Dragonquest: Trigger Warning

Last time, Thread fell on the Southern Continent, but its effect was entirely blunted through processes not yet completely understood. This only added to F’lar’s worries that everything was spinning out of his control.

Dragonquest, Chapter IX: Content Notes: Rape

Chapter IX is, mercifully, short. That said, please consider your own health and spoons before proceeding.

Chapter IX returns us to F’nor, still healing, but now very interested in how the vegetation survives Threadfall so robustly and also interested in the various philosophical differences between Hold, Craft, and Weyr.

Weyrmen insisted they were superior to commoners even while they consistently exhibited the same appetites as other men for material possessions and nubile women. Yet they did indeed refute the Crafter contention that dragonriding was a skill no more exacting than any craft on Pern, for in no other craft did a man risk his life as a matter of course.

Except, of course, when Thread falls. Or if one is working with agenothree, or Fandarel’s chemical reactions, or is mining firestone. Our many other crafts that pose a risk to life.

F’nor raises to contemplate the idea of death for himself or Canth, and is summoned by Brekke for a checkup. Which leads to Brekke complaining about the feeling that violent upheaval is coming – not a mating flight, though.

“It’s just that everything is going away – disorienting, changing…”

“Is that all? Didn’t I hear you suggesting a minor change our two? Letting a girl Impress a fighting dragon? Handing out fire-lizards to placate the common mass?”

“That’s change. I’m taking about a disorientation, a violent upheaval…”

Something in her candid gaze disturbed him deeply.

F’nor again tries to get her to accept outside bronzes for Wirenth, which Brekke rejects, again, and F’nor expresses his irritation that she’s not fighting for herself. Brekke gives F’nor a withering look as he recites her virtues, and then finishes his sentence for him.

“Useful, worthwhile, wholesome, capable, dependable, the list is categoric, F’nor, I know the whole litany…I know what I am.”

To erase that self-deprecation, to make amends for his own maladroitness, F’nor leaned across the table to kiss her on the lips.

First and foremost, no matter how intimate you are with someone, a kiss is not an apology. Especially without any context, like maybe, apologizing.

Second, F’nor, Brekke is giving you “back off” signals. Back off.

The narrative, on the other hand, has other ideas. He only meant the kiss as an apology, but Brekke leans in to it, and into him, wholeheartedly. The innocence trips F’nor’s radar and he correctly surmises that Brekke is still a virgin, and that she’s been letting everyone assume T’bor has had sex with her on Wirenth’s mating flights. You see, she loves F’nor, ever since he came for her on the search for queen candidates, and she didn’t know that only bronzes get to fly queens, so she had been saving herself for him.

F’nor makes a hash of it, blithely assuming that Brekke will adapt to Weyr culture’s more sexually libertine attitudes.

“I’m not weyrbred. I don’t have that kind of – of – wantonness in my nature. I’m – I’m inhibited. There! I said it. I’m inhibited, and I’m afraid I’ll inhibit Wirenth….I never saw any man I wanted to – to have -…Not that way. Not until I saw you. I don’t want any other man to possess me.”

F’nor takes this idea into account, thinks about the Southern riders, and decides that he’s going to take Brekke before they can, thinking they’ll brutalize her.

Last chance. After this, it’s triggers all the way down.

He held her tightly as she seemed to shrink with revulsion from him as well as the imminent event….Still holding her, he carried her out of the weyrhold, smothering her protest against his chest as she realized his intention….He wanted to be gentle, but unaccountably, Brekke fought him. She pleaded with him, crying out wildly that they’d rouse the sleeping Wirenth.He wasn’t gentle but he was thorough, and, in the end, Brekke astounded him with a surrender as passionate as if her dragon had been involved.

Cocowhat by depizan

(Also, the original Simpsons of the following clip involving a large profanity – this one uses Bleach characters instead – Homer: (angry monotone voice) Kids, could you step outside for a sec?

(Bart and Lisa run out of the room)

(Homer takes a deep breath, then shouts) FU-

(Homer’s profanity is cut off by a pipe organ. Shocked neighbors look in the Simpsons house)

Ned Flanders: Dear Lord, that’s the loudest profanity I ever heard!)

Fuck you, F’nor. Fuck you and your brother and your rape culture and your rapist behavior. I want new protagonists right fucking now.

Brekke gave F’nor all the back the ever loving fuck off signals he needed to avoid this choice. To be that dragonman that she adored and feel in love with. So now, he’s broken her image of him as the perfect gentleman, he’s raped her for her first time, and even by his own admission, he wasn’t gentle about it, either. Rather than send him off to die by having Thread eat him alive, the narrative will deliver it’s promised punishment to Brekke by having her stay in love and stay with him. We can already see the hints in this – F’nor is now ready to break with tradition (tradition. *spit*) and have Canth participate in Wirenth’s mating fight. So that he can keep Brekke to himself.

And he uses every underhanded trick he’s learned from “a hundred causal encounters” to seduce her again and bring her over to his way of thinking by exciting her body.

The last few pages of the chapter is Kylara finding renewed purpose in her quest for revenge…and adding F’nor and Brekke too her revenge list by discovering their love nest without being seen. Because clearly F’nor should be sleeping with pretty Kylara instead of plain Brekke.

Fuck. This is only going to get worse, isn’t it.

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18 thoughts on “Dragonquest: Trigger Warning

  1. genesistrine September 18, 2014 at 5:37 am

    This is AM’s Ha Ha Up Yours to everyone who was thinking “well, at least F’nor seems a decent kind of guy; guess the dragonriders aren’t all complete failures as human beings!”

  2. Only Some Stardust September 18, 2014 at 10:06 am

    oh man, how the heck do I not remember reading this as a kid?

    .. well, on second thought, I probably just skimmed over it because ‘bleh, romance’ and didn’t read it at all. I wonder how many other kids did the same thing? Or I might’ve gotten bored before finishing the book, can’t remember. I don’t know if I’d have understood it if I did read it, though; I think I’d have interpreted it as ‘she didn’t think now was a good time but he persuaded her sooner would be okay’ even though that’s not what the text says. Eww, it’s just straight up and honest about it, he forced her physically.

    ‘possess me’, that right there is sickening. Blerg. She’s his ‘possession’, and that’s how he’s treating her.

  3. depizan September 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Holy fuck, there is so much wrong here. If there were the tiniest bit of narrative acknowledgment that the dragonriders’ attitude toward rape – and toward women – was fucked up as hell, this would be less disturbing. I don’t care if it’s partly a case of time marches on – time was already marching on by the time this book was written – it’s still horrible.

    Also:

    Brekke is still a virgin, and that she’s been letting everyone assume T’bor has had sex with her on Wirenth’s mating flights

    This means that the dragons can mate without their riders having sex/rape. Which is kind of a huge deal. One that’s nicely ignored in favor of more rape. Nice job, book.

    I wish the violent upheaval Brekke saw was the crafters and other decent folk staking most of the dragonriders out for Threadfall and having a revolution of the downtrodden.

  4. Kitsuneko September 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Minor correction: Wirenth hasn’t ever had a mating flight yet, at this point. She’s close to her first flight, and that’s partly what has Brekke so worked up about the F’nor/bronzerider situation. Everything else…yep, pretty much spot on. This is a terrible, terrible plot in a terrible book, and I can’t believe I didn’t notice any of the squickiness of it the first time I read it.

  5. Silver Adept September 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Oh – for some reason, I got the distinct impression that Wirenth had gone and done mating flights, but that Brekke hadn’t actually participated in the mating part. And that everyone blithely assumed that T’bor was her partner. Maybe I misread it, and that everyone was assuming that Wirenth had already had mating flights and T’bor was responsible for the mating parts with dragon and rider.

    Which burns the possibility of mating flights without rider sex having an example. That said, there’s still nothing in Weyr culture that says the riders of mating dragons have to mate with each other. Just that they have the urge to mate. So, whichever bronze flies Wirenth can have their preferred, consenting partner on hand to have sex with them, and Brekke can have her preferred partner for herself, and the Weyrleaders can do their leading duty publically.

    Except the narrative decides it hates any woman that expresses feminist ideas, and punishes Brekke with rape from the person she loves most. Staking dragonriders out for Thread would be the best way of fixing things, especially once they impart the knowledge of what grubs do.

  6. genesistrine September 19, 2014 at 3:35 am

    What seems to have been going on is that Brekke’s apparently not sleeping with anyone – shock horror! – and flinching when anyone drops hints so everyone’s assuming that she’s sleeping with T’bor and they’re keeping it quiet because Kylara will do her nut if she finds out.

    (“Everyone” may or may not mean “F’nor only” in this context.)

    I suspect the root of the ickiness in gold/bronze flights is a belief that the women get ~SWEPT AWAY!~ with sexual passion and can’t control themselves, while the men are STRONG and IN CONTROL, so guy-on-guy flights are negotiable but ones involving EMOTIONAL WOMEN, well, what are you gonna do?

    In a way it’s nice to see a narrative reversal where the women can’t control themselves sexually and the men can, except – the men apparently only bother to with other men. Weyr culture gets creepier and nastier the more levels you find….

  7. depizan September 19, 2014 at 8:31 am

    If the Weyr culture weren’t vile, not only would it be common for people to have sex with their preferred mate, regardless of whose dragon their dragon was getting it on with, but there would be people who’d just go off to their room and masterbate. (Assuming that some sort of sexual urge is really truly inherently part of the mating flight. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that people could, infact, tune it out with practice.)

  8. Silver Adept September 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    @ genesistrine – Well, that almost makes sense – Kylara, for example, is regularly beaten as part of some sort of sexual play, and the Benden Weyrleader mentioned (or was it the rapist?) that T’bor could get abusive when he got wound up, so Brekke flinching could be a reaction to T’bor either threatening or following through with the beatings during sex.

    All of that presupposes, of course, that Brekke is having sex, which she isn’t.

    I can see the SWEPT AWAY defense working the first time, because Weyr culture insists that information is not something to be given to new queen riders, but every time after that, especially with the long lead time before actual mating flight, each queen rider should be able to arrange everything to her liking. That is, if the Men would actually deign to let a woman control herself.

    @ depizan – I think we’re supposed to believe that dragons and riders are so firmly mentally paired that establishing the distance needed to ignore the passionate throes would be somehow detrimental to the fighting of Thread (a theory the Benden Weyrleader already disproved with his realization that he is entirely superfluous to the process of fighting Thread). Still, presumably, if struck with the urge, I would expect Weyr culture to have adapted to have somewhere to engage nearby. And possibly a signal of some sort to indicate what would be taking place, so that they can arrange consent matters beforehand.

  9. emmy September 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    @dezipan – I can’t remember if it happens every time, but in at least some of the depicted mating flights, the riders are so overwhelmed by the dragon’s thoughts once the flight gets going that they have no conscious concept of themselves at all. It’s probably meant as a reversal of the normal partnership – most of the time, the dragon is little more than a “YOU ARE SO GREAT” echo chamber reflecting the rider’s desires, but when mating happens, the dragon takes over.

    So we get several stories where, once the mental connection between rider and dragon-in-flight happens, the next thing the rider knows is waking up in bed with someone.

    Never explained is how practically-unconscious dragonriders manage to get all the way to a bed. We’re probably supposed to pin it on sleepwalking instinct.

    However, the narrative also offers some loopholes to this, IF weyr culture taught people to seek them out. For example, what if you are simply not physically at the weyr at the time? (Which we will see happen, somewhat, but the logical deduction from it won’t come up.) And if that works, what if you just barricade yourself in? If you go mad with lusty rages, you and the partner trying to reach you might bruise yourselves on the door a little before you come back to yourself, but you WILL come back to yourself. In a culture where casual sex is not a big deal, just having sex is probably easier all around, but it doesn’t seem impossible to devise some workaround for people not into it if you care about the feelings of the people involved.

    As I recall, in Lessa’s first mating flight we also see her manage to temporarily withdraw from the connection with Ramoth due to fear and not wanting to be part of this sexual madness. The impression I got was that F’Lar was concerned at the time that losing contact with Lessa might cause Ramoth to do something stupid, including possibly being lost Between. Which, with only one queen dragon in existence at that time, would have ended Weyr culture in one moment (not to mention the horrible thing that happens if you lose your dragon). So he pushed Lessa to re-establish that bond no matter how much she feared it.

    This means that it IS possible for a rider with a disciplined mind to stay out of the dragon’s frenzy – but that it’s believed that this is dangerous and disastrous. I think we’re meant to believe that this is why Brekke is so afraid. She knows that she doesn’t want to have sex with random people, but that she can’t stop Wirenth from mating without killing her. So if they bond mentally and Wirenth picks up on Brekke’s aversion to the process and responds to it, disaster! If she resists the bond, also disaster!

    Of course, again, the logical consequence here is that she should be able to tell someone the problem and they should work together to find a solution to protect Wirenth’s life! But despite weyr ‘openness’, admitting her sexual fears is far too shameful for her to tell anyone but F’nor, who tries to come up with stupid solutions on his own.

  10. genesistrine September 19, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    @ Silver Adept: oops, no, sorry, missed a step causing misunderstanding. I meant Brekke’s flinching because she’s embarrassed, uncomfortable with the Weyr sexual culture and having to deal with the fact that at some time soon Wirenth’s going to rise and she’s going to have involuntary mindless sex with the rider of the winner and she gets no say whatsoever in this. And everyone around her is treating this horrifying fact as something completely normal and to be looked forward to.

    This is being taken as “she’s embarrassed because she’s doing someone she shouldn’t, who could it be in our super-sexually-tolerant culture, ah, it must be T’bor; he’s the only one she wouldn’t want to talk about because Kylara’s possessive and would make both of their lives hell”.

    As far as I remember the only reason for thinking T’bor can be violent is Kylara musing that she can tell him he bruised her when he was drunk and he’ll have been too blotto to be certain she’s lying. Much as I’m wary of white-knighting abusive boozers, given Kylara’s manipulative and unscrupulous streak it’s by no means certain that he’s actually ever attacked her, though that’s again complicated by AM’s really weird ideas about normal loving behaviour between couples.

  11. Pebblerocker September 21, 2014 at 2:09 am

    Later books do propose the idea of stand-in partners for mating flights. I find especially, additionally ooky that in all the books about queen riders, women just had to put up with being telepathically forced into sex with whoever, like it or not, and the consensual stand-in partner is brought up only once we are faced with a heterosexual bronze rider who doesn’t feel completely comfortable with being partnered with another man if his dragon catches a green.

    I like the barricade-and-masturbate idea myself, but if the worldbuilding requires characters to be forced into unwanted sex with people not of their choosing, I don’t want loopholes to be brought out just for the men and just to avoid manly heroes getting icky gay germs.

  12. genesistrine September 21, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Oh god no, really? FFS McCaffrey!

  13. emmy September 21, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Is it actually in the books? I know it didn’t come up in any that I read but I didn’t read ALL of them. My first websearch attempt said that the idea of standin woman to avoid gay cooties was an answer she used to give on alt.fan.pern to reassure nervous readers, but that it did not appear in any of the books.

    (While I don’t know if this is true or not, the hit I found said that the closest the books came to discussing it was the other way around – a gay rider who really didn’t want to sleep with a woman. But again, I have no idea, because if I ever read Dragonseye I can’t remember it.)

  14. Pebblerocker September 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I thought it came up with F’lessan, who had to find some work-around before being lucky enough to acquire one of the newfangled female greenriders, but my memories of the later books are not great and I’m probably conflating things.

    I try to figure out what’s going on in this chapter of the book, to read it from Brekke’s point of view and figure out what coherent arc is going on in her mind, but I am stumped. Brekke isn’t a character with motivations, she’s a possession for F’nor and written as such, and the author wanted her to fall in love with a rapist. What’s going on with her premonition of “violent upheaval” which is apparently not connected to her dragon’s approaching maturity? If she resents being worthwhile, dependable and the whole litany, what is it she really wants and why does she seem so keen to hold onto her status as Kylara’s dogsbody? Her reaction to the rape is intended to follow the creepy-McCaffrey-romance formula rather than be a believable in-character reaction, but what parts of her actions can be patched into a coherent whole?

  15. Silver Adept September 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    It is difficult to figure out what’s going on from Brekke’s point of view – she just told off someone for his outdated patriarchal views, then confided in him about her virginity, told him off again about what he sees in her versus how she loves him (and wants him to take her away and love with her at some other Weyr, where he can protect her from Kylara’s abusive nature?)

    She doesn’t want some other man having sex with her, but she’s stuck in a culture that says queen riders have to have sex with bronze riders because denying a bronze rider their prize is unthinkable.

    So what does the man she loves come up with as a solution? To rape her, so that she’ll understand how great sex is with any man.

    The appropriate next line is “And that’s when I shot him, your Honor.”, but perhaps at this point, Brekke is holding out for the “we’ll fly away, just the two of us” scenario, now that the person she supposedly loves has had sex with her?

    Also, uncomfortable parallel – the older brother also coerced a queen rider, and the two of them are now supposedly deeply in love. There are some very strange definitions of what constitutes love and lasting relationships in these books.

  16. Pebblerocker September 22, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Alternate takes on the scene I’d like to see:

    Brekke, who is a Good Girl and believes that sex is something to share only with your One True Love, isn’t as impressed as F’nor expected when he demonstrates a lifetime’s worth of finely-honed sexual technique… she rejects double standards about who gets to ride fighting dragons, and she rejects the double standards about virginity and sleeping around as well.

    Brekke realises that a man who ignores her boundaries and overrides her requests can’t be her One True Love after all, even if he’s the nicest, kindest man she’s ever met, and instead of becoming his “possession” she goes off and does her own thing happily ever after. (It may well be absolute fact that F’nor, a rapist, is definitively nicer and saner than any other man on Pern, due to lack of competition – or at least, the nicest man among the social elite of dragonriders and Lords Holder, who make up most of the named characters we get to meet.)

    Ugh, ugh, I just spotted something else (massive trigger warning):
    He wanted to be gentle but, unaccountably, Brekke fought him. She pleaded with him, crying out wildly that they’d rouse the sleeping Wirenth

    Having a gigantic, telepathically linked companion with great big teeth and claws should be a superb protection against attack. Wirenth sleeps through the whole thing. Why? Because Brekke is so self-effacing, so loath to bother anyone with her own needs, that she doesn’t consider waking her dragon from a nap to help her? Or because in the author’s mind the dragon’s lack of response proves that it’s not really rape and she wanted it all along?

  17. J. Random Scribbler September 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Yikes, good point there at the end, Pebblerocker. My guess is that McCaffrey saw this as a perfectly normal interaction, and that somehow Brekke wasn’t emotionally upset enough for Wirenth to notice. Creepy.

    Now here’s an alternate take I’d love to see:

    Wirenth, tell Canth’s rider to leave me alone!

    He is hurting you! The shock in Wirenth’s mental voice changed to rage.I WILL STOP HIM!

    Struggling harder, Brekke finally managed a solid blow with her knee in the one place F’nor couldn’t ignore. The brownrider let go, staggering back a step. Before he could recover, Wirenth landed with an earth-shaking thump. Her head loomed down, all red eyes and gaping jaws, and she let loose a roar so loud and long that Brekke had to clap her hands over her ears and squeeze her eyes shut.

    When she opened them again, there was no sign of F’nor. Wirenth sat back on her haunches, eyes slowly changing to the blue of satisfaction. Leaves still fluttered down from the shaken trees.

    Wirenth! Brekke gasped. You didn’t….? the thought trailed off in shock.

    Why would I eat him? The gold’s mental voice sounded bored. You wanted me to stop him. I stopped him. The sun is warm. I want to go sleep now.

    Brekke looked around, finally spotting F’nor in the next clearing. The brownrider lay on his back, stirring weakly. Brekke’s healer-trained eyes could see no sign of serious injury, and she exhaled in relief. She wanted him fully recovered and and far away from Southern, not stuck here where she couldn’t avoid him. As she walked up to F’nor, her nose wrinkled.

    In her sweetest voice, she said “Will you be needing those trousers washed, brownrider?”

  18. Silver Adept September 23, 2014 at 11:10 am

    My guess is that Brekke, as the Genre Savviest of the lot, understands that if she protests this violation, all the other dragonriders are going to stare at her blankly and winder what she means, because of course here in Weyr culture men have sex with women without their consent – dragons are just like that, you know? And if it wasn’t dragons, well, that just means he thinks you’re attractive. Take it as the compliment it was meant to be.

    That said, Brekke may be realistically struggling with the problem of [Dr. Evil]If Wirenth gets upset, peo-ple DIE![/Dr. Evil], and shop she can wake Wirenth, but in doing so, Wirenth will most assuredly kill the man she loves, and possibly a few other people before Wirenth can come back under control. Brekke can’t bring herself to kill other people, so she gives up. And no, she doesn’t enjoy it, but her rapist, already demonstrated to be too stupid to read the signs properly, thinks she’s really enjoying it because her body is reacting in all the right ways.

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