The writer, actor and Time’s Up cofounder says her novel Any Man is “not about reversing gender roles”.
Amber Tamblyn’s first novel, Any Man, was released in late June. The book’s premise is a shocking one: its central character, Maude, is a serial female rapist who preys on men, and it is written from the point of view of her six male victims.
Now, Tamblyn – an actor, writer and poet, as well as one of the co-founders of the Time’s Up initiative – has responded to criticism that her book is denying women’s experience of sexual violence.
“I think [critics] see it as I’m just reversing the gender roles, and I’m [taking] away the experience of women and giving it to men,” Tamblyn tells The Guardian in a new interview. “That’s OK. They can feel that way.”
However, she emphasises that the book “is not about reversing gender roles”, but rather about having “more difficult conversations about what sexual assault looks like.
“I mean, one of the greatest gripes about the #MeToo movement was that it was not inclusive,” she continues. “And I agree.”
The book was actually written in 2016 – again, before #MeToo went global – but during the year that Donald Trump was elected president of the US. Tamblyn was pregnant with her first child, daughter Marlow, at the time, and says that some of the book’s brutality came from “carrying a woman inside of me, in 2016, during that particular election year”.
Tamblyn had previously said that she wanted to highlight the fact that men can be the victims of sexual assault, as well as perpetrators.
“So few men come forward and report being the victims of rape,” she told the New York Post in June. “You can only imagine how many more stay silent.”
She added that she was intrigued by the idea of a truly terrible female antagonist who isn’t motivated by some trauma that she herself has experienced in her life.
“It’s very rare you find a female protagonist that is violent and volatile without reason,” she said. “I wanted to shatter that as an archetype. I wanted to create someone who did it for the reasons that people actually sexually assault other people. It’s not about sex; it’s about power.
“It’s important to remember that sexual assault knows no race, no gender, no class. It’s something that harms all of us.”
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