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Being possessed by a foreign entity seems very tame in the stories where I have seen it. The event doesn't have the gravity that I feel it should, and the person usually goes back to living a normal life if they are freed. I always felt that being possessed should be taken more seriously as a traumatic experience that people don't just come away with unscathed. I came up with an idea that I believed accomplished that.

Demonic possession is done through a magical ritual which can bind a demon to a human being, allowing it to cross over from their reality into ours. In the process, the demon forcefully bypasses the barrier that separates the soul from the individual, completely taking them over. The victim is left fully aware of their situation, and is in constant pain while being possessed. The demon has access to its abilities in the host body (strength, speed, etc) but remains under the control of the caster. In a country where magic is commonplace, this is seen as a supernatural form of rape, the ultimate violation of a human soul. It is treated as one of the most evil acts an individual can commit on another person.

The victim was captured and subjected to this against their will, so people understand that. But while most will regard him as a victim, many would see him as corrupted and dangerous even after they are freed. They are forced to deal with the trauma of possession as well as being distrusted by others, even worse than murder.

I think this lends gravity to the situation and plays up the full horror aspect. But since it is obviously a sensitive subject, I wondered if this might be viewed as offensive or disrespectful. Does this premise take it too far, or should I just one with it? How can I present it in a way that it is taken seriously?

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Does this premise take it too far?

Some people will take offense to it. Some people will think that it was apt and appropriate. Some people will think that it is a brilliant metaphor (even if you didn't intend it to be). You can't please everyone, though that doesn't mean that you shouldn't strive to take it as seriously as you intend to.

There is precedent for treating fantasy crimes as being as heinous as rape. In David Brin's Kiln People, where the premise is that people are able to make temporary golems of themselves, it is treated as a crime on par with rape to force someone to make a golem of themselves.

There was a spell in D&D 3.5 called Mindrape that, due to the very same controversy you are worried about, was changed to Programmed Amnesia. The description of the spell was that if the caster was successful, they knew everything that the subject knew, and could rewrite their memories, beliefs, even core personality however they saw fit. It was an Evil spell, only able to be used by Evil characters. Clearly, however, enough people were upset by the comparison that the name was changed, though some of this may have been because the idea made it too real and too serious for a game.

In the context of a piece of literature, you tend to have a little more leeway to deal with the sensitive and macabre.

Also, the connection between rape and demons has a long history. That is more or less the notion of the succubus/incubus, after all. So it's not a stretch to make that connection.

How can I present it in a way that it is taken seriously?

What you have already presented as your plans sounds like you have a good start on that. Present the consequences; explore the injustice of how this person is treated so poorly from something that was already a horrific experience for them. You can go into detail about the pain, and if you are presenting the work from the point of view of the possessed, you could do a pretty good job of describing the horror of the loss of control. This is all sounding rather like a metaphor. I don't know if that was your intent, but as I said, people will read into things what they will.

One thing to consider is that you don't need to explicitly make the connection to rape. If you present the encounter as horrifying enough, and the consequences as unbearable enough, readers will do it for you. Arguably, this is the 'show, don't tell' part of writing. If you do not, and you don't get too heavy handed with allusions and euphemisms, no one could fault you for comparing rape to demonic possession because you never did. It may work out better as an allegory not to make the connection yourself, as well.

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I think its a good idea, and it makes sense. Say a man is aware during an evil possession, and he sees the demon intentionally in front of a mirror, using his body to rape and torture the wife he loves, laughing in glee the whole time. He can't do anything about it, and he sees her, thinking it is him doing this to her, begging him, and she dies thinking he did this to her, unable to understand.

It would be even worse than the horror of being tied up and witnessing a criminal torturing his wife, because she died believing it was him, believing he was telling the lies the demon screamed at her.

How could he ever look at himself in the mirror again without seeing the killer of his wife? How could he ever overcome that psychic trauma?

He may know the demon did it that way to torture HIM as much as her, but that doesn't help, it was his hands that wielded the razor, his face she saw laughing as she died.

I wouldn't worry if anybody gets offended; violent rape happens. You might as well not write about crime, or murder, or assassination, or drug addiction, or fatal accidents, or lethal disease, or sex slavery.

Bad things happen. Reading about it in a fictional setting is a way to help deal with our fears, we know what we are reading didn't really happen, even if it seems realistic. Just like the vast majority of us wouldn't watch this stuff in movies and on TV if we thought it was real and people were really being tortured and killed and burned alive. Fiction is a safe place to explore the dark side, without the trauma of knowing it is real.

  • Wow, a trigger warning might be advisable at the top of this one... – wordsworth Sep 16 at 5:18
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…would it be acceptable to write…

Yes. You can write about anything. Rape, murder, suicide, masturbation, sex, politics and any flavor of Allah there is. It is your story and you are in charge of it. It is the author's (not the character's, mind you) position on the the matter which will fall under scrutiny and some will praise you, and some will berate you, and that is fine and unavoidable.

As for making an analogy between mental possession and physical rape, I'd say go for it. While not new (the names escape me, but I have read some authors who conveyed a similar idea), it makes perfect sense to me, and I am sure I will not be alone amongst your readership.

It was not entirely clear from your question whether or not the mechanic of acquiring possession of someone's mind would require the physical act of rape, but if so — once again, go for it. It should make your point stronger.

It's your story. You can write what you want to.

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About your take on Possession

I think this is a very interesting idea, and one that I find a lot more provoking (in a good way) than the usual ways people use and treat 'possession' in modern stories. I too have found the "easy" and "complete" cleansing frustratingly unrealistic in most of the stories I've experienced. This, however, is just a personal opinion.

This is probably a rather extreme case of the "your mileage may vary".

It is perhaps the most extreme I've come across so far (not that I'm particularly experienced in the reading/writing community).

I immediately thought of the quote from the possessed: [mature language below]

"Let Jesus f*** you" (While stabbing herself in the crotch with a crucifix)

-from a scene in The Exorcist (1973). This, to me, showed how gruesome a demonic possession would likely be. It terrified the hell out of me as a kid and again as a young adult.

People are different, and there are a lot of people to take it differently.

About the potential issue

Though I personally find it appealing and would like to read such a story, I understand your hesitation regarding handling the subject of rape, and this is where I too feel hesitant to fully support the idea.

The potential harm or trauma it could cause and the critique it could receive from actual rape victims or relatives might not make your work seem worth it if it is received negatively.

I haven't heard of The Exorcist being accused of handling the subject of rape carelessly, but I haven't looked for stories/articles on the subject, and would not pretend to know what a victim and/or their relatives go through.

Counterpoint

To me, your description of 'the aftermath' makes for an interesting basis for the story or stories. More importantly, it could open people's eyes to a more critical look at the way rape victims are perceived and treated today. If done well, it could actually make for a way for people to more easily relate to the topic easier, which would make your work more than just worthy of print.

One way to look at the risk/reward: Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve with the story?
  • Would people automatically make the connection to the subject of rape?
  • Does my current plan/strategy/plot make it possible for me to achieve this, and still show respect to the delicate subject within the story?
  • Is it worth the risk, to me, to attempt it?

If your answers (spelled out clearly or thought through in your head) make you believe in your work, I say go for it.

If you are not yet sure of the answers - which your question here suggests, I'd say you need to thoroughly work on the way you handle the connection to the subject of rape. Asking around is probably a good start, and I'm fairly certain that people will respect you for respecting the subject.

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