Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

[spoilers and tw: rape, victim blaming]

Everyone needs to read this book.

For anyone who doesn’t know or understand rape culture or victim blaming, or doesn’t believe it exists: read this book.


Not only is the book based on O’Neill’s research of true events, but the identifiable nature of high school cliques, popularity contests, laddish boys egging each other on and bitchy girls all wrapped up in a world of social media interactions makes this book all too realistic.

Emma is a popular girl, everyone wants to be her friend, she knows she’s hot and boys want to date her. But after a night out she doesn’t remember, she finds pictures of herself all over Facebook on a page called ‘Easy Emma’. In the pictures she is being abused and raped by four different guys.

Instead of being supported and defended by her friends and family, her dad is so disgraced he can’t look at her. Her mother is terrified of the way it will damage her ‘perfect family’ image. Emma’s friends refuse to talk to her, they blame her and call her a slut, despite the fact she is clearly unconscious in the photos.

In fact, victim blaming is so normalised that Emma actually tries to contact her rapists to apologise.

Because that’s what rape culture is. It’s the culture where any excuse is looked for to place the blame on the victim: the alcohol consumed, the way they’re dressed, the type of person they are.

It’s the culture that doubts the truth of a girl’s story in order to protect the perpetrators.

It’s the culture that mourns the impact of rape accusations on the male because “they had such a bright future ahead of them and she’s ruined it”, rather than the impact the actual rape has on the victim.

People are quicker to believe and assume a woman is lying when she says she has been raped.

All of a sudden, the fundamental justice of “innocent until proven guilty” applies to the perpetrator,  but not to the woman. She is “guilty until proven innocent”. Guilty of “asking for it” or of false accusations, until evidence can prove her veracity.

Rape culture accepts men at their word when they say they didn’t do it. A woman’s word that she was raped is not accepted until proven.

I won’t spoil the ending of Asking For It, but it is heartbreaking in its inevitability.

Victim blaming and rape culture won’t stop existing until everyone acknowledges that they exist in the first place. This book will help people to see and understand that.


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