About A Stunning Accusation (from Amazon):
Adelaide Scott is a 25-year-old relationship advice columnist for Stunning! Magazine. Her new boyfriend, Jordan Johnson, is a renowned photographer for Sports Unlimited. Their relationship seems perfect, until his ex-girlfriend confronts them at a bar – and accuses Jordan of raping her, turning their world upside down.
It doesn’t help that her best friend and editor, Kiersten Sharp, sees rape as a black-and-white issue, with no shades of doubt. Addie is about to discover that the truth – in all its forms – is complicated, and not at all what she expects.
About Sarahbeth Caplin (from Amazon):
Beth is a stay-at-home author, blogger, editor, and freelancer in northern Colorado with a degree in English Literature from Kent State University and an MA in progress at Colorado State. Her first book, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, ranked #1 in Amazon’s top 100 bestselling books on personal growth in summer of 2015. She lives in northern Colorado with her husband and kittens, Zoey and Catniss Everclean.
I give A Stunning Accusation by Sarahbeth Caplin 4 out of 5 stars.
This latest from Caplin is an important work on rape culture – namely, coercion and consent. It’s about the fine lines and balance that accompany this topic. Ultimately, it’s a search for truth, and how complicated it can be. As with all of Caplin’s work, it leaves you thinking.
Addie is a columnist for Stunning! magazine, where she mostly writes fluff pieces, though she’d much rather be writing about more serious topics. Stunning! just isn’t that kind of magazine. It’s been done before (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Trainwreck come to mind), so I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with that aspect of the story.
I found Addie a little too-good-to-be-true. She doesn’t seem conflicted enough when her boyfriend is accused of rape, or maybe she doesn’t seem as conflicted as I would be. She keeps an open mind, and sets out to find the truth. How many people would have that kind of courage if a loved one was faced with that kind of accusation? That’s not to say they shouldn’t have that kind of courage, I just don’t know how realistic it was. She was judgmental of her friend and even her boyfriend’s family when they expressed differing opinions, like everyone needed to move at her pace. I felt like she formed conclusions about consent and coercion – good conclusions, by the way – a little too quickly. I would have liked to see her come to those conclusions.
This is where I liked Caplin’s earlier work on rape culture, Someone You Already Know, which is (sadly) now off the market, better. It felt like more of a journey, and I think that’s important, especially for those who are not familiar with the concepts of consent and coercion. Stunning felt like an opportunity to express wholly-formed opinions of these concepts, and didn’t leave much grace for differing ideas, if any at all.
While I didn’t care for Addie, I found Jordan interesting. Jordan raises the question of intention, not because intention changes anything on the receiving end of assault and some of the other things that happen in Stunning, but because some men really may not have malicious intent. Like Jordan, they may genuinely think they’re being helpful, that the women want it, or that it’s some kind of game. They’re wrong – of course, they’re wrong, but … how do we help these men understand that regardless of intent, we may not welcome or accept their behavior? That there’s nothing wrong with us when we don’t?
In turn, the question of empowerment is raised in Jordan’s ex-girlfriends. Do I – do we understand that we don’t have to welcome or accept unwanted attention and behaviors, regardless of intention? It doesn’t always come from strangers, sometimes it’s from people we have to rub shoulders with every day, so how do we set up boundaries in a professional way? (Because as much as we might want to, we can’t always flip them off or block them.) Have we given ourselves agency to say, “No,” and be respected in that?
This is not about blame. Blame for assault always (always, always, always) lies with the perpetrator. The perpetrator is responsible for modifying his or her own behavior.
But. Once we start claiming our own bodies, our ability to walk away (which is always harder than it sounds, but it can be done), our ability to say no and follow through, we take control away from those who would use and abuse us, and we give it to ourselves.
You see what I mean about Caplin making you think? (And okay, I’m dealing with a situation right now that’s making me think about this stuff more than normal, too. But yeah…)
In Stunning, Addie writes an article about the line between flirting and harassment, but her editor changes it to make it more magazine-appropriate. I’d be interested in reading what she had to say.
I recommend A Stunning Accusation for anyone interested in learning about the nuances of rape culture. I can’t tell you enough how important Caplin’s voice is on this topic, and how much she’ll make you think.