I have always been afraid. For women it’s normal. We learn to be afraid of walking alone after dark, afraid of alcohol, afraid of dressing a certain way; just to be afraid.
Louise O’Neill’s book Asking for it explores this fear in horrifying detail as we follow our main character, a young girl called Emma, who is beautiful, popular and enjoys male attention. She wore a revealing dress that night, she was drunk and took drugs, she went off alone with a group of boys, but did she deserve what happened to her?
Emma is not perfect. She’s not a picture of virtue or niceness and at some points I found her to be incredibly unlikeable as a character, but this to me was the greatest aspect of the book. It smashed down the belief that only “good girls” are to be believed and only “good girls” deserve justice. It’s a razor sharp and unforgiving exploration of rape culture, slut shaming and sexism in Ireland.
Emma’s trauma and destroyed life are made worse by the fact that all anyone else, even Emma herself, can think about is how her accusation affects the men involved. “I have ruined their lives. My fault, my fault” Emma repeats over and over, having no one to reassure her that as the victim, her life being ruined is all that matters.
This book is truly excellent and has been such a success that a stage production is planned at the Everyman Theatre in June 2018, and I for one can’t wait to see this hard hitting piece of literature brought to life.
Asking for it is a devastating and disillusioning read that will make you feel like punching a wall and curling up into a ball crying at the same time. I wish everyone in Ireland would read this book and try to understand the stigmas we all unconsciously perpetuate.
You can order a copy online at Easons here.
Credit: Pictured Louise O’Neill, photo by Miki Barlok