Friday, January 19, 2018

The Brushed Off Sexual Assualt in Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Hey everyone and welcome back to my blog! I'm Genni, and today I want to discuss something pretty troubling in one of my most recent reads. Today, I'm writing about the sexual assault in Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

If you are unfamiliar with Oblivion, it is the retelling of Armentrout's Obisdian, but in the male lead's POV, Daemon Black.

When I first started reading this book, I knew that there was going to be aspects of the book I would have problems with. One of these aspects is the toxic masculinity that takes the form of Daemon Black. The toxic masculinity is pervasive. Daemon ogles Kat because he's a guy, and that's just the way it is, right? He shows off for her and purposefully intimidates her and makes her angry just for the fun of it. Because who cares about someone else's emotional well-being, if it makes Daemon happy? There's also the idea that Daemon just can't understand Katy (his love interest, by the way) or his sister, because girls are girls and guys are guys. 

So obviously, I already had issues with Daemon before I read this book (I've read the other books in the series before this one). But I decided to give this a go because

1) it's a quick read 
2) I have forgotten a lot about Obsidian and 
3) I thought it would be fun!

And don't get me wrong, it was entertaining. But more than anything else it was troubling, specifically the scene where Katy is sexually assaulted, and yet it's brushed to the side. 

Let me set the scene for you. Katy goes to homecoming with Simon, who Daemon despises. One reason is that Simon is known for being touchy, but the big reason is because Daemon likes Katy, and yet can't admit this to himself. 

At homecoming, this happens: 

"Simon's hand glided down the front of her dress, causing Kat to jerk back. Her angry expression was lost in a sea of faces and...well, that was it. I was on my feet before I even realized it, moving between dancers, my hands curling into fists."
page 263

So already we see Simon sexually assaulting Kat. Daemon interferes and ends it (yay!) but no one asks Katy is she's okay after she was touched in a sexual manner without consent. All the readers are led to believe is that Simon is gross and Daemon is the hero, and OMG I just ship them SO much EEK! By having Daemon interrupt, Katy's first experience in the book being assaulted is made into this romantic scene. 

And yes, I said first. Because this happens just a few short pages later when everyone at homecoming goes to a field party. Dee, Katy's best friend and Daemon's sister, promised to look after Katy, and yet no one knows where she is. When Daemon arrives, he and Dee split up and decide to look for Katy. Daemon stumbles upon this:
" 'Simon, stop!' Kat's shriek cut through the muted hum of music.

Instinct flared and I shot off like a bullet. A second was too long, but I found her and rage erupted inside me like a violent volcano. The son of a bitch had her pinned against a a tree. His hands were on her. His body. His mouth."
page 270-271
So in these couple lines Daemon finds Katy pinned down and being sexually assaulted. Daemon then alien-punches Simon, and gets Katy out of there. Which, yeah, Daemon did the right thing here. Even his inner monologue gained some respect from me.
"It didn't matter that I warned her about him. This wasn't her fault. She didn't ask for it."
page 271-272
 Yay to not blaming the victim!! Thank you!!

BUT then this happens. In Daemon's car, Katy tries to put on her seat belt, but it gets stuck. She's gets frustrated, and so Daemon helps her out. Nice, right? Well, that's what I thought too. Here's the scene.
"Leaning over the center console, I gently pried her icy fingers off the strap and tilted my head as I pulled on it. My jaw grazed her cheek and then my lips, and I liked to think that last part was accidental. But I wasn't sure..... The seat belt was twisted, and I set about straightening it. As I flipped the strap over, the back of my knuckles brushed across her chest...That hadn't been on purpose."
page 274-275
And then after this, there is ~sexual tension~ between Katy and Daemon. Now, I'm not saying that there can't be romantic scenes with them, and Katy probably needs comfort. I'm just a bit bothered how Armentrout uses these two times where Katy was assaulted and spins them into these moments where the reader is just supposed to fall in love with Daemon. Like, if you are going to have sexual assault in your book, why can't you make the scene all about that and how horrific it is, instead of using it as a means to introduce a romantic scene?

But it's not done yet folks!! Oh yeah, there's just one more thing that gets me riled up. After accidentally brushing Katy's chest, Daemon looks at her lips and thinks about how he wants to kiss her. 
"What I wanted was way wrong, way wrong. Kat has almost been assaulted, for Christ's sake."
 page 275
Almost??? ALMOST?! More like she had, twice!! By saying Katy was "almost assaulted," Katy's experience is undermined. What, is only rape sexual assault? Because Katy was sexually touched, without consent, twice. And according to Daemon, that doesn't count as sexual assault. 

How Armentrout handled these scenes upsets me. The scenes right after Katy was assaulted are romantic scenes between Katy and Daemon, which just makes them look like a plot device, and that's horrible. And then, Daemon Black (who is supposed to be the love interest!!!) says she was "almost" assaulted. This completely belittles the assault, and makes it seem like it wasn't  important, and everything is totally fine because Daemon came to the rescue.

THEN, on the way home, Daemon and Katy are stopped by some Arum, who are evil aliens made out of shadows. In this scene, Daemon almost dies and then Katy saves his life. So both of them have had horrible nights. They end up comforting each other, which is actually a really nice scene. But they only talk about the alien attack, not how Katy was attacked prior. By adding this alien attack in, there is already something "more important" than the sexual assault, and it's not mentioned that much afterwards. In my opinion, the sexual assault wasn't taken seriously enough. 

While I enjoyed Obsidian for the most part, these 30 or so pages struck out to me in the worst way possible. Victims and survivors (whichever one is preferred) of sexual assault and their experiences should be taken seriously, no matter what type of assault they experienced. If they were raped, that's horrible. If they were forced to preform sexual acts, that's horrible. If they were touched without consent, that's horrible. The list goes on.

ALL sexual assault is bad. Saying that Katy was "almost" sexually assaulted belittles people's experiences, and sends a bad message to the young teens who might be reading this book. Katy WAS sexually assaulted, and it should have been taken seriously.  *takes deep breath*

I want to take this time to give you some sites if you want to know more about sexual assault or want some hotlines. 

RAINN - Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (for US) This is the largest anti-sexual assault organization in America. 

800.656.HOPE (4673) - If you call this number (in the US) you will be routed to a sexual assault service provider in your area (RAINN)

If you are from a country outside of the US, feel free and add the numbers, cites, etc, to the comments and I will add them into the post!!

I also want to give some appreciation to Amy @ A Magical World of Words. Every Tuesday she is posting about how abuse is being romanticized, and she inspired me to right my own post here. Please check out her content, as she brings up serious and important conversations!!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by!

I'll see you soon with another post!

Happy Reading!

Genni @ Ready, Set, Read!


  1. GENNI THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS POST!!! I've heard many things about this series, but WOW what you've mentioned here is horrific. I'm disgusted by those scenes - how is that behaviour okay?! I also HATE how so often the focus is left off of the girl who's been assaulted, and instead focusing on the potential romance with the guy who saved her, or on the plot, and not what she's going through. It's horrifying. It's like they're just using the assault as a plot devise. It's revolting.

    Thanks for the shout-out!! I'm so happy you wrote this post. It's amazing. Good on you <3

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

    1. HI Amy!!! Thank you for the wonderful comment and the twitter shout-out! You're amazing! :D

      I completely agree with you about how the focus isn't on Katy! It's right back to how Daemon is the savior. And yes, I love that Daemon was there and did something, but why does the focus immediately shift to him and his alien powers? I also felt like it was used as a plot device, which is just horrible.

      Thank you for commenting! :D

  2. Yikes! I mean, it's nice that the author kind of redeems Daemon by having him admit that what happened with Simon wasn't Katy's fault, but then she totally ruins it by letting Daemon basically do the same thing as Simon!

    1. Hi Angela!

      I loved that quote from him, but it was just weird to have that followed up with him touching her. And the next day in the book, they make out, and don't talk about the assault at all. :/

  3. This was an interesting post. You pointed out some things that I hadn't noticed on my first read through of this book, and I appreciate bloggers bringing attention to issues like this particularly in YA fiction. I have to say though, I think you've been a little hard on Daemon. All of your points are valid, but he's also a 17 year old boy. Could Daemon have taken a little more time to see how Katy felt and address this situation with a little more seriousness, absolutely. But I don't find it unrealistic that he didn't. It can be hard for people to know what to say or do when talking with someone who's been sexually assaulted, and I'd imagine your average 17 year old boy would not understand how a woman would feel in the situation that Katy was in. I'm just saying, I think he handled the situation to the best of his ability. Maybe that doesn't make him a model for appropriate reactions, but I certainly don't think his response was anything to be horrified or disgusted by.

    1. Hi Lauryn! Thanks for your comment!

      I don't think he handled the situation horribly, considering that he got Katy out of harms way. My main issue was how Armentrout wrote the scenes as a segue to romantic moments, and how Daemon didn't consider the situation as sexual assault. And yes, I agree that some 17 year old boys just have no clue how to react. But considering that this novel was written by a women and is targeted towards teenage girls, I felt like it was a missed opportunity to validate those who have experienced similar situations (minus the alien stuff, of course!). While Armentrout is writing in the perspective of a hormonal alien teenage boy, it wouldn't have been out of character for Daemon to say "Kat had been assaulted" rather than "almost."

      Thanks for being so polite and sharing your thoughts Lauryn!

  4. This is just awful! I read this series back when it was first released (but never got around to reading this book) and I liked it well enough but after doing a casual reread a couple of days ago, their whole love story makes me a bit uncomfortable. I completely agree that this was a missed opportunity for JLM to make a statement about how girls are entitled to their bodies and if something like this happens, it isn't a minor incident. Maybe it was the culture then but if we're ever going to make a change, thought leaders (like authors) need to start rethinking their own cultural norms. Thanks so much for this post, Genni!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. Hi Laura!!

      When I first read the series, I ended up loving Katy and Daemon. Like you, I was uncomfortable going back. I realized how they’re not the perfect couple, and it saddens me that that’s what I thought was the goal of a relationship. We can both look at this differently now with different perspectives, and it’s shows how the badly the book ages (at least, to me).

      With the conservation about sexual assault that’s taken over US culture right now, I think it’s important to revisit books that were published before it became a big conversation. I agree, authors should start to rethink their cultural norms!

      Thank YOU for your wonderful comment, Laura!

  5. Holy crap, I didn't know this book existed! I read the first book in the Lux series forever ago and HATED it, mostly because of the toxic romance. I would hate reading it from his point of view! Great post!

    1. Yeah, it’s a bit obscure compared to the rest of the series! I remember really disliking Daemon when I read the first book, but I (initially) loved him by the end of the series. Reading the book from his POV was so startling, and that’s disliked was reignited (as I’m sure you can tell!) :D I got pretty riled up because I realized JLA’s tactic of putting a romantic scene right after her assault actually worked on me when I was 15 or 16, but thankfully I can look at it with new eyes!

      I just got another JLA book from the library, and I’m a bit worried!

      Thanks so much for visiting Tracy and giving this post a read! :)