Mrs. Strangelove; or How I learned to stop worrying and love the cyborg

I apologize in advance for what is likely to be a heavy post. I overcame an obstacle today, that may seem kind of silly, but it was there. It was definitely there. 220px-dr-_strangelove_-_ripper_and_mandrake

Without going cray cray into detail, I’ve had my choices taken away before. Lots of us have, and, when that boundary crossed is about who does what when with your body, wires get crossed. You learn to distrust everything, most especially our own sense and senses. So that’s the background.

I’m part of an awesome group of writers, and, as a binger, this means that I added a whole new layer to my binge reading. Now, I know the amazing people behind the words, and I want to read them more. It gives me an even more amazing experience because I can learn my craft from these people, see the authentic picture of a person through their art, and it takes fangirling to an all new level because when you know and like an author you revel in their success.

This is the case with one series in particular. I’ve watched Cynthia Sax climbing the charts with her cyborgs and wanted so much to read them. BUT, I was afraid to. Cynthia’s first book in the series, Releasing Rage, dealt with some pretty heavy abuse and rape issues, and I knew it might be something I wasn’t ready for. I knew it because we’d talked about it and I’d read the reviews.

Still, there was this amazing, intriguing story by this author I’m mad for, and I felt like I was missing out … for months. I’ve sat and stared at the Amazon link and promos, and I’ve talked myself almost into trying it and back out again. This week it came up again and was on a free promo, so I downloaded it.

I knew there was a chance it would never get opened. Occasionally, when I determine that my anxiety is interfering with my life, if it’s making me avoid something I would normally love, I will sometimes employ something called exposure therapy. Books are an excellent way to do this for me, simply because I can put them down. I’m not out in a crowded place or stuck in a situation. I can put it down, and come back when I’m stronger.

Releasing Rage has rape. It has an abuse theme. Yes, but I found something more in the pages. Something healing. I’ve read some pretty crap stuff in the last few years. Genuinely confused plot lines where blurred lines and consent are completely misrepresented and depicted in the images of a true rape where the author doesn’t even appear to understand it IS rape. That’s not what this is. This is a brutal, harsh world where women and the vulnerable are always at risk from the strong. I’m not gonna lie. There were moments I thought I’d quit and close the book for a while.

But, in the end, the clincher for me was the hero himself. He’d been at the mercy of tyrants, violated and abused, until he was pretty feral himself. So, here I am reading this, and, suddenly I realize, I get him.I identify with this man who appears to be too damaged at first to be the good guy. I really, really get what that is, the need to protect yourself from anything bad. The kind of need that can drive you mindless with it.

There was no confusion on consent here. Yes, there was a submissive in the relationship, but there was never once anything dubious about her consent. What Cynthia actually puts in front of a reader here is a teaching moment.  Joan brings Rage out of that feral state by letting him have his choices. Later on, she’ll need that same kind of care. When someone has experienced the worst that mankind has to offer, the best thing we can do for them is give them time and choices.

The truth of the matter is that most people go through these moments, this process of rebuilding themselves stone by stone alone. There’s no bulletproof hero or heroine sweeping in to save the day. There isn’t the experience of safety and kindness to overshadow the bad experiences. Mainly, because without the good we expect the bad. This book painted a picture for me of the kind of treatment I need to give myself and expect from anyone who ever garners that level of trust again. That’s how exposure works actually. You replace one picture in your head with another, more positive one.

And that’s how I learned to stop worrying and love the cyborg.


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