“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”
We live in a world where rape culture is ever present; in schools where girls are told their knees and shoulders are distracting to the boys around them, in pubs when a woman’s ass is grabbed and the man blames her dress. In America, when a man is let off of rape charges because prison could be damaging to him, it’s a product of a culture that is so engrained in our society we no longer notice it. Women have ben conditioned not to wear shorts that show too much leg, drink too much on a night out or be ‘too friendly’ to guys if I have no intention of sleeping with them. It’s a topic some people are afraid to discuss, that in all honesty it’s easier to ignore. But Asking For It by Louise O’Neill pulls it all into the spotlight.
Emma O’Donovan is 18 and happy, she’s the most beautiful girl in town and finds no shame in using that to her full advantage. Until a party ends with her passed out on the doorstep, covered in vomit, crippled by pain and no idea what happened. Unfortunately for her everyone else does. Social media is scattered with photos showing the horrific details of the night. They say it was her fault. They say she’s a slut. They say she was asking for it. Emma just doesn’t know what to believe…
This book is incredibly powerful. Written from the first person this book pulled you in to the turmoil that is unfolding in Emma’s life. In the beginning Emma is not a likeable character; she’s manipulative and vain. Every choice she makes revolves around a desperate need to prove herself as the most beautiful, the most beautiful and because of this she pushes away all her friends. It’s a struggle that many YA girls go through, constantly fighting the need to be the best. To be considered special. It causes Emma to make wild and reckless choices that many characters say lead to what happens.
This book hits hard at some truly terrible topics. By creating a main character who isn’t likeable O’Neill is able to deconstruct the theory that any girl is ‘asking for it’ because although Emma is far from perfect she definitely didn’t deserve any of the horrors she endures. This story shames victim blaming in an incredible way and delves deep into the complications that surround consent. It’s a story that reflects all to truly on reality and the ending will break even the strongest of hearts.
I don’t often say it, but this book is important. It’s opened up discussions between myself and others that should be had a lot more. It educates the disillusioned on what it’s like to suffer such a traumatic injustice and rips apart any arguments in favour of victim shaming. Admittedly this book is hard hitting, it’s not the kind of thing you read before bed or to relax on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But it’s a raw, almost cruel reminder that there are things out there we can’t ignore and that not everyone who deserves it gets a happy ending.