emma- but it didn’t even matter because who CARES?! No one deserves that EVER for ANY reason by ANY person. The point was just amazing. Because if you are a human being with even an ounce of compassion, you root for Emma. And the level of selfishness by EVERYONE in her life, across the board, made me so sick. But it’s realistic- too realistic. I can imagine parents really behaving the way hers did, honestly, which scares me that we live in that kind of world.

      If you do read it, let me know what you think! And keep popping in when you have the chance! I miss your face! If you ever feel the urge to blog, you know where to find me, it’s all yours 😀

  4. This sounds absolutely amazing and absolutely traumatizing at the same time. It says something about our society by the fact we even need books like these to remind us and educate us on topics like rape, you know? It’s so sad how huge of a problem that is in our society and how some people don’t understand what consent is, or just choose to ignore it altogether. I haven’t read Only Ever Yours yet, but I’m definitely going to do that ASAP, and then I’m going to read this one. In the meantime, I guess I just have to prepare to be scarred by all the emotions this will bring. Thanks for sharing Shannon and, as always, fabulous and insightful review! ♥

    • YES, I agree with you wholeheartedly. How, in 2015 (almost 16) is this even necessary!? It is such a sad commentary on our society at this point. And Only Ever Yours… goodness, that one is even more messed up than this one, if that is even possible. This one makes you MAD. That one makes you mad too, but also horrified and questioning everything in the world about how women are viewed in general. I LOVE that Louise O’Neill has made it her business to write these kinds of books, because she does them such justice. Thank you so much, and I do hope you get something out of reading them! I sure did- I read Only Ever Yours a LONG time ago and still can’t get it out of my head!

    • Aw thank you so much! I think that if you are uncomfortable reading it, and it’s triggering, then you shouldn’t. Because frankly, those are the people to me who DO understand why what happens in the book is so awful, you know? (I hope that made sense- I couldn’t think of the right words!)

      THAT VIDEO! That is amazing. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. I am going to link it in this week’s recap (I’ll give you a shout out of course!) but this is so, so perfect and amazing. I mean, this is the kind of thing that we should be showing young people, kids in college, etc. It’s not graphic, and the humor makes it relatable while still getting the point across. THANK YOU, Wendy, this is amazing!

  5. I think this book is VERY important and people NEED to read it. It is sad that there has to be books like this out there to teach society that this is wrong in so many levels. Books like this are very important for people to understand. You would be amazing how many people think its the victims fault. Its really sad to think that we live in this kind of society but its true.
    Just remember it doesn’t matter what kind of situation you are in, its never your fault. Voice your opinion, never be scared to change your mind or to say no. I’m one of the statistics and I’m not scared anymore and I’m not scared what ppl say or think. I’m the victim and I know it wasn’t my fault. If anyone needs more information or to speak with someone please call 1800-656-HOPE it’s a great organization and hot-line. ?

    • I totally agree. It is a sad, sad commentary on our society that this is necessary in 2015. Thank you SO much for posting your personal story. I am so incredibly sorry and pissed that you have gone through that, but I am proud as hell that you are no longer scared. You have taken power back for yourself, and that is just amazing. And especially for the number for people to reach out. It is SO important, and I hate the thought that someone is suffering alone.

      I have been in a situation that I never really knew what to call it- because of the circumstances, and the complete lack of support when I reached out to people in a position to do something, I was kind of convinced that I had made too much of it or whatever. But I saw an episode of Oprah (so yeah, we’re going back awhile hah) and she basically said that if you feel uncomfortable, that is all there needs to be. You shouldn’t have to feel that way. I sobbed while watching this episode- the girl on it was in a very similar situation- and I realized that society was making girls and women think they’re “making too big a deal”, or whatever, and that I was not the one in the wrong. THAT is why stuff like this is important. If Louise’s book can make even ONE girl going through something feel confident that it is NOT her fault, or make ONE guy stop and think before doing something awful and irreversible, then it’s a smashing success.

  6. Oh my god Shannon….your review almost moved me to tears. It is JUST SO WRONG that everyone in the whole town could blame her for it. I mean things would be different if it was daddy’s little most popular rich girl in school wouldn’t it! But she didn’t exactly start out well liked and it seems to be all about status. I hate this. I hate this so much and how there is so much misinformation and misconception about rape and how it happens. If you did not consent to sex, it is rape. It is wrong.

    • Agreed! I think you’re right, it said a lot about who the town deemed “worthy”. And the thing was, there WERE a few people who were of course on her side, but they didn’t really hold a ton of influence in anything, so they were drowned out by the people who DID. Reporters and TV personalities were dissecting her behavior at every turn, and of course, “friends” were selling out all her secrets. It was like she was being victimized all over again. SO awful. And that’s exactly it- she was unconscious, therefore wholly unable to consent to a damn thing!

  7. This feature? Pretty darn adorable!!!! And this book? YES!!! I really never thought twice about it. Honestly, I think that’s because I’m not a huge fan of the cover. But thanks for putting it on my radar because now I DEF want to read it. 🙂

    • Aw thanks 😀 The covers are supposed to be satirical I think. The cover for Only Ever Yours was a Barbie too, and it was absolutely satirical in nature. There’s also a really sad and uncomfortable reason for this too, but it’s in the book, and it will kind of break your heart. Actually, I am tearing up just thinking about it. I hope you really get something out of it- I can’t even say “enjoy” because that seems messed up 😉

  8. Wow, I do believe that book will make me so incredibly angry (as it should). But what is the saddest thing of all is that this stuff ACTUALLY HAPPENS and those responses are typical of what people have in these situations. It is awful the way a woman is blamed for drinking too much when she is raped. There were times in college when I drank too much, but I was never raped. Why? Because the guys I hung out with weren’t asshole rapists, like these idiots. I used to be a rape crisis counselor and there are SO MANY women who did not want to go to the police. The number one reason for that is because they were scared they would be blamed. And when people in real life blame women a lot of the times, how can you tell them they won’t be blamed?? Ugh, okay that was a bit of a ramble. Basically though, I love Louise O’Neill and this sounds like an important story to read even though it will probably make me furious.

    • Yes, that IS the worst part. It will absolutely piss you off, and it will then enrage you that it is real life. I know what you mean too- how is a WOMAN blamed because she is drinking, but it’s just FINE and dandy if a man drinks. In fact, people will use that as an excuse for the man to go right ahead and rape away! “Oh, well, Joe was drunk, he couldn’t ‘help himself'”, and you’re like “no, fuck Joe, because he isn’t allowed to rape”. GAH it makes me so damn MAD that there is ANY reason to side with the perpetrator!

  9. Ohhh, it left me raging and sad and drained and did we expect nothing less from Louise? BUT THIS. I still can’t even talk about it properly because gvhdtesuyghlknkgftydcbnj. SO MANY THINGS you can take from it, and EVERYONE should read it, and I know with books that deal with/aftermath of rape a lot of people think men need to read it, which yes, but we ALL need to, I mean, rape shouldn’t be an issue, it shouldn’t haveto be an issue, if somone is raped, whatever their sex/sexuality they should be believed when they’re ready to tell. Their parents, family, friends SHOULD have their back, and consider in Asking For It there is PICTURE EVIDENCE, you’d think there would be no question, and I swear, the fact that they and her sexual history was used against her. OJIHYKGJYFTDYBIJOJOHYDEAEFGUNKN. Okay, I’m getting angry again. >:( Basically the tagline for it should be ‘Asking For It will destroy you, have a good day.’

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