Book Reviews

Book Review: Asking for It

Asking for It, by Louise O’Neill, is hands down the most important book I have ever read. It will shatter your soul, but you need to read it.

* This is a warning for anyone who is sensitive to topics such as sexual assault and rape to stop reading *

book cover of Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

The title is pretty self-explanatory and provacative. Asking for It is a book that deals with sexual assault, and how it’s not a black-and-white subject. I don’t want to reference Blurred Lines, because it’s a godawful offensive song, but the lines of consent are often grey. We say rape and picture a predator-like man spike some poor girls drink or pull her down an alley. You don’t think of the boys (or anyone for that matter, this isn’t a gender exclusive issue) you grew up with.

What Asking for It is about:

18-year old, Emma O’Donovan, goes to a house party when her parents are out of town. Emma is intentionally portrayed a narcissistic and essentially just a down right bitch. She parties, drinks, has casual sex, and takes drugs at that specific party. Emma ends up being raped by 4 guys at the party, and images are put up on a Facebook page called “Easy Emma”. She has no recollection of the incident, and wakes up sunburnt outside her house. The page goes viral, and Emma is treated like a pariah at school. Due to the fact that she looks unresponsive in the pictures, the guards become involved. Emma panics, not wanting to make a fuss, and initially gives a statement saying it was all a joke.

You are not able to give consent if you are drunk or high. Having sex with someone in a state where they don’t know what they’re doing is rape.

The book follows Emma fall from queen bee, to outcast, to becoming a recluse. Her story goes viral and shes met with waves of abuse online, and the media discusses and debates whether she is a victim or “asked for it”. As she lives in a small town, where everyone knows everyone’ business, Emma and her family are ridiculed. Everyone – even the parish priest – supports the boys who assaulted her believing that she is simply trying to “ruin their lives”.

Sexually assaulting someone ruins their lives, a sexual predator deserves to be sentenced and punished.

What I thought of Asking for It

I actually wanted to scream at so many parts of this book. As the lads are “good honest respectable lads from decent families with bright futures” people believe they can do no wrong, and are the real victims. Emma is seen as promiscuous and this is used against her. As is the fact that after the incident she continued to go out and have sex with men for a short period. This part really struck me, because she was expected to be traumatized and stay inside. Yet, going out and sleeping with people after something like that happens isn’t actually strange behaviour. She was drunk/high when it happened, so decided to do it all on her own terms in an effort to block it out. She wanted to sleep with as many people as possible so that this incident would be lost.

It would have been easy to create a nice, innocent, protagonist who was friendly and people liked, but I think making Emma popular was more impactful. It’s easy to feel sympathy when something traumatic happens to someone we like, but Emma teaches us that even someone who isn’t necessarily the nicest person doesn’t deserve to be raped.

No one deserves to be raped

This might be a fictional story, but it is very realistic & the true story of people out there. I’m not even going to say the whole “I would recommend this book” thing, because this book is too important for that.

Read this book. Make everyone read this book. It is too important.

If you’ve been effected by the topics discussed in Asking for it, please reach out to Rape Crisis.

If Asking for It is too heavy of a a read, but you’d like to read Lousie O’Neill’s other work I’d recommend: Only Ever Yours, The Surface Breaks, and Almost Love.

Just to clarify:
Consent = a clear, sober, willing yes which is ongoing
Everything else (spiking drink, blackout drunk, force, pressure, not taking no for an answer, changing mind) = sexual assault

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