After a night of partying, Emma O’Donovan wakes up half-naked on her front porch. Her blistering sunburn is nothing compared to the emotional pain that follows. Although Emma has no recollection of what happened the night before, social media quickly fills in the horrifying details. Photos of her sexual assault have been posted to Facebook, garnering hundreds of likes and degrading comments.
Although there’s photographic evidence that a sexual assault occurred, Emma is told she doesn’t have a strong case due to her reputation for being “promiscuous” and her initial denial that she was assaulted. Asking for It addresses the all-too-common myth that when sexually active teens are assaulted or raped, their attacks don’t deserve to be taken seriously because they supposedly should never have dared explore their sexuality to begin with.
O'Neill's novel is particularly thought-provoking because she makes Emma a deliberately unlikable character. Prior to Emma's own experience of assault, she brushes off a friend who confides in her about being raped; Emma tells her to move on and not cause drama. Because of Emma's complex, often unlikeable character, readers may find themselves inadvertently participating in rape culture as the story unfolds — which illustrates just how deeply this mindset is ingrained in our society.
Asking for It by Louise O'Neill, $10.99 at Amazon