Tragedy-Porn Rant

Cliche stock photos of unhappy/crying children.

Cliche stock photos of unhappy/crying children.

I saw these in a corner shop in the Hastings train station. They were all pretty much on one shelf.

It’s like someone arranged them in a specific, very troubling genre. Marketing someone’s tragedy as sensationalism.

“He touched her.. where?”

“He put her in a cellar??”

“OMG It was a priest??!”

“Captive for how long?”

“6 years? 15 years? 25 years?”

“Wow.”

I’m not trying to be insensitive. I’m very sure that the contents of these books will inspire or help someone and I have no doubt that it does.

My inner objection comes from how these books now occupying their very own genre not to mention the odious Daily Mail style blurbs and captions designed to capture the attention of some fickle passer-by.

Picture 1, Book 1: Belonging by Sameem Ali. Picture of sad Asian child. “I was abused and forced to marry, I was pregnant at 13, When I escaped my brother tried to kidnap me….”

All the hot button topics being pushed here in this cover and blurb. Insular muslims + arranged/forced marriage + child abuse + child pregnancy.

Picture 1, Book 2: The End of my world by Emma Jackson. Picture of crying white child with hands over face, in case ethnic abused children are of no interest to you. “The shocking true story of a young girl forced to become a sex slave.”

I really, really dislike the term ‘Sex slave’. It has a ring of seediness and vaguely implies masturbation fantasies. It’s just kind of gross. She was a ‘sex slave’: No, she was repeatedly raped. Let’s get real here.

It’s not just sad biographies. It’s a whole shelf of specific tragedy marketed in the worst way possible. Photos that illustrate the people in question as victims instead of survivors.

I’m not immune to this marketing either (which is why it gets under my skin a little). How can you be immune? It’s the basest of human nature. It’s ultimate horror. It’s a car crash on the side of the road.

“OMG that’s SO horrible!….. Show me more!”

The volume of books published on the same subject just seem to enable this need. This desire to vicariously live through someone else tragedy, briefly and superficially. Feeding off it, temporarily assimilating it as their own, then as the book ends there’s a huge a rewarding wave of relief – I read this book, it was sad, I’ve contributed in some vague way, but thank goodness this didn’t happen to me. 

Perhaps the book ends with a redemption. It has to. I’m sure the publisher would insist. More sales that way.

I wish, at the very least, the covers were not so hackneyed. I’m really tired of rape victims being portrayed in the same way. As victims instead of survivors.

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14 thoughts on “Tragedy-Porn Rant

  1. Oh god. I’m struggling, no despairing, no struggling and despairing and trudging my way through Tiger Tiger. Which is, if I’m to believe the blurb, the true story of a girl and her pedophile lover. In my defense I didn’t buy it. I have such enormous respect for reviewers who have managed to finish this book. It’s making bile rise to my mouth, not because it’s graphic but that there’s just too much that’s wrong in there. I can’t help feeling like I shouldn’t be let into that dark, terrible basement where a man in dentures is telling an 8 year old girl she shouldn’t have said she would do anything for him if she didn’t mean it.

  2. Oh god i’ve heard about this book, but it does sound different than the most of the genre. She wants to no?

    i’m also horribly drawn to books like that, but they mess my mind up. i’ve learned not to read them more than the blurbs.

    • do you really have any idea what these girls have been through ? or what they are still going through.. and you write about these books like they are fiction.
      these books are written with fully documented proof..

      • Yes I do. And thats why I especially dislike the melodramatic blurbs & trawdry book covers. It cheapens everything and makes it feel like it’s just a soap-opera. I also dislike the way its practically a ‘genre’, cordoned off in its own little section.

        • so am i right in assuming you have been held in a girls home against your will.. pinned down and force fed drugs ? abused by members of staff..
          and are now suffering terrible illnesses ?
          if this were true my friend you wouldn’t be so condescending. i put it to you. that you have no idea of what these authors of these life stories have gone and are still going through..

  3. true true of course, but at least its not the usual victim heavy fare as above. Is this something you are compelled to read for some work thing? Because i cant imagine reading this recreationally.

  4. Indeed. Though at the rate I’m reading, this woman’s work will never be done. I’ve already started on a Jasper Fforde to keep me from gnawing the edge of my sofa/table.

  5. Those books do in fact educate the ignorant such as the author of this blog that shows no respect at all for the victims and survivors of abuse. those books educate the ignorant on abuse and the signs of abuse and how to spot abuse and how to deal with abuse which is a point this blog missed. it also gives victims a voice and encourages other victims and survivors to speak up and not be afraid. it is because of these courageous survivors that abuse today is no longer taboo and more is done to protect children

    • I appreciate that, and mentioned it.

      However my comment to Fred pretty much is how I feel about this issue. I have no problem with a million books about child abuse, but I have a slight problem with the marketing of these books. But that’s just my problem, I don’t claim that its anyone else’s and we don’t have to agree.

  6. ps…. one has to ask if the owner of this blog is in someway excited by child abuse to see it as porn which is television shows, articles, photographs, etc., thought to create or satisfy an excessive desire for something, especially something luxurious: the irresistible appeal of porn; an addiction so the blog writer desires child abuse and is satisfied by it?

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